~ by Morwinyoniel

In the winter of 2003, a group of Tolkien fans from WeightWatchers.com developed an idea of a fitness challenge suitable for everyone: to travel the distance Frodo and his companions made from Hobbiton to Rivendell, 458 miles or 737 kilometres, by walking, jogging, biking, rollerblading, swimming, or any other means of exercise as long as the distance could be measured. They contacted various Tolkien websites, encouraging others to join the effort, and that led to the creation of The Éowyn Challenge; the challenge is by no means restricted to women, though! And, it’s completely free.

The original challenge started on March 17, 2003, and the goal was to reach Rivendell by the premiere of the ROTK movie on December 17. New groups from discussion forums as well as individual participants have joined constantly, though, and set their goals according to the new challenge dates provided by the website, or chosen their own dates based on the Middle-earth events.

Now, after quite many participants have already reached Rivendell, the road also goes on from there. You can follow the Fellowship to Lothlórien and the Falls of Rauros; from there, you can choose if you want to take the route to Mordor with Frodo and Sam, or continue to Isengard with the rest of the company, following either the path of Merry and Pippin through Fangorn, or the Three Hunters through Edoras and Helm’s Deep. Then again, you can choose the routes of Aragorn, Merry, or Pippin … All the distances for the different options have been measured, all the way to the Grey Havens. Or, if you’re fond of The Hobbit, you can choose the journey Bilbo and the dwarves made from Bag End to the Lonely Mountain.

If you’re interested in taking the challenge, here are a few good tips for your journey:

Generally speaking, walking is such a natural form of exercise that hardly any problems arise with it. But, if you have or suspect any health issues, have never exercised before, or plan to take up a more strenuous form of exercise, it would be wise to consult a physician before you start.

If you’re going to take up walking, jogging or hiking, do invest in good shoes. Even the basic models of most quality brands are often available at quite reasonably prices.

Many participants have found a pedometer very handy for measuring the distance they’ve travelled.

Set goals for yourself. Make them realistic, such that you really have to keep moving to reach them, but not so tight that you burn out before you’re out of the Shire. Don’t think of the whole distance at once – set yourself milestones like Woody End, Crickhollow, Bree … (There are good lists for such milestones on the Challenge website.) The important thing about this quest is your commitment to see it through to the end; unlike for Frodo and company, speed doesn’t matter!

If you’re taking a long journey, pack with you water and a little something to eat – an apple, a couple of sandwiches, an energy bar … It is especially important to drink if you’re exercising on a hot day.

The journey often feels shorter in a good company. If you cannot find real life companions for your exercise, you can have the Fellowship with you by listening to the LOTR audiotapes or CDs, or the movie soundtracks. Or, get virtual company – why not try and gather an own walking group for CoE?

So, just grab your walking staff, and hit the road! “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”