Today is the twelfth day of my run across Europe and yes it’s definitely time to admit I got it all wrong. Pretty much everything!! But it’s ACE!!!
I spent months and months meticulously researching, testing and miniaturising until I had the most ultra light kit. I examined routes across Germany, Poland and the Baltics using every online and paper map available. I had detailed plans for the first few weeks and hotels booked for my weekly rest days, drop bags organised with replacement essentials and food. I did more planning than training!
In the last twelve days I’ve had to completely rethink every single aspect, rip up the plan more than once and start again. For a planner such as me, that’s mighty tough to admit. There was no guide book for running across Europe, no instructions to follow, I made it up as I went along, taking insight from others, but no one able to provide much guidance and I got a lot wrong!
So how has it been? Unbelievable !! Quite simply the most incredible time of my life.
Moments of absolute ecstasy, enjoying incredible sunsets as I fall asleep in my tent, after walking into a lake fully clothed on finishing a 50k Run. Moments of absolute contentment, smiling away to myself once my tent felt like home. Many moments of downright amazement that my body is continuing to complete 50k days without any muscle aches or pains.
Moments when I’ve sobbed out loud, when I was so exhausted and the responsibility of organising everything all got too much. Navigation has been a major stress as I’ve fought my way through brambles and forests on a daily basis. I’ve found myself on open farmland with absolutely no shade from 36′ heat for hours and hours, having to walk to conserve water. I’ve wobbled 5k to a village desperate for food and water only to find it almost deserted and the “cafe” no longer open. I lost my bank card, ripped my shorts thought my phone had broken all in one day and could barely force myself to eat having still finished 50k. I love thunder but have been scared as the skies turned black and hailstones the size of marbles rained down on me, with winds almost blowing me over before torrential rain and lighting whilst running in the open and forests. Ive been petrified running into massive trucks on the main motorway towards Hamburg, because there literally was no other route.
I’ve been amazed by the kindness of all I’ve met, giving me gifts and offering to drive me to somewhere to stay for the night as the storms were too dangerous to camp. To refuse a lift even knowing this was taking me 5k off route, I was drenched and would have to run back 5k in the morning took a lot of willpower. I’ve been so exhausted I’ve fallen asleep beside the canal and awoken 30mins later, revived to finish another 25k.
I’ve been overwhelmed and burst into happy tears more than once, reading the incredibly lovely messages from friends, family and most significantly from strangers. It’s those words of encouragement that have kept me going, and one or two very special people have truly excelled themselves in my eyes with their generosity of spirit.
I’ve hated not being able to wash or brush my hair for days or wash my skin properly and see pimples appear! I’ve detested the ever present flying creature that decide my legs, arms and bottom are their lunch! Vanity goes out of the window when you wear the same non running top and pants to bed, to dinner and pretty much everywhere when not running, only having a chance to wash them properly once a week.
I’ve had far less time than I would have expected to think about anything much other than running and survival. This is way beyond anything I have ever put myself through ..not just the running, but the logistical challenges, the nutritional focus and basic survival needs. The weather has been so extreme, barely under 32 on any running day, often much higher with high humidity. So far shops and cafes have been a long long way apart, way more than on any organised run, so I’ve been drinking from any streams or canals I can find using my lifestraw, but often these don’t exist.
So yes I got it all wrong! I could never have predicted these weather conditions, never realised just how complex the logistics would be, or how much support I’d get. I also didn’t realise just how strong I was. My body is coping well with the running, and I’ve amazed myself my completing over 420k, which together with the 380+k from Schiphol to Eversberg previously, means I’m well on my way to the half way point of my 2000k crossing of Europe. It hasn’t been all laughs so far, it’s been so very very hard and totally exhausting, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’ve rerouted to north Germany rather than go west to Poland as the navigation was too difficult and dangerous on motorways and across forests with no trail to follow. I arrive in Lubeck tomorrow and will enjoy the Baltic coastal path. There are 400km of stunning coastal trails from Lubeck to Ahlbeck before I enter Poland, I will have to take a few road short cuts to make progress east, but I’m going to enjoy them rather than focus on the destination.
I haven’t had a chance to plan further than that yet. There literally is no time! It’s wake, eat, run, eat, run, sort route and accommodation, eat, wash, sleep. But I’m not complaining, I’m learning to go with the flow and enjoy the moment. For me not to have a plan is an achievement in itself! I’m having to trust myself and make decisions as I need to, my gut feeling is generally right. By the end of week 3 I will have a better idea of my end point, and I’m hugely excited about possible plans to run with some friends and meet some other new ones.
I cannot think of a better life lesson than this, it’s truly remarkable and I feel so very, very lucky. I thank you all for your incredible support.
If you enjoy this journey you can follow the daily progress on Facebook Grannyrunstheworld or GrannyTish on instagram.
Lots of love,