(Original article from May 2010)
Last summer Felix and I did the West Highland Way, camping along the way. It is a beautiful walk that I’d heartily recommend to anyone, although you might want to think twice about carrying your own tent and food – there are plenty of places to stay along the route and it would definitely make the walk more pleasant to be travelling a bit lighter.
I really enjoy the challenge element of these long distance walks and “challenge” is one of the strands that have weaved together to formulate plans for this walk.
The West Highland Way was inspirational in many ways – it is very well waymarked, the route is varied and rarely a trudge, the books and guides are great and help you pick your own pace and types of accommodation.
It isn’t without its problems – the end at Ft William is a rather horrendous return to civilisation, the train back takes longer than the walk itself, and you may have heard rumours of midges?! As well as a massive love of the Scottish countryside and hospitality, the WHW made me wonder if I was going to come up with a multi-day walk of my own, where would I put it?
Strand number 2: I am very keen to do something with the Olympics. I know there are many things to be cynical about and the London 2012 Olympics is a prime target given the spiralling costs and the credit crunch, but face it – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get involved in something as globally massive as the Olympics. What an event to drop into your CV – how many other projects are on this kind of scale?!
Sadly the days where I could be an (ahem) actual competitor in the Olympics are behind me.
I found out that the Olympics is running something called Inspire, which affiliates projects (such as this one hopefully) with the Olympics if they:
– genuinely inspired or energised by the 2012 Games;
– well-planned and managed;
– fully-funded from non-commercial sources;
– participative and accessible; and
– like never before – pushing beyond yours and your participants’ personal best.
…and meet the Olympics’ priorities with one of their themes.
Somewhere in all this, coupled with a bit of a mid-life career crisis, the seed of an idea began to take root in my mind.
I imagined organising a long distance walk that would be a celebration of the Olympic spirit; that just about anybody could take part in while the “real” Olympics was on, that would suit campers and B&B-ers and runners alike – basically that would let people do it as a team event or as individuals and set their own personal challenges.
I reckoned that one end should be the Olympics stadium at Stratford in east London, and the other should be Weymouth – where the sailing events are being held for the Olympics.
The basic challenge is that the walk should start after the opening ceremony, and finish before the closing ceremony. I also decided that the end of each day ought to involve a pub which was showing the highlights of the days events. Oh, and I’d like there to be medals
Other than that it will be up to people to complete the challenge however fast or slow they wish, some may run, some may do it 3-legged. I will walk. Probably quite steadily. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to make the whole walk availaible to all – the south west coast path section is not going to be wheelchair or pushchair friendly, and bikes aren’t allowed across Lulworth ranges (though I’m sure someone will find an exciting alternative route for cyclists). However I hope that many legs will be accessible – certainly my route from Richmond through to Stratford should be fine, as is the first few miles at Weymouth.
I hope this gives a good introduction to what this walk is all about. Maybe it will even awaken an old itch to be part of something a bit out of the ordinary, something to tell the grandchildren. Will you be sat watching the London 2012 Olympics, or join us and be part of them?
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About Mark Stanley
Mark specialises in initiating and delivering £multi-million IT-enabled business change programmes focused on improving operational efficiency and customer service in the public sector and financial services. Find out more…