Friday, April 03, 2015

The Way Ahead – Running the Camino de Santiago

I will be 50 years old at the end of May (the 28th to be exact). I’m not really sure how I can possibly be 50. I am fit & healthy (touch wood) and feel minimal differences to how I felt in my 30’s. However, the birth certificate and my passport confirm the fact, and the mirror reflects a somewhat sagging face, and loosening skin on my tummy.

For a while I have been searching for an appropriate challenge to celebrate my half-century. I though about doing the Pennine Way/The Spine backwards, or a Bob Graham Round but somehow none of the ideas and suggestions felt right.

Several years ago, Jenny and I watched a film called “The Way”, which tells the story of a father who goes to France following the death of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago. In a combination of grief and homage to his son, he decides to walk the ancient spiritual trail where his son died, taking his son's ashes with him.

It’s a very moving film. Immediately after watching it, Jenny and I looked at each other and said, “We have to do that one day”.

The Camino de Santiago is the name of the mediaeval pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. There are many different routes, but the most well known route is the Frances which runs 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela.

Whilst on holiday recently I started thinking about running the Camino for my birthday. The subsequent conversation went something like this:

Jenny: Have you made up your mind what you're doing for your birthday yet?
Richard : I’d like to do the Camino but…..
Jenny: Well, why don’t you do it then?
Richard: OK. Are you sure?
Jenny: Yes
Richard: Are you sure?
Jenny: Yes
Richard: Are you sure?
Jenny: Yes
etc etc

So I’m doing the Camino de Santiago

As already mentioned, it’s just about 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. The terrain is varied, beginning with the ascent and descent of the Pyrenees then passing through the undulating meseta (tableland) of the central part of the route between Burgos and León, before entering Galicia. Underfoot, it's paths, trails, ancient tracks and tarmac. Accommodation is generally in the form of albergues and refugios (pilgrim's hostels), and these are usually dormitory-style. You have carry a pilgrim record or credencial in order to gain access to the pilgrim hostels, and get it stamped daily as evidence of your journey to Santiago de Compostela, and therefore receive a compostela/certificate of completion.

On average it take 4-6 weeks to walk. I’m planning on taking 16 days, which work out as 31 miles per day. It’s going to be tough! I will have to carry kit for 2+ weeks including sleeping bag

So why the Camino?

Well, it’s clearly a massive physical and mental challenge just to cover the miles, so as an ultrarunner that definitely ticks the box. In fact it’s rather scary! However, I think my main reason for wanting to do it is spiritual. I will have all day to cover the ground and I fully intend to visit the many cathedrals, churches, and monasteries that line the route, and absorb the pilgrim spirit. It will be time to think and time to reflect.

Flights all booked.

I can’t wait.

If you’re interested, a good site for further information is:


David Toth said... [Reply to comment]

Sounds a fantastic way to celebrate your Birthday, i watched The Way a while ago and that movie definitely starts an itch that needs scratching,good luck and enjoy

Milly Voice said... [Reply to comment]

Amazing feat! All the best, what an adventure ahead :)

Richard Lendon said... [Reply to comment]

@David Toth
Thanks mate :)

Richard Lendon said... [Reply to comment]

@Milly Voice
Thanks :)

Dina do Couto said... [Reply to comment]

sounds amazing, happy running.

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