The Thing Is With Steve Canavan

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My friend and I have put our names down to do a 65-mile walk in Wales in July.

I don’t know what possessed us to do this. Well, I do. We’d had four pints each and thought it sounded like a splendid idea. The next morning, sober, we realised the error of our ways but it turned out our £65 entry fee had already disappeared from our accounts and so there was no backing out.

I think we’re trying to fool ourselves into thinking we are still young and fit, whereas in reality I have a long-standing back problem and the last time my friend went for a jog he suffered a severe asthma attack and spent the night in A&E.

We received an email from the event organisers which included a training plan.

‘Begin five-mile strolls seven months before the event,’ it instructed, ‘building to regular and brisk 35-mile walks by the end of March’.

It is now almost May and the furthest I have completed without a break is 8.7 miles, after which I returned to the house and slumped on the bed for several hours complaining of light-headedness and a sharp pain in my right ankle.

But I’m convinced I will rise to the challenge when the time comes and, very much like Scott in the Antarctic, overcome adversity and succeed, though preferably without perishing on the way home.

Besides it’s about willpower as much as physical strength and of the former I have plenty – indeed I once went three whole days without eating my favourite chocolate bar.

I’m also confident because I have walked a longer distance before.

Five years ago, with the same friend - both clearly going through a mid-life crisis at the time - we did something called the Parish Walk.

You’ve probably never heard of it - most sane people haven’t - but it takes place on the Isle of Man and is essentially for nutters.

Competitors, of which there are about 2,000, have to walk 85 miles in 24 hours. You start at 8am and must finish by the same time the next morning.

We actually did train a little for that one, despite the fact it was so damn time-consuming. Average walking speed is four mph, so to do a 40-mile training session took 10 hours and involved booking a day off work.

I accidentally used up my holiday allowance and had to cancel a two-week holiday in France with Mrs Canavan.

Rather than be proud of the lengths I was going to try and complete this walk, she instead seemed incredibly annoyed and began to pack a suitcase screaming, ‘I’m going to my mum and dad’s until you sort yourself out you weirdo’. “I love you too sweet pea,” I replied.

Anyhow, my friend and I eventually completed this walk (I still have the blisters and a limp to prove it) and the whole thing was marvellous. (No you didn’t you fibber, you did 60 miles (ish) then bailed out - Editor)

I did a bit of research on my return and discovered that the idea for the Parish Walk dated back to 1849 when the Manx Sun newspaper published an account of a Mr Harry Kermode, who walked - for reasons not specified - 48-miles from Patrick to Ramsey.

Presumably he’d had a hell of a row with the missus.

Four years later, a coroner by the name of John Cannell - inspired by the previous journey - decided to walk to each of the island’s 17 parishes, covering 90 miles in 15 hours. Apparently he was so quick because he was desperate to get home for the start of Countryfile.

Probably because there’s nothing else to do on the Isle of Man, the idea of a regular walk along the same route slowly caught on and in 1913 the first Parish Walk was organised.

It wasn’t exactly a roaring success - only two people entered - but the seed was sown and it became an annual thing.

The day after I’d completed it I couldn’t move for several hours after waking up, and counted - and this is absolutely true - 12 blisters on my right foot alone.

I’m hoping I’ll be in a better shape after the Wales walk … though given how my training is going, maybe not.

Once is quite enough - twice is just plain weird

Speaking of the Parish Walk - which takes place in June should you be quite mad and fancy entering - there are strict rules.

Walkers must always have one foot on the ground (ie, no running) and have to reach each of the 17 checkpoints inside a specific time to avoid disqualification.

So much food and water are required over the 24 hours that all those who enter must have a support driver – just in case you fancy a ham sandwich at 3am, or, more likely, oxygen and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The fastest time ever recorded came at the 2007 event - a very fit fella called Sean Hands completing the 85 miles in 14 hours and 47 minutes. The even fitter David Collister has the most finishes – 26. Lord only knows what his feet look like.

One woman – by the name of Bethany Clague – actually did it twice.

Insane I call it, but in 2008 Miss Clague, an administrative assistant at Specsavers and part-time gym instructor, walked a staggering 170 miles in 48 hours.

She stopped only once – after the first 85 miles, for a quick shower, a change of clothes and a bite to eat. To say she wasn’t in a good way at the end, though, would be an understatement. She virtually crawled across the line, was so exhausted she couldn’t speak, and still has health problems to this day.

The moral being, don’t try to walk it twice - once, believe me, is quite enough