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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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Your own pace will get you there

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ON THE BEAT: From left, PC Mark Turner, PCSO Phil Sullivan, PC Dave Edwards, DC Lyndsey Mitchell, PCSO Gail O’Neill, PCSO Michelle Jones, who will be doing the K2B

WHAT started as a race between the Royal Navy and Barrow Shipyard 46 years ago is now an event for all.

Recently, the less challenging Coniston to Barrow route was introduced to appeal to younger and older walkers alike. But don’t be deterred from going the distance, says experienced walker John Falconer, who’s taking part for the 35th time this year.

“If middle aged or older people have the idea that they are too old, it is usually an excuse to save embarrassment, if they fail to complete the first time,” said John, of Dalton.

“The number of people that I have conned into doing the walk over the years is unbelievable, but they are still walking and accept the challenge.”

John first became involved in the Keswick to Barrow when he moved to Dalton in the early 1970s.

“I was approached by the St Paul’s Scout group to help out for a few weeks,” recalls John.

“They had heard that I had been involved in youth work in Accrington, where we came from.

“These few weeks turned out to last for 20 years or so. Bob Hamilton, the scout leader at the time, entered two teams every year in the Keswick to Barrow walk, which to me as an off-comer, did not sound very exciting. I found out, after a number of years backing up in the scout van and eventually walking with the last man the full way, what fun it was.”

Recalling the early days John adds: “The walk started at 6.30am with a rocket flare, the boom echoing round the valley. Teams in fancy dress, suit collar and tie, uniforms from the services, in fact just about anything to make the day fun, was order of the day. I was smitten.”

Taking on the mantle of team leader for St Paul’s Scout group, John changed the team’s name to The Saskwatch Scouts.

He’s also been part of the Lakeland Laundries team and is now team leader of Five Star Plodders.

“It’s funny how the number of completions is now paramount,” said John, who has 34 walks under his belt.

“It didn’t, and still doesn’t matter. It’s the enjoyment.”

Training, for John, starts on Boxing Day, with a quick 10-mile walk from Dalton to Birkrigg Common and back, ably assisted by his walking companion, John Stevens, who has completed 19 walks.

John adds: “The walk is one of the highlights of my year – rising at 3.30am, meeting the teams at 4.15am, the journey at dawn with the cars and buses, all bound for the hustle and bustle of the start at Keswick is exciting. When the walk starts you see people from last year, total strangers talk to anyone and everyone.

“The team T-shirts show where they are from and who they are walking for. The main aim is to reach Dunmail Raise, where hot dogs and bacon butties are waiting for our team. The smell of cooking food at that time of day is lovely.

“As for the walk – drinks, sweets, plasters, assistance is offered to everyone, irrespective of the team. There is no need to suffer or walk alone.”

Sharing his technique for staying motivated John adds: “As the walk goes on, the nearer to home you get the easier it becomes to pick out places you know and different landmarks, such as Sir John Barrow monument, wind turbines etc.

“So following them, or trying to guess where you are, is a way of walking the miles and not realising it. Towards the end, when your energy is at its lowest, walk with someone, talk to someone, do not slow down to walk with someone or speed up – walk at your own pace, it will get you there in the end.”

This year the Five Star Plodders aim to raise £3,000 and if possible, beat last year’s total, of just over £3,000. “We put our money into the central pot and feel that all charities, irrespective of size, benefit by the system.”John concludes: “Good luck to all participants, irrespective of your ability. Have a good time and hope for good weather.”

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