Eighty-year-old man from Henfield aims to break a world record for St Barnabas House

It was a novel that first ignited 80-year-old Anthony Bishop’s desire to break a world record. “I was driving by myself, and I turned on the radio. I heard an author discussing her book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” he says.

The novel tells the story of a man who undertakes a kind of secular pilgrimage, walking from the south- west of England to Berwick upon Tweed to visit a former colleague who is receiving end-of-life care at a hospice. “After I’d read it, I thought ‘I can do that’,” Anthony says. But he decided to go even further. Upon discovering that a 76-year-old holds the world record for being the oldest person to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats, he decided to try to break it.

The 874-mile journey would be a challenge for anyone, but Anthony, from Henfield in West Sussex, is no stranger to adventure. He has completed around 30 marathons and ultra-marathons, trekked to Kilimanjaro, the Inca Trail and Everest base camp. “My daughter and I also ran the Cape Odyssey over the mountains near Cape Town, running for five days at an average of a marathon a day,” he says.

Off-road running and mountain ascents caused Anthony to develop a problem with his pelvic bones and walking is now his main form of fitness. He will start his walk on 1 September and although he enjoys his own company, he hopes to meet and chat to people along the way. “I don’t listen to music or anything like that,” he says. “That distracts me. I just carry on walking, enjoying the countryside. And I think a lot. I do lots of calculations in my head as I’m walking along.”

While there is excitement at the prospect of breaking a world record, there is another, more serious purpose behind Anthony’s endeavour. “My sister died at St Barnabas House in 2012,” he says. “She was only 64, taken far too early. She was treated so well there, and I was impressed. By doing this walk, I am aiming to raise some money for the hospice too.”

Anthony will be walking by himself – “unless of course someone wishes to join me for a day” – with a support vehicle, starting at John O’Groats and progressing through the east coast of Scotland through Inverness, Edinburgh, over the border into Carlisle, then on down western England and finally into Cornwall. He hopes to arrive at Land’s End around 31 October.

It is an enormous undertaking, but Anthony is sanguine about the scale of the challenge: “I have never completed such a huge task,” he says. “But I feel confident I can do it.

“It can get a bit boring on my walks,” he continues. “I’m just really looking forward to seeing some new places and meeting some new people.”

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To support Anthony or see updates on his journey, visit his JustGiving page.

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