Experienced distance walkers Kim Letson and Pat Gould of the Comox Valley are preparing to embark on a 2,000-kilometre walk from Canterbury to Rome.
With a goal of raising $1 million for Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) humanitarian relief programs, they are set to begin their walk on 24 August and anticipate arriving in Rome by late November.
“It used to be easy to get ready for our walks,” said Gould. “But now we’re just shy of 70, the training is harder.”
“The added incentive of raising funds for MSF will help keep us going on tough days,” added Letson.
This isn’t their first MSF fundraising effort. In 2016 the pair walked across the Balkans, following the Via Egnatia, successfully raising several thousand dollars from friends and family as part of an MSF Walk Without Borders Challenge.
“This time we want to reach a much wider donation audience,” Letson said. “Go big or go home!”
“We hope our efforts will inspire generous donations, added Gould.
Having worked for MSF on four missions and understanding the vital assistance the organization provides around the globe, Gould is passionate about MSF’s humanitarian mandate.
Her first assignment with MSF was in 2005 as an outreach nurse in Liberia, West Africa. After retiring from her BC nursing career in 2009, she worked in three more MSF projects in Bangladesh and Nigeria. Her interest in long-distance walking began in 2007 ,when she crossed Spain on a Camino de Santiago. Since then, Gould has walked other historic routes in Spain and Portugal, then part of the Via Francigena in 2015 and the Via Egnatia in 2016.
Letson comes from a military background, having followed in her father’s footsteps to serve in the Canadian Forces, along with her husband.
After retirement they settled in the Comox Valley where they raised their two sons, were professional ski patrollers and for a time owned a kayak guiding company. Since her husband’s death in 2007, Letson has shared her time between adventure travelling, tending her unconventional garden, authoring books, and taking long walks with Gould.
The two women met in 1996 while ski patrolling on Mount Washington and have since shared West Coast paddling adventures, then a short trek in Nepal. In 2016, after Gould convinced Letson that long, long walks were fun, they embarked on a challenging 1,000 km walk along the Via Egnatia across the Balkans from Albania to Turkey. During that adventure they walked in support of an MSF fundraising challenge, an experience that has inspired this current endeavour.
The two women will begin their journey at Canterbury Cathedral, walk to Dover then take the ferry to Calais. They expect to reach the French/Swiss border by the end of September. They plan to spend Oct. 7 at the Auberge in the 2,469-metre St. Bernard Pass before descending into Italy to continue their journey through Tuscany. They expect to arrive at the Vatican by Nov. 21.
Gould and Letson will keep people up to date on their progress through periodic posts, photos and videos on Letson’s blog and through their Two Women Walking social media channels.
Letson estimates they will each take close to three million steps to walk the 2,000 km distance.
“That kind of effort – six million combined steps – that’s worth a million dollars, don’t you think?” said Letson.
MSF accepts donations through https://bit.ly/3S12cqr