Mark Olver - Journey's end
This article is from 2008.
In June, Mark Olver set off by foot from Bristol to Edinburgh, relying on the kindness of strangers to get shelter and material for Ramble On. He tells of the shuddering climax to his fantastic voyage
‘I can see Arthur’s Seat’ I said excitedly as I stood just above the A1. ‘And the Forth Bridge. I can see the bloody Forth Bridge.’ I was talking to my friend Jon on the phone, preparing to head down into Musselburgh, to camp for the night before my triumphant walk into the city the next day. ‘I’ve done it, I have walked all the way from Bristol to bloody Edinburgh.’
‘No you haven’t,’ he said with a finality that defied objection. ‘How far away are you? Fourteen miles? You have walked to Musselburgh. It is not the same.’
‘Five weeks this has taken, and I can see it.’
‘I think you should keep going,’ which sounded suspiciously like a challenge rather than advice. ‘You could be there by the end of today. I would keep going.’
I had already walked 12 miles from East Linton, and the centre of Edinburgh was another 14. I was never a rambler, never a fitness freak, but the last month had made me fitter, better at walking and more determined. ‘You are right. This ends tonight!’ I said, in my best Russell Crowe in Gladiator voice, turning my phone off, hearing a strange evil laugh coming from Jon as the line went dead. Just 14 more miles. How bad can this be after the last 500?
Quite bad as it turned out. Arthur’s Seat is massive. You will know this if you have ever walked up it. What is surprising is how deceiving that scale can be when used as a marker for distance. Being able to see something does not mean you are near it. And as I walked through Musselburgh, and strolled through Portobello, and then crawled through Meadowbank, and finally dragged myself on my belly up to the top of Leith Walk, I understood Jon’s evil laugh.
I was goaded. The challenge I set myself to walk from Bristol in time for the festival was not enough. There had to be a garnish. And crossing the border on a Friday morning and arriving into Edinburgh on the Saturday was that cherry. I had done it and the city had never looked so beautiful. My feet had never ached so much. I had stayed with strangers for the entire journey and I had survived. I crawled the final steps up to my hotel, and then into my bed. All I have to do now is write the bloody show.
Mark Olver, Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, 2–24 Aug (not 20), 9.10pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9). Previews 31 Jul & 1 Aug, £5.