Saturday, 1 February 2014

My first training walk in company with 570 other men.

On Saturday St Luke’s Hospice in my home city held their first ‘men only’ charity walk around Plymouth Devon. I give my take on this windswept event. To go to my charity page click on

Five hundred and seventy men of all age, shapes and sizes set off at 10.00am from Plymouth Albion’s rugby ground on Saturday to walk eight miles around Plymouth to raise funds for St Luke’s Hospice.   Trying to organise that number of men, who were not under the supervision of their better halves, into fast, moderate and slow groups was a bit like shovelling smoke for the organisers. 

 Controlling the herd before the off

As the flag dropped the hoard surged forward to make its way out of the ground. Wearing white shirts given to them by St Luke’s this indomitable band of brothers wended its way over Stonehouse Bridge and into Union Street like a white serpent.

Traffic came to a halt and horns tooted in support as this phalanx of the fit and willing pounded out their beat on the pavement. I’m sure many a car with female only occupants came around for a second look. By the time the top of Western Approach was reached this thin white line had broken into knots of varying numbers and the assembly now resembled balls of cotton wool being blown along towards the University in the fierce gusting wind.

The Esso garage in Exeter Street became the first stop for many. Not to refuel with chocolate or nuts but to avail themselves of the toilet at the back of the garage. It was cold, after all. Embankment Road and Elliot Street brought a respite from the battering the wind was inflicting but as the leaders turned towards the Barbican and struggled over the Hoe they faced the full force of a malevolent westerly.

At strategic points along the route volunteer marshals pointed the way and clapped and shouted encouragement. At West Hoe, another toilet stop for men of a certain age, a lady handed out jelly babies that were eagerly grabbed by cold red hands.

By the time the leaders reached Durnford Street the end of this cohort of the willing was leaving the Mayflower steps on the Barbican. So far, the only rain had come at the start of the trek and as I walked across the Hoe the sun came out and more blue sky than I had seem in an age broke through the incessant grey cloud.  

 I had to hang onto the rail to prevent being blown away on Plymouth Hoe
At the end of Durnford Street the route turned right opposite the house where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle practised as a doctor with the man he was later to base the character of Dr Watson on in his Sherlock Holmes books.

The reappearance of Stonehouse Bridge injected adrenalin into many aching legs, which was just as well, because the long incline of Devonport Hill was the last obstacle before the welcome sight of the flapping marquee in the rugby ground came into view. Here, a welcome plate of curry and pint was on offer, all for the princely sum of the £15 it had cost to enter the walk. Not only that, the £15 included tickets to that afternoon’s rugby match against London Welsh.

This was St Luke’s inaugural men only walk and I suspect it will not be the last. I would not be surprised if next year there are over 1000 men taking part. Hopefully they will not all be queuing to use the toilets in the Esso garage in Exeter Street.

I now have to get some serious training in on Dartmoor when the weather improves..

No comments:

Post a Comment