I decided to take on the Coast to Coast challenge because I had Covid-19 early on at the beginning of March, way back before the lockdown.  Although I didn’t have to go to hospital, it was grim and has left me feeling extremely tired and weak.

I have always been really strong; I walked the 100km Thames path in one go four years ago, and one day I walked from my village in Surrey across London to St Albans (over 40 miles).  Last year I did a 26 mile walk just to support a friend.  I used to regularly walk two to three miles a day but now I am exhausted after half a mile - and if there are any hills, I can’t speak for puffing.

Shirley in her garden 

At the moment it is really hard to make myself do any exercise so I thought the Coast to Coast challenge might help me to get up and out again.  I am finding the challenge hard because I am used to being much fitter than I currently am. I have only done four miles so far, but I am determined to finish it.  I won’t be very fast and may need extra time, but I am trying to be kind to myself because if I overdo it one day, I am knocked out the next. 

I am doing most of my walking in my garden which is flat. I am lucky because I have a big lawn, and I calculated that by the time I have gone back and forward mowing the stripes I have done one mile.  Needless to say, the grass is quite short at the moment!  I walk on the days I have the stamina, so it was only once a week at first but now I am aiming for every other day.  I walk for about 30 minutes unless I mow the lawn, which takes two hours.


I am lucky to still be employed full time, so I try to fit my walking in after work.  Covid-19 has left me with very achy joints so it takes me a while to get going in the mornings.  I used to get up and be on the train by 6.30am, but now even if I am up and working, I am very slow for about four hours.  After that I am ok, so I walk later.

I love being outside in the sunshine and fresh air. I live in the countryside and the birds and wildlife are incredible this year.  It’s also been nice to see all the plants growing in the garden as I have time to appreciate them. It’s been a beautiful spring.

The impact of doing the challenge on my mental health has been so beneficial.

I am happy when I walk, and I believe I am getting healthier. I could imagine that the after-effects of Covid-19 could have left me quite depressed, but I think the walking (and it has been gentle walking) has prevented that happening.

If you are thinking of taking on the challenge, do – it’s fun, it’s a challenge and most of all, you know you are doing something to support spinal injured people who at the moment are particularly vulnerable.

Last year I did the Aspire Channel Swim and I am missing swimming very much, especially since I think it would help my general fitness.  I can’t wait for the pools to re-open - I might even be able to walk there and back by then too.  In the meantime, I am enjoying the different mental health benefits that walking is giving me; when swimming you get into a routine up and down the pool, looking at the same things.  With walking (even mowing the lawn) there is always something new to look at, such as a bird landing or an interesting insect. 

I started the walk a bit late, so I have only raised £30 so far.  My family and friends are great; they aren’t keen to do the walk themselves, but they like to sponsor me. One friend thanked me for asking and said she liked to have the opportunity to do something to help.  I usually ask people I know via Facebook and email; friends, family and colleagues, particularly my line manager who is always very generous! 

My fundraising tip is don’t be afraid to ask people to sponsor you.  People have often said to me “Oh if I’d known I would have sponsored you.”  Also, people are busy and do forget and are often really upset when they realise, so do be kind and give them time and then a little reminder. 

I am glad to have the opportunity to raise funds for people with Spinal Cord Injury as I know that life can be more complicated for them; you have to deal with a lot more paperwork for a start, and often there is a fight to get the right welfare benefits. Sometimes you lose your home as it’s not accessible and your job might be impossible to do. You might need special equipment to access the internet so that you can be independent and able to do your own banking, emails, studying etc. You might need support to access sport and leisure facilities. All these things cost extra money to sort out. I like the thought that I am supporting people to be as independent as possible.


Sponsor Shirley

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