Intrepid traveller Martin Slimings remembers it like yesterday .... the day a mega walk shaped his life.
We asked our readers to cast their minds back 53 years when Martin was a mere 12-year-old.
He was on a mission - to become the youngest of 80 competitors to complete a 52-mile ramble.
We hoped against hope to get some response to the story.
And then, the boy himself - very much a man of mature years these days - came forward. And when he filled in the blanks to the tale, it only added to the drama.
He recalled: “The original ‘50 mile walk’ was a challenge set by President Kennedy to America’s youth, he thought they were getting lazy.
It’s amazing how experiences can be transformative. From that time 53 years ago, although I played team sports and eventually became a PE teacher - until my body stopped doing what I asked of it - I always preferred individual pursuits such as climbing, sailing, canoeingMartin Slimings
“The Round Table took this up as a general challenge to people in Hartlepool.”
To make sure only the best took part in the 50 mile walk, competitors first had to complete ‘training walks’ of 15, 25 and 35 miles.
“The first 15-mile walk attracted a huge amount of entries…it was gradually whittled down during the other walks,” said Martin.
And then came the big one. The 52-miler.
“I vividly remember walking through Wingate and Trimdon in the middle of the night, totally alone for hours and terrified,” he said.
“I really can’t think that a 12 year old would be allowed to do that now … shame.
“After nearly 19 hours walking and a total, overall, of 125 miles, I believed I could do anything, and was determined to persevere through whatever was thrown at me. The whole experience moulded my approach to life.”
Martin is now into his 45th year of teaching in Hartlepool and “still loving it”.
“As a shy boy from Mullroy Road in Owton Manor, I could not dream that I would have accomplished or experienced what I have.”
Martin didn’t win the race but he won lots of praise because he did it in a comfortable pair of black rubber-soled shoes and was one of only 16 finishers out of 80 people who had lined up at the start.
His exploits even won him a pair of new shoes from the manufacturers.
Martin added: “It’s amazing how experiences can be transformative. From that time 53 years ago, although I played team sports and eventually became a PE teacher - until my body stopped doing what I asked of it.
“I always preferred individual pursuits such as climbing, sailing, canoeing.
“I took hundreds of students to the Lake District, camping and on residential courses and I was always heartened and reassured how young people could adapt and take on huge challenges if they were given the opportunity to try.
“I now teach adults who want to be teachers in the post compulsory sector…again, huge talents and skills demonstrated by motivated people who just want to pass on their experiences and knowledge.
“In these sad days of carnage around the world, it is still worthwhile to be optimistic about the potential of people in Hartlepool.”