A Very Long Walk for a Very Good Cause
When Raymond was in the States in January, he sent me a link from the Monroe Louisiana paper about a couple who were walking across the US for charity. Being a walker, I was outrageously impressed, and knowing the lack of public footpaths and right aways for walkers, I knew that Nick and Lucy Russell were going to be facing some serious challenges. This lovely couple is sort of dear to my heart because not only are they taking on an amazing challenge for a great cause, but they’re from the UK! Well, I just had to email them. To my surprise and delight, they agreed to let their feet rest a bit while I interviewed them. And they even sent lots of cool piccies! Please welcome Nick and Lucy Russell, from somewhere in the deserts of West Texas.
KD: Of all the things you might have done to raise money for charity, what inspired you to walk across the USA? Why this walk? Why this charity?
N&L: We disagree as to whose idea it was in the first place to walk across America. One of us originally suggested trying to walk across Russia (we only ever seem to take our holidays in Russia, for some odd reason), this was quickly dismissed as being far too difficult! So, America seemed a much shorter option in the end (ah for the benefit of hindsight).
KD:Could you give us a basic description of your route, from where to where? Why this
particular route? How long do you think it will take you?
N&L: We started out at Tybee Island (just east of Savannah, Georgia) and will (hopefully!) finish in San Diego, California. We chose a Southern route mainly because it allows us to avoid the colder weather further north and mountain ranges (it’s also a slightly shorter route, which is always welcome). It also takes us through parts of the country which we wouldn’t have otherwise visited. It should take us 6 months to complete…injuries and bad weather permitting!
KD: Tell us a bit about Nick and Lucy. Who are they now and who were they in their previous life (Before the walk began)?
N&L: Neither of us were particularly keen walkers at all! We might go for a short walk round London on the weekend or whilst on holiday, but nothing more than that – so this represents a big change from our regular routine. We grew up in rural Lincolnshire, but both lived and worked in London for a few years before starting the walk (and are planning to return to do so again once done walking); Lucy for a charity and Nick as a civil servant. It was perhaps a case of finding something as different as possible from sitting behind a desk all day that prompted us to start walking.
KD: After months of walking, you must have your routine down by now. Could you tell us a bit about a day in the walking life of Lucy and Nick?
N&L:We generally start walking between 7.30 and 8.00am, when it starts to get light. An average day is usually 20 to 25 miles in all, although these distances are getting longer now the further west we head. We try and walk for about three to four hours in the morning before having our first rest; we find that if we stop beforehand, we’ll then need to stop every hour or so throughout the day. Talking to
each other really helps pass the time, as does listening to music; quieter days definitely drag much more than the ones which we can talk. We try and stock up on as many calories as we can whilst walking, so we survive on a pretty unhealthy diet of trail mix, protein bars and chocolate whilst walking. We then walk either to the nearest motel or, as has been the case more recently, until sunset and pitch our tent – then it’s time to collapse! Our routine has changed slightly over the past few days, we recently got a trailer to push our food, water and bags. This has taken a lot of weight off of our backs, which we’ve definitely enjoyed.
KD: What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve had to face in your walk so far?
N&L: Probably the boredom. When all you do each and every day is just walk, it can be difficult to get enthusiastic about doing it all over again the next day. That’s why we try and keep our minds a little occupied and not solely focused on walking.
KD: What has surprised you the most in your walk?
N&L: I think it’s how little parts of America are set up to facilitate walking. In many of the towns or cities we’ve been through, pavements are either missing, lead to nowhere, or in a state of disrepair. It’s a much more car focused country than we’re used to. This leads to us looking a little out of place at times when we try walking along roads which clearly weren’t designed for pedestrians!
KD: What have you enjoyed the most so far?
N&L: Probably the little things…like when it’s really hot and a car pulls over and hands you a cold drink, or a comfy bed and nice meal at the end of a long day (especially pecan pie, something we’ve really enjoyed). We’ve also had some really spectacular sunrises and sunsets along the way, which are always nice ways to begin or end the day.
KD: Do you feel this walk has significantly changed you as people? If so, in what way?
N&L: I think we’re still the same people as we were when we began; we’ve perhaps grown a little crazier, and have a greater appreciation of chairs and remaining sedentary, but we haven’t had any epiphanies as of yet! Given all the hospitality we’ve received along the way, it does make us think that we too should become nicer to strangers once we return – as people have been to us.
KD: How did you train for walking all the way across the US?
N&L:We both started walking into work, instead of taking the tube or bus. Lucy walked there and
back each day (around 8 miles), Nick’s walk in was around 5 miles. We also started doing some weekend walks around London, generally up to 20 miles in length (these were pretty tough going, too!). Finally, we went to the Peak District for a week, partially for a bit of a summer holiday, but also to get some more practice in. We definitely didn’t enjoy the hills!
KD: What have been your outstanding impressions of the America you are seeing as walkers and its people? What has been their response to a couple of Brits walking across the US?
N&L: We’ve been more taken aback by people’s support than anything else. We’ve been stopped on a near daily basis for people to offer us lifts (which we politely turn down, of course), food, water, kind words and even a place to stay for the evening. We’ve found that people are much more open here than in England, and much more willing to stop and offer help. When we get into what we’re doing, people think we’re a little crazy (and they wouldn’t be wrong), but always offer support. Our accents also make us stand out, especially compared to the Southern and Texan accents around us.
KD: Tell us a bit about the charity you are raising funds for and are there any ways we who aren’t walking can support you and keep track of your progress.
N&L: The charity we’re raising money for is close to our own hearts…as we set it up! It’s called The Pamir Trust and works in the remote Pamir region of Tajikistan (just north of Afghanistan), to support small scale community led development projects. We’re working with individual villages to identify what small projects we can support that will make a big difference to the village. We will then fund the project and let the village take it from there – after all, they know best! We wanted to set up the charity after visiting Tajikistan a couple of years ago and being humbled by the generosity of the people there, despite it being a very poor and remote corner of the world. There are more details on both the charity and the walk on our website, including where we are at the moment, www.walkamerica.co.uk. People can also follow us on Facebook
www.facebook.com/walkusa, Twitter @walkusa or donate through our fundraising page https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/walkamerica.
KD: Thanks for being my guests, Lucy and Nick. Wishing you a safe and interesting onward journey and much success with your fundraising efforts. You two are truly amazing!