This year I embarked on the most physically demanding challenge of my life: The Bogle Stroll 2013, a 55-mile walk in and around Manchester. It was a strain, not only on my body but my mind as well, and the emotions I endured during the walk varied from euphoria to despair.
Part 1: Stroll to Stockport
We, my partner Lee and myself, started in high spirits and good time. The initial hour of walking took us through familiar territory, from Manchester City Centre to Withington, and were able to storm through the first 10-15 miles to Stockport within the first two-and-a-half to three hours. At that point, finishing the stroll felt like not only a possibility but a high likelihood.
Song to sum up Part 1: The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)
I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more…
Heck, if they would do 500, I should be able to manage a tenth of that.
Part 2: Return to HQ, and the temptations on the way
It did not take long for the initial adrenaline of beginning the trek to wear off. In fact about 5 minutes from that point I had already fallen behind the crew I was walking with as my pace continued slowing down. The pains were starting to creep in and they were swiftly taking a toll. The second leg of the Southern Route took us back through Withington and Fallowfield, straight up the Curry Mile. The first pangs of regret were hitting in as I passed my favourite Take Out joint Lahori (formerly Sangam) and my bed, which after 6 hours of walking at 2:30AM has never seemed more appealing. I feel that after that it was a straight run back to HQ, with no looking back.
Song to sum up Part 2: Busted – 3AM
I’m calling you at 3 AM and I’m, I’m standing here right outside your door And I don’t think that my heart can take much more
That’s right, my bed felt like a loved one at that point. I feel no shame in admitting that.
Part 3: The Highway of Hell
I spent about 15 minutes at HQ, having completed just over half the walk in about 7-ish hours. It was quite a morale-booster knowing that I had made it within such a short amount of time, and I was fairly certain that I could finish the walk in a sub-20 time.
After navigating a few of the roads in Manchester City Centre, I started my trek across the A62 towards Failsworth – five quiet empty miles of nothing but warehouses. If there was ever a time I felt like quitting it was then. You would walk towards a horizon, thinking that on the other side would be the checkpoint we were so eagerly awaiting, only to discover another stretch of road awaiting me. By the time I reached the end of Oldham Road I was genuinely contemplating packing it in right there. It was a mixture of the friendly faces at the checkpoint and the feeling of “oh-the-next-checkpoint-isn’t-too-far-off” that had me off again towards Prestwich, as the sun started to rise.
Song to sum up Part 3: Imagine Dragons – It’s Time
The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell. Right to the top
The only thing i told (and at times sung to) myself, to keep myself from quitting.
Part 4: “Oh God, We’re in a Different City”
The trip to Prestwich was fairly uneventful, I became more tired, I felt less and less in my knees and ankles and I was growing sick of the sound of my iPod (because at times, even Nickelback can’t motivate you). I did meet a pair of hikers who had caught up with me (and writing this two months later, their names escape me), and it did motivate me to continue. Then, towards the afternoon, we hit the sign: “Welcome to Bolton”. We had walked to a different city and were still a substantial distance away from the finish, it was not a very happy prospect to say the least.
That was until the road hit a 30 degree incline, which in any ordinary circumstances would have been a fine walk but not when you had been through 40 miles on foot. Every stride was met with aches and pain and usually accompanied by a curse from your’s truly. I was truly relieved to reach the checkpoint at the top of the hill, as we readied ourselves for the final stretch.
Song to sum up Part 4: Kate Bush – Running up that Hill
The song has never made more sense to me, EVER.
Part 5: The final stretch from Salford
Salford was few miles ahead of us, and I can safely say I have never been happier to see the “This is Salford” sign welcoming us to our final stop before the end. I then fell behind for a second time, as my knees and ankles started playing up, and making it difficult for me to continue walking for long periods of time. I told my new group to go on ahead, as I strolled in my own sweet time behind them
Reaching checkpoint 10, the penultimate checkpoint, a full 19-and-a-half hours from beginning the walk, felt great. I thought I was well on track to obtaining a time around 20 hours, with just 2.5 miles remaining. I could see a silhouette of Oxford Road in the horizon and was on my way. A single wrong turn later, I had ended up close to Deansgate, with not a clue how to get back to the main track. I ended up resorting to the one thing a man never resorts to (apparently): I asked for directions. With my foot firmly on the correct path after that, I lumbered back to HQ – recording a finishing time of 21:34. While an incredible journey, it had evidently taken its toll on me:
Song to sum up Part 5: Any generic song about coming out on top.
Part 6: Epilogue
Long story short: It was a great experience. It was the furthest I had ever pushed myself to, and I came out successful. Although my legs needed well over a week to recover and I couldn’t stand up right for several days, because of blisters, nothing really beat the adrenaline of the event, and I look forward to taking part in it again next year.
I had such incredible support to keep me going on the way:
- My family, who called me when they really should have been asleep, just to make sure I was OK, and to instill me with confidence
- My friends, who gave me calls and texts throughout the day, giving me tips and motivation to keep me going in the final stages.
- All the people who pledged money for the charity MenCap, and showed there support for me, financially