Top tips for the Big Walk 2018

Participants in the Big Walk

Across our University, colleagues are gearing up for Friday's Big Walk, a marathon 26.2 mile hike across some of the Peak District's most spectacular scenery.

The brave participants are fundraising for the Sheffield Scanner - an appeal to bring a ground-breaking MRI-PET medical imaging facility to the city. The first of its kind in Yorkshire, this technology will transform our understanding and treatment of diseases including cancer, dementia and motor neurone disease.

If you're feeling nervous in the run-up to the big day, you're not alone, but there's plenty you can do to prepare and ensure your walk goes as smoothly as possible.

Here, participants from previous Big Walks share their top tips on how to make the most of the day. From practical suggestions to mood-boosting ideas, explore some Big Walk wisdom from the people who know what to expect.

Our walkers' advice

"When you're tired, don't think about the bigger picture ("Oh dear, I still have 10 miles left, I will never make it") because that can be intimidating. Instead, think about achievable, smaller goals ("Just a few minutes until the next marshal location" or "The next waypoint is right behind that hill") and try to make it through each one in turn."

Jost Migenda, Department of Physics and Astronomy

"Just wear in your boots well before you go so there won't be any surprises on the big day. Rub a bit of Vaseline on your feet before you put your socks on to prevent blisters. Go at your own pace: it's not a race, so enjoy it.

"I also took a walking pole, a hip flask of good whisky and dark chocolate for emergencies and to keep the old knee and hip joints going until I got home."

Gaynor Hague, Faculty of Social Sciences

  • "Don't have a shower on the morning of the walk. Have a shower the night before, as this allows your skin time to harden and hopefully prevent blisters.
  • Eat and drink plenty while you walk, giving your body nourishment for fighting fatigue.
  • Finally, enjoy the day and take plenty of photos to share later."

Gary Barnsley, AMRC

"My top tip would be to take spare pairs of socks! I have always suffered with blisters and saw someone advise the use of talcum powder and changes of socks to reduce rubbing as a result of sweat (alongside other things to help blisters, like a Compeed stick). It worked a treat!"

Lucy Bloom, Accommodation and Commercial Services

Preparation and prevention are key! 

  • Pack your bags days beforehand to ensure you have everything you need - don't leave it until the morning of the walk.
  • Prepare your feet by taping up areas where you regularly get blisters. Zinc oxide tape or blister packs like Compeeds come highly recommended and it saves a lot of stops and starts during the walk itself.
  • Sudocrem covers a multitude of uses such as cooling sun burn, protecting against chafing, soothing nettle stings and providing an antiseptic for cuts, so you can carry this instead of multiple items to save weight.

James Hill, Admissions Service

Participants in the Big Walk

"My advice is to make absolutely sure your shoes fit well and have room for your feet to swell - I wish I had known that might happen! Also, pack a light rucksack. This is what can slow you down, hurt and tire you if you get it wrong. I wish I had sent across a rucksack to the halfway point with a change of clothes so I wasn't carrying them."

Chloe Gibb, School of Law

"Take a battery pack for phone charging. A mobile phone is a lifeline if anything goes wrong or you need assistance, and you can also use a smartphone to help with navigation if you're walking alone.

If you make it to Bradfield before 5pm there's a small cafe and shop at the Post Office. Joe S-Presso cafe is across from Walkley Library and will be open until 7pm for the purchase of snacks and drinks. They've offered to refill water bottles, which can be handy as the cafe is directly on the route, at the top of the long climb back to Walkley."

George Credland, CiCS

"Stop and deal with blisters as soon as you feel them coming - zinc oxide tape is brilliant! Compeeds are good as well but don't underestimate how many you will need. It was blisters that stopped me at the 38.8 mile mark last year and I was gutted as my stamina and muscles would probably have got me to the end.

"A water bladder is fantastic as you can just have a drink whenever you like without having to stop and get a bottle out. Jelly Babies or Wine Gums in your pocket are a great quick energy boost."

Abbie McGregor, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

"I would suggest wearing a thin pair of socks and a thicker pair of walking socks over the top. I would definitely encourage people to eat regularly, snacking on whatever they fancy - Jelly Babies and flapjacks are my favourites! Try and plan what is needed and when so that you don't carry too much. I had a sandwich that I carried 50m last year and just threw it in the bin when I got home! That could have been more Jelly Babies. Take in the views, they are always awesome in the Peaks whether it is raining or shining."

Tom Hemington, Estates and Facilities Management

"After making it to 40(ish) miles last year and having to tap out, I wouldn't have been able to make it past the half way point without these things. I have no blister tips or tips on how to keep your toe nails undamaged... but these are my tips for positivity and fun:

  • A mini portable speaker which I attached to my bag as this got us singing and dancing down the Monsall Trail in no time.
  • A half-way pop quiz - it takes your mind off how long you've been walking.
  • Take lots of photos and use the hashtags on Instagram. It's nice to follow other people's social media stories along your own journey and it's easier to do with the Big Walk hashtag.
  • We asked colleagues to send emails of encouragement or hilarity before the walk and read them out along the way. Some were just lovely - "good luck" and "you can do it" - but some were ridiculous questions in a "Would you rather..." style which got us laughing."

Jade Bailey, Human Resources