Gearing up for the Big Walk 2019
In less than a month, hundreds of staff and students will take to the Peaks, walking (and in some cases running) 23 or 37 miles in aid of Sheffield Scholarships.
We caught up with colleagues to discover their motivations for taking part and how they’ve been preparing for the challenge.
Dr Stephanie Shepheard
Stephanie is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience Department of Neuroscience, walking the 23 mile Big Walk. She explains what she has learned from last year’s walk and how the scholarships appeal is a cause close to her heart.
Last year was my first Big Walk, and my first experience walking long distance and doing a marathon. I learned a lot about walking, fundraising, and what I can achieve, and I enjoyed the whole experience. Apart from one thing – I wore hiking boots and got blisters on my blisters despite my long training walks leading up to the event! I had such a good time though, that I've signed up again this year.
This year things are a little different, not the least I'll be walking in runners! I've done a few practice walks around Mam Tor with more ups and downs so far too.
Each year, we walk for a different cause. This year, we are supporting student scholarships – a cause close to my heart. I was fortunate to have financial support and two scholarships throughout my university education, without which it would have been difficult for me to afford to live 300 miles from my family in country Australia to attend university in the city. Without those scholarships, I wouldn't be working at the University of Sheffield today!
Such situations are still common with financial anxiety contributing to whether people go to university – fewer than half of students from disadvantaged backgrounds getting the opportunity to study in higher education. This year, we all have the opportunity to remove this barrier through the Big Walk.
If you're joining in this year, I hope you're getting excited – we've got one month to go!
Kathy is a Research Software Engineer in the Digital Humanities Institute. She has been involved in every Big Walk since 2015, from walking to marshalling, to organising training walks to help colleagues prepare for the challenge. Kathy writes about her Big Walk adventures on her blog Walk the (Big) Walk.
The 2015 Big Walk changed my life. I was one of the team of 20 that walked the Pennine Way to raise money for research into Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. Being part of that team rekindled my love for the outdoors, got me seriously fit, started an obsession with fell running and ultrarunning, and, most importantly, forged some very special friendships.
But I remember how daunting it felt to be offered a place on the team back in 2015, and not knowing any of the other walkers, and not being certain of my ability to get through the training let alone the actual walk. So I’ve been involved in every Big Walk since 2015, and one of the things I like to do is organise a few training walks before the event. I really enjoy meeting the other walkers, and it’s a chance to swap some tips, check out parts of the route, and get a bit of training in.
Kathy and the team recently started training for the Big Walk, following the Round Sheffield Walk route.
The Round Sheffield Walk was the very first training walk we did as a team in 2015, and it’s one I do over and over again. It’s a great route, with a few steep climbs. It’s well signposted, and generally good trails (now!). And it really highlights how green a city Sheffield is, and lets people see some of the fantastic parks and woodland that are literally on the University’s doorstep.
I'm hoping to organise at least one after-work and one weekend training walk each week right up until the Big Walk. This Sunday, we're reccying the route from Ladybower to Sheffield (I hope to reccy the start of the 37 mile route the weekend after). We had a very wet walk after work yesterday, covering some of the Big Walk route (from Rivelin) and along Rivelin valley. Anyone is welcome on these training walks - although I do try and stick to the specified pace, which is quite brisk on the weekend walks.
I would say that even if people are only just starting training now, any walks will help. Getting out will not only get fitness up, but is also an opportunity to test out your kit, and find out what food and water you want on the day. I know people find it difficult to to fit walks in around family and other commitments, but even a brisk walk up to Crookes in your lunch hour, or walking to and from work, or out to Meadowhall - the miles can quickly add up. We recently managed nearly nine miles in three hours after work, in terrible weather. The more you do, the easier you'll find it on the day. But I think it's important to give yourself credit for what you do manage to do rather than constantly feeling that what you're doing is not enough. The Big Walk is meant to be a challenge, and most people will find it difficult - but I hope they'll enjoy it too.
Share your Big Walk wisdom
If you’re a seasoned Big Walker, we’d like to know your tips and advice for staff and students taking part this year.
If you’re feeling inspired, there’s still time to sign up for the challenge: