The Cotswold Way. 102 miles of a beautiful, scenic national trail from Chipping Campden in the North Cotswolds all the way down to Bath, following the Cotswolds’ western escarpment. Also known as my nemesis. My obsession, some might say. Definitely one of my purposes.
This is the first post about walking the Cotswold Way, but ties in nicely with my previous posts about Alignment and, well, just search for Cotswolds in the search function and you’ll see how often it creeps up.
As a way (a Cotswold Way) of introduction, not too many years ago as part of a chain reaction of events, inspiration and ambition, I decided to attempt the Cotswold Way Century, an organised ultra marathon along, yes, you guessed it, the Cotswold Way. I successfully recorded my first ever DNF through, once again, a chain reaction of life events, bad preparation and injury, and it’s badgered me ever since. Once the post-event dust settled, I began to dream of attempting it again. A little global pandemic stepped in the way and knocked everything sideways but I always kept it there, knowing it was unfinished business.
When I failed to finish, I nearly made it half way, having to be eliminated by a cut-off at 1am. The path itself was unfamiliar to me after about 40 miles really, so I was in uncharted territory, in the dark, and injured. That place where I folded became a huge mental barrier in my mind. Physically, the town was in a dip, so a hill needed to be climbed to get out and as it was pitch black at the time it only emphasised the unknown out there. I had to set about breaking down the size of it in my mind.
I’ve done this before. Between my second and third attempts of the Fan Dance, I made specific trips to the Brecon Beacons with the purpose of walking bits of the route, revisiting points that were difficult, and just having a normal day out in the mountains. On my first two attempts, the scale of the task and the mountains themselves was intimidating. The whole thing was suffering. When I went back for the third attempt, everything felt less intimidating and much more familiar. I had smoothed off the sharp edges and made it feel like it was my back garden instead of feeling hundreds of miles from home. It worked, and I was able to concentrate on the simple things like putting one foot in front of the other.
I am not sure exactly where the idea came from. I have a habit of having a brief spark of an idea and just deciding to do it (which becomes the purpose) and then afterwards, working out how to get there (alignment). It was probably on a walk where I decided I was going to walk the entire Cotswold Way, completely alone and unsupported, and to do it in a widely unrecommended four days. For me, the challenge wasn’t going to be physical. I already suspected I had the fitness to do it, and I visualised myself doing it and completing it. I was going to make it more of a mental test. Four days completely alone, trying to minimise phone use and have an organic experience and see where my mind and thoughts went. Would I be lonely? Would I miss family? Would I miss creature comforts and technology?
It was going to be my own miniature Camino de Santiago. And I was going to allow it to change me. And it did.