2016 was always going to be a tough act to follow in terms of adventure – once you’ve walked the length of America, where do you go from there? Without a large-scale expedition to look forward to this year I had to make do with fitting in numerous smaller adventures here and there. I think I did a pretty good job and I have definitely created some incredible memories. Here are some of my adventure highlights from 2017:
1. I became a runner
I kicked off the year with my first ever parkrun in Southwark Park. In case you don’t know what parkrun is, it’s a free 5km run that takes places every Saturday in hundreds of parks across the UK, as well as a handful in other countries around the world. It’s a timed run and I didn’t realised how addictive it would become to go back week after week and improve my time. Over the course of almost a year I have improved my 5k time by over seven minutes. A 5k may not sound like much, but it was the catalyst that ignited a chain of events that has spiralled out of control. Very quickly, running went from being an activity I despised to something I actually get withdrawal symptoms from if I‘m not doing it. I will now snatch up any opportunity to run a few miles across London instead of getting the tube (no matter what I’m wearing at the time). I recently ran my first half marathon in October, I just completed a snowy 10 mile trail race in the Peak District and I have signed up to not only my first marathon (Edinburgh) next year but also my first ultramarathon – a 250km multi-day stage race in the Atacama Desert, Chile.
2. I cycled from London to Paris
My first real adventure this year was cycling from London to Paris in April. This was my first ever multi-day bike trip, and it took me three days over a long Bank Holiday weekend. I hadn’t trained for it at all and completely underestimated how difficult it would be. It certainly didn’t help that I was doing the whole thing on a massive mountain bike. It was a frantic trip and I made it to Paris with minutes to spare before getting the last Eurostar back to London. It was seriously challenging but it but it taught me a lot about how to prepare for a bikepacking adventure and set the ball rolling for the next one …
3. … I cycled from Gibraltar To London
My main adventure this year was a 1200 mile bike ride from Gibraltar to London. I rode from the Rock of Gibraltar in Spain, across the Pyrenees, through France and finished my journey at the Shard in London. With only 17 days in which to complete it before work commitments dragged me back to real life, I had to cycle an average of 75 miles a day. Even despite training for 14 weeks beforehand, it was a real struggle and without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. It felt like such a massive achievement to finish and I have no doubt I will do another bikepacking trip in the not-too-distant future.
4. I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc
In June I had a week to kill between leaving one job and starting another so at the very last minute I decided to use that time for an adventure. After a cursory Google search of hiking trails, I decided I had just enough time to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 110 mile trail in the Alps, looping around Mont Blanc through France, Italy and Switzerland. I was hiking the TMB out of season – at least a month too early – and therefore there was a lot more snow than I had anticipated. I had a few terrifying encounters on steep snow slopes and fording torrential stream crossings but it was a beautiful experience and one of my most exciting adventures to date.
5. I went mountain biking and it was fun
In May I spent a weekend mountain biking in the Peak District with my friend Ollie. I wouldn’t say we were the most seasoned mountain bikers but that didn’t stop us attempting a few hairy downhill runs. I had a couple of nasty falls but I’m glad I managed to catch this one of me flying over the handlebars on my GoPro. We also played around with drones and got this cool shot of me riding down an abandoned road near Mam Tor.
6. I walked a marathon overnight
The company I currently work for partnered with the Shine Walk this year, in which thousands of people from all over the country come together to walk a full or half marathon through the streets of London at night, all to raise money for Cancer Research. A few of us volunteered to take it on. I opted for the full marathon of course, choosing to sacrifice a night of sleep for a good cause. Having walked a fair few marathon distances before, albeit through much more difficult terrain with a heavy backpack on, I felt fully prepared for the physical challenge of a stroll round London. But my arrogance was short-lived. I hadn’t considered how tough it would be to walk through an entire night on no sleep. By mile 15 I was falling asleep on my feet. Nevertheless, the view of London at dawn seen from Blackfriars Bridge, the city backlit by the rising sun, was astounding and made the whole thing worthwhile.
The bests and worsts of 2017:
Countries visited: 4 (Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland)
Favourite country: Spain (it was beautiful)
Least favourite country: Also Spain (I got sick of it)
Most liked Instagram photo:
Actual favourite photo:
Funniest moment: Being invited to spend the night with this insane couple
Most painful moment: Crashing my bike in France
Scariest moment: Nearly dying on a steep snow slope in the Alps
Best wild camp: This dried out lake in Spain
Worst wild camp: This rubbish-filled roadside verge in Spain
Distance cycled: 2425 miles (will hit 2500 before 2018!)
Distance ran: 200-250 miles
Distance hiked: Approx 150 miles (not good enough – too much cycling!)
Most read blog: Bears on the Pacific Crest Trail (weirdly, despite having been published nearly two years ago, this blog gets consistently more traffic each month than anything else I’ve written.)
I didn’t spend as much time doing adventures as I would have liked this year. Starting a new job took up a lot of my time, but 2018 will be the year of adventure for sure. Subscribe below and keep an eye out for my next post in which I will be sharing my adventure plans for 2018.