Today I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane to my 40k day - the day I broke 40,000 steps for the first time since I started recording my activity. This was part of a grander adventure called 20k Saturdays where throughout the year of 2019, which feels about 10 years ago now, I would hit 20,000 steps every Saturday; rain or shine, big adventures or stuck indoors it wouldn't matter - if it was a Saturday, I would do 20k steps. To some, this may not seem like the biggest challenge, but as someone with a desk job stuck in urban sprawl it can honestly be difficult to find the motivation to go out of my way to rack up some steps. Sure, on days I would travel or go hiking getting north of 20k is pretty damn achievable and common, but what about my Saturdays spent indoors? Lazy duvet days or even DIY days, where I do plenty of exercising but don't necessarily walk as much? It was perfect because I knew it would be a nice balanced challenge, something I was more than capable of I just needed to maintain motivation for 1 whole year. I have already gone into detail about the overall challenge of 20k Saturdays, but today I want to talk about one exceptionally sunny Saturday in May where I managed to double my goal.
One thing that loomed around this time was our impending trip to Spain - we were going in June and expecting to absolutely bake and I was honestly questioning if that would be the day to finally break my 20k Saturday streak. Winter had been easy, and it is all well and good bumbling around in 20-ish degree weather but once the thermometer starts reading north of 30, in the shade no less, things get a little more challenging. So, after travelling to our home away from home in North Wales and waking on the first day to unseasonably spectacular weather, I knew this was a great opportunity to practice and I had an idea that would help me check off one other goal I had always had. Barmouth, the biggest local settlement, was only about 4 miles away and I had always wanted to walk there and back again - a nice walk on either beach or roads sloped in mountains and perfect for someone who needed to do a 20k step day, I'd walk in, wander around town and walk back to get my 20k!
I enlisted Rox in my day's adventure as a means of some moral support, and we made our way up to the lane and to the main road to begin our journey in - the only drawback to this beautiful day was the tide was unfavourable for beach walking, but considering I was planning to do a fair few steps today the firmer surface seemed the better option. Early on in the day, the weather was unquestionably perfect for walking, the sun sitting low in the sky keeping us warm while a soothing sea breeze kept us cool, and we enjoyed the views out over the bay in any direction. We stopped periodically along the way to enjoy soak in those views, meet the young lambs that had sprung into life this spring and just generally have a grand old adventure. The walk was uneventful, but we spotted a footpath sign near St Mary & St Bodfan’s Church and saw an opportunity to explore a part of the town we had never had the chance to before. We descended over the train lines via a wooden bridge and down onto the sea wall, which happened to be a direct, flat and smooth route into the town with the added bonus of the ocean chorus gently rolling waves up against the concrete. Considering its coarse and brutal appearance, this section of sea-wall is a surprisingly enjoyable place to be and I loved the smells of sea-salt and the brief respite from the sun under the bridge as the day's temperature slowly crept into the higher digits.
We joined the promenade at the far north end and enjoyed the quieter stretches of Barmouth beach under the ever-present song of seagulls. Barmouth town was as enjoyable as ever, it was a lovely day but we were still in May so the streets were calm and full of that quaint seaside town vibe that tends to get drowned out on the busier weekends and holidays. We slalomed around aimlessly, popping into shops, refuelling with some snacks for the road back and racking up steps wherever possible. We eventually met up with my parents in the Tal-Y-Don where we took a moment to recharge before Rox finally decided to throw in the towel and jump in the car back - clearly, a much wiser person than I. Everyone felt bad that I would be walking alone, but I had beautiful weather, plenty of fluids and a few snacks to keep my spirits high as I racked up step after step, and my goal wasn't just to walk to Barmouth but walk back too, I wasn't about to quit now.
I started up the road out of Barmouth alone but in the company of the midday sun and felt like this was a great opportunity to have a little explore - I have seen plenty of Barmouth in the centre but there were plenty of spots just outside the town I had never seen. I needed the steps, so why not? Plus, every route under trees was a few minutes shade to cool my now sun-kissed face. Every sign sporting a little man walking on a green background was an opportunity for an adventure, some were fairly unexciting, usually just a cut-through to the lower streets from the main road, but I did stumble upon one wonderful little spot. Down a slope and under the trees, the canopy above formed a patchwork of shade, giving me a much-needed break in a lusciously green space of nature that was well maintained and away from the crowds. There were areas with arches being grown, places to sit and above all else, the area was so alive with birds; I sat alone watching Sparrows and Robins bob along the path, dart between the bushes and digging in the grass for a bite to eat. It was a greatly appreciated bit of reinvigoration that gave me the motivation I needed to get on with my journey.
As you can imagine, a good deal of my journey was uneventful as for the most part I was simply strolling down a long straight-ish road. Awe-inspiring views spanned out to my left and I continued looking for hidden walks, but as the slopes grew on both sides the signs became less frequent all I could do was focus on the walk ahead - that and my sudden urge for the bathroom. Now, public bathrooms are fairly generous all around North Wales but this particular walk was devoid of any. What this area does have is plenty of camping and caravan sites most of which do have publicly accessible bathrooms, I contacted my parents who had visited the next site in the past, Caerddaniel, to get directions to the WC.
With that emergency resolved, I took a break under the Caerddaniel sign, the only shade I had seen in a good while, where I donned fresh socks, chugged some water and had a light bite to eat. Even along the main road with cars racing by this was still perfect for recharging my batteries, the cars were actually a bonus as their racing past formed a nice comforting breeze. Once my feet had stopped humming it was time to take on the final stint. I grabbed a quick snap of my watch, which had already rolled over 20,000 steps, and pushed on to the last part of my walk.
I had never intended for this to be anything more than a normal 20k day where I also happened to do this one particular walk I had always wanted to do, but then the thought crossed my mind that I had already done 20k by 1 pm - surely that was plenty of time to do it over again? Obviously, any great figure of steps would be an achievement but I was already doing 20k Saturdays so doubling it is a nice round target to hit! Like a dog with a bone, I now had a goal I had to hit and as I headed down the final lane to my destination I knew I wouldn't be happy if I didn't smash it. By the time I arrived at the glorious sight that is a sofa, I was on around 27k steps and while I had plenty left to do it was unquestionably time to relax. I kicked off my hiking boots that I had dragged along all the way home like two anchors and let my feet recover while I mentally prepared myself to do, more-or-less, the same walk all over again.
The rest of the day was very methodical, in the past, I had already achieved a 30k step day by using a nice route I had mapped that looped around giving views over the beach and resulted in almost exactly 1000 steps each time. So, to the loop I went and because I had left myself so much time to get this done I could take some nice long breaks in-between walks. There were aches and pains, nothing an Ibuprofen couldn't sort, but I was motivated and nothing was going to stop me. Partway through I went on a nice long walk with my parents to give the dog some exercise and throughout the afternoon I slowly ticked up my pedometer knowing my goal was in sight. This part was surprisingly relaxing, sure my feet hurt and I wanted nothing more to sit in the sun and unwind but I had a job to do and was enjoying doing it; as I inched close I thought to myself "hell, I could go for 45k, maybe even 50!". But as the sun began to set and my watch rolled over to 40,000, sanity kicked in and I decided that was enough walking for that day...
So there it is, that's how my weird year where I did 20,000 steps every Saturday caused me to do 40,000 steps one random Saturday in May. These kind of challenges are a great thing to pose yourself because they force you to do things you might not have done otherwise and discover places you probably wouldn't have visited without them. It is worth it, no matter what your goal is - consider taking up a similar challenge yourself and see how you go, set yourself a reasonable goal that is a little bit beyond the norm, but ultimately achievable, and see how long you can keep it up for. I keep looking at those damn Fitbit badges and know I need to go for the next one (and the one after that, and the one after that...), I keep planning how I would do it but I know that rather than forcing myself out to walk I need to let the next milestone happen naturally. The last thing you want to do is turn these achievements into a slog you stop enjoying, it is a little too easy to let things like this stop being fun - so make sure, no matter what you challenge yourself to do, you still have a smile on your face.