Book reviews / Non fiction

Book review: Out on your feet

This book was recommended by a work colleague and I’m so glad he did!

The book’s full title is Out on your feet: The Hallucinatory World of Hundred-Mile Walking. As it says, it’s a book about very long distance walking. But also walking that all in one go, so within 48 hours. People don’t sleep (or sleep much) as part of this endeavour, and so weird hallucinations are a focus. But also just what you put your body through, from lots of blisters, chafing and the apparent very uncomfortable ‘glue butt’. I’ll let you imagine what that means.

The author splits the narrative between her 100 mile walk and characters that populate the history of the Long Distance Walkers Association. Which I will confess, in the early stages made it a bit difficult to latch on to where the narrative was reading. But eventually, you catch onto all the names of the LDWA members and people she has met overtime on the walks, and as editor of the organisation’s magazine, Strider. So if you struggle the same, just keep on a bit and hopefully it’ll just click.

I really enjoyed all the interesting characters in the book, people who for some reason, punish their bodies on these epic challenge walks. And it’s not young people (that is indeed part of the problem), it’s that they’re often retirees and septuagenarians. Even though there’s lots of long distance runners now, they often don’t join the association. It feels like an organisation that is the result of sheer perseverance, often like the challenge walks themselves.

I don’t think I could even manage one of the 20 mile walks, let along 100 within 48 hours. Cycling is definitely more speed. But there is something very admirable about these walkers, who do it for the challenge rather than for any trophy or glory. I love that they often have patches for the different evens.

The author really communicated both the wonderful quality of these interesting people, but also just the ridiculous nature of doing such a thing. Everyone has to be a little bit odd to turn up on a weekend, just to spend it slowly grinding themselves into the ground.

Anyway, it was really good, and feels very English. I really loved it.

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