Bizarre, quite simply and I’m still struggling to compute …
For 45 days I’ve had tunnel vision on each days distance, route, access to water, food and where I will sleep. Stretching, rehydrating and replenishing before I fall asleep was challenge enough and maintaining any semblance of personal hygiene had to come secondary. It has truly been the most intense experience. The total distance is over 2085km, with 377 km completed prior to this trip. I’ve run from the far west of Netherlands into Germany and up to the Baltic Sea to reach Poland. A ferry to Sweden before running across the south and east of Sweden then catching the ferry back to Lithuania and running to Latvia, before running the entire Latvian coast to reach Estonia.
For the first few weeks it was scary and stressful as temperatures persisted in the late 30’s with minimal shade and high humidity, searching for streams, often dried up, for water. Rarely a meal or shower available at the end of a days running. Often I’d pitch my tent and walk for another half hour to find a shop or cafe open, and frequently there wasn’t. My detailed plans with weekly “Drop Bags” of food and essentials were soon abandoned as I realised they were logistically impossible and causing more stress as parcels arrived late or not at all.
I soon learnt to stop trying to control everything and trust my gut instinct. I realised that I was asking the impossible of friends at home to advise or validate my decisions, how could they? they weren’t here. This wasn’t an ultramarathon or a multi day event and by trying to treat it as such I was setting myself up to fail. Once I realised that this was simply my new life, it started to become easier. This was my new normal.
Through well meant intentions, friends told me to take a breath and realise just how amazing what I was doing was, how brilliant I was. Supporters continually told me how amazing I was on social media and I thanked them / you, politely. Truthfully I didn’t see it. What I was doing had truly become normal and I couldn’t understand why it was so incredible. I knew it was unusual but through necessity I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge it as anything other than normal as that would be to make it a “big thing”, to make it unreachable.
Reaching the Polish border was a huge moment and my emotions ran freely, it had taken a total of 25 running days to run across Germany, and I was so happy knowing I’d run every step of the way . By the time I reached Sweden i was well over half way and it was only then that I started to relax into my new life, with wild camping and barefoot beaches certainly helping. Although navigation challenges improved, food and particularly water was a constant challenge. Lack of food caused a few crisis days when I simply had no energy and slept on the roadside more than once, so exhausted I couldn’t even walk. I cried tears of frustration and genuinely did not know how I was going to get through this. Some nights even if I could shower I was too tired to after running 60 or 70km with 9 to 12 kg on my back, all I wanted, was to curl up and sleep.
After catching the ferry back to Lithuania, I had 15 days including 2 rest days to run to Latvia and then run the entire coastline, much of which is very remote and beautiful. Often I wouldn’t speak to or even see anyone, making it a very insular experience. As the days went by I found it harder to interact with others. I was so totally focussed that anything else was a distraction. I had to be very selfish to survive and complete the challenge. I was a acutely aware of how selfish I was being, texting rather than calling my mother for instance as I knew I wouldn’t be able to process her daily life. It was conscious and most of my time running on the beaches or in forests was spent thinking of those I love and how I could better compliment and support them. It was conscious selfishness with a purpose. I spent long days and nights contemplating my role as a mother, a daughter, a sister, a granny, an aunt, a friend, an employee, reflecting on my life to date and making decisions about how I can evolve further. It was great to realise I’d exorcised my demons and I was more than comfortable in my own company, I was kind to myself, encouraging and forgiving. I loved myself and realised I no longer needed others validation. I also realised I’d built a protective wall and it was time to let it dissolve, to allow myself to be vulnerable and open myself up to the possibilities of a loving relationship again.
I realised that if I could survive and be happy with a 10kg bag on my back whilst running a marathon a day, there could be no justification for the five bedroom home full of well loved but non essential things. Memories will remain, I don’t need all of those objects to remind me. It’s time to minimise and downsize, to use my resources to ensure I’ve done the right thing for my children and to move on to live the next chapter of my life.
Forget mid life crisis, I call this Growing Younger! I’m Growing Younger, I’m proud of what I achieved in life, but it’s the things I wanted to do as a child that I still want to do. It was never about material wealth then and it isn’t now. I’m going to allow myself to achieve my childhood dreams: to be an artist and a writer and to run! I choose to be young, I feel young and the more I do what my instincts tell me I should the happier I am and the younger I grow.
This is probably not the post run write up you were expecting, but this is what Run Europe is about, it’s what Granny Runs the World is about. I’ve been truly moved by the friends, colleagues and strangers who have said they have been inspired. I want to harness that energy and create more good in this world.
I feel fitter and healthier mentally, spiritually and physically than I ever have. I’ve no blisters, aches or pains, I feel alive.and I urge you to find ways to remove the daily distractions, to spend time in nature, spend time alone, and to stretch your boundaries. The more you do, the younger you will feel and the possibilities of life will become endless. We all say we don’t have the time or the luxury and I’ve been the single parent working full time and studying part time so I know how tough it can be. I also know we can make daily minute by minute choices that can change our world for the better. I never thought about how I’d run 2000km, I asked myself if I could run for another 15 minutes and then I praised myself for doing it and did it over and over again.
Run Europe has been a personal evolution a real “Growing Young” adventure for me. I hope that I’ve shown victims and survivors of domestic abuse that there is hope, there is nothing to be ashamed of, life can get better and help is there. As importantly I hope I’ve shown those who haven’t experienced domestic violence that victims and survivors are not weak people. We do not deserve to feel shame, we need your support and understanding so that we can blossom into the incredible humans we all are. I am not weak, but I stayed in an abusive relationship for years. Look out for your family, friends and colleagues and help them to help themselves, to be survivors not victims.
As I promised, this is dedicated to the memory of William Dimmock, who I’ve thought of and spoken to many times these last few weeks, I hope he’s heard.
Fundraising update to follow, plus more on my top success factors – all easy to adopt, plus kit lessons learnt and inevitably some pretty pics 😊
I cannot thank you enough for your support,
Love Granny Tish