The longest walk…

As mentioned on the Inspiration page, my hero is George Meegan.

George Meegan on the ‘Longest Walk’ Copyright © George Meegan

There is a multitude of reasons for this. His efforts which concluded in the year of my birth, 30 years ago resulted in eight world records that still stand three decades on. The 41 million steps George took over 19 000 miles were taken without money and alone.

Here are the official world records:

1. The longest unbroken march of all time (19,019 miles).
2. The first and only crossing on foot of the entire western hemisphere.
3. The first and only crossing of South and Central America on foot.
4. The first and only traverse of all Latin America on foot.
5. The first and only walk from the Tropic of Capricorn, through the equator, to the Tropic of Cancer.
6. The first and only march between the equator and the Arctic Circle.
7. The first and only connection on foot between the Atlantic, Pacific, Southern, and Arctic oceans.
8. The most degrees of latitude ever covered on foot (125°08′).

In completing this truly epic adventure George:

• burned through 13 pairs of hiking boots.
• married his Japanese sweetheart.
• became a father…twice!
• traversed the ‘impassable’ Darien Gap.
• visited former President Jimmy Carter at his home.
• got shot at, and chased by a one-legged gaucho.
• garnered 8 World Records.

George Meegan – destroyer of boots! Copyright © George Meegan

He did not have the seven figure, social networked support of would be record breakers these days.

In considering Dove Step we had to work within ourselves, family and work commitments. As such walking as far as we could in the available annual leave was the result. We would love to undertake longer, more dramatic journeys and maybe Dove Step will be the proving ground for these. For now we look forward to setting off in April, 2014 to start the adventure…

Having read the Longest Walk I was moved to contact George Meegan and have had some great correspondence over email. George has kindly answered a few of questions which characteristically show the passion, excitement and compassion of a living legend:

1. It is 30 years today that you completed ‘The Longest Walk’. What is your favourite memory from this time?

Johnny, its a million things, every day presented its own magic. Very often a single word triggers a cast back.

Let´s for example use the word “trigger” Moving late, it was pitch dark an in the Honduras border region with El Salvador. I am suddenly rolling on the road with a soldier who I had simply walked into. As we thrashed about I heard the safety catches click off the rifles of those about. The final denouncement was they would not shoot me as they usually do.

Me at the time I didn´t especially care. I was after all living my dream.

2. You have eight unbroken records how does it make you feel that these have remained unbroken for three decades?

It´s a strange thing – A blonde English lass took the distance one, but it turned out she sadly cheated, so my thing held. I see [it] as marking one’s identity on the tree of life. Like most high achievements, if I may, they are hugely misunderstood as to actual meaning, in the public at large. Olympic great Willie Banks says “to get a (world) record you have to go to the edge of Life.” Willie was a triple jumper!

3. You walked a further 500km to Barrow, Alaska back in 2000. Why was it important for you to go back and complete this journey?

Because I never finished. Even now I have the odd mile or two [to walk], for some project, because the spirit of the thing allows that. What an adventure those 500 were! I put it down in a little self-published book … and I lived!

4. Are there any further walks you wish to complete? If so where and why? 

Johnny B. Goode! I am 60 years old and all systems are in decline. But I still don´t drive a motor car and so walk about in the Ecuador sun – more memories of course.

5. What is your best advice for long distance walking and the Dove Step participants?

You still have your Youth, which is a rapidly diminishing asset. Embrace the feeling of being really ALIVE!