Spear's Firewalks (For a Good Cause, Of Course) - Spear's Magazine

Spear's Firewalks (For a Good Cause, Of Course)


Being told how to firewalk by a man with a limp is bizarre. On the one hand, you’re inclined to listen, given you’re about to march barefoot across 500 degree coals, but on the other, you’re certain this guy hasn’t mastered it.



Being told how to firewalk by a man with a limp is bizarre. On the one hand, you’re inclined to listen, given you’re about to march barefoot across 500 degree coals, but on the other, you’re certain this guy hasn’t mastered it.


Here we were, however, ready to raise money and awareness for Kick London, a charity that teaches children decision-making and the value of team work through sports.


Naturally, the 30 or so present who were about to step onto burning coals wanted to know what the secret was — in other words, we wanted to know how to avoid obtaining a limp.

I doubted whether knew Bell knew the secret himself, so was unsurprised by his response: ‘There isn’t a secret,’ he said. ‘To firewalk, you simply have to bear in mind two things. First, walk with intent as those who don’t will get blisters. Second, remember that coal is a bad conductor and you’ll be fine so long as you don’t stay in the same place for more than two seconds.’Coal’s not that poor a conductor, then.

Off we went to the ‘fire area’, a 25-foot enclosure with a bed of gleaming orange coals in the middle and an audience. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t mentioned in the pre-walk prep session and it did serve to enhance my nerves somewhat.

When it came to it, Bell went first. Stomping across the pit, he set a strong pace, and it was good enough for Jo Bradbury — Kick London’s fundraising manager — to follow.



Spear's Mark Nayler walks on 550 degree coals

Before I knew what had happened, however, the crowd were whooping and hollering at me. Jo had crossed and a fellow who had broken an arrow against his windpipe in the warm-up followed, leaving me — unexpectedly — at the front of the queue.

I was just about to walk when Bell called a halt to the proceedings and asked some fireside assistants whether the fire was hot enough. I assumed this was a rhetorical question: I was wrong.

In went the thermometer, revealing the coals to be a measly 522 degrees. Not hot enough, laughed Bell over the public address system, and suggested that the fire be stoked up. I watched in disbelief as the fire was raked over and patted, after which another temperature test revealed it to be closer to 550 degrees. Now it was hot enough, apparently. 


There was nothing to do but just go for it. I’m not sure how much intent I had as I walked towards the coals: there is something tremendously counter-intuitive about putting your bare feet on something that you know is several times the temperature of boiling water.

The pain I tensed for, however, never materialised as walking across 522 degree coals turns out to be little more than a quick saunter across warm gravel. But the feeling of having overcome deep-seated instincts warning you against what you’re about to do, and doing it, and realising it’s not so bad after all, is exhilarating.

I walked over the burning coals twice more and although my feet did feel very odd for quite a long time afterwards, I came away without a limp.
  
Read more by Mark Nayler

 
For more about how you can help, please see KickLondon.org.uk

Don't miss out on the best of Spear's articles – sign up to the Spear's weekly newsletter



 

FOLLOW US ON