Chris Howard interview: The Coast Walker (11,000 miles around Britain)

Feb 28, 2022 BY Mark Pawlak

In this Chris Howard interview we find out all about The Coast Walker and his 11,000 mile journey around the British Coastline. Walking for Children In Need, Chris has already raised over £35,000 for this great cause.

Chris Howard interview: The Coast Walker (11,000 miles around Britain)

Chris Howard interview

1.Has anything changed for you personally from before you started until today?

That’s a big opening question! 😂yes I would say a lot and not all good sadly. In terms of the way I see the world and people in it my views are very similar to when I left but I have been surprised by the level of kindness some people have shown me. There again I am often treated as if I’m homeless and regularly ignored or avoided.

I’ve lost two years worth of paid employment and have no money to speak of and yet still have a wife & 3 daughters to provide for (currently don’t know how I’m going to do that, so that’s a big change). I’ve lost about 2 stone but I’m stronger & fitter & calmer and consume far less in general than I did previously because I’ve realised I can survive on very little.

My relationships with my family and friends has changed due to the strain the walk has put on all of us. And I’m unsure now where I got to in the world I was in before…

2. What’s your daily routine and are there some things that everyone should do when living outdoors?

My routine has become fairly simplistic & I think that’s key to successful outdoors living. I wake up get dressed and pack my kit away straight away (normally takes around 8 mins). Everything goes back in the same place it came from so I know exactly where everything is when I need it.

I text my wife and daughter to let them know where I am and that I’m safe & where I’m headed then turn my phone off to save battery. I don’t always sit and have breakfast but I brush my teeth and wash my face with water from a stream whilst topping up my water bottle. I usually drink at this point too & make coffee.

I stretch and do a short specific yoga session of about 10-20 mins then as sun rises I’m up and away. I’m then just fully immersed in the walk until at least 1pm when I do a quick admin check on my phone, call my wife and answer any emails, look at my route and map then turn my phone off again. I might take on water and a protein or vegetable based snack but I don’t stop moving as I find it difficult to get going again.

I then walk until just before last light when I look for somewhere suitable to set up and get my head down. I reflect on the day once I’m in dry baselayers and in my sleeping bag. I write in my journal and make hot food which is normally noodles, then I might listen to a podcast before I fall asleep. I check the stars and look out for the Aurora then sleep before repeating at first light again.

3.With a long day ahead do you have strategies to break up the day, or do you just take it as it comes? (ex: do you set goals around, time, or location, or meals etc).

In the beginning I set distance targets which I often fell a bit short of. So I started playing with targets and giving myself different objectives, but always with the aim of covering an average of a marathon a day. I used to get quite disheartened and into a negative headspace with no one to encourage me and being alone so much of the time.

So in the end I stopped setting targets, stopped paying attention to the mileage and just went with the idea of a very simple walk/don’t walk eat/don’t eat drink/don’t drink sleep/don’t sleep approach. Surprisingly by thinking less about it and simplifying I ended up making more miles and I was happier, enjoying it and noticing more.

Chris Howard interview The Coast Walker 11,000 miles around Britain

I rarely stop to eat unless someone offers to feed me, we’re actually capable of more than we think as humans and designed to cover long distances on very little. So often I’d challenge myself to walk the marathon with no food and no fluids as a way of training for leaner times and more remote areas.

I would find myself mindfully connected with everything around me. I became very appreciative of the environment and having a low impact on it as I passed through quietly trying not to disturb it, as if I was becoming part of it again & almost primal. It’s a peaceful existence and one I think we all need to get back to at some point. I relish it so much that I now find it difficult to be in towns and cities and around lots of people.

4.Do you have a preference: Get fit for a challenge, or let the challenge get you fit?

That is a tough one! I really enjoy the training and pushing myself physically and mentally. I enjoy the sweat and tears and if I’m lucky the camaraderie of training with others. It’s also such a good feeling training hard over a period of time working towards an event…

However, I do believe that with a challenge that is endurance based over more than say a month the body and mind are incredibly good at adapting, it’s what we’re designed to do as human beings; adapt, improvise & overcome. I’ve done both in the past, but for this walk there was no real need or way to train except get on with it so I came up with the idea and left three weeks later just adapting as I went.

5. Have there been people who have inspired you – in life and along your trek?

Oh for sure! I have always been fit and active and sporty, I’ve been inspired by many people but perhaps not conventional celebrity types. As a boy I was inspired by people like David Attenborough, Michael Palin, John Fairfax, Edmund Hilary then later at university people like Johnny Wilkinson & Sir Clive Woodward, James Cracknell & also historically Emilia Earhart.

I’m keen to promote women in adventure because they’re still poorly represented today. But there are so many inspiring women out there from dame Ellen MacArthur to Helen Glover & Megan Hein. I’m particularly keen on this because I hope to inspire my own daughters that they can have a less conventional life and pursue whatever life they want. But also because in truth they are who inspire me now!Chris Howard interview with The Coast Walker

6. So, is it really true what they say about the British weather?

Great question, I get asked about the weather a lot! It’s interesting that it’s something we obsess about isn’t it?!.. I love weather, I’m interested in meteorology and how weather systems work, it can mean the difference between a dry comfortable night and a wet horrid experience. So having the ability to anticipate and act in advance is very useful.

However, I am also of the kind that we shouldn’t worry about things we can’t control and therefore just embrace it as a different experience. I like it, it makes us feel alive on a very animalistic level. When I set off at the end of July I managed to follow a high pressure system all the way down the coast and had 100 days of sun!

I looked like a very dried out piece of leather by the time I hit lands end, but there again I’ve had some very long periods wet weather in while trekking in Wales, Scotland & England. The great thing about British weather is the variety. From 38 odd degree heat to -10 freezing snowy conditions within a short timespan, I think it’s what makes us very resilient as a people.

7 .What would you say to a young person, stuck to their X-box with little experience of the outdoors?

I am not sure if no where to start!.. it’s difficult because I was never a “gamer” or into computers even when my friends were. Even now I’ve got friends in the 40’s & 50’s who play computer games and I cannot see the appeal over watching a sunrise/set walking by a river, up a mountain or through a field. I know there are currently VR games which simulate the things I’ve just said so you can do all of those things from your bedroom.

But you can’t feel the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze on your skin, the smell of a meadow and feel of grass on your feet. You can’t taste the purity of the water from a highland burn and you certainly can’t experience the exhilaration of standing on top of a mountain watching a temperature inversion as you feel on top of the world.

No computer can simulate the rhythm of your heart synching with the thundering of a waterfall. I would say in there with your computer you’ll always be trapped, but out there in nature you’ll find freedom like no other…

8.Have you found your nature limit – the point where you are enjoying , but then look to creature comforts and home?

Oh that is a really good question!.. I’m not sure, there are things I miss and that inevitable on any long trip; family, hot shower, clean clothes, red wine & Guinness!!.. real food etc. But there’s very little I miss about home comforts, I’m almost happier living out of a bag and sleeping on random floors, there’s something about being outdoors that’s just more natural and comforting to me.

Chris Howard interview The Coast Walker (11,000 miles around Britain)

See the stars as you fall asleep and waking up in cold crisp air as the sun rises and warms the earth – that’s a very special feeling. I miss conversation, I don’t miss having to think about the problems of ordinary life. I don’t miss supermarkets & shopping, I don’t miss carpets, curtains, beds, TVs etc… in fact I think I’ll find that all quite strange when I get home.

9. What’s your plan for the finish?

The end is in sight now which feels like a bit of a surreal moment. I plan to finish at Heacham in Norfolk where I started, meeting my family and a few friends. Then I’ve decided I will take two days off to rest, clean kit and sort some admin before walking the length of the river Great Ouse all the way into Cambridge city centre which is my home on the 5th March.

I’m doing that for two reasons; publicity and a last boost to fundraising hopefully & there are people that have followed my journey that want to see me finish there and can’t make it to Norfolk. I’m sure it will all be a bit of an anticlimax but you never know.

Ever the gluten for punishment I’m actually running the Cambridge half marathon the following day with my flag and backpack!.. I then have a variety of talks booked in with schools, scout groups and office teams that have booked me. In fact that’s something I’ll be doing to try and ear a bit of money – giving talks on adventure, motivation, resilience etc so if anyone want to book me please do get in touch as in no longer have a job!😂👍🏼

I’m also looking at my next challenge and gaining sponsors/funding for that. So watch this space or get in touch if you’d like to be involved…

We hope you found this Chris Howard interview as interesting and inspiring as we have. To contribute to his fundraising check out his Just Giving page. And to book Chris or get involved with future adventures check out his website: www.thecoastwalker.com

 
England, Europe, Scotland, United Kingdom, Wales
Hiking, Trekking

Interviews
 

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