Waterproof trainers. Kissing gates and stiles. Leaning-over-sideways syndrome. Centurions. ProPlus caffeine. Bacon rolls and tuna bap. Bloody toenails. Glued buttocks.
Just a random assortment of the phrases that reside in my head? No! These are all some of the more common items one might encounter on a ‘Hundred’–the long-distance walking event where participants walk 100 miles in 48 hours. It’s an annual thing for members of the British-based Long Distance Walkers’ Association, and several hundred walkers do it every year, rain or shine, uphill and down, day and night (and another day and night, for many). It’s not a race or competition, although some surely compete against themselves for a certain time. The idea, simply, is to finish, to have done it.
Julie Welch, a sports writer and journalist in London, has done it, as she recounts in her book Out On Your Feet: The Hallucinatory World of Hundred-Mile Walking. It’s a very entertaining read, and Welch is as admiring of the other walkers she writes about as she is self-deprecating when talking about herself. She needn’t be, though, as she’s no slouch in the active sense, running a more-than-decent marathon or two, and she has a lot of determination and perseverance. And wit! There are a lot of funny moments in the book, due to the writer’s style and sense of humor, in addition to the odd situations one encounters on a Hundred and in the world of long-distance walking. She also spends a good portion of the book recounting the history of the sport and organization, and the pioneers of distance walking as well as women in sport in the UK.
A pretty quick, entertaining and insightful read.