CUT THEM! And don’t just give them a little tidy-up, a pedicure has no place here. Cut them right back as short as you can stand them (avoiding severing any important body parts of course, if you see blood – you've gone too far). The more toenail there is to rub and catch on your boots the more chance there is you will be waving goodbye to that little piggy’s hat before long.
Don’t dither. Decide where you will stop for lunch before you start and stick to it. When you land at a checkpoint, set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes maximum and when it goes off – get moving. It's tempting to rest at checkpoints, chat to your support driver or have a brew. FATAL. Before you know it, you’ve stopped for half an hour, and if you do that at every checkpoint, you’ll find yourself finishing the last 10km in the dark, which is unpleasant. Plus, the pub will be closed.
3. Toilet breaks
Stop for a wee whenever you can. There are public toilets around each route, so use them even if you don’t need to. Go for a try, as your nan might have said. Otherwise you’re looking at a bush and a potential indecent exposure charge!
4. Wet wipes
These are a lifesaver, but be sure not to leave them along your route! The wildlife has no use for your used wet wipes, and as they don’t biodegrade you’ll be leaving them behind for other walkers to find – not the most generous of gifts. Bring a plastic bag to dispose of wet wipes, crisp packets and any other rubbish you accumulate along the way.
5. Stick to the route
It might be tempting if you spy a shortcut to hop over a wall or cut across a field, but the routes have been specially designed to protect you from dangerous terrain, private land, bulls and angry farmers with pitchforks.
6. Energy drinks
Take Lucozade, lemonade or cola with you. While water is the number one choice there will be occasions when you crave a good sugar boost, so make sure you have a bottle of something sugary to sip from as and when needed. Don’t guzzle it down though or you’ll feel sick!
4G signal is surprisingly good most of the way around the routes, so make sure to regularly post photo updates or live videos on your journey – people who have supported you love to see how you’re doing.
8. Support drivers
Get your support driver to be ready for you at each checkpoint with fresh socks, food, drinks – and anything else you might need – laid out ready. That way you can just grab and go. There is a lot of hanging around for support drivers so organising the kit gives them something to do and stops them nodding off on the job.
Prepare for all weather conditions. Although the walks take place in the height of summer, the British weather is a contrary beast and can throw literally ANYTHING at you. In 2018 we encountered gales, drizzle, fog, blistering heat, MUTANT midges (we’re looking at you, Yorkshire Dales), torrential downpours and even the odd clap of thunder. Make sure you pack plenty of waterproofs, sun cream and, of course, insect repellent. The little blighters.
10. Enjoy it!
Probably the most important thing to bear in mind is that completing Great Strides is a massive achievement and possibly something you will only ever do once. Take in the views, laugh with your fellow walkers, offer words of encouragement to others doing the trek, say hi to the sheep on the route, bask in the adrenaline and focus on the most delicious pint you’ve ever tasted at the end!