It’s now about 13 years since the day that I found myself, rather unexpectedly, in Stoke Mandeville hospital on an ECG machine having my heart monitored, and found myself being sent off to x-ray for shots of all my heart valves. As it happened I hadn’t had a heart attack but merely a “stress attack”. The consultant who delivered this news had an unfortunate bedside manner. Rather than make it sound like good news, it seemed to be that he was saying that I had slipped through his fingers this time but he would get me the next time round. I resolved to miss the appointment.
I needed to get fit. I used to be a cross country runner at school so I joined the Leighton Buzzard runners. I went out with them and they were very kind. They had a rule that no one would be left to run on there own. But they were massively fitter than I was, and every time we went out two runners would come along with me, running up to the lamppost ahead and around it and back to the one behind, just trying to keep warm whilst I struggled along. It was obvious that every time I came out with them I was spoiling two peoples evening and I was embarrassed by that. I didn’t last long.
I also joined the Bogtrotters at about the same time. At that time we were doing a phased circular walk of the Chiltern Way. It had already started when I joined, but that summer I did three quarters of it, and found that here was something that I could do, and could stick at. I found that I was getting fitter, but also getting out and being active was helping me keep work and all it’s problems in perspective. I was getting much less stressed. I enjoyed meeting a new group of friends with different backgrounds and interests.
On our summer trips in Scotland we have quite often seen dams build for hydro-electric power generation. Along side them you almost always see a fish ladder. In order for the salmon to get back up to their spawning grounds they must bypass the dam which would otherwise be an insurmountable barrier. The fish get past the dam because they are able to leap from pool to pool up the ladder and so into the reservoir and streams beyond. The whole process only works if each step in the ladder is not too high.
When I joined the Boggies I was just able to keep up with the walks on the Chiltern way. To be honest I found it a struggle. Walking some of those paths again recently it seems strange that what I now see as a small hill seemed then to be a significant challenge.
However it does seem to me that we are still loosing a few walkers who are too embarrassed to come out with us on even our shorter walks. These are people who could potentially benefit by becoming both members and much fitter.
Therefore in this programme, as an experiment, we have included three “short slow walks” of about 3 to 3.5 miles each month. These are additional to the other walks on the programme and take place on days when a full day walk is also happening. Everyone is welcome, including of course, existing members who are under the weather, injured or just fancy a stroll. The only rule is that the pace of the walk will be set to include the slowest walker within the body of the group.