Pics: Prostate Cancer UK
THERE’S nothing better than a good breakfast to start the day – especially if you’re walking 400 miles!
Having walked ten marathons in ten days for Prostate Cancer UK last year, I knew I had to go bigger this time. So we upped it to 15 in 15 days this time out – from Exeter City’s St James Park to Newcastle United’s St James’ Park with stops at 40 clubs along the way.
The welcomes we received everywhere were fantastic. From the smallest of clubs like Wellington in the south-west to the biggest clubs like Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City. They all did us proud.
Former Conference champions Fleetwood Town got our vote for the best brekkie, but they were very closely followed by Kidderminster Harriers and Harrogate Town.
I didn’t get a chance to try one of Kiddy’s famous Cottage Pies, but the chef made us a special Kidderminster Breakfast Bap. It had sausage, egg, bacon, tomatoes – anything you name went in. I was glad to walk 27 miles after that just to work it off!
The challenge was even better this time. Last year I was in pieces after each day for the first five days. I didn’t think there was any way I could get through it. Naturally I was a bit apprehensive again this year, but my body and feet have held up much better. Most of the clubs provided a physio at the end of the day, which was invaluable because your legs just don’t get any recuperation time.
But there were so many heart-warming stories along the way that remind everyone of why we did this. We got to Bradford City on Tuesday and a homeless guy we passed gave us some of his change. I met another guy called Abdul who is currently observing Ramadan and is fasting. He got £20 out of his pocket and said, ‘I don’t need this for food, you have it’.
And then the amazing people we had join us on each walk. Some are living with prostate cancer, some have lost people to the disease and we had two guys on Wednesday walking with us who have terminal prostate cancer. So you keep going because their stories are uplifting and their efforts are absolutely amazing.
Once again, lots of famous names came along to walk a leg. Robbie Fowler was tweeting that it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. He might not be as fit as he used to be, but nevertheless, he’s still a sportsman. It just goes to show.
My body quickly became accustomed to it day after day, so in a way it’s actually harder to turn up and do it just once.
We started every day around 8am. If we’d finished by 6pm then that was a good early finish. We had one day go on until 7.30pm, so it’s a long trek – sometimes across fields and along canal towpaths. It’s a mixture of everything. Fortunately we didn’t lose anyone!
Burnley manager Sean Dyche came along, ex-England international Danny Mills, Preston boss Simon Grayson, and of course the Soccer Saturday boys made an appearance. Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson, Matt Le Tissier, Chris Kamara,?Paul Merson all did their bit, Mark Lawrenson, Colin Murray, Kevin Ratcliffe, my mate from Sky Sports Bianca Westwood – it was amazing. And not just people from football. Dominic Cork and Dewi Morris from the worlds of cricket and rugby put their trainers on too. We had so much support.
It was nice to have so many different faces along and it’s great for the people who joined us along the way and raised money. They’ve got themselves fit enough to walk 26 miles and to walk it with someone like Kammy or Robbie Fowler makes the day all the more memorable. It’s not often you get to walk along chatting to heroes or people from the telly you never thought you’d meet.
On Day 14 we finished at my club Hartlepool United and our new manager Craig Harrison pounded the pavements too. I started that day with my tin hat on at our rivals Darlington. That was a quick exit!
But it’s not about rivalry. Prostate cancer doesn’t discern who supports who and we want to spread the message to men that it’s important they recognise any symptoms and get themselves checked out by a doctor or call Prostate Cancer UK’s nurses. One man dies every hour in the UK from prostate cancer. It’s frightening. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have a bit of banter and fun at Darlington.
And despite Pools’ relegation from the Football League, things seem to be falling into place with the arrivals of Ryan Donaldson and Luke George. Carl Magnay is staying which is good news too – I thought he was certain to leave. If we can keep Padraig Amond as well then even better. He scored more than 40 goals in the National League for Grimsby Town and that would be very welcome next season. Signing players with National League experience is important.
If we get the balance right we’ve got half a chance. But we’ve got to treat the league with respect because people will want to beat us. We can’t be big-time Charlies. It’s such a tough league with so many good clubs. As I saw on this walk.
We had a great send-off from Chester. Our guide for the walk used a tactics board to explain the route – I don’t think it went down well when I said, ‘That’s the first time that’s been used here for a while!’
That day we went to Everton via Tranmere Rovers. We were inside Prenton Park and I must admit I was scared witless. How can it be a Non-League club? It’s a Championship set-up. It just shows how hard it can be to get out of the division and how many great clubs are trying to achieve the same thing.
The one thing I am relieved about is we don’t have to hike up that hill to Forest Green Rovers! Dale Vince has got a few quid, he really should put a ski-lift in from the bottom to the top. I certainly wouldn’t fancy walking – not after the last fortnight.