Running North Challenge: To Fastpack 7000km across Europe. From Tarifa Spain, mainland Europes most southerly point, to Cape Nordkyn Norway, mainland Europes most northerly point. The equivalent of 165 marathons, solo and unsupported.
Showing your vulnerability online isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Particularly in the world of adventure, where there is an expectation (maybe it’s one I put on myself) to be brave, strong and to soldier on. I would place a bet that at some time or another we have all been guilty of seeing vulnerability as weakness. When really it is courage. The courage to show up and be seen. To step into Theadore Roservelt’s famous ‘arena’, unknowing of the outcome.
Well here is me being vulnerable… I just quit and I’m heading home!
Quit is probably the wrong choice of word because it gives off an air of sadness, whereas I couldn’t be happier and have never been surer of such a big decision. Nothing has gone wrong; despite a sprained muscle in my foot (when I got home I actually found out my foot was broken) and a few too many blisters, I’m in great shape and managed to shuffle on sore footsies 48km by mid-afternoon yesterday, so everything was on target. Except for one major thing, my heart! I did another 35km this morning and said: “Nah…life is too short to be doing something that makes you feel miserable”.
Everything about this journey was just wrong for me! I had an inert feeling before I left home that it wasn’t right, but put it down to being nervous about heading off on my own. It turns out that travelling solo wasn’t even remotely daunting, granted I was only wild camping for a week in the concrete sprawl of the Costa del Sol, but I know enough to know that it wasn’t a contributing factor at all.
In short, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I love remote wild places, far from people. Maybe I have been spoilt by previous journeys, challenges and adventures to the far-flung corners of the planet. Crossing the Gobi Desert and the mountains of northern China, the Arctic Ocean, the wilds of Africa, the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan, the Southern Patagonian Icecap etc. This trip, however, was just all wrong. It may be a perfect journey for someone else, but it made me increasingly miserable. To the point, I got angry with myself for wasting precious days of my life, and resentful of spending my limited resources (I sold my car to raise the money for this trip, so it matters). I want to spend my savings on a journey that sets my heart on fire. I knew from my routing that there was another 5000km ahead of me before things got even remotely wild!!!
I do not feel even a smidgen of failure. Anyone who has read any of my previous blogs will know that I have suffered greatly in the past from dealing with failure. However, I think to feel failure you need to feel disappointment and to be disappointed in the unsuccessful completion of your goal requires you to have had drive, passion and want for that goal. I strangely had none of these things on this occasion!
Metaphorically, I took a turn in my life journey, not very far down the road I realised I’d made a wrong turn so came back to look at the map again and work out which is the correct path for me.
I am actually really excited about going back to the drawing board and working out what is next for me. The world is wide and my bucket list long! But now I retrospectively think about it, running across Europe was never on my bucket list, Norway yes, but the rest no. Why did I latch on a further 5000km? What was I trying to prove? And to who? And why?
This has never happened to me before, how did I get it so wrong? Am I a little lost? Perhaps. I am going to take this as an opportunity to take stock of my life, where I am at and where I’m going. I have some hard questions that I need to ask myself, and perhaps some very deep-rooted insecurities, that need bringing to the surface and dealing with. I think I know what some of them are already…
With regards to my partners (Salomon, Profeet, Mountain Equipment, ZeroSixZero, Nordisk) and the charity Free To Run, thank you and sorry, but I want you to know I am seeing this as an equipment test. Don’t worry a big adventure is imminent, it just wasn’t meant to be this one.
“l’m stronger because I had to be, I’m smarter because of my mistakes, happier because of the sadness I have known, and now wiser because I have learnt”
Read the second part written 6 weeks later: Quitting isn’t always failing: Part 2 – The de-brief, the lessons, moving on!