The past year has seen a proliferation of accumulator-style challenges. Variously called "Calendar Club" - attributed to Jesse Itzler - or the "Accumulator" from Cockbain events , the concept is deceptively simple: complete the number of kms or miles to match the date of the month. So, 1km on 1st; 5kms on 5th; and you guessed it, 31kms on 31st. Or miles if you really want a stretch.
I have watched on social media as some really superb runners have completed this challenge. In May my friend Allie Bailey completed the mile version and blogged about it here. She encouraged her Facebook running community to give it a go in August, with a focus on fun and mutual encouragement - and named it "The Augumulator."
But could an ordinary walker complete this challenge while also working full-time and parenting? There was only one way to find out.
First the rules. You must complete the distance on the day. No "banking" kms for later. No counting steps - organised physical activity only. No limit to how many outings in the day to complete the distance.
The early days were hard for their short duration. I overachieved with 14kms on 1st, as I was leading a hike that I had committed to prior to this (last-minute) idea. But I was strict about the short distances over the next few days as I was very conscious of getting some rest before the big build up later in the month.
The first week sailed by with almost no effort. But I knew from the blogs of others that this was only likely to create a false sense of security. In this challenge you only hit halfway on day 22.....
Week 2 started out strong and this continued into week 3. Plenty of time to complete 8-20kms in a day, with 10kms before work and the rest after work. But already the bad weather and demands of work was starting to pinch. Unlike fellow group members taking this on in European mid-summer, here in southern inland Australia it was cold. And dark by 5.30pm. I quickly adapted by working out which routes were good in the dark, with better lighting and fewer trip hazards.
Day 21 was hard. Really hard. I had worked the full day, and by the time I got home it was dark and it was sleeting. No choice but to pull on the wet weather gear, jam my fingers in my pockets, put my head down and go. Walking in circles in the dark around my suburb, questioning my life choices and even my sanity. I returned to the house to cook and serve dinner and then headed back out. It was 11pm when I finally made it home; 21kms complete.
On Day 27 I thought it was all over. I had arranged to work from home to give me back the "dress for work" and commute time. But entering my living room I knew immediately that something was wrong. My little dog ALWAYS greats me enthusiastically, ever hopeful of another walk. But instead he was just lying under my desk, looking at me with big eyes. I picked him up and placed him on his feet, but he just toppled over sideways, like a child's toy plastic farm animal. No amount of coaxing would make him move. And then he started shaking.
Here in Australia it is not snake season yet, but they can be around all year. Dog baits and just plain dog stupidity are always possible. The vet asked me to bring him immediately. Due to COVID they were operating on drive through drop off, so there was nothing to do but wait. And walk. And as I walked I knew that if my little guy didn't make it, then there was no way I could complete this challenge.
To my complete relief, the call came and he was going to be OK. Toxin screen negative; instead he had likely slipped a disc in his back. Anti-inflammatories and rest for him. Lots more walking (now without him) for me.
I took the 28th and 31st off work, to make a 4 day finale weekend, with approximately 6hrs a day to walk. The 28th I set out with a water bottle and some money for an unplanned wander around my town, making decisions on direction as I went. With what now felt like the luxury of walking in daylight, it was a chance to walk roads I had never been down, find hidden children's playgrounds and parks, and stop for snacks and lunch at local shops. Despite having over 400kms on my feet for the month, I was feeling really good and for the very first time, like I would actually be able to make it.
For my final day, my good friend took the day off work to join me on a celebratory 31kms walk. We took it easy, enjoyed a nice flat route circumnavigating our local lake. Had lunch 2/3 of the way at a park cafe. Chatted about everything and nothing. Misjudged the distance and ended up completing 32.5kms!
And so, suddenly it was done.
514kms in total for the month of August. Approximately 108hrs on my feet outdoors. At least half of that in the dark.
Completing this kind of challenge is such a surreal experience. It is not like crossing the finish line of an organised event. There is no medal, no applause. Instead it is very much about the personal satisfaction. The knowledge that even though my mind often said no, and people in my life regularly questioned my choices, I was still able to pull it all together and get it done.
Perhaps it is just a victory for stubbornness. But also one hopefully for demonstrating that ordinary adventures can be completed by ordinary people. You just need to start.