First 500 miles, then Ben Nevis, then wing-walking then 1000 miles: 81-year-old group heroine Pamela Wright-Brogan is one incredible challenger.
Do consider yourself to be special and different Pam?
I’ve never felt special or different. I'm just plodding through life, overcoming difficulties and turning my negatives into positives so I can move on and be happy. This walking group has made me feel special and I love their positive comments. But it amazes me that anyone should feel so highly of me… it is very humbling.
How did you get into walking, and where has it taken you?
Being the age I am, walking everywhere or cycling was normal growing up and going to work. But I always hankered after rock-climbing and doing adventurous outdoor activities. I had to be content with climbing high walls and billboards until we moved into the country and I was able to walk over the hills and climb trees. I was out at every opportunity.
What has walking meant to you?
Walking clears my head and makes me feel renewed. At 61 I worked out a route to walk from the Thames Barrier to the Malverns Hills which I did on my own over three weeks. Soon after I started to have lots of health problems in my sixties and seventies which accumulated into ME, diabetes and asthma, but I don't let this define me, and over those years when fit enough , I’ve done the Cotswold Way, The Saints Way, almost finished the Gloucester Way and some parts of the South West Coast Path. And this year I climbed Ben Nevis in the cold pouring rain.
How did you come to this challenge?
I signed on for the 500 mile challenge starting in May 2016 and finished on 13th November. I gave it priority over gardening and housework and although it has been mostly local walking I was able to make a pamphlet of walks which the local Inn sells for charity. Then I thought I'd go for the 1000 in 2017.
I suppose it's inevitable the body slows down a bit at 81. What changes have you noticed since your 60s?
I've never fully recovered from the shingles when I was 76 as it damaged the nerve ends in my back and under my right arm but since then I've been determined to get as fit as possible. I also have osteoarthritis in hips and pelvis and thigh bones and a lot of wear and tear in back, shoulders and knees. This has led me to use poles all the time and has slowed my walking quite considerably. I find my upper body has lost its strength and walks take much longer to complete. I'm trying to build up my stamina but I know that I need to start looking for flatter walks, possibly canal walks where I could hopefully walk further.
What's the secret of still being able to achieve so much?
The secret of achieving anything is being positive. And setting your mind on the challenge. Obviously this isn't always easy especially when you don't have a partner to encourage you, but I'm blessed to have the ability to pull myself out of negative thoughts and get back on track. It can take ages sometimes but once you've done it you can store up that knowledge and know you can do it again. You gain emotional tools to deal with the downs.
Tell us about doing Ben Nevis, a mountain people half your age are in awe of!
I knew it would be a big challenge. Some of my children said it would be impossible and didn't want me to attempt it out of concern for my safety. But I have a couple of lovely much younger friends who live up in Leicestershire and they agreed to accompany me. The weather wasn't good… rain moved in and the climbing played havoc with my muscles in groin and knees and back. I became really tired as I struggled over the boulders and eroded path but I kept hypos from my diabetes at bay with jelly babies!
Coming back down people continued to over take me but were full of praise and encouragement which was very comforting… one young man asked me how old I was and was amazed when I told him.
My grandson was very impressed and says he will have to go up there now that his Granny has been there.
Is there anything else you do that might surprise people of an 81 year old?
I'm hoping one day I can afford to go on a zip wire.... my doctor has forbidden me to jump out of a plane or a bungy-jump, but I can did do a wing walk at a local airfield this summer. Otherwise I do normal things like gardening .
What do wish for in your 2018 campaign?
Most of all I want this challenge to grow as it’s creating a large group of walkers from all walks of life and age who support and encourage each other to get out regardless of the health problems that they have.
With the world in so much turmoil walking creates a place of peace and happiness in our hearts and minds. We can come back with a sense of achievement which is fulfilling and the beautiful scenery and wildlife uplifting. We can be refreshed and invigorated to face the future.
Watch Pam wing-walk!
In this highlights video from June 2017...