Michele completes the Camino Autumn challenge - walking 100 miles in five days

This is a journey of a life-time on so many levels - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual

Why did I choose the Camino Autumn challenge? A combination of reasons really…

After deciding to semi-retire from teaching I knew I would have time to commit to the training. I had completed four Half Moons at Walk the Walk’s MoonWalks in London and Edinburgh and loved everything about these events. It was training for these half marathons which got me hooked on walking – I love the physical, mental and emotional benefits which walking gives me.

I knew I could walk even further and was ready for a new challenge. Taking on a mega 100 mile walk on the Camino Autumn challenge would be a great fundraiser for Walk the Walk, especially after the ‘lull’ during the pandemic. I couldn’t resist the pull of having the opportunity to walk along Spain’s beautiful, famous Camino Pilgrim trail and to ultimately reach Santiago de Compostela, with it’s beautiful, historic Cathedral. A completely different experience and adventure was waiting for me. It was a ‘no brainer’ really!!

Michele (left) and her friend Sue on the Camino trail

I took the plunge and registered, along with my ‘Camino Buddy’ Sue, who was just as excited to embrace and commit to the cause. It was great to have a mate to share the journey with, as well as being able to forge new wonderful friendships along the way; we were uniting with like-minded people, walking towards a very important common goal.

When I signed up, the most daunting part of the Challenge, I realised, was the fundraising target, not the walking! But I needn’t have worried as there was plenty of support from the wonderful Walk the Walk staff, who were always at hand with invaluable advice and ideas. The one main fund-raising event was my car boot sale - it was not only fun to organise, it boosted my funds instantly!

The stall attracted a lot of attention as I displayed a Walk the Walk banner, large posters and collection tins (plus pink balloons) all provided by the team, thank you! It was also great to receive many positive and supportive comments from my local community. The organisers even let our two cars in free of charge because we were there for a charitable cause - result! In the end, I easily reached the target and more, an achievement that exceeded my expectations and of which I am very proud.

If you’re thinking of taking on the Camino Autumn challenge I would highly recommend it. It is a journey of a life-time on so many levels, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – a demanding 100 mile walk in 5 consecutive days is very challenging indeed, especially in hot weather… phew!! I much prefer the sunshine than the rain any day, but having said this, the weather just adds to the adventure and being prepared for any eventuality is the key!

During my Camino challenge, I remember on many occasions saying to myself as I climbed up and down those hills in the heat, ‘I’m glad I did so much training beforehand’. I was very grateful for the training programme suggested by Walk the Walk - by following it, I was physically and mentally fit to tackle the demanding terrain and still enjoy the experience day after day.

During my training, I walked in all kinds of weather, on many different terrains, for many long hours, experimenting with footwear, foot protection and clothing. The time and effort invested in the training proved to be more than worthwhile. I wanted to be as prepared as much as I could be, to ensure my chances of succeeding with a smile (not a grimace!) and to be relatively pain free! I knew there was always going to be discomfort along the way, so I became very obsessed with my feet, which was just as well, because in addition to the advice given by Walk the Walk, I put into practice my own foot care research, all of which proved invaluable.

My main worry was the skin graft I have covering my right foot, which only has four toes after a major road accident many years ago. Due to the thinness and sensitivity of the skin it can blister very easily with the constant friction caused by socks and shoes, especially walking in the heat for many hours. After seeking advice from a podiatrist and the internet for various anti-blister products to use (covering the feet with Vaseline worked wonders!), I eventually found the technique which not only protected my feet during the training, but all the way through our five-day walk.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was, when after every day I slowly peeled off the layers of protection to see my skin still intact, sore but blister and wound free – it meant I could continue with my walking the next day! The time and effort paying attention to my precious feet was very important, not to mention experimenting with different types of socks and shoes, having one foot wider than the other; it was all part and parcel of the challenge!!

This is a challenge I would definitely take on again, the whole experience and the immense feeling of achievement on all levels is one that I will never forget. Not to mention witnessing the beautiful scenery, the sunrises and sunsets, and being able explore Santiago and its culture. And I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share many special moments along the way with such wonderful, warm-spirited people.

The support and encouragement that everyone gave each other when the going got tough, as well as the celebrations at the end of each exhausting day, were very much appreciated. The collective feeling of accomplishment and pride felt by everyone when we walked together into Santiago and hugged and laughed in front of the Cathedral with our completed Camino passports is something I will treasure for a very, very long time!

A ‘HUGE THANK YOU’ to all the team at Walk the Walk and to all my Camino Buddies who made my walk so memorable and amazing. You are all awesome and together we will fight against this dreadful disease. I can’t wait for the next mega Challenge… bring it on!!

Thank you for sharing your story Michele! Sign up now for The Camino 100 Autumn 2023.


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