The pedestrian part of my Challenge ended on Day 4, when my right ankle, which I thought had recovered from a twist suffered two weeks before, declared unequivocally that it had not. I “retired,” as the Challenge people so nicely put it, at Invergarry, having at least crossed the magnificent Knoydart peninsula.

One way to look at this is that I went an awfully long way for a very short walk. This is true, but not particularly accurate, because I wound up having a Challenge experience to be savored—it just happened to be largely inside out and upside down.

My withdrawal set me off in a downward spiral of emotions, from shocked dismay, to shame and embarrassment, to disgust and frustration. But having licked my wounds for a few days in my fetid little hotel room in Fort William, I bobbed up from the depths of (oh-so-attractive!) depressed self-pity to a state of rueful acceptance. I decided that since I’d had a spectacular time during my short functional period and had become enveloped in the aura of the Challenge (the people—the wonderful, uncompetitive, generous, friendly, positive people), that I’d try to stay as involved in the event as possible. No slinking out of town in imagined disgrace.

To make a long, heavily populated, and well-lubricated story short, I made my way around to Braemar, where I knew my former mates (and many others) would be coming through, joined enthusiastically for a couple of days in the infamous socializing, then took a deep breath and a couple of aspirin, and headed for the finish-line in Montrose to do it all over again. There I helped out as best I could and controlled my envy sufficiently to share the joy with my new friends as they arrived to sign the book and complete their walks.

I enjoyed the joyous final blowout of the banquet, many more drinks with many more Challengers, said my heartfelt thank-yous and reluctant good-byes, and headed home, deeply disappointed that I hadn’t been able to finish the walk, but having had a fine time—a superfine time—with a raft of spectacular people I’d love to see again.

I won’t be posting a true diary, because I only walked for four days, but I’ll write more about the Challenge and Challengers—with names and photos—over the next few weeks.

Then I’ll have to decide what to do with this blog.


Retired — 10 Comments

  1. Mark,
    it was great meeting you. I do hope you return to do the Challenge again. Take it from one who has been in a similar position, and I handled the withdrawal a lot worse than you did.
    As for what to do with the blog, that’s easy keep it going and write about walks over there and the prep for your next Challenge.
    You have unfinished business so you have to come back 😉

    Once again it was great meeting you.


    PS Do you have Jules email address the one he gave me seems to be wrong?

  2. Well said Darren!


    Great post! So sorry you had to retire, but really glad you stayed connected to the Challenge community and made the most of the situation.

    Hopefully you’ll be back and I’ll be free to the Challenge that year!

    All the best till next time/year!?


  3. Hi Mark

    Have just read your post – Don’t despair Sir! An ankle injury can take a while to heal so you now have a year to sort it out. It’s always a worry taking an injury to the start of your walk and it is rotten luck that it flared up again.

    Now you have had a taste of the Country and the Challengers I do hope you will consider returning another year: It was good meeting you – you’re of the right stuff.

    Keep the blog going – It’s a great read that I always look forward dipping into.

    All the best from this side of the pond,

  4. Hey Mark,

    Well done! You kept your spirits up (literally and figuratively) despite adversity! It’s not easy doing a walk like the TGO Challenge, or it wouldn’t be called a challenge.

    I had my own injuries as you know, but you had the misfortune of doing a walk with an unforgiving schedule. I also twist my right ankle easily, and I can’t think of managing the rough surfaces that you did.

    Glad you persevered and enjoyed, and please write more about the Challenge – you have some unique perspectives, and I am sure I’ll be able to relate to them.


  5. Hi Mark
    It was good to see you enjoying yourself in Braemar and Montrose despite your ‘retirement’.
    I would echo Alan’s sentiments – come back next year, and do continue the blog…
    All best wishes

  6. Hiya Mark
    Read your blog and we understand perfectly how you felt about retiring, the Challenge, Knoydart, the people. Now you know why we were so enthusiastic! . Phyllis is to have surgery shortly and we trust this will resolve our problems. Despite our run of bad luck we hope to be back next year.
    Lou and Phyllis

  7. Mark, it was great meeting you. I failed in my lubrication attempts compared to many so have to return for that reason alone (I feel I owe people drinks). I had a wonderful Challenge and think you managed to come out on the other side of yours quite well too. It’s tough to make such a big change in plans even when you know it’s for the best but you pulled it off well.

    By the way, not to toot my own horn too much but I’ll be filling out my blog with a lot more on my TGOC in reasonably short order (which is more than I can say for some trips from last year).

  8. Mark,

    I think you’ve been rather harsh on yourself here – it takes a big-hearted man to rejoin the route to boost the morale of his trail mates, and we were very glad to see you at Braemar, Tarfside and Montrose. Fingers crossed for a quick recovery and I look forward to hiking with you (and a flask of Macallan) in the future. Best regards, Jules E

  9. Nice to have met you in Braemar, Mark. Glad that you got yourself out of the blue funk by then. I hope that you come back, if not for the Challenge, then to enjoy the wild places for themselves.

  10. Hi Mark, yes, it is so gut awful to have to retire from an event like this. You where so brave though, coming back and offering support to those who continued. Many people would have just crept away. Please come back next year. You are a brave and honest man. Dawn. ps, my blog pages are now up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.