“Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance! You’d do well to remember that Mumford!”
These are the words of my school physics teacher Mr Findlay-Palmer and I’m fairly sure he wasn’t quoting from the A-level syllabus. This was a man that during the week would patrol the school labs dressed in tweed and brandishing a meter ruler; then at the weekend he’d stalk the hills dressed in camouflage surviving on 24 hour ration packs. Sometimes it was hard to tell which persona he had adopted while he barked orders and scribbled diagrams on the white board. Is that Newtonian Theory or a tactical assault plan?
But if I learnt anything from Mr Findley-Palmer then it was that that phrase rings true. Planning and preparing as much as you can before an event gives you a much better chance of succeeding. That’s not to say it’s not impossible to just ‘wing it’, and I have some friends who take great pride in being ‘never knowingly prepared’ and still getting round, but the chances of having a good time are significantly diminished.
Force = Mass x Acceleration
With Bog LEJOG we’ve found that the list of different things to plan goes on and on: routes, kit, wild camping spots, accommodation, food, the bike, navigation, training, fundraising, more kit. There’s rarely an hour that goes by when one of us hasn’t said something like “I must sort that out” or “I must order that” or “I must look that up”. But with just over a month to go it feels like we’re getting there.
Luckily Kirsty has a passion for route planning so she has painstakingly transferred all the information from Andy Robinson’s book The End to End trail onto an online map that can then be uploaded onto a GPS watch for me to follow. Not content with that she has scoured Google street view and various maps to plot her cycling route that will be following roads close to my off-road route. Somehow the two routes will have to cross at various points but especially at the end of each day, ideally at a picturesque spot with a lovely view and some flat grass to pitch a tent. We might not always be that lucky though.
Various boxes have been arriving over the past few months with lightweight, technical and often brightly coloured kit inside. My favourite addition to the list of essential items has been a pair of Black Diamond trekking poles. I had dismissed these as unnecessary several times but eventually thought I’d better give them a go after watching most of the competitors in the recent Spine Race running over the hills with sticks in their hands. It’s like engaging 4 wheel drive when things get tricky and I’m beginning to wonder how I ran without them.
Kirsty’s bike has been tried and tested on our River Severn trip last year and, apart from fitting some fatter tyres, is ready to go. It’s a rugged machine that we’ve built up for even longer trips than this one so I’m confident it’ll be more than capable.
Momentum = mass x velocity
So the technical planning feels well in hand but then there’s the training. I’ve run a few marathons and understand how to prepare for them and how I should feel in the months leading up to the race (generally very tired). There are hundreds of training plans to choose from depending on your aims and experience and provided you can stay fit and healthy and your ambition matches your ability then they generally work. But for something like this there are no online training plans and I’ve never prepared to run 1200 miles before to know how I should be feeling at this stage. Before a long cycle tour very few people train specifically, they just get a good base level of fitness and then ride as much as they feel comfortable with each day. That distance increases as they get fitter and stronger and more confident. Travelling on foot is very different because there’s a greater strain on the body but a similar principle should still apply. My friends Mina and James have run the End to End trail and told me that the first week is very hard but after that your body gives up complaining. So the plan is to start gently and let my body get used to the idea and then build from there.
Speed = Distance/Time
That’s not to say I haven’t been getting the miles in with most days featuring at least a 2-3 hour run or walk and weekly totals of 80 or so miles. But the main focus has been on learning to run slowly. A mile pace in double figures feels very different to my usual 7-8 minutes/ mile and getting used to that has been surprisingly tricky. I’m sure it will feel plenty fast enough after the first few days though!
Power = Work / Time
Finally there’s the fundraising and already we’ve had some very generous donations. Thanks to everyone who has made a contribution. Each time I turn on a tap or use a loo I try to think about the many millions of people who don’t have the luxury of these simple facilities. I’m hoping this project will have an impact on whole communities by raising funds for clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene for those who need it most. If you’d like to make a donation then here’s the link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/boglejog
I hope Mr Findlay Palmer would be pleased with how we have been preparing. I might have forgotten a lot of the physics that he taught me but that one lesson on the 6 P’s has proved invaluable. It won’t be long before we have to put it all into practice!