The Big Walk

It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon on 17 June 2005. Don’t know what came over me, but I suddenly decided to set out from my home in suburban Mumbai and walk to “town”– the Big Walk, I later dubbed it. There was no elaborate plan, except that my destination was to be the Catholic Gymkhana, located near Charni Road railway station on Marine Drive in south Mumbai.

It was not as if I hadn’t walked long distances before. In my school and university days I did play a lot of football and hockey too, but all that seems like some previous life now. But in more recent times, post-2000, I had restarted walking for exercise only with great difficulty. Often, after the first 500 metres or so, I would get excruciating pain in my calf and shin region, making it impossible to continue. Strangely, this would not happen on every occasion, but it was obvious that either something was very wrong with my legs, or I was doing something incorrectly.

No arch means more ouch!

Shin Splints

I turned to the Web, and as ever, I wasn’t disappointed. I found out that what I was experiencing was “medial tibial stress syndrome”, commonly known as shin splints. Following advice from various credible online sources including the Mayo Clinic, I concluded that the solution for me was to wear foot arch supports (I am rather flat-footed, causing pronation of the foot); not to be over-ambitious with stride length (extremely important factor!); and, to stop and rest at the first sign of any shin pain, massaging the shin and calf gently for a minute or so before slowly resuming the walk. These measures worked brilliantly for me, and shin splints are now just a foggy memory. By the way, ,ost regular sports shoes (even the big brands, provide little or no arch support; fortunately,  inner soles with arch support are available off-the-shelf at most large shoe stores these days. Once the shin splints disappeared, I was able to take on longer distances. But five kilometres was the outer limit, and that itself was stretching it.

And now the Big Walk from home to town! I had absolutely no idea how long it would take me to reach my destination, but I was determined to get there come what may. My route took me down the busy Swami Vivekananda Road through Khar and Bandra and then past the Mahim Causeway onto Cadell Road. By this time I was already dripping with sweat, but kept on going anyway, stopping only to pick up a half-litre bottle of water near Hinduja Hospital, and one more at Prabhadevi. I had decided to stop at Worli Naka (not far from the TV tower) for a rest and a snack at the Irani restaurant called Cafe City, located at the junction. It took me about two and a half hours to cover the distance that I now know to be 9.5 km (Thank you, Google Earth!).

Intermission

After a 15-minute intermission at the restaurant, I set out once more, feet now beginning to get a little sore. Worli’s Dr Annie Besant Road continues south up until the Nehru Centre junction, after which it becomes Lala Lajpatrai Road. This is the Haji Ali waterfront – 1.2 kms of unadulterated marine grandeur when zipping by in an air-conditioned car, but pretty excruciating when traversed on foot in the scorching summer evening sun!

No matter. Nothing could stop me now. Not even the ascent up Cumballa Hill on Peddar Road. The gradient is actually not all that difficult to handle, except that it was now over 12 kms (and 3 hours plus) into the Big Walk. One more stop was inevitable. A tiny Irani restaurant, Light of Persia, graciously popped into view. I plopped down onto one of the uncomfortable seats that now felt to me like a plushly cushioned sofa. Water and tea, please! Quite a homely (if unkempt) place this. Bliss.

Safe Haven

On the road again; the last stretch. I had to really drag myself along now. Finally, the Wilson College junction was crossed, and I was onto Marine Drive! Just a few minutes more, and into the safe haven of the Catholic Gymkhana! Never ever have I enjoyed a shower as much as I did that day, the ecstasy only surpassed by the relish with which I downed the drinks in the bar later! A significant watershed in my life had been reached. Sixteen kilometres and two hundred and fifty minutes, or thereabouts.

After that first day in May, I’ve done the trek from home to town several times. It’s far easier (and faster) for me now than it was then. During 100 for 100, I plan to do the Big Walk again at least seven times. The difference is that I will now also write a bit about what I see along the way, camera in tow. I know I’m going to enjoy it. Hope you will too.

- Val Souza

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5 comments to The Big Walk

  • Nice post! GA is also my biggest earning. However, it

  • Val Souza

    Hector, would be great to have pics of your walks around Auckland. Also, permit me to twist the gym proverb a bit: “Know your worth, work smart, achieve your potential :-)
    - Val

  • Hector

    Just saw this at the gym: Know your worth, work hard, achieve your potential. With seven big walks you’re on your way lad. And I’m sure you will enjoy the journey. Looking forward to reading and seeing what you see on the way. I’ll try and see if I can post some pictures of my walks around Auckland… city of sails its called.

  • Val Souza

    Would be great if you join in Greg. And even greater if the walk ends with Malabari parathas and chicken/fish in town :-)
    - Val

  • Greg

    It’s a great walk, isn’t it? I did it as well a couple of years ago, although St. Xavier’s (and an egg curry in the Mess) was my goal, and I went over Saat Rasta-Byculla-Bhendi Bazaar. It’s time for me to do the Big Walk again – maybe I’ll join you on one of the seven you’ve planned!

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