I once walked 100 kilometers in one day. We started at 3am, the four of us. It was an organized event so we weren’t alone but when I walked up to the finish line at midnight I had been alone for hours.
Somehow, I thought it would be a good idea to do that long walk again….in winter!
What started out as a simple dare quickly grew into a quest for myself and three other friends. (This was a different group from my first foray in long distance walking.) I had been hoping to rejoin the 100km walk again later this month but scheduling kept that from happening. In the process I heard about a 50 mile trek to commemorate the first time this walk was done, by Robert F. Kennedy, mentioned to my friends, and there was no turning back.
Because this was was shorter, the start time was a leisurely 4am. In preparing for the walk, all I could think about was the immense pain and suffering I felt toward the end of the 62mi when I’d done it the first time. Yes, this was was shorter, but it was winter time so really no real benefit from the decreased distance. I’d walk a little less but have to deal with temperature control, freezing water and maybe even snow on the trail.
We got to the trailhead a bit late but still managed to start with the group. It was dark. It was cold. I wanted to walk faster than the rest of my group. We all wanted to sleep. The sun came up. We ate food. My water froze. I unfroze my Camelback’s hose so I could drink. It froze again. Fun, right?
The walk itself took place along the C&O Canal. The Canal was built alongside the Potomac River to ferry goods up and down river between Washington, DC and Cumberland, MD; a distance of about 185mi. The walk I did before, the 100km, started in DC itself and went all the way to Harper’s Ferry, WV. The “shorter” walk I did the second time started further upstream in Great Falls, following the same canal and towpath all the way to Harper’s Ferry.
Eventually we all hit our stride and began to enjoy our day despite the cold. This is probably a good point to introduce the rest of my cohorts. There was Chester and his lovely bride Catherine. Chester and I knew each other from GWU where we played Rugby with the fourth member of our trip, Lionel. Lionel and Catherine, who for various reasons didn’t want to walk the whole way, each took turns shuttling the car while Chester and I walked the full distance. We were all dared to start the day wearing oxford shirts and bow ties (my bowtie fell off before our first pit stop) to help us commemorate RFK but Chester was the only one
The walk itself is easy. Technically, it is uphill, but 600 feet in elevation spread over 50 miles doesn’t really count for much elevation. It’s that very flatness that causes the pain in the hip flexors and ankles, from doing the same thing over and over again for hours. With the sun up, we warmed up quite a bit and I didn’t have any more problems with water freezing. We walked some more and some more. We talked politics and business and philosophy, as friends do, and then we talked about how much we hurt and what we wanted to eat. A friend visited us a few hours before sunset and brought us hot chocolate and magic bars. Amazing. We kept walking. Walking some more. Did I mention this was a very long walk? We saw some kind of strange albino deer. The sun set. The temperature dropped a lot. We still had miles to go. We kept walking.
In the end we didn’t finish too long after sunset, arriving at Harper’s Ferry right about 7pm. Although 7pm sounds like a nice time to finish something, we’d been walking for 15 hours straight and were simply exhausted. For me though, I was shocked at how much easier a 50 mile walk was compared to a 62 mile walk, and thankful that we’d not encountered any snow. When I’d finished this walk the first time, doing the full 100km, I could barely move. Although I was plenty sore this time around things like stairs and hills didn’t look quite so scary. We even went out for dinner and each enjoyed a nice pint of beer.
Then we got to the B&B we’d booked for the night, and Chester removed those Cole Haans… The shoes survived surprisingly well but the feet were another story.