It's been a time for great exploits recently. First there was Max, conquering 100 tough kms of the Lake District. More recently, the 'Realbuzz Heavies' (aka Jim and Dave) casually knocking off an ultra before breakfast; and Kathy (and Richard) bravely enduring 55 kms in grim conditions before injury and extreme pain called a halt on the attempt. Most remarkable of all, there was Gerry, covering 268 miles of some of Britain's most unforgiving terrain in an astonishing 5 days. All the way from Derbyshire to Scotland! - I can still scarcely get my head round it. (Even just tracking him required a degree of stamina!) I am hugely admiring of such feats; but I have a confession to make: they do not tempt me. I am lacking whatever gene they have that compels them to put themselves through this degree of pain and exhaustion. Post-Spine Race, while other people were saying 'Ooh, I want to do that!', I was thinking 'Ooh, no thankyou!' I like my running/walking scenic, yes, but pleasureable and non-dangerous; I want to enjoy it, not endure it. It feels almost sacrilegious to be saying this, but there it is.
Nor do I enjoy running fast (relatively speaking!) any more. I like to plod along, admiring my surroundings, taking in the sights and sounds. Smelling flowers, communing with cats, saying hello to cows and horses, seeing what is growing in people's gardens. Running (or more often walking) is a means to an end, not an end in itself. I used to enjoy my small successes, and did occasionally win some nice things, but was never all that ambitious even then. Another missing gene.
Some of this crystallized out for me over the long weeks and months of lockdown, when there WERE no races, and I found I actually did not miss them. Conversely I discovered a new gratitude for what WAS still possible: walks, at first short and local, but with new awareness, then gradually longer, exploring new places, making new discoveries. I realized that this was what I wanted to do: see more of this lovely country I am lucky enough to call home. Some of these places - Grimsel, Lauterbrunnen, Bleniotal, Brienzersee - have involved a night away; others were 'there and back in a day' outings. This part of Switzerland is crisscrossed by various long-distance paths, and we've done several sections of them as day walks - the Jakobsweg in particular. I've toyed with the idea of a multi-day (3 or 4) walk along one, but would have to get used to carrying a rucksack again. (My human packhorse carries one on our days out - I usually just have a waist pouch.) Alternatively we could stay in one place and go out in a different direction each day - I have several ideas along this line. So many possibilities!
And a few limitations. I don't mind rain (though I prefer it not to go on for hours, or be so heavy that it soaks through everything), but am terrified of thunderstorms, after a few very scary incidents. I don't do well in extreme heat (that's anything the wrong side of 30°.) And the one I least like to contemplate: I am starting to fall apart somewhat. The knees have been problematic for a while now, especially the right one, which makes steep downhills painful. Ditto some arthritic toe and finger joints. The back is a new addition to the roster - currently much better, I am happy to say, but it still has its moments. I know other people have much worse to contend with (including some of our ultra heroes), but it does make me consider routes a bit more carefully.
So congratulations again, you ultra stars. I won't be joining you any time soon (except possibly on the sidelines, as a spectator), but I will continue tracking your dots, marvelling at your efforts, and giving you all the support I can.
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