Thursday, October 30, 2008

Other Big Walks 1 – Dr Barbara Moore.

I am currently in USA, having spent the last 4 or 5 days in transit. This has curtailed my walking somewhat. In fact it has cut it down by 100 per cent during that period. I hope to be getting back on the exercise trail tomorrow, although, as previously reported, for our 2 weeks in USA I expect to be doing shorter walks supplemented by other types of exercise.

In the meantime, it seems to be an opportune time to write the first of what will be an occasional series of posts about other big walks I have heard about and read about during my life, which may have played some part, conscious or otherwise, in giving me inspiration for VBW.

Recently I bumped into an acquaintance at a café in Limoux. When I told him about my planned walk and some of the matters I was having to consider, he said, “So you will be just like Dr Barbara Moore.”

In 1960, the British press carried daily reports about the progress of Dr Barbara Moore, who was walking from John o’Groats to Land’s End. For those who do not know, this is from the northern point of Scotland to the southern tip of England. She accomplished this feat in 23 days. The distance is 874 miles.

She went on in 1961 to walk across the USA from San Francisco to New York City, a distance of 3,387 miles, which she completed in 85 days.

One of the reasons the press were so interested in her was that she was a vegetarian. In those days vegetarians were even rarer than they are now, and most people believed that it would be impossible to live a normal life, never mind to undertake such a huge task as this, without a regular intake of good red meat. So the idea of this woman charging such a long distance on such a freaky diet really fuelled the public imagination, or at least that of the press. They probably spent every day waiting for her to collapse, needing a meat infusion.

But no, she walked with only nuts, honey, dried fruits and vegetable juice for her fuel. Even more startling were tales which seeped out of her actually being a breatharian. If you look up that word you will find that breatharians claim to do without food entirely and to assimilate what they need from the air.

Barbara Moore herself later claimed to have cut out food and to live only on flavoured water. More about this and other breatharians can be seen at the following website.

She said she would live to be 150. She did not, partly because she died as a result of a car accident during her travels in America.

She was not the first to walk from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, or the other way round. But the publicity which followed her turned the walk into a virtual industry. In 1960, not many months after Dr Moore’s effort, the holiday camp entrepreneur Billy Butlin organised a walking race to follow her route. There were more than 800 entrants, although rather less finishers.

There are at least two organisations catering for those wanting to make the attempt. Thousands have now walked this “classic” journey (which is now so common that it has its own acronyms – JOGLE or LEJOG, depending upon the direction), not to mention those who cycle it or use all sorts of other strange forms of locomotion, including skateboards. The walk has even been completed by a naked man.

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