I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it took me three attempts to pass my driving test. A showdown with a school bus scuppered Attempt One. Second time around…well, let’s not talk about that. Passing on the third go was a brilliant feeling. The sense of achievement, the feeling of independence, and as a bonus I could consign the first two attempts to the mental equivalent of the dusty bit under the bed where the hoover doesn’t quite reach.
This year’s White Horse Challenge will be another third attempt. My first bash at it in 2014 wasn’t a failed attempt but, with my then five year old daughter in tow, the 7 mile family route was our only viable option. I loved the experience and wondered what it must feel like to walk the full 52-mile route.
Last year I resolved to attempt the whole Challenge as training for a 100-km trek of the Sahara I was doing in October. Most of my hikes in the past had been fairly short, fairly flat and involved at least one detour via the pub, so I thought it would be a good idea to build up my stamina. In hindsight, the Sahara trek would have been good training for the White Horse Challenge!
Despite having built up some long walks beforehand to break in my hiking boots, blisters started appearing just 3 miles into the Challenge. After much limping, I threw in the towel on Sunday afternoon at the 32-mile mark. I was disappointed not to finish, but felt proud of getting that far. The miles I walked, across rolling fields, along ancient burial mounds, and through thatch-roofed villages under that big blue Wiltshire sky, reminded me just how lucky we are to live and work in this wonderful county.
So this year is the year I hope to finally complete the Challenge. My useless hiking boots were banished to the cupboard under the stairs and replaced with a fine pair of Salomons. I broke them in on the Sahara dunes, so I know they won’t let me down. If only I could also bring a camel to carry my bag!