Flutter open your eyes. Struggle for briefly against the panic of a tightly coiled sleeping bag before freeing yourself to crawl out… and breath in that fresh sea salt air. Know that today your only task is to move from here to there; to some distant point along this magnificent coastal stretch. Over cliff and along beach, through fields, mud, sand and water you will run and walk until the sun tires, or your legs.
Close your eyes now and fall asleep to the pitter-patter of rain on canvas, wrapped up warm and listening to the soft hoots of an owl perched near. Its single high pitch cuts the night to float above the howling wind; across the stretch and release of sea on pebble beach below.
Now, this has been true of many days… not everyday. Not by a long shot. I have woken up more than once to the steady sounds of rain outside my tent, then sat up to find its damp invading my tent and lining my sleeping bag with a sleek wet glaze, all but dripping through onto my clothes. I have since learned to use the tents ventilation designed to prevent this very thing. Sometimes.
In between waking and sleeping I do manage to get round to some running. While I do not always run with earphones in (and even then only with one in), I have sought out friends and voices and characters to join me on the road. My fellow travelling companions these first couple of weeks have been several young men and women from the furthest southern reaches of their kingdom; a place called Two Rivers, described in hour upon wonderful hour of detail in Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of Time series. They are Rand, Matt, Perrin, Egwene and Nynaeve. Barely more than kids, these villagers are brutally dragged from their quiet sheep-herding lives and forced on a perilous journey through daunting and unknown lands.
They are reluctant travellers who dream constantly of home; chased night and day by fades, trollocks and creatures of the dark. They evade death at every turn and between them have an annoying habit of putting my little adventure jog to shame. I am certainly having a far better time of it: I am not being chased, nor am I in a foreign or frightening land. I even sleep through the night without wondering what evil creatures might attack, and in a tent no less - no hiding in haystacks and hovels for me! So whenever I’m cold, wet and tired I remember with a grim satisfaction that those five kids from the Two Rivers are having a truly miserable time. Even then I’m still slightly jealous of them… perhaps you do need moments of misery for a journey to be an adventure. Forget being hunted by trollocks, last week I found a slug in my mug just as my gas ran out midway through boiling my now lukewarm tea. I was so fed up and drank it anyway.
Trials and frustrations, as small as they have been, are not what stands out from this journey so far. Moments of wonder lead me to skip instead of run and feel the need to throw my arms wide to embrace the isolation of these towering rocks and the vast expanse of the sea below. It is a real rush, and one that is discoverable only in the absence of humans; on wild windy clifftops where not even dog walkers have ventured into the rain. Where there is no one for a mile left and right along the coast, nor for many miles out to sea.