Almost four years ago, back in October 2012 with two friends of mine, Lars Otzen and Przemek Słomski, we went for a walk from Warsaw where I live to my bug-out location. The idea of this experiment was to see if the bug-out bag, or 72-hr kit I created, made sense and if I am at all physically capable of walking to my bug-out location if need be. I found the answer to both of these questions to be false. The bug-out bag made no sense, and I wasn’t capable of walking the entire distance, planned for a 3 day hike. After the first day and night, I was barely able to walk at all, because my ankles hurt so much. So I gathered all the conclusions, wrote an article on our Polish blog, and read a lot of comments on how pathetic I was and how I should not write anything about emergency preparedness. And I went along with my other business.
Last year I finally managed to meet with Lars again to recreate the experiment. In this and the two following videos I will tell you all about it. But before I talk about that, let’s get back to fall of 2012 again for a moment, to the first experiment.
I never treated this experiment very seriously, because walking would not be my first choice. If I had to evacuate, I would take my car standing in the street. If it woudln’t work, I’d use public transport, bicycle or even would try to hitchhike. I didn’t feel the need to prepare for walking to the bug-out location, carrying my 72-hr kit in a backpack, but the failure of this experiment made me treat this scenario more seriously. To be honest, the huge difference between what I imagined and anticipated and what really happened scared me and worried at the same time. Because of that I decided to recreate the experiment in a while. I decided to try this excercise once again, and prepare for it better. This video sums up the preparations.
Knowing that I won’t be able to walk to my bug-out location, I decided to make the escape by car much more probable. I found and tested a couple of new routes to that destination, which made it less likely to be stuck in traffic. But the most important thing I did was to move. I moved from one apartment in one part of Warsaw city to another, to the right side of Vistula river that divides the city in two. Not only I now live closer to my work, and spend less time in traffic on one of the bridges. I’m also a lot closer to my bug-out location.
I started serious preparations a year before the second experiment. I followed the advice of a trainer I interviewed on our Polish blog soon after the first one. He said: “first determine what is the problem and what is the goal, and start working on it. Do as much as you can, and learn the theory in the meantime. First work, then go through theory and whine.” My problem was in my ankles, that couldn’t stand the strain. So I decided to put some strain on them, by walking and running. I started with running, because I felt I had no time for walking. When I first went out to run, I couldn’t run for more than few hundret meters without losing my breath and taking a break. But within three weeks I was able to run for 3 kilometers, almost 2 miles without any breaks. Then I signed up for dancing lessons with my girlfriend and found out that after an hour and a half my knees hurt me so bad I’m barely able to walk down stairs for a few days after the lessons, so I stopped running. But they didn’t hurt when I was walking on a flat surface, so I focused on that and started walking from work to home in the afternoon. It’s about 6 kilometers or 4 miles of walking, if I take the shortest route to home. But it became boring after a while and I started to change the route, going around a bit, adding extra distance. Sometimes I rented the city bike to ride even a bit farther and walk home from there. The maximum distance I managed to walk on a single work day was 15 kilometers, or 9,3 miles, in the morning and after the work. Thanks to all the walking, I got to know the neighborhood. I saw new routes I could use in a car or on a bike. I know where I can find water, and where it’s not good for any use. I am not familiar with all the important places around, but I know much more of them than one year ago.
I took some of the free time to walk as well, both on holidays and during the weekends. I practiced navigation using a map and compass. I realized I cannot rely on water found en route, because there might be no water at all.
In the beginning of October last year I ran in a street run for 10 kilometers (or 6,2 miles), called “Run Warsaw”. I thought it would be an interesting experience. If I’m capable of running about a third of this distance, I will probably make it through the whole 10 kilometers. I wanted to see if I can push what I thought was my limit. I wanted to prepare for the run a bit better, increasing the distances, but couldn’t. There was no time, no oportunities, but weather was not an issue — I trained while it was raining as well. The only thing I managed to do was to run for 4 kilometers, and then was the event.
During the event I felt some kind of pressure to run the whole distance, and not walk parts of it. I started with two friends of mine, though they were in different sections and wanted to reach different time results. I didn’t assume I will run the whole thing, I expected I will have to walk after a few kilometers to catch my breath and then run some more. But I ran for the 4 kilometers, I reached the fifth and sixth kilometer. After every kilometer I felt it would be silly to start walking now. Everybody around me was running, so I ran as well. Eventually I ran the whole thing. I had motivation, the circumstances were right, I was able to push myself farther than I anticipated. If I was running from a city under attack, I would probably manage to do it as well.
I forgot to mention riding on a bike. I started riding it a bit. The previous year I rode my bike only few times, but this time I rented city bikes and sometimes I rode to work and back.
To sum up: during these preparations
- I ran for 46 kilometers (29 miles), the “Run Warsaw” event taken into account,
- I rode my bike for 168 kilometers (104 miles),
- and walked a total distance of 456 km (283 miles).
The best results I had in July 2015, when I walked 112 km (70 miles).