Stephen Facetimed me this evening as I was walking in Hyde Park.
“Are you running?” he asked.
“No,” I replied. “I’m walking. I’ve been walking for six hours now.”
And because he knows me, his first question was not “Why?!” but, “Where have you been going to the bathroom?”
The Great Walk of London 2016 happened, my friends. And it was glorious.
A couple days ago I read about a guy on Reddit who was walking from Los Angeles to Boston. When someone asked him the reason behind his trip, his response was “the adventure.” While attempting a crazy feat for charity or to raise awareness of an important cause is of course commendable, there’s also something to be said about doing it just for the heck of it. For the adventure. For the 30,000 step Fitbit badge.
With that in mind, I set out on The Great Walk of London at 11:42 am this morning. My plan was simply to walk — to enjoy London and get some Fitbit steps and exercise at the same time. My first stop was House of Fraser on Oxford St because Stephen asked me to return a suit he bought online. So yes, the first 6,000 or so steps of The Great Walk were done while carrying a men’s suit. I thought about taking the Tube first, but I deemed it The Great Walk of London, not the Great Tube Journey Then Walk. So I walked, suit stuffed into my foldable tote bag. Once I offloaded the suit I headed down Regent’s Street to Piccadilly Circus for my first step check in:
9,338 steps. I quickly learned that it is not easy to take a photo of a Fitbit Charge HR display. The numbers show up distorted, if they even show up at all. My iPhone camera roll is now full of way too many failed shots of my wrist.
My first museum stop was the National Gallery where I refilled my water bottle at one of London’s elusive water fountains (they are not prevalent here at all!) and used the loo. To answer Stephen’s question: museums. I went to the bathroom at museums. So many different museums. But we’ll get to that.
I strolled along the Thames in the direction of Borough Market. Right before I hit St. Paul’s I suffered my first bought of sore legs and “Dear god why am I doing this?”
I sat down on a bench, stretched out my legs, and gave myself a pep talk.
“You’re almost to Borough Market. Just think of the delicious gourmet chocolate! That’ll give you the energy you need to press on!”
So I pressed on.
13,695 miles at St. Paul’s, about to cross the Millennium pedestrian bridge. My legs immediately felt better and as I arrived at Borough Market, I was handed a Swiss chocolate sample. Things were turning around!
I ordered a chicken shawarma wrap for lunch and scored the last open bench seat. It felt so good to sit down for a bit and get something to eat. The last time I had the chicken shawarma at Borough Market I dripped oily garlic sauce all down my nice jacket. I was extra careful this time.
After lunch I wandered around the market a bit, scoring samples and buying my favorite chocolates. Artisan du Chocolat is insanely expensive luxury handmade chocolate, but they sell bags of broken and misshapen chocolates for super cheap and it’s amazing. I got two.
Since I was already past the halfway point of 15,000 steps, I turned around and headed back along the Thames to the Tate Modern. I forgot to take a photo, but I strolled around the museum a little and of course made use of their facilities.
My next destination was the Imperial War Museum. The last time I was there was in 2011 when my family visited. It was such a neat museum and I’ve been saying for years now that I would go back, but never got around to it. The Great Walk of London seemed like a perfect excuse.
I visited their Holocaust exhibit, which is always a moving experience. Then it was time to cross back over the river to hit up the Tate Britain.
I haven’t been there in years either.
As I wandered around the museum the fatigue started to hit me a bit and I collapsed on a big comfy couch. My mom texted me a pep talk, I ate some chocolate, and knew I could do it. I was so close now! I pulled up Google maps to determine the best route home when I noticed the Saatchi Gallery was (almost) on the way. That’s one of the few free museums I haven’t been to yet, so I made it my next destination. The walk between the Tate and Saatchi Gallery was pretty boring, but I knew I was close to my goal. Just outside the gallery I sat down on a bench and checked my steps:
I had done it! 30,000 steps! 13.1 miles, a half marathon distance! The longest I’ve ever walked [since getting my Fitbit]. As I rejoiced [internally] it hit me that I wasn’t done yet. I was still miles away from home. I miscalculated my route. I thought about “quitting” and hopping on a bus or Tube home, but again, I was doing The Great Walk of London. I had to walk. Plus, it was still early. I had time to pop into the Saatchi Gallery, then make the walk home. Except there would be no popping into the gallery because of this sign:
There are three things I do not do in London: I do not pay to pee. I do not pay for water. And I do not pay for museums that are supposed to be free. So I turned around and walked home. Since I couldn’t use the loos at Saatchi, I stopped in Harvey Nichols department store in Knightsbridge. Then I walked through Hyde Park along the paths I’ve ran countless times. I sat down by the Serpentine and ate the “big ticket item” in my chocolate bag.
It was filled with passion fruit cream and was magnificent. It gave me the final boost I needed to get home.
These were my stats when I walked in my door.
(18% may be the lowest battery level I’ve ever let my phone get to. It was giving me major anxiety.) My 30,000-step quest turned into a 37,469-step journey. I walked for 7 hours straight.
I earned the 30,000 step badge and the 35,000 one. And I was only 2,531 steps away from the 40,000 step badge. So you know what I did. I took a shower, passed out on my bed, laid down on the floor with my feet up on the wall, forced myself to walk into the kitchen and cook dinner, THEN I walked 2,531 more steps around my living room. Success:
The Great Walk of London stats not displayed on the Fitbit app:
Museums visited: 5
Museums actually free and open to visit: 4
Times I sat down on benches and thought about quitting: 5
Calories consumed in chocolate alone: 2,857 (estimated)
Times I was stopped and invited to join a Bible study: 1
Podcasts listened to: 4
Cute Chihuahuas spotted: 2
Corgis spotted: 0