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What is a Pragmatic Walker? - asks Jock Finlayson

Russ Evans recently posed the question "How long will it take to walk from A to B?" Part of his answer stated "For the pragmatic walker... allow one hour for every five kilometres of easy going..."

But what is a pragmatic walker?

The Oxford Dictionary defines pragmatic as "treating facts of history with reference to their practical lessons" - so what are the lessons on walking we have from history? One hour for five kilometres is a walking pace of about three miles per hour - which is fifteen miles in five hours. It seems incredible that we can still walk five kilometres in one hour, considering our ancestors were much fitter than us. For example, two thousand years ago in the reign of Emperor Hadrian, there existed Legio IX (The Ninth Legion). It consisted of crack troops - the SAS of their day - who had been trained to march twenty four Roman miles in five hours, six men abreast, fully armoured, with weapons and heavy pack and not a road in sight - McAdam and macadam were yet to come.

These were hard fighting men, and at the end of the day's march they built the night's camp which required trenches, ramparts and palisades to protect the leather tents inside. They had no advance party to prepare the Riverina Beef Casserole with lazy potatoes and a nice bottle of red.

Incidentally, the disappearance of the Ninth Legion is all the more puzzling to historians as there is no record of whatever became of them in that barbaric, Scottish wilderness after their battle against the ancient Celtic people known as the Picts. Two thousand years on we find the Cameronian Scottish Rifles and the Gurkha rifles marching at 122 steps per minute - try that when you go out to pick up the paper in the morning! Assuming one step equals one yard, the modern soldier therefore marches 1708 yards in fourteen minutes - near enough to fifteen minutes per 1760 yards (one mile). This equals twenty miles in five hours compared to the Ninth Legion's 24 miles in 5 hours, but yes, macadam has arrived.

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