Hares and tortoises

21 June 2021, Julie Barratt, CIEH President

A tortoise and a hare

This blog contains a slight variation on Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise. Those familiar with the original version will know that the hare and the tortoise enter a race and, the hare confident of winning, runs off and gets so far ahead that he decides to stop and doze off in the sun. The tortoise plods on, and eventually passes the sleeping hare and crosses the finish line just as the hare, having woken with a start and realised he is behind comes tearing into view, and finishes second. The moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race.

The President’s Challenge variation on this is that there is no race, only a challenge, and secondly that the self-nominated hare set off at pace and didn’t actually stop and finished the challenge at the same pace as he started. Huge congratulations then to Anthony Davies and Gryff the spaniel, who finished the 630 miles in 44 days, averaging 14.3 miles a day.

Since 14 May, when Anthony and Gryff virtually arrived in Poole, there has been a steady stream of finishers crossing the line, including the first girl home, Barbara Nelson, based in Germany, most of whose walking involved chasing a little white ball round a golf course. Well done to everyone who has finished so far – it’s been a great effort.

In a further variation on the fable, there are no tortoises in this challenge, just walkers walking at their own pace, including some who have joined but haven’t started walking yet. The map of the South West Coast path has a yellow ribbon of joined up dots all around the coast path, with each yellow dot being a walker taking it at their own pace. Slow and steady finishes the challenge, and there is still plenty of time to do so.

The President’s Challenge Facebook page continues to be very active. Participants have posted some fantastic pictures of the places where they have been walking, the fauna and flora they have encountered, and very regularly what they have been drinking to rehydrate as the pubs have reopened.

Out of genuine interest, I posed a question on the page: ‘What non-walking wins have participants had?’ There was a range of answers, some of which were a long way from what I had been expecting. I had expected people to say that the challenge of getting out and doing a few miles had been good for their mental and physical health, and several people said so. A couple of participants are using the challenge as part of their recovery programme, in one case from a heart attack, and in several others from major surgery.

Working from home has certainly taken a toll, but having a reason to get out and about has helped to take the sting out of it for some people and given them space to get away from the insistent white flashing screen, and in some cases from the pressure of having to home-school the kids. There were some real lump-in-the-throat wins offered, with participation helping people coming to terms with personal loss by allowing them space to think, or not, as they choose.

There were also some more off-the-wall wins, such as making contact with a long lost bridesmaid, being able to fit into favourite jeans after five years of not being able to, and my favourite win of all, after years of pestering, and as the result of demonstrating commitment to going out for regular walks, finally being allowed to have a dog which has been called...wait for it…’Boots’. That ‘Boots’ is definitely made for walking!

A self-identifying tortoise has also asked the now finished hares through the Facebook page what they do all day when there is no more walking to be done? It seems most are still walking, giving lie to the suggestion that they are lying on the sofa watching daytime TV, eating fried chicken and drinking Coca-Cola. Some however are already casting about for the next virtual walking challenge to do. I did warn everyone at the start that challenges like this are addictive, and so it is turning out to be. Next year’s challenge is already in the planning stages, timed to start pretty much as soon as this one ends so that the addicts can continue to get their fix!

Returning to the non-walking wins theme, the fundraising continues apace. £2,462.00 (including Gift Aid) has been raised through the President’s Challenge fundraising page at the time of writing, while one of our participants has raised nearly £700 thorough her own page. If you’d like to support this great effort, please do – Water for Kids and all of the Challenge participants would appreciate your support.

If all this has convinced you that you are missing out on a good thing, there is still time to join up. Entries close on 31 July which still gives you eight months to finish the challenge, at the trifling rate of 2.6 miles a day, counted anyway you like. Record every step you take or only those you chose to dedicate to the challenge – it’s entirely up to you. And if you are a hare and at a loose end, you could always go round again! You might see something you missed the first time round. Just a thought…

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