For me, as for pretty much everyone, this summer has not been normal. The strangest things I found were things like the complete inability to just jump in the car, and go and visit somewhere. Having that spark of imagination, or memory and saying, “Let’s go there”, as, in my area anyway, most places had booking systems. Furthermore, when it was possible to go somewhere, I was finding them more packed to the rafters with other tourists than normal, so things were pretty strange. I did get a good mountain walking day in over south Wales on midweek day, but it had to be an early start, which I have never minded.
On my previous post, I mentioned losing momentum over the summer, and lacked motivation. My way of dealing with this was to take a week off running. After returning to it, a couple of weeks later, I realised I’d been running on 6 consecutive days. Competitive drive activated. I thought, “Why not go 50 days running every single day?”, so that’s what I did. One of these runs was a few miles along the Worcestershire Way long distance footpath, which runs for 30 miles north to south, or vice versa of course. I have completed an organised ultra marathon along most of the path on two occasions. The light bulb of adventure pinged on and I decided to attempt to run the whole thing. A couple of weeks later, I decided to run it in both directions, in one go. 60 odd miles (or 100km, as that sounds more impressive).
I have lived in Worcestershire for my entire life, except for four agonising months when I lived in Warwickshire. The shame. In all those years, it’s amazing how little of the county I have seen and how little I know, although I probably know more than some. During the training for my solo ultra marathon, I covered miles and miles that I’ve never seen, passed through towns, villages, orchards, woodland and valleys completely new to my eyes and feet. One hidden gem was a valley that was home to a self-sufficient community, living in shepherd huts and cabins. Almost like a hidden oasis. There were steep climbs that were tackled practically on my hands and knees. While it made me wonder at my home county, it made me curious about firstly the other hundreds of places like it also in my county still to visit, as well as neighbouring counties and the rest of the country while I was as it. It’s things like that that make you realise how short our time is, and how busy we are. How many Saturdays to see all of Worcestershire? Don’t even get me started on all the books I need to read (or should read), films I need to see or albums I need to listen to. Next time someone says, “Life is short” – agree with them, cos it bloody is!
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the run, but in a nutshell, I ran out of gas/daylight at 41 miles. Not the hallowed 60 that I had dreamt of. There was a pub at 41 miles that was too good to resist. It happened to be right at the bottom of a steep bloody hill too, so perfectly placed. I’m very pleased I did it, and it was just what I needed for motivation.
As I write, I am planning the next one, in a week’s time. Another local long distance footpath, more to discover. This desire to complete things in their entirety has been with me for years. When I was younger, I cycled a little bit of the A38 road through my home town, and wondered what it would be like to cycle the whole thing. I got home and did the research for an hour or so (pre-internet days), until I was talked out of it by my parents, with their many what if questions and parental concerns. Seven years later, they watched as I cycled the length of the UK. I’d regularly run a section of my local canal, and in 2011, I ran the whole 32 miles of it. That mentality still exists. I don’t know if I’d call it adventure, stubbornness, stupidity or what, but you can bet your life, if there’s a trail, famed road or river, someone, somewhere will have at least thought about traveling it in its entirety in one fashion or another. That quizzical curiosity of what lies past the end of your street. What is beyond that hill? Then what? Then what again. And again. In old days, people didn’t have the need to do it unless it was for trade, and besides, they were probably terrified of falling off the edge of the world. Toppling off the edge of the world is fine with me.