No matter how absurd something is, if you do it often enough it will become normal. You might wish that you were the kind of person who does that thing but if you just do it, then you are that person, no two ways about it. Except, therein lies the problem, because when something gets absorbed into the daily humdrum of your life, it is easy to start to take it for granted.
Before this adventure started, running around by the sea every day and eating ice cream and fish and chips and getting muddy and sweaty and exploring new places and meeting new people was just about the most exciting thing that I could imagine. The prospect of running 20 miles a day was daunting, for sure, but I wanted to be the person who got to spend their days doing that, rather than just dreaming about it. I knew that there was absolutely nothing that could make me somebody who was running around a country except actually running around a country, and so that’s what I set off to do.
Five and a half months later, here we are. The whole South coast has been covered, as has the coast of Wales. I’ve tip toed my way up through Merseyside and now just have Lancashire and Cumbria to tackle before I hit Scotland, the thought of which thrills and terrifies me in equal measure. I’ve told you quite a lot about the bad bits so far, about how I nearly flooded Swansea with tears and about nearly quitting, and I’m going to take a deep breath now and admit that I have occasionally fantasised about breaking an ankle just so I can stop running. I think it’s important to show that it isn’t all delicious snacks and beautiful views and fantastic people.
Except that it is actually a lot of delicious snacks and beautiful views and fantastic people. Those things have become a solid part of my normal, as has running 20 miles a day without falling apart, and I love that. It makes me so happy. Still though, sometimes you need somebody else to come along and lend their eyes to remind you that this version of normal is amazing and you are lucky.
My mum came to run with me over Easter weekend. We had one disgustingly wet day and arrived in Aberporth soaked to the skin and having really not had much fun at all. We landed in the Starfish & Coffee cafe shivering and dripping everywhere, where a lady called Carys greeted us. She sat us down by the fire and brought us hot chocolate and soup and other delicious things involving melted cheese. She let us drape our sodden clothes over every surface and, a little later, a man in the café offered to give my mum a lift back to Cardigan so she didn’t have to wait in the rain for the bus. When she got home, my mum text me saying “they were really nice people, weren’t they?” and then posted a Facebook status about the amazing people of West Wales (because, of course, nothing is real until it’s on Facebook).
The next week, my friend Anna came to run with me. If you follow Anna, you will know that she is a pretty exuberant human being. Whereas my mum brought the rain, Anna brought the sunshine and bucketloads of it. Running with her reminded my legs that a) running is really fun, and b) they can do it. We broke several world records in the new multi-sport discipline of chatathlon (chatting, running and snacking), scared lots of lambs and exclaimed approximately every three seconds, “IT’S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL!”.
And it was beautiful, of course it was, just as the people of West Wales were amazing, no doubt about it. The thing is though, there are a lot of amazing people around and a lot of beautiful views. So many, in fact, that I suppose I’ve become accustomed to them. There are worse things to become accustomed to but, still, it’s sad if you become so used to seeing something that you almost stop seeing it at all.
The day after Anna left was April 1st. That meant that I had been running for five months and was halfway through time wise, at least according to my original ten month completion estimation. Mentally, reaching that halfway point has made everything so much easier. I find that the second half of anything is almost always easier because you’re going forward with the powerful tool of I’ve done it before and I can do it again.
The five month mark also seemed to coincide with spring arriving, which was very welcome after a long, wet, windy winter. I honestly didn’t realise that wind could be quite so windy until I stood on a cliff in Cornwall in the midst of a storm. Spring is here now though and the paths are solid enough to actually run, rather than just aimlessly slide around. I feel like I have finally hit my stride. I’m waking up excited for both the running and all of the fantastic things that the running is peppered with. My shoes are battered and full of a disgraceful amount of holes but I feel stronger than ever.
Normal is a funny thing. If you had told me four years ago that this would be my normal, I wouldn’t have believed you, or wanted to believe you either. And, sometimes, I still feel gripped by an overwhelming desire to be at home, wearing my Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup pyjamas, watching Come Dine With Me reruns and eating my dad’s apple crumble. Mostly though, there’s nowhere else I would rather be, and that is especially true armed with a fresh pair of eyes, a happy pair of legs and the reassurance of being halfway through.
If you enjoyed reading this, it would make my day if you could consider donating to my chosen charities Young Minds and Beyond Food to help me achieve my fundraising target of £25, 000 for the run. You can do so here – http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/runthecoast