Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Find out what motivates James to complete his 11th Just Walk

Walking one ‘Just Walk’ challenge is a great achievement but to have walked every single one since we started back in 2007, like our lifelong walker James Kinsella, is simply amazing! James usually undertakes the 20km route but in 2016 he raised the bar and took part in the 30km event, and to celebrate his 70th birthday in 2019 he has already decided he will take on the 40km challenge!

Raising money for his chosen charity, one that is very close to his and his family’s hearts is all the motivation James needs to carry on participating in Just Walk. Read on to find out why fundraising is so important to James and why he takes on the Just Walk challenge each year…

“Having worked in the NHS as a qualified nurse for many years it was only after semi-retiring in 2002 that I found the time to start walking. I thought it would be a good way to stay fit and healthy as well as something that I could do anywhere and at any time, especially around the parks of Crystal Palace in London where I live. It also fitted in well with my new job at the Courts and Tribunal Services where I’m not as busy as I was, and now have more time to spend on myself.
I was born and lived in Ireland until I moved to London when I was 24, so one of the things I now have time to do is go back and visit family and friends every few months for a catch up. During that time I love to walk and explore the countryside. I’ve always been an active person and enjoy being outdoors, especially after having grown-up on a farm. I’m used to taking myself off in to the countryside and I have to say, it doesn’t get more rural or picturesque than the wild and windswept landscapes of Ireland. I also used to enjoy amateur athletics in my younger years and more recently I have taken up mountain climbing - I think now with all the walking I do, I am probably healthier than when I was back in my 30’s and 40’s.”

“For me, age isn’t a barrier and I really feel that it shouldn’t stop you or hold you back from trying new things. Look at me, I’m a great example that you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it. I’m quite an emotionally driven person and for me, it took my retirement and unfortunately the passing of my brother when he was on a climbing trip to Mt Kilimanjaro in Kenya, to show me that life is too short and to make every day count, which is why I started researching various challenges I could take part in. Another big reason I wanted to participate in a challenge, to be able to fundraise and give something back to a worthwhile charity, is for my very special grandson, Riley. Riley was born with a cleft lip and palate, and had to endure various operations, all at a very young age. 6 years ago Riley had a very serious asthma attack which ended up with him being admitted into intensive care. Thankfully with the care and support of the staff at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital he is now a well, happy and thriving little boy. We are so grateful to the hospital as a family so this is my way of supporting them and saying a massive thank you. His mum and dad also set up the ‘Riley Carp Challenge’ annual charity fishing competition which raises much needed funds for the Evelina Children’s Hospital who treat and care for many brave children like Riley and has successfully raised over £3000 to date." If you would like to support James and donate to his chosen charity, the Evelina Children’s Hospital please click here.

“I sometimes surprise myself that I have achieved these Just Walk challenges. I remember my first walk, it was a really emotional moment when I completed the route as I was so pleased and proud that I was capable of finishing, and now I wouldn’t miss taking part in any of them. That said, it does take a lot of training and hard work beforehand so I feel fully prepared for the challenge ahead. I usually walk 20 miles a week around the parks in London and then leading up to the event I increase the distance each week up to a mileage of about 35 miles a week. Over the years this is what I’ve found to be the best training that suits me and ensures I am fit and healthy going into the walk.
My best training advice for first timers, is to start walking about three months before the event and make sure you add hills into your training as there are quite a few on the Just Walk routes which can be quite a challenge, especially if it has been raining beforehand. Invest in some good quality hiking boots and socks as well; you need to look after your feet and keep them supported and protected from blisters. On the day itself, take it all at your own pace, start off at a leisurely pace and find your rhythm, but most of all - enjoy it! It is such a fabulous day with the stunning Sussex scenery all around you, wonderful people to talk to, and great charities being supported, you can’t help but smile and feel positive.”

“I like to walk by myself to start with, so I can find and set my own pace and then I usually meet people along the route to have a chat with. The great thing about this day is that everyone has a story as to why they are walking, so it’s nice to hear and it just makes you think ‘I’m so glad I did this; people are so kind and caring’. The atmosphere is really great, there is always someone to keep you company; last year I found someone to walk with and we crossed the finish line together, which was nice.
I’m quite impatient so although the walk isn’t a competition I am quite competitive with myself and usually finish in the top five of my group. My quickest 20km time was 3hrs 20 minutes, and last year’s 30km took me 5hrs 20mins – I am hoping to knock a half hour off that in 2017! Having said that, I don’t walk to get a personal best, it’s all about finishing the race for my chosen charity. If I can knock 5-10 minutes off my best time that would be an added bonus.”

“Every year I look forward to Just Walk and think that they won’t get any better but they do – every year beats the last one. I have so many touching memories especially over the last 10 years with people from all walks of life supporting and helping one another. This is why I think Just Walk is so special, it brings out the best in people and I for one, can’t wait for the 13th May next year to see what my 11th Just Walk has in store.”

We want to wish James the best of luck for his 30km Just Walk this year, we are sure he will be as amazing as always and can’t wait to hear all about it at the finish line – plus we’re already looking forward to celebrating his 70th birthday with him in 2019.

If you are feeling inspired after reading James’ story and would like to walk one of our Just Walk routes (you can choose 10km, 20km, 30km, 40km or the BIG 60km), then click here to find out more and book your place today.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Q&A with David, one our 60km walkers

Name: David Hawkins
Age: 80 years’ young

How did you first hear about Just Walk?
I have been walking for the last 10 years and initially started on the ‘Big Foot’ walks and then they told me about the Just Walk challenge. So, I looked in to it further, gave it a try and that was it, I have been hooked on the walks ever since.

What distance do you normally walk?
I always walk the 60km route and aim to finish around 9pm. I chose this route so I could have something to aim for, I find it’s also a great barometer check for my health. I enjoy long distances and setting myself challenging goals.
How many times have you taken part in a Just Walk challenge?
I have participated in Just Walk for the last 8 years and last year out of 75 people walking the 60km route I came in the top 25 – not too shabby! 

What made you want to get involved?
It started as I wanted to stay active and keep fit but having walked for so many years now I love the social aspect of the walk, making friends along the way and meeting lots of new and interesting people. I’m a bit of a rebel so also want to prove that age doesn’t mean anything, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.

I also raise money for my local hospice when taking on these Just Walk challenges, it’s a great way for me to give something back. My daughter is a Macmillan nurse and last year she supported me on the walk, she waved me off at the start, met me halfway through the route and then was there at the finishing line which was so lovely to see. She also made me a scrapbook afterwards for my 80th birthday full of photos of me throughout the walk as well as messages and drawings from my family which I will treasure forever.

Who do you normally walk with?
I normally walk on my own so I can set my own pace that I’m comfortable with and then just chat and meet up with people as we walk along. The social aspect of walking was an unexpected surprise but is one of my favourite parts of the walk.

Do you do any training for the challenge?
Yes, I live in North Malvern, Worcestershire so I find walking along the stunning Malvern Hills ridge which keeps me fit. After Christmas and through to the date of the Just Walk, I walk to the ridge and back every week which is approximately 20 miles as well as walking with my local ramblers group. I also enjoy spinning classes down at my local gym, I like to stay fit and active as you can probably tell.

Do you have a top tip for anyone who has just signed up for this year’s event?
Train – you absolutely must do this so you are fully prepared, especially for the BIG 60km route. Include hill walking in your training as there are a few on this route and you don’t want to be caught unawares.

It is also worthwhile investing in decent kit, so walking boots and socks are essential and a  lightweight backpack. Don’t make the mistake I made a few years ago where I carried an excess weight in my backpack which caused me considerable problems.

What is your best memory from the day?
I have so many but one that sticks out in my mind is a memory from about 3 or 4 years ago where a group of soldiers (I think cadets) where walking the 60km route like myself and they shot off at the start, all guns blazing (not literally). About three quarters of the way around I found one leaning against a fence, he couldn’t walk and was saying he couldn’t finish. I spoke to him and managed to help motivate him to continue. We then came across 2 more of his group with cramp and serious blisters. Again after talking to them, we all continued together and I felt great pride watching them cross the finish line together arm in arm to the acclaim of the crowd.  I followed behind them at a discreet distance. They thanked me for my encouragement, and said that without my support they would have not finished.