You’ve read the books. You’ve seen the movies. You’ve probably even listened the audiobooks. Are you ready to take the plunge yourself (minus the Nazgûl, orcs and a vengeful mutated hobbit with a homicidal split personality)?
The ladies of Eowyn’s Challenge have been encouraging Tolkien nerds to try the journey for themselves for almost a full decade now, be it by walking, running, swimming, or any other means of self-powered locomotion. The original basis for the challenge was a walk from Hobbinton to Rivendell–timed to finish by the release of Return of the King–but these wonderful ladies have since added distances for all the major characters and locations.
The founder of this fitness challenge is our Ranger Jewel. She began researching the miles, milestones and time frame of the hobbits’ journey to Rivendell in Fellowship of the Ring. We were later joined by Karen Wynn Fonstad, author of the Atlas of Middle-earth. Mrs. Fonstad provided us with very detailed charts of all the Fellowship’s journey through Middle Earth. Much of the information provided is exclusive to the Eowyn Challenge and can be found nowhere else. The challenge is very simple and flexible; anyone can develop their own variation on this basic idea.
Since then the challenge has seen perennial popularity at a variety of fitness forums and blogs, both the nerd-oriented and muggle varieties. Of all the posts I’ve seen, Nerd Fitness has by far taken the prize, including a multitude of beginner tips, recommendations for helpful apps to keep track of your mileage, as well as a collaborative Google doc for those who want to see how their journey compares to others.
If you want to stick with Frodo and Sam, your journey will be about 1,779 miles. If The Hobbit is more your style, the journey from Bag End to the Lonely Mountain is 967 miles. The walking distance page has all the distances laid out for you, and you’ll also find milestones that break down the distances even further.
If you expect to have reached your goal by a certain date, I’d suggest dividing the total miles by the number of weeks you’ve given yourself and seeing if it’s reasonable for your level of fitness. To reach Mordor in one year, you’d need to travel just under 35 miles a week. If you bike and/or run regularly, that might be very doable. If you’re using this challenge to jump-start a fitness program after being pretty sedentary, you’re better off either setting a farther date, or just eliminating the time restriction all together.
I think it’s a fun way to remind ourselves just what taking these epic journeys entails. We may read about them in high fantasy like LOTR, Wheel Of Time, A Song Of Ice And Fire, etc, but few people raised in the generation of cars and mass transportation can even begin to grasp what travel must be like in a time and place where you feel every grueling mile. Heck, maybe it’ll even make TSA security procedures more tolerable by comparison (okay, probably not).
Personally, I’ll be undertaking the journey to Mordor. I hope some of you will join in.