Since I last wrote here, too long ago, I’ve ran up the Somerset coast, taken a slight detour via Bristol, crossed the Severn Bridge, covered the whole South coast of Wales and landed in Pembrokeshire. I have enjoyed some beautiful weather so far in Wales, which is apparently a rarity, and have been joined for quite a few miles by a combination of friends, family and total strangers. As should probably be expected, in that time there have been quite a few peaks and troughs.
The day my cousin came to visit came turned out to be probably the coldest, wettest day I’ve had so far and she was wearing a leaking raincoat. I tried to jolly things up with a game of I Went To The Shops but by the time we arrived in Port Talbot (my feelings about which I’ll keep to myself…), Kelly had all the signs of mild hypothermia. Oops. She lived to tell the tale though and I, importantly, learnt that I Went To The Shops never cheers anybody up. All’s well that ends well.
I had a birthday at the end of February where, despite several suggestions, I didn’t run 24 miles to celebrate turning 24. Instead, I ran an easy 12 miles across Rhossili Bay and through the sand dunes before spending the rest of the day watching Mexican prison documentaries and eating birthday cake with my dad. I have a track record of having terrible birthdays that always end in tears so I was happy to make it through this one dry eyed. However, the fact that I insisted on assembling my birthday cake myself brought up the fact that I might have some control issues around baked goods. Who knew?
This adventure has always been about exploring Great Britain much more than it was ever about running. I have spent a large majority of my life here on this island yet seem to know embarrassingly little about it so the day after my birthday, I took a rest day to go and explore Big Pit coal mine. We had a marvellous day out and I learnt a little more about South Wales, the mining industry and life in the area pre- and post-Thatcher. We pulled out of the car park, disappointingly realised we were too late for the brewery tour next door and then the next thing I knew, I was driving back to Northampton with my dad on a bit of a whim.
I had a whole chunk of route planning that I desperately needed to do, for my own sanity more than anything else, and it seemed like a good idea to take a few days off to just get it all done. I was due a break from running anyway, having loosely decided that I was allowed one every two months, and was always planning to try and attend my Grandma’s book launch on March 6th. So off I went, to be reunited with my own bed and the contents of my mum’s fridge.
A week later, I was on the train back to Llanelli. I had planned my route all of the way around to Edinburgh, spent several days on the sofa in my ugliest pyjamas, made a good stab at eating absolutely all of my mum’s food and seen a much needed scattering of friends and family for a variety of activities from rock climbing to Dim Sum to a highly competitive game of Cluedo. I was ready to go back, desperate for aching legs and sea air once again.
Except, when I got on that train, I found that I didn’t want to be there. I cried all of the way from the Midlands to Wales and then some and it got a bit embarrassing, really. The I-can’t-stop-crying thing lasted for the whole of the next four days and I was as close as I have been so far to throwing in the towel entirely. I just wanted to go home again and be normal and never think about running anywhere ever again.
It’s hard to write this in retrospect. Right now, I’m warm and dry and well fed and I feel okay. It was mere days ago yet, sitting here on the other side of the trough, perhaps not quite at a peak yet but somewhere midway up the mountain at least, I can barely remember why I felt quite so clearly that the world was going to end if I ran another step. It’s even harder to explain when most of the time I’m posting pictures of the beautiful cliffs I run across and the delicious things I eat and the incredible people I meet. I chose to be here. I’m definitely not looking for sympathy.
Yet I think it is exactly that, the very keen awareness of having chosen to be here and how fortunate I am to have been in a position to choose that, that makes it difficult sometimes. Adventures of this ilk – the meandering, wandering, self-indulgent kind, as opposed to the breaking new ground, exploring type – are to be enjoyed and not just endured, I think. They are about grasping life with both hands and living out all of your most wild and wonderful dreams. Running 5000 miles really, practically, serves no useful purpose beyond that and so the second it feels miserable, that’s when I worry. It’s going to be hard and challenging and scary and at times dull, I’m sure, but I don’t believe that it should ever be miserable.
I made a deal with myself. Two more weeks. Run for two more weeks and if you still want to go home, you can. I bored several friends with my tails of fabricated woe, got a few early nights and reluctantly carried plodding on. It was hard but today I got my reward. I ran down to Freshwater West beach and in the early evening light it looked as beautiful as anywhere else in the world and my legs felt great and everything seemed wonderful. If this is how I get to spend my Mondays, then I guess that’s worth soldiering on for.
I’m glad I didn’t quit. I was close, very close, but there’s half a country of cake left to eat. Somebody’s got to do it.
If you enjoyed reading this and you’re feeling generous, please consider making a donation to my chosen charities Young Minds and Beyond Food. You can do so here – http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/runthecoast