Reading Time: 11 minutes

I meant to write this post last week, documenting an amazing weekend with Shelli last weekend. Due to things I’d rather not talk about going on in the background it never happened. More to the point, I didn’t want to write the post while I was distracted and it not turn out how I hoped. Hopefully I’ll do okay now.

So last weekend then? What made it such a great time I hear ask? Well, to start with it was spent with Shelli – always the best company! – and we spent the whole weekend having a really good time doing things we both love.

Friday

It started on Friday night when we jumped on a train to London for the evening. A while ago Shelli bought us tickets to see Michael McIntyre at the Leicester Square Theatre, a small theatre just off Leicester Square funnily enough.

The reason he was doing a gig in such a small theatre was because this was a kind of warm up/suck it and see gig to test new material before his bigger run in the summer. It didn’t matter though as he makes us laugh, especially Shelli, just being himself so we were pretty confident we were going to have a good time.

Once in town we took a lovely stroll through Hyde Park to Leicester Square instead of getting a hot and sweaty tube. It was a pretty good evening out and it was a great way to make up some miles, seeing as I was missing out on a run because we were out.

We had a quick drink in the Bear and Staff before we queued up and took our seats for the show. When we got to our seats Shelli immediately started to defend herself on the seat selection, saying that she didn’t get a choice and the seats were automatically allocated to her. The reason why she said all this was because we were right in the middle of the stage, two rows from the front! Now, if you’ve ever been to a comedy show you know that sitting anywhere near the front is a very bad thing indeed. There was nothing we could do about it so we got comfortable and waited for the show to start.

We had a riot! He was hilarious. Okay, some of the time he seemed to ramble on about one thing or another and sometimes it seemed a little disjointed. It didn’t matter though as we were laughing so hard. Things got even funnier when, while acting out a scene from one of his stories he bent down rather quickly. Immediately a strange look came over his face while he slowly stood up. He’d only gone and ripped his trousers down the back! And this was after losing the safety pin on his fly earlier in the show!

He’d ripped them badly and a chap from the audience lent him his jumper so that he could tie it around his waist for the rest of the show. Hilarious!

When the show was finished we strolled back to Paddington to get the train home, again adding more miles for the day. A great start to the weekend! 🙂

Saturday

After a late(ish) night on Friday we were up and about early to get the train to Oxford as we were aiming on being there before 9am. Why so early? Well, the plan for the rest of the weekend was to walk back to Reading along the Thames Path, covering 41 miles of the 184 mile long distance path. I’m sure some of you would call us mad for thinking that an enjoyable way to spend our time but this was something the two of us had been looking forward to for a few weeks.

The plan was to walk the 23 miles to Wallingford on Saturday, spending the night in the George Hotel, then finishing off the weekend walking the 18 miles to Reading on the Sunday.

It was a grey morning in Oxford, as had been foretold, but we didn’t care as we had all the gear with us in case the heavens decided to play games with us.

It didn’t take long before Shelli and I were snapping away with our cameras, deciding to take our DSLRs with us, regardless of the extra weight. I think between us we snapped well over 300 photos over the course of the weekend! There are two galleries in the photo section – one for each of the days – if you want to have a look at some of the wonderful scenery we enjoyed along the way.

As we headed along the path we passed the office of Salter’s Steamers, the company I chartered the boat from for my party after walking up this great land of ours. It brought back lots of memories from that evening, well, from the bit I can remember that is! 😉

To say the first few miles out of Oxford were frustrating would be a mild understatement, for me anyway. There were lots of crews rowing on the river which inevitably meant lots of coaches cycling along the Thames Path, shouting at them and concentrating more on them than what was in front of them. I lost count how many times Shelli and I had to almost jump out of the way before getting knocked over – idiots! Fortunately it didn’t take too long before that all died down and we had the path to ourselves – phew!

I was trying out my new Merrell INTERCEPT GTX Hiking Shoes, a bit of a risk on such a long walk I suppose, but knowing my feet I wasn’t expecting miracles as they normally fall apart anyway. Still, the shoes were good – having bought them a size bigger than normal due to them coming up a little small on the size front – and it made a nice change not to be wearing a full walking boot. It wasn’t like we were going to be hitting too much rough ground along the Thames Path was it?

We walked, talked, took photos and generally had a great time, hitting Abingdon in a reasonable time. Here, we took a seat by the weir at the lock, took our boots/shoes off and had our lunch.

Over the last year since Shelli and I started taking serious walks I’m the one who normally has feet trouble but at that point in the walk my feet were doing pretty good. The same can’t be said for Shelli unfortunately. Her feet had really taken a beating and the blisters were forming. This was most peculiar as she was wearing the same boots and socks as she normally would and she’d had no such problems before. Not good and I really felt for her as I know all too well the pain of blistered feet with many miles ahead of you.

After a rest, a re-dressing of blisters, and some Panadol we headed off, hobbling along the path until muscles eased off and the pain killers kicked in properly. Shelli was determined not to be beaten by her feet and so the miles went by, snapping away with our cameras.

As we headed into Clifton Hampden, and still over 7 miles away from our intended destination, I pretty much ordered Shelli to use one of her walking poles as she was beginning to walk all off-kilter because of the blisters. I knew from a very painful lesson that it wouldn’t be long before her foot pain turned into knee pain, and possibly worse. I’m pleased to say that she listened to reason and started to use her pole, eventually opting for both a few miles out of Wallingford.

At one point Shelli slowly jogged instead of walking if you can believe it?! It clearly helped with the pain and she covered a good couple of miles. Not only that, she took to singing all manner of nursery rhymes and other songs to take her mind off of the pain in her feet.

And if that wasn’t enough, when the pain clearly reached almost unbearable levels, she developed a rather bad case of tourettes, swearing with every step. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, so I knew exactly what she was going through poor thing. I couldn’t help but laugh though, which didn’t help as Shelli then laughed and stumbled, hurting her even more. Sorry honey.

She made it to Wallingford though, and with a smile on her face too – I’ve got the photo to prove it! She did so well bless her, and when we made it to our room for the night she took her boots off and stretched out on the bed, feet suspended in the air to ease the pain. Oh the memories! I did that every day on my LEJOG walk 🙂

I was quite concerned that the next day’s walking wasn’t going to happen, and I was definitely of the opinion that if Shelli’s feet were as bad in the morning we wouldn’t be walking. She on the other hand was determined to make it back to Reading. Only time would tell if that would be the case.

As for me, my feet were pretty good with no visible signs of problems. My left calf muscle was giving me a bit of trouble as it had cramped up badly earlier on in the day, swiftly moving on to my knee and hip as I walked awkwardly. And before you ask no, I didn’t use one of my walking poles like I’d ordered Shelli to do. I know, Tim nice but dim and all that.

While Shelli rested and soaked in the bath (yes, our room had a bath!) I strolled up to Waitrose to get supplies: food, blister plasters and pain killers.

Once I’d sorted myself out we popped down to the bar for fish and chips – couldn’t break with tradition now could I? – and a well deserved beer or two. Not wanting to put her boots back on I told Shelli to go down in just her socks, but she didn’t want to look stupid. Having done it on more than one occasion myself I joined her, so we both were in the bar shoeless, not that anyone noticed 🙂

You can see Saturday’s route from Oxford to Wallingford here if you’re interested: http://www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/78919874.

Sunday

We both had a bit of an uncomfortable night with our aches and pains unfortunately. Still, we slowly got ourselves ready and down for breakfast, again in our socks. Not wanting to break with tradition again, a full cooked breakfast was ordered and I’m pleased to report it was a very good breakfast indeed.

The George Hotel had been a great place to stay and I’d highly recommend it if you ever needed to stay in Wallingford. The room was good, the food was good and the beer was excellent!

And so, tummies full, we put our packs on and headed out into the sunshine. The morning was a lot nicer than the previous morning. The sun was out and the sky was blue, and with fewer miles ahead of us to get to Reading than the walk the day before, we were hopeful of a good day’s walking, if a bit slower this time because of our aches and pains.

Things went well and Shelli’s feet weren’t too much of a problem, but I suspect that was mainly down to the mixture of Panadol Extra and Nurofen she was taking, alternating every couple of hours.

My calf/knee/hip problems persisted and on top of that, as I had to loosen my right shoe a bit as it was putting too much pressure on the top of my foot, I managed to pick up a blister or two along the way. They weren’t too bad but I knew I had them, if you know what I mean?

Just under half way through the day’s miles we took a lunch break at Goring, sitting on a bench by the main road bridge. It was a lovely spot to sit and rest for sure. Although the sun was out and it’d been quite warm while we were walking, stopping and sitting in the shade soon chilled us down I can tell you. Fleeces on and zipped up we sat there, boots off, enjoying the well earned rest.

Lunch eaten and feet/legs rested, we headed off again for the final half of the day’s walk.

Although the going had been pretty much flat there was one nasty little surprise at Hartslock Wood, about a mile out of Pangbourne. Here the track climbed up through the woods and, as I learnt a long time ago, what goes up must come down and then back up again! At the bottom of a rather large dip was a nice sign warning us that there was a steep slope ahead. Talk about pointing out the bleeding obvious as the sign was right at the bottom of said steep slope! And trust me, it was a corker.

As I slowly made my way up the slope a couple were daring to bring down a double buggy. This seemed to me to be utter madness as it was slippery enough just trying to get myself up it. Some people eh?

When we got to Whitchurch-on-Thames we stopped at the Greyhound pub for a refreshing pint of orange juice and lemonade and a loo break. It was lovely to sit outside on the bench in the sunshine, sipping on a cold drink, shoes/boots off. Bliss!

As the day’s walk was taking longer than originally planned, due to our slower pace, we didn’t want to hang around for too long and soon we were off again. Well, that was until we got to Mapledurham Lock where we just had to stop for an ice cream, although they’d sold out of flakes the bastards!

It wasn’t long after that that we spotted the skyline of Reading in the distance and, after having had to walk through a housing estate – no, we didn’t get lost, this was the correct route – we hit the “Welcome to Reading” sign.

This wasn’t the end of the walk though. We had to make it to Reading bridge before we could call it quits for the day, and to do this we got back on the riverside path. Unlike the vast majority of the path we’d walked that weekend this section of the path was bloody awful. It was more like walking on a cobbled street which is just what our feet and knees could have done without. As we made our way towards Caversham bridge the conversation dried up as we concentrated on getting to the end of the walk.

We phoned our [respective] girls as we reached Caversham bridge and then pressed on to the end of the weekend’s walk, 8.5 hours after we’d left the hotel that morning, completing a total of 16.5 hours on our feet, plodding along the Thames Path.

We walked to Reading station where we jumped into a taxi home. There was no way either of us were up to getting a train home, no way!

Back home we ordered pizza for dinner, cracked open a beer and slumped on the sofa, thoroughly exhausted from a great weekend’s walking.

You can see Sunday’s route from Wallingford to Reading here if you’re interested: http://www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/79130304.

One thing that did strike me, and was something I never expected, was the sheer number of World War II pill-boxes dotted along the Thames, built in case of invasion. There were lots of them on the sections of the Thames Path we walk, a lot of which I photographed. Never expected that.

So there you have it. A fantastic weekend, even if I was paying for it – physically – for most of last week, which meant my challenge miles were down on what they should have been, which is a shame.

I decided to be sensible though and let my left leg recover without trying to rush back into the running. I’ve got my first 10K with Shelli this coming Sunday and I want to be fighting fit for that so taking it easy last week was definitely the best thing I could have done.