Running into 2018 - Broken Tents, Campfire Curries and Low Flying Planes.
My first week home for Christmas was so cosy and sociable, full of food and friends and not once did I want to go back to my running-camping routine. I got home, hung up my kit, stored away my trainers and brushed my hair every single day. I went for one long jog over the hills just to relish the feeling of running without the weight of my backpack through my familiar Cotswold backyard. I built a snowman called Norbert, went out for dinners wearing normal clothes, opened presents not covered in mud and slept in my own warm bed.
But, despite my best efforts, after a couple of weeks I began to miss it all. I loved being at home - pampered, cosy and able to walk in the pouring rain knowing I could come home to a fire and clean clothes. But I like the adventure too. I love exploring new places. I like the effort that comes before accomplishment. I hadn’t made it yet. Over 1100 km in and I had not made it around the whole of the South; there was more coast to be experienced before I would be satisfied with this winter. Mostly I missed being outdoors. Wandering through fields, hearing the sea as I fell asleep and the the birds as I wake up. I love that I am much more in touch with the weather and the landscapes surrounding us than I have ever been before.
So I set of in January to begin again and almost immediately met a man who is, in late February, setting off to run around Britain himself! Christopher Shipley, who is as mad as I am, joined me in running through the New Forest for the day, swapping nerdy tips on what backpacks we use, what trackers are best, where to pitch tents and how to run long distance.
A couple of days later, midway through the South Downs, I woke up to find myself mid-battle (and losing) with Storm Fionn’s 50 mile-an-hour winds that charged through my tent in great big pole-snapping gusts. By 4am, having already emerged from my cosy cocoon twice to replant stray tent pegs, I heard the poles snap in two and felt the tent collapse onto my face in the pitch black. I simply gave up fighting, rolled over and tried to sleep the best I could as the canvas repeatedly slapped back and forth against my head. I must’ve been tired because I slept for at least two hours until dawn!
Now sans tent, it was lucky that I had planned to meet up with YesTribers for the evening and would be spending the night on the YesBus ! We had a lovely evening stood around the campfire chatting and staring into the burning heat. Despite ice crunching the ground around I was for once completely warm.
The next night I was back to camping, having been lent a tent by the wonderful Luke Hull. We were joined by four others camping out just North of the South Downs. We built another big campfire (to be honest I watched as it was built - I’m pretty hopeless with outdoor fires!) cooked curry and to sat round it chatting for hours. It was bliss!
Despite not showering in five days, breaking my tent poles, finding a leak in my now permanently deflated roll mat, my water bottle exploding all over my bag, and my knees being in nearly constant pain (I’d overdone it on the first day’s run I think), I had a brilliant week which ended with a wicked low-flying plane ride alongside the Seven Sisters cliffs and over the South Downs Way from Brighton to Hastings!
So it really has been a flying start to the New Year!