This has been the most incredible three weeks of my life, emotionally, physically and spiritually, elated and exhausted in varying degrees.
I’ve achieved my first goal when I reached the Baltic Coast! It was incredible to know I’d run all the way from the Netherlands. I’ve been running longer distances than I expected, often 50km +, one day 60+ and one day 70+. Some days I stop and realise just how crazy this is. Other days it becomes normal to run a marathon and then get up and run another. One day I stopped, thinking I’d left my bag behind, it was on my back, that had started to feel normal. A lot of it becomes a blur as I am so exhausted I just have to focus on what I need to do, be it run, walk, find food, water or lodging or figure which way to turn.
More crazy moments this week .. during that long 72km day when after sunset I had to run directly into a pitch black forest, petrified because the only other option was to turn back along the coast or jump into the sea! At least it got me running again. That same run, I got within a mile or so of where I was supposed to stay to find I needed a ferry, it was after 1am and the ferry didn’t start until 8am. Finally getting to the accommodation to find it locked up, no water or food and exhausted having run the second longest run of my life, I had to pitch my tent in the dark and curl up and sleep. Other days I now find it perfectly normal to get my sleeping bag out and lie down beside the road and fall asleep… I actually do sleep!
There have been huge highs, incredible sunsets along the coast, the joy of not having to worry so much about navigation, as I mostly followed the E9 coastal path. I’ve felt a huge sense of achievement. The greatest of which has come from the fact that strangers and friends alike, have been inspired to take action and do something positive in their lives. I could want for nothing more. Many discussions about domestic abuse have started, and I’m seeing individuals attitudes about themselves changing, believing in themselves. It’s incredible and makes me very, very happy.
Tomorrow I will cross the border into Poland, it will be emotional. I remember when I crossed from the Netherlands into Germany near Emmerich am Rhein, I was so elated to have run across an entire country! I will be sad to leave the familiarity of the Germany I’ve come to love. I’ve seen some amazingly varied places from the Rhine towns to Essen, then the beauty and fierceness of the winter running the Sauerland Waldroute to Eversberg. I saw the contrast of that trail in the sun a few weeks ago, before heading east just south of Hanover fighting through forest after forest before routing north to Lubeck. The last few days Ive headed east to Poland via Rostock enjoying the amazing beauty of the Baltic Coast, before arriving in the pretty town of Eldena. Wherever I’ve been I’ve been welcomed and treated very well, not a single hostility. I’ve marvelled at how well Germans appear to age, every day seeing elderly people cycling or walking long distances. Many have found what I’m doing crazy and I think hard to believe, but they have accepted it and some have started to follow the journey.
So what’s next.. well anyone who knows me, knows there’s always change involved 😜 and there is. I’ve done a bit of a mid term review today. The first day I’ve felt rested enough to really assess where I am mentally and physically. Considering I’ve run just over 700km and well over 1000km for Run Europe, I’m doing pretty good.
I have no injuries, muscle soreness, aches or pains. I’ve really focussed on Chi Running form before, during and after my runs. However I’ve been on about 75% road and there is no doubt it will have an impact. I feel occasional twinges in my shins and feet and when I do I slow down, focus again on form and try to hit soft surfaces, on the verge where possible. I see how my running improves dramatically when I’m on open fields, or runnable trails rather than cycle paths and roads, but it’s rare. I can feel the roads impacting my bones, and am desperately trying to avoid shin splints. When I hit the trail again its like I have cushion filled shoes!
I’ve stayed in accommodation more than expected because campsites in German school holidays are, as you would expect, busy and noisy and not conducive to early nights before a long run. Wild camping is really not accepted here, and even if it was, the lack of water and food supply makes wild camping in this heat very difficult, it’s barely been below mid 30′. This has increased budget significantly but as importantly I’m not getting the full experience of wild camping I really wanted.
I’ve had to reroute daily to find safe routes (avoiding motorways) and if I continue on this plan to cross Poland via cycle roads it will be continual road. I’m also at high risk of missing my visa times for Russia which will add huge stress for the next two weeks. Poland has similar challenges not just re the cycle paths or highways but wild camping is also illegal. I really don’t want to spend another two weeks racing across roads to get to Russia knowing I’m missing out on a lot of what I came here for.
So I’ve found a solution today.. and it feels great!.
After I cross the border in Poland rather than continue along cycle tracks along the coast to Russia, I’m going to go to Sweden. That was my hoped for end destination but instead of catching the ferry from Latvia I will do so from Poland. By crossing into Sweden early, I ensure the remainder of my run is largely on real trails. Most probably on Skaneleden Trail in the beautiful Skane region, where I’ll have over 1000km of forest and coast trails to choose from, well marked and as importantly wild camping is positively encouraged.
I’m still not sure where I will end up, and right now I don’t really care. I’m just looking forward to crossing the border into Poland and then a whole new journey of change I hadn’t planned as I head to southern Sweden. Who knows maybe Denmark, maybe back to Latvia or maybe I will just enjoy Sweden. For now I’m happy with my ever evolving journey especially now this change brings with it the opportunity to do what I love.. real trail running.
Thanks for following and supporting my journey,