Preparing to walk Hadrian's Wall: The First Steps to Achieve a Lifelong Dream

VB21980382

Now that our recent legal troubles are behind us, we can start looking forward and planning for the future. One of things on my ‘Britain Bucket List’

is to walk the distance of Hadrian’s Wall and I’ve set the goal to do it next year in September 2014.

For those that don’t know – what exactly is Hadrian’s Wall?

Hadrian’s Wall is a roughly 80 mile long stone wall that was built in the North of England by the Romans in AD 122 on the orders of Emperor Hadrian. It was meant to mark the furthest frontier of Roman civilization and keep the ‘wildlings’ living in the North beyond the wall at bay. It was a hub of Roman Civilization in the North of England and despite the passage of almost 2000 years, a large part of the original wall is still in existence.

This is led to the development of the Hadrian’s Wall Path, an 80 mile long walking route that spans the entire distance of Hadrian’s Wall (which runs from England’s East Coast to its West Coast, cutting England in half). It’s a popular walk to ramblers (British English for hikers) and it takes about a week to complete. So, that requires walking an average of 10 miles or so a day.

My problem is that I’m not a very active guy. I run an internet business. I spend most of my day in our basement office in a chair. I’m certainly not fat, but I’m a little overweight and very out of shape.

If I tried to just show up and do an 80 mile walk in a week, I’d probably end up in the hospital!

So, I need to prepare for it. I’ve got about 18 months do it, and I’ve started this past week.

I’m going to start small and work my way up to doing 10 mile long walks. Last week I took a one mile walk. I survived.

Saturday, I did a 1.5 mile walk and survived.

Sunday, I did a 1 mile walk and survived.

It doesn’t sound like much but I have to start somewhere. I’ll slowly build up my distance as the walking season progresses.

I’m very lucky that where we live in Northwest Indiana, we’re surrounded by National and State parks with miles of beautiful walking trails. So, I’ve got a great environment to start this training. My hope is that by the end of this summer, I can do a 10 mile walk in a day. Then the goal will be to keep up the pace through the winter so I don’t regress. Hopefully I’ll be able to test out my new walking skills on a trip to England planned for this winter. Then in summer 2014 will be dedicated doing longer walks but also doing several long walks in a row so that by September 2014, I can do the walk and hopefully not end up in a hospital.

My plan is to write about training for the walk over the next 18 months but also bring readers into the planning for it. I can’t just turn up. This is a popular route so I plan to discuss the best times of year to go, where to stay, what to see along the way and strategies for doing it and surviving.

And then in September 2014, join me as I go on the walk. I plan to blog the whole way along the path and share pictures, videos, etc.

So, join me as I attempt to get in shape and achieve one of my long held dreams. I hope it’s entertaining for everyone!

If you have any advice for preparing for long distance walking – please leave a comment or drop me a line. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Comments

  1. avatar says

    What a lovely idea! Would like to do something like this myself someday. I wonder how long it will take to walk that far?

    • avatarBruce says

      Well, 4 days, based on the old standard of 20 miles a day [which is about how far apart the old Spanish missions were/are here in California.] Of course you can do it in less, but 20 miles a day is easily doable by most folks, so why kill yourself?

      • avatarIan Park says

        20 miles a day is too much, especially if you want to linger and have a look in detail at the wall, take in the views and drop off to the various other Roman sites and museums (Housesteads and Chesters for instance). Also due the switchback nature of the wall a sensible estimate on that sort of terrain would be approximately 2 miles per hour. Thus a rapid calculation suggests you’d be walking 10 hour days at 20 miles a day (no chance of stopping for a lunch there either!) and would turn the walk into a forced route march, which is not in my experience, the object of the exercise. When we walked the Wall we took a long week, which seemed about right, although even then we didn’t quite get enough time at some of the off route sites.

  2. avatarMeri says

    Hi Jonathan,

    I just read your first post about walking Hadrian’s Wall. I wish you nothing but good luck and success! I truly wish I could join you. :)

    The funny thing is that yesterday my roommate and I began a get fit – get healthy program. We started with a mile walk. We were speaking about setting some goals or things we want to accomplish that getting fit would make a lot easier. My friend wants to learn to skydive. I personally can’t deal with heights but I’ll be there for her ever step of of the way until she steps out of the plane (then she’s on her own).

    The only thing I could think of was that I wanted to be thinner and more fit so I could be more comfortable on my next trip to Scotland. Now the trip is nowhere near being planned or paid for as I only six months ago got a job after being unemployed for two years. I don’t know how I’m ever going to get back to Scotland, or to Ireland (for the first time) or England (again).

    However, I like your idea of walking along the wall. And so, I’m going to find a walk or activity somewhere in Ireland or Scotland that can only be done there. I’m going to use that for my inspiration and keep that goal in mind whenever the chocolate gets too tempting or the exercise seems to frustrating.

    So thank you for the inspiration. I’ll be with you in spirit along your journey.

    Meri

  3. avatar says

    I have a goal to do the same walk. Maybe September 2014 will be the time to do it for a lot of folks. Maybe you have got us all thinking!

  4. avatarPat Gannon-Leary says

    We are lucky enough to live in the North East of England with easy access to Hadrian’s Wall. We particularly like Steel Rigg and Housesteads. There are some great pubs in that neck of the woods too, e.g. Twice Brewed Inn and The George at Chollerford, near Chesters Roman Fort. There is a Visitor’s Centre at Housesteads and one at Once Brewed.

  5. avatarCynthia says

    Best of luck Jonathan! I’ve been to England and Scotland but have not yet seen Hadrian’s Wall. Think I read a travel blog about a couple who trekked the Wall recently, and while parts of it are missing, there are still wonders to behold. Keep up the good work, stay motivated, and book your flight!

  6. avatarMelanie says

    Jonathan,

    What a marvelous idea, I am an English ex-pat but never even say the wall as I lived in Manchester! (I know not too fat but just never got there)
    Why not incorporate your walk with charity, you might raise a bit for a good cause!

    Good luck and I hope it wil be sunny for you :-)

    Melanie

  7. avatarMary says

    What a good idea. I checked into jogging the Great Wall of China once but immediately gave up when I saw how long it actually is. Maybe I’ll do Hadrian’s Wall instead!

    • avatarMary says

      Dave White put up a good link in the comments below. It turns out one should not jog on the wall.

  8. avatar says

    I just discovered this blog (through a friend’s link on Facebook), the idea of walking Hadrian’s Wall intrigued me! I had never thought about it, but now that I have I definitely want to do it some day! Plus it would be great training for me as I’d also like to do the Camino de Santiago some day (which is 30-40 days walk!).

    One thing you should look into is information on the terrain! Is it a smooth path or rocky? Are there big differences in height (lots of steep climbs) or is it relatively flat? This makes a BIG difference! I do quite a bit of hiking, but I’m not in great shape and uphill is definitely a battle for me! I can walk 10 miles of “flat” terrain easy, but half that distance with constant climbing kills me! So you need to know what you’re preparing for.

    Also, question: do you know what the lodging situation is like along the path? 10 days means carrying everything you need for that time on your back… It will make a difference weight-wise if you have to take sleeping material with you and extra food for meals…

    • avatar says

      The walk can be as rough or as civilized as you like. We plan to stay in B&B’s and eat along the way. So, we’ll travel light.

  9. avatarAllan Prosser says

    This is a walk you will enjoy, I have done it many times due to living in Wallsend (far east of the wall). 17yrs ago i did this walk with my son who then was only 12yrs old to raise money for his school, we did it in 23hrs 24mins which i thought was rather good going :O)

  10. avatarDave says

    Best of luck to you! It’s a great experience.

    Just a word of caution: parts of the walk can be quite strenuous, particularly in adverse weather. I’m a reasonably fit middle-aged guy, and did the walk with my 23-year-old daughter last September. The mid-section was quite challenging, especially on the day it rained. The ground was very slippery, and in this section the trail is up and down crags with very steep inclines. We did this without hiking polls, which would have been a tremendous help for balance under these circumstances.

    Have a great time!

  11. avatarIan Park says

    We did the Hadrians Wall walk a few years back, with some friends and had a great time. We walked west to east (this way the theory is that the weather is at your back). The Romans did such a good engineering job their military supply road is still in use as the main road linking the two sides of England, which detracts a bit from the ‘wilderness experience’ , but be warned that in the centre the wall runs through some remote and wild country, lovely to look at, but can be rough if the weather turns against you – and being Britain not only might it, it probably will at some point! We had just about every kind of weather you can think of on our week along the wall. We B & B’d along the route, but be warned that around Housesteads, there isn’t anything much unless things have changed radically and we had a ten mile round trip hike to get to our B&B one day. As route organiser, I wasn’t overly popular for a while! And although I’m old enough to know better, wearing a pair of brand new boots on the trail is a BAD idea, and I went home on the train from Newscatle in flip flops, an unusual choice of footwear for Northern England!

  12. avatarDan Peters says

    I walk 7-10 miles a day and carry a small radio with me . I listen to the local sports talk shows and find the 2-3 hrs pass quickly. I don’t like headphones though, just the built in speaker. We did a hiking holiday in England last Sept. Our luggage was transported between B&B.s. I wish you the same great weather we experienced!

  13. avatarDenise Pott says

    Hi Johnathan

    I love the idea–any chance you’ll open this up as a group event?

  14. avatarKathy K. says

    My husband is going to walk the Cotswold Way next month, and has been “training” for it by doing long neighborhood hikes this past year. He also invested in some really good & well-fitting hiking boots, appropriate socks and some silky sock liners (to prevent chaffing and blistering). It’s all in the preparation, I guess. We’ll see how he does on his walk, and maybe try Hadrian’s wall sometime, too. Good luck and enjoy ….

  15. avatar says

    Good luck with the training! I walk the Wall regularly (done it 7 times now) and at the end of this month (April 2013) am going again as ‘native guide’ for three historical fiction authors doing it for charity and dressed in Roman kit (them, not me: more info at http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/benkane). Once we’re under way we’ll be tweeting our progress (@perlineamvalli) and it may even result in blogging and podcasts! Oh, and much groaning from me (I’m a cyclist, not a natural walker, but the best way to see the Wall is on foot and, yes, west to east is always best).

  16. avatardonnaw says

    Good Luck Jonathan! I look forward to reading your blog about this amazing adventure!

  17. avatar says

    Hi Jonathan,

    Good news: the Hadrian’s Wall path is hilly in places, but it certainly isn’t mountainous. Only the central section is graded “very strenuous”. You can download the gradient profile here:

    http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/hadrianswall/downloads.asp?PageId=129

    And the National Trail website is a great resource for this and other long distance walks in the UK.

    More good news: my wife and I have walked the entire 100+ miles of the Cotswold Way…and we’re a *few* years older than you ;-)

    Enjoy planning and walking!

  18. avatarCath says

    I just finished listening to the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed on tape. You might enjoy listening to it as you do your walks (I got it from the library btw). There are lessons to be learned from her hiking experience, one of which is, yes, you can do it no matter how hard it seems. Another suggestion I have is for days when you can’t or don’t want to go out for a walk: walk up and down the stairs in your house doing curls with hand weights. Five minutes will really get your heart pumping! What will the rest of the family be doing while you walk?

  19. avatarMatthew says

    I hope it will be a good experience for you.

    I recommend hiring a caravan so you can blog, eat, drink and sleep while you go for the walk.

  20. avatarKevon says

    I have a couple of boxers for personal trainers. Canine, that is. They rarely let me off the hook for our daily brisk three miles and change. Get some really good hiking shoes and socks. Stretch.

    I would love to do this walk. My husband and I hiked the middle point several years (or 20) ago, and met some ‘coast-to-coasters’ at one of the youth hostels we stayed in. Maybe someday. Or the Antonine Wall up north. More rugged, less settled. I like a foolhardy adventure.

  21. avatar says

    Hi Jonathan and all – great to read your stories. We – the Hadrian’s Wall Trust – have a website with info on the whole of Hadrian’s Wall Country http://www.visithadrianswall.co.uk. It covers the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail, accommodation, getting around, things to do and see, what’s on and more!

    And we’re on twitter @EmperorHadrian. Enjoy your training and planning!

  22. avatar says

    Hi Jonathan! I went through this process back in 2009, when I had to whip my lazy old self into shape for a 2010 charity walk along Hadrian’s Wall. We did it in 6 days, but I recommend 7 if you want to stop and see things like the Roman Army Museum and Housesteads.

    I am now having to go through this all again, as I’m walking it again in July 2014 with my son’s Boy Scout Troop. Yes, they heard about my adventure and wanted to do it too. We are doing it in 7 days, with a schedule that looks like this: 14 miles, 18 miles, 9 miles, 8 miles, 11 miles, 10 miles, 14 miles. The days in the middle are when you’ll be stopping and touring the best sites.

    You can read about my previous walk along the wall in a series of blog posts that begin here: http://pkmeco.com/familyblog/2010/07/idaho-dad-walkin-day-0/

    As in 2010, my next trip we’ll be staying in bunk barns and youth hostels. However, I can recommend one very nice B&B that is reasonably priced, the Four Wynds in Greenhead. The owners, Nigel and Catherine, are first-rate, and Catherine is a guide at Vindolanda! My family stayed with them a few years ago on a purely sightseeing trip.

    It will be interesting to follow along with your progress over the next year as I try to get myself back into shape to this walk again. I wish luck to us both! You’re doing it right, though. Start small, and then sometime next summer plan a weekend with back to back 15 mile hikes, just so your body knows what it feels like. Also, learn everything you can about blisters!

  23. avatarJulie says

    My husband and I are inspired by your goal to walk the Hadrian’s Wall. In fact, we decided that we will be going in October, 2013 (yes, only 6 months away). We have traveled to England independently several time already, but we did it as simply as possible. For example, arrive London via Heathrow, trains to wherever from London each day, leave from Heathrow. We did the same thing with York, only we took a train there to and from London for flight purposes. Anyone have trips on air travel from Washington D.C., or elsewhere in the U.S.? We plan on booking lodging and luggage transport along the wall. We are not set on East to West, West to East route.

  24. avatarDeborah Lawson says

    Keep it up, slow and steady! Before I broke my foot, I started walking to the corner and back (a one mile round trip walk). After a few days, I went a little further, then after a few days a little futher until I had a 4 mile walk in less than 45 minutes! You can do it!! I would love to do something like this someday. You are an inspiration!!! Keep us updated!!!

  25. avatar says

    Hi Jonathan,

    Good for you! On a similar subject but different setting……

    Simon and 17 year old Sam have just started training for Sam’s school’s Eros run in 8 weeks time.
    Every year on the last day of the school year, volunteers are dropped off at Eros in Piccadilly Circus at 5am and run the 14.5 miles back to the mini Eros statue at Aldenham School (Alfred Gilbert, the sculptor of Eros went to the school). Sam’s up to 6 miles and Simon’s hit about 4 so far….. I’ll let you know if they crack it!!

    Have you downloaded a training app? – very useful and a great incentive.

    Lots of luck!
    Jane

  26. avatarTerry M. says

    My son walked Hadrian’s Wall with the Boy Scouts as their 50-miler in the early ’80s. He enjoyed it immensely. Of course, they camped out along the way. They took the train up and back from Suffolk so it was quite an experience for a 12-year old. Good luck and enjoy it.