On Monday, exactly 100 days after setting off from London, I reached Minehead and finished running the South West Coast Path. Storm Imogen was raging and it was probably the windiest day I’ve had yet. Luckily though, the coast path from Porlock to Minehead largely stays away from the edge of the cliffs, winding through farmland and fields instead. I was blown forcefully metres either side of the path which was partly terrifying and partly quite exhilarating. I wondered if I was a bit of an idiot for heading out in such a gale. At one point I turned a corner and was swept at some speed past a herd of cows sheltering behind a bush. They looked rather confused by the mad blonde girl darting by with a fluorescent rucksack cover. They definitely thought I was a bit silly.
I reached the Minehead statue, signalling the end of the SWCP – or the start, if you were heading in the other direction – at just gone lunchtime. I lingered a little, hoping somebody might appear who I could accost to take a photo for me. Nobody else was out though; they weren’t stupid enough to be anywhere other than at home with a cup of tea. I resorted to a selfie, shed a couple of happy tears and ambled on in search of a celebratory sandwich the size of my face.
It was difficult to know how to feel upon finishing those 630 miles. I am over 1000 miles in now but the 300 odd miles prior to the SWCP are a vague blur in the back of my memory. Travelling around Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset via my own two feet has been pretty special. I’ve learnt a lot about wind, hills and mud. I’ve learnt about carrying on when you really want to stop and about stopping when you really shouldn’t carry on. I stopped listening to music and podcasts, favouring lengthy conversations with myself instead. I put the world to rights and solve all of earth’s crises ten times over each day, then immediately forget the solutions as soon as somebody puts a warm cup of tea in my hands. I have met some of the most kind, wonderful, interesting people and learnt to say yes to them, to trust them and to have a little more faith all round.
I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with the SWCP, and more than just a little. It was a dizzying, all consuming, heart soaring obsession and I’m already desperately thinking of ways to go back and do it again. Despite this though, the past week or so has been clouded by a wobble of the ‘will this ever end?’ variety, which is strange because I don’t actually want it to end.
Blimey, I spend my days trotting around by the seaside, being delivered chocolate brownies by complete strangers and never having to do any housework. I’m living the dream, or a dream – my dream – anyway. The next seven months feel infinite though. They feel endless. I don’t necessarily want them to end but the fact that I can’t imagine them doing so is terrifying because, alongside the adventure highs, I miss having friends and a kitchen and clothes that aren’t made from Lycra. (Actually, scrap that last one, who am I kidding? I love the Lycra life.)
People often ask how my legs and feet are, but they’re holding up just fine. My thighs are doing a commendable job of turning cake into muscle and, over three months in, I’m yet to have a single blister. My backpack doesn’t chafe and I’m remaining suitably hydrated. My mum keeps joking that I’ve burnt over 100 000 extra calories yet not lost any weight, but I’m taking that as a good sign that I’m eating enough. I’ve developed the exceptional skill of being to able to eat a whole steak pasty and commence running mere seconds later which I’m certain will come in handy at some point later in life. I refuse to buy into this notion that being a runner means being permanently injured, and so I run when it feels right and I’ve learnt to stop when it feels wrong, which seems to be working so far. But whilst my legs feel strong, my head feels like spaghetti.
The spaghetti brain comes and goes though and no doubt soon we’ll be back to plain old penne. And there are lots of things to be excited about. I have a couple of days left of creeping into the Bristol Channel then a quick hop over the Severn Bridge and I’ll be in Wales, ready to tackle all 870 miles of the Welsh coast path. I’ve been assured that it’s a little flatter than the SWCP was and the days are getting longer and, hopefully, calmer. Plus it’s my birthday at the end of the month and birthdays mean cake. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I really like cake…
Catch you in a few months England. Stay beautiful.
If you enjoyed reading this and you’re feeling generous, it would make my day if you would consider sparing a few pennies for my chosen charities Young Minds and Beyond Food. You can do so by donating here – http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/runthecoast