Boyce deserves better recognition
Given Leicestershire batsman Matthew Boyce had walked for 66 days from John O’Groats to Land’s End, it is understandable that emotion got the better of him at the end of the last leg.
The 27-year-old undertook the mammoth journey to raise awareness of depression in sport - and money for charities MIND and the PCA Benevolent Fund.
Boyce, who has not suffered from depression, set out from the United Kingdom’s most northern point on September 29 and reached its southern tip on Monday, having walked with family, friends, those he met along the way and alone.
“I was over the moon,” he told ecb.co.uk of his arrival at Land’s End where he knew there were loved ones waiting for him.
“I thought I’d reached the end and thought my dad was standing there, but in fact it was a telescope. I was getting a little bit emotional and then realised it was a telescope and then turned round to see them waving from the other direction and thought ‘oh, I’d better walk over here then’.
“I just had my mum, dad and my girlfriend there so it was pretty low key, but I was pretty happy to be finishing.”
Boyce, who extended his Leicestershire contract until the end of the 2014 campaign shortly before his domestic season ended on September 14, had counted on his cricket fitness being enough to get him through.
“I didn’t actually do any specific preparation beforehand,” he admitted.
“I had the first two weeks with my dad in a campervan up in Scotland so I didn’t have to carry my back pack. I was just getting my body and mind ready for what I was going to have to do really.
“It was a lot harder that I thought. The actual walking itself, I knew mentally it was going to be tough in terms of having to get up and be away from home and having to get up and walk. But physically in the first couple of weeks, it did take quite a large toll on my feet and body. It just wasn’t something I was used to doing.
“I thought walking is easy; I’d done it since I was one year old! I thought I was pretty well qualified to do it but it did turn out to be a lot harder than I thought in the first couple of weeks.
“I had a few problems with my Achilles, back and feet. Once I got over those early ailments, I just told myself each day that I was going for a walk today so it became my choice rather than having to do it. It actually became easier and easier as time went on.”
Boyce, scorer of more than 5,000 runs for Leicestershire in all formats, explained that the highlights of the trip were the people he encountered.
“I never really knew what to expect when starting the journey, but all the way along I met B&B owners and people hiking,” he said.
“Some days I would go all day without seeing someone and on a couple of occasions I’d walk with someone I’d just met on a hill somewhere which was quite interesting. I got talking to them, they’d be going the same way and I’d end up walking with them for three hours. It was the things that I didn’t expect to happen that were real highlights.
“Also guys joining me. I had family walking and a team-mate of mine, Alex Wyatt, joined me for four days and some friends from London. I had loads of people join me.
“I think the highlight was the fact that it reignited what you were doing every time someone new came to meet you. I took the things I was seeing for granted really and when the guys came and meet you, it’s new for them and gives you the boost you need really.”
Boyce’s lowest point was just south of the Yorkshire Dales.
“The day my team-mate Alex left me, I still had my aunt and uncle there, it was quite a tough walk and I think I’d picked up some sort of bug and I was violently sick that night, couldn’t eat any food,” he recalled. “I wanted to keep on schedule because all the B&Bs were booked up about a week in advance.
“That night was really tough because I could barely move out of my bed, but in the morning I managed to have some breakfast and then I walked with my uncle for 15 miles that day. Getting through that day, flipping it round, turns it into a bit of a positive really.”
Boyce still had a month to go, but was able to finish on schedule and is now contemplating joining pre-season training before Christmas.
“I’m actually feeling pretty fresh. My body feels okay considering. My feet are okay,” he revealed.
“It was relatively strange waking up on Tuesday - I’d had the same routine: wake up, get my stuff ready, breakfast, pack on, walk - and it was quite strange not to have to do that. I had done it for 66 days.”
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