NO MEAN FEAT
Shin Kicking Champion came from an op shop for 50 cents - a good example of life's random finds. Norman Croucher lost both legs at 19 by drunkenly sleeping on a train track. Back in 1960 there were no Oscar Pistorious carbon fibre spring leg thingies so Norman was given tin legs. Suitable for the traditional miners' sport of shin kicking.
After working with homeless people in 1960's London he then decided to walk the UK equivalent of Te Araroa: by road from Land's end to John O'Groats. I like Norman's philosophy on training.
“I made only one short practice walk of about two miles...to ascertain my walking pace, which turned out to be not much over two miles an hour [3.2km/hr].
Having become the first double amputee to walk the length of Britain, Norman became a mountain climber. If you only have stumps to walk on, do it in the cold weather there's less swelling. Since this book was published in 1971 he has climbed over 100 peaks including the world's 6th highest at over 8000m.
People ask me about training for Te Araroa. This is my reply. If one is embarking on an epic journey there is no way to really prepare for the physical assault. Many say it is best to train on the trail. Why get stress fractures from walking too much now? I know we are capable of walking 25km and of carrying a pack for 9 hours, so now we just put the two together, day after day after day.
During our trek, when I am struggling with a heavy pack or sore feet I will remember that Norman walked without feet on bleeding swollen stumps.
You could be a shin kicking champion with your tin legs, but you will never be able to climb. You're a cripple – and that's that.
2013 photo of Norman Croucher courtesy Matt Austin