Ten years ago, my best friend called me at work to share the news that our mutual friend, Catherine, had died. Catherine was suffering from depression and ultimately it killed her: she killed herself.
This month, in commemoration of her life and our loss, a group of Catherine’s University friends are making an effort of collectively walking 250 miles – roughly the distance from her home town of Bootle to our university town of Cambridge. You can track our progress and read more about the project here
. I appreciate many of you sponsored me for a walk last month, but to contribute to the cause for which we are walking, you can sponsor us in aid of mental health charity the MindEd Trust if you wish.
It’s a great cause, but my main reason for walking is more selfish. Walking is proven to be good for the mental and physical health, so walking is good for us as well as being good for the cause.
I’m a goal-oriented individual, so I’m naturally inclined to check off as many miles as I can, but with little feet and little brains walking alongside, that’s rarely the way it happens.
Two weekends ago, I went with the family for a long walk in the forest. We enjoyed the changing North American trees, and a low-pressure couple of hours together looking for pine cones and pretty leaf colours. Then I went back to move the car, and walked for a while alone. It was a very different experience; freer and faster, but less social.
Then last weekend, we went again. And this time, one of the youngest members of the sponsored group got his first taste of forest walking. Dominic, who only started walking at all 10 days ago, did 100 steps or so of the 2 miles total. Again, we’d have been quicker and gone further if he’d stayed on Daddy’s back, but while those few metres add nothing to the group’s total, they are some of the most special to me, along with the times we stopped to show Sebastian the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees, or took detours to hunt crickets off the main path.
For the group, this walk is about an old friend, but it is also about mental health – both that of strangers and our own. Sebastian’s been walking for almost 3 years, Dominic for less than three weeks – they are both the strongest and best reasons I can think of for walking a little less far, and getting a whole lot more out of it as a result.