31 December 2010

2010 IN 2010: COMPLETE!

some readers may remember that i had a plan to walk 2010km this year - and i hit that target three days ahead of schedule! yay! as a reward i went and bought myself a new pair of boots as the old ones are well and truly worn out! (and they were on sale, so they cost me about $300 instead of $350!)

anyway, i have written up a discussion of my experiences with the 2010 project below - feel free to skip this if it is of no interest to you!

WHAT WAS THE AIM? to walk 2010km in 2010

WHY A DISTANCE CHALLENGE? because, unlike the few years prior to 2010, i knew that i wouldn't be going on any major multi-day hikes. spending a fortnight walking 250km of the southwest coast path (swcp) in cornwall in 2009 gave me a great sense of achievement, and i wanted something to aspire to for 2010. i also vaguely thought that it might keep my walking fitness up, though not to the standard i was immediately post-swcp!

WHY THAT DISTANCE? i wanted a total that was a challenge, but doable. in the months leading up to doing the swcp, i kept a record of how many kilometres i walked every week. when i did a long walk during the week i could walk up to 48kms, while some weeks i only managed 20km. mostly, however, i seemed to walk around 30km a week. i figured, then, that i would probably easily walk 1500km in a year, so i'd need a bit more for it to be a challenge. 2500km seemed a bit too challenging (almost 7km per day!), so 2000km it was . . . plus 10km to make it match the year! approximately 5.5km per day seemed manageable.

FACTORS I CONSIDERED: i knew it was likely that the shop i worked for would close this year, and that my scholarship was going to run out, so i didn't actually know if i'd have the financial ability, time or energy to complete this project. i intended to see how i was going around july, and not be too concerned if i couldn't keep up. i was also quite concerned about summer heat and a little less concerned about winter rain keeping me off the path - both had an impact, heat more so than rain. fortunately things worked out ok in the end!

HOW I KEPT TRACK: made me a google doc spreadsheet, yay! i mapped distances using mapmyhike.com, and averaged daily totals to the closest half k (when in doubt i tended to round down, but if i did that a few days in a row i would then round up for a couple of days). i didn't use a pedometer or a GPS tracker or anything fancy like that, so my distances aren't 100% accurate, but they're good enough for me. here is the graph generated by google docs:

ON THE DAILY AVERAGE: 5.5km a day is probably a little over an hour of walking for me - provided it's on flat ground, a fairly smooth surface, i know where i'm going and i'm not stopping to take lots of photos! however, i am not in the habit of going for an hour-long stroll in the evenings/mornings for no reason: my walking tends to be commuting or a full-day leisure activity with . one thing i noticed was that there's pretty much nowhere i go that's 5.5km (or 2.75km one way, 5.5km return) from my house! two areas i frequent (one with my doctor, a supermarket, several cafes and my counsellor; the other with my chiropractor, some cafes and a library) are around 4km from home, uni is about 6-8km depending on the way i go, three of my favourite cafes are a bit under 2km away. my usual tram stop is 800m! and of course, my kitchen is 0km away, so there were many days when i did nada. i guess i'm trying to say that i actually did have to work on keeping on target, it didn't 'naturally' average out.

PROGRESS THROUGH THE YEAR: as noted, where and how much i was working and what else i was doing had an impact on my progress. so did the weather! looking at my spreadsheet, i was only ever under target in february (though i did get right down to the line on a couple of other occasions), when the heat made it difficult to get out for long walks. when i was working in retail, i didn't walk into work because (a) i didn't want to be sticky, (b) i didn't want to carry a change of clothes and (c) i had to stand up all day anyway, which is quite hard enough on ones feet! when i was doing more work at uni, i was able to walk there a couple of times a week. when i was working in november, my workplace was just under 2.5km from home, so walking there and back every day kept my average fairly consistent for the month. db and i went on two overnight walks in june and july, which helped boost my totals mid-year when rain and extra retail shifts (= very little walking for a number of days each week) threatened to put an end to my dreeeeeams (ok, it wasn't so dramatic as that). i am pleased with how on-target i stayed throughout the year.

WAS IT A CHALLENGE? yes! but, just as i'd hoped, it wasn't overly difficult and i didn't have to (nor did i want to) put a lot of pressure on myself to do it - i already had enough on my plate doing uni stuff, trying to find jobs, etc. i didn't let this become yet another thing i felt obliged to do; it was mostly just an enjoyable challenge. i could have done more, but i think anything more than 2200-2300km would have been . . . too much of an intrusion on my life. it was pretty cool and very satisfying to see the little red line on the graph creep slowly up!

WHAT I GOT OUT OF IT: although i've been walking for a few years, doing this definitely encouraged me choose to walk instead of taking public transport when the option was there (we don't have a car, i sold my bike). i feel like i'm more likely to walk now than i was a year ago, and that the decision to walk is a lot easier to make. (not that i didn't walk a lot anyway!)

i'm not sure how to describe the grounded connection i feel to the places i've walked consistently throughout the year without sounding a bit . . . romantic (as in romanticism)? and, again, many of these things were happening for me before this year, but spending so much time outside is certainly one effect of doing this project. there's a great feeling of meeting the land (or the city, or the earth, or the environment) at a one-to-one ratio when i walk rather than take a tram/bus/train/car - there's a different understanding the slope of that hill or the curve of this road, the crack in this concrete or the colours of that tree. it feels like a more considered approach. knowing the physical distances between the places where i live, work, study, play (and in fact making that distance one of the spaces in which i live my life) is like: carrying a map of the city in my body, putting myself in the map, mapping that city with my feet, mapping my body into the city, carrying the city in myself. idk. i feel . . . privileged to have seen the full year cycle in parks and gardens, to have watched houses getting built or renovated, to have seen kittens and puppies grow bigger in front yards, to have smelt the creek almost dry and in flood, to have experienced the seasons changing against my skin. i feel like i'm learning to slow down and listen to or feel for different rhythms, to be in and of the environment. (i was trying to explain this to a friend who said it sounded a bit like some buddhist practices of mindfulness, but i have no real knowledge of these things so i can't assess that call!)

i have also discovered many new places with various walking companions this year - walking from our house all the way out to warburton on six separate days, discovering darebin parklands, finally going for a(nother) walk on the maribyrnong river, doing two overnight walks in the dandenongs, figuring out a couple of new back ways through alleys and parks around town, walking from here down to st kilda, climbing mt st leonard near healesville . . . and also walking in yorkshire and london when we were in the uk in march. these are things that i might have done anyway, but having a target definitely encouraged me not to put these things off for another week or two, but to get out and do them now (or at least soon)!

2011KM IN 2011? many people have asked me this, but i think i'll have to say no! the coming year just has too many unknowns for me to set myself another target like this. i have many other projects to plan for in 2011, so i will focus on them. however, i would definitely do something like this again in the future - and if anyone is interested in doing something like it themselves, i'm more than happy to chat with you and help you set a goal!

i think i will still track my progress on a spreadsheet just for fun next year, and i will absolutely try to keep walking most days. maybe i'll do 2012 in 2012?!


  1. this is an amazing achievement, nix. i'm really, really impressed, and i'm glad you met your goal x