Thursday 26 April 2018

Couch to Camino: Andrea Smith faces the final curtain as she sets off for the Camino later this week

After weeks of writing about it, Andrea Smith heads off to walk 115km of the Camino later this week, but has she done enough?

And now, the end is near: Andrea Smith is about to embark on her Camino walk
And now, the end is near: Andrea Smith is about to embark on her Camino walk
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Please indulge me, as I'm feeling a tad melodramatic this week, as the clock ticks down to my imminent departure for the big walk this coming Saturday.

Back in July, I announced my intention of spending six days walking 115km of the famous pilgrimage trail, the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, which came as a huge surprise to even me, given that I'm a fully paid-up member of the couch potato club.

The news also surprised my nearest and dearest, as one of my favourite pastimes is mocking the fit brigade and I'm not known for embracing exercise. Even so, singer Frances Black piqued my interest by describing how amazing this particular challenge is, and I agreed to go with her to raise money for her charity, The Rise Foundation, giving myself 10 weeks to get into some sort of reasonable shape.

Be grand, I thought, there's plenty of time ahead to get fit, but now, with five days to go before we fly to Spain, I'm not feeling overly confident.

While I couldn't care less about my weight in terms of how I look, I decided it might be prudent to shed a few pounds, purely to make the walk easier. Knowing that my low boredom threshold meant that I wouldn't stick to a regular plan for long, I decided to embark on a varied series of diets.

Some were completely bonkers, like The Baby Food and Cabbage Soup diets, while others were more tried-and-tested, like Atkins and juicing. It was quite entertaining getting to grips with a different one each week, and although some people criticised this random weight-loss method, I liked it.

I felt that, just like Santiago itself, which can be approached from various routes, there are many ways to shed the pesky pounds. In doing these varied diets, I managed to shed two stone over the summer, bringing me from 19 stone to 17. Hardly sylph-like, of course, but I felt the difference in my lighter step.

I also embarked on a programme to increase my daily walking distance, and after 10 weeks, I can truthfully say that I'm not sure how successful I was on that front. Real life kept getting in the way, and although I tried my best to get out where I could, we'll be walking approximately 20km per day for six days along the Way of St James, and I don't know if I have got myself up to the level where that will be comfortably doable.

Then again, it's a pilgrimage so it isn't supposed to be easy, and I've decided to take it handy, take lots of breaks and not worry about how long it takes each day. I know that some people belt off each morning to get there as quickly as possible, so they'll have the rest of the day to explore and have fun.

I don't really care about that - I just want to be able to do the thing and get there in one piece. I was amused when one friend suggested to me that I could always get a taxi if things became too difficult, and had pleasant fantasies of myself lying on the floor of the taxi zooming unseen by the rest of the group to the next stop.

Don't worry, no matter how hard it is I won't do that, because people have very kindly sponsored me to do the challenge and my conscience wouldn't allow it when it's for charity.

Our luggage will go ahead, and I have good walking shoes, rain gear, gel insoles, anti-blister socks that cost 14-bloody-euro per pair, and a wealth of information and advice from the Dublin-based experts we're going to Spain with, Follow the Camino (you can check them out on followthecamino.com).

I also have good, upbeat music on my iPod and have downloaded a couple of audio books to distract me where necessary. Everyone says you meet loads of interesting people along the way and have loads of chats about life, and although that sounds a lot like what I do in my day job, it should hopefully be fun.

The weekly column ends here, and thanks so much for your company on the journey, especially to all of you who have contacted me with advice and suggestions. If you want to see how I'm getting on, I'll be writing blogs on Independent.ie while I'm actually doing the challenge.

So, eeek, here we go! Time to stop writing and pull on my boots. Wish me luck!

For more information on Andrea's charity efforts, see the risefoundation.ie

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