I’m halfway through cycling to Vienna at the moment. I thought I’d have lots of free time but it turns out that between cycling all day, going to bed at 9pm and the important business of stealing Nutella sachets from breakfast buffets, there’s not much time to spare. I’m learning lots of useful adventure lessons: how to not wash my hair for ages, how to eat 5000 calories a day without being sick, how to keep moving when you really want to stop moving. In general though, this whole cycle-touring lark is keeping me pretty busy, so busy that until somebody pointed it out, I didn’t realise that it’s exactly a month today that I set off to run around the country.
Here’s a secret: I’m petrified. I am bone-shakingly terrified. I have days where everything seems all nice and fluffy and exciting. These are the days when I make my brain concentrate on galloping along coastal paths with the sun shining, eating fish and chips and ice creams, visits from friends and meeting strangers. I think about the good ache in my legs, about being cosy in my tent and about how fantastic it will feel to make it back to Greenwich 5000 miles later.
Other days though, I can’t think of anything except the rain, how cold I’m going to be and about monsters lurking in bushes. I think about the long winter nights and the loneliness. I question if I can do it and then convince myself I can’t. I wonder if this is all just a bit too ridiculous, a bit too self-indulgent. I think about all of the things I might be sacrificing by opting out of normal life for a year and I wonder if it’s worth it. I know it’s going to be hard; it’s already hard and I haven’t even started yet. I wonder if I should just play it safe, stay at work, take trips on the weekends.
Here’s the thing though: life can break your heart no matter how safe you play it. At the beginning of this year, I found myself crying in Topshop on my birthday and I didn’t know why. Happiness – both what it is and how to find it – is something that has always eluded me somewhat but I knew that I didn’t want to cry my way through life. I thought about running around the coast and everything started to make a little bit more sense. I was excited, truly and properly, for the first time in a long time.
And I still am excited. I know as wholeheartedly as I have ever known anything that this is the right thing to do. This time in a year it will all be over and that time will pass whether I try or whether I don’t. It’s hard though and the wobbles keep coming. The hardest thing is the not knowing. I’m trying to prepare for something but in reality I have no idea at all what it will feel like, mentally or physically, to do a big a adventure. A month today though, the journey to finding out begins.
I’m writing this from a hotel room in Deggendorf. In a moment, I’ll go and have a shower and get dressed in the one outfit option I have in my panniers. We’ll go for dinner, then to sleep, then tomorrow we’ll get back on our bikes and do the same again. You don’t need a lot of things to be happy, perhaps just a warm jumper and a good meal at the end of a long day. And if running is anything like this, then maybe I’ll be okay.