The Cotswold Way Reflection: I did it my way😊

After a bit of an emotional and tiring day on day 4 I actually took the decision to come home instead of going to the B&B for what was supposed to be my last overnight stop on the route. The 4 days ultimately served their purpose: I got fresh air, peace and quiet and time to reflect on things and because of that I returned much calmer. I also feel good for challenging myself, doing some exercise and spending time in the outdoors. Slightly annoyed I didn’t complete the whole thing but I gave it a go and considering how the reality of it all panned out, I think I did myself proud.

I know it must be scary reading some of my posts; I really don’t mean to upset anyone but I want to be honest because it’s helping me recover and I hope it’s helping in a wider sense in contributing to an honest, no-bullshit conversation about dealing with a mental health illness. Showing the ups and downs all at once shows how not so black and white depression is. You can feel elated yet down at the same time; motivated and disinterested all at once; brave and scared in the same instance. It really is bloody confusing! And I know it must be like that for people on the outside looking in, not knowing how I (or others with depression) are feeling. But I can tell you one thing: support, no matter how big or small, makes the world of difference. I don’t expect anyone to understand this illness – especially when I don’t myself – but knowing there are people who care about you along the way despite not understanding is what really matters.

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Run #11 Reflection aka Day 3 of The Cotswold Way

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I very VERY nearly took this day as a rest day – I even checked the bus times from Painswick to Dursley so I could just get to my B&B and chill. But something in my head just said ‘give it a go, see what happens then make the decision’. My blisters and right ankle were painful and uncomfortable, but bearable – just. I decided to take a slightly different route to help ease the pain – no fields today but a mix of the Cotswold Way, A roads, B roads, a common and some woodlands. With Jack Garratt’s phenomenal debut album buzzing in my ears, I plodded on. The weather was changeable, so too was my mood. I stopped off at a Sainsbury’s cafe to warm up and fuel up. Unfortunately my phone had conked out again and so for the latter half of the day it was just me and my thoughts. As the day got on, my feet got worse. The blisters were half the size of my palms and I had three of them – one on each heel and one on the inside of the ball of my right foot. I was wearing my trusty walking boots and proper walking socks so I’m not sure how they happened, but happen they did. When I finally saw the bright lights (yes, it got dark again) of Dursley, I slumped off to a pub to warm up and treat myself to a well-deserved G&T. And again, I got help from a 4 wheeled friend to get me over to Stinchcombe, my stop for the night. I was just so exhausted, in so much pain and I frankly, just fed up by the end of the day. I had had enough. At least getting sandwiched between my backpack and a gate – twice – had brought a smile to my face that day!

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Run #11 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3

Well, full marks for me for getting on with things initially. But I have to knock down the score for getting a taxi again. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself – something I’m trying to work on!

Enjoyment = 3

The pain certainly tarnished the day. And the weather turning didn’t help. Some moments were really enjoyable but a lot of the day felt like a slog. I would’ve scored it a 2 but a visit from a good friend at my B&B in Stinchcombe massively lifted my mood… thanks Heather 🙂 x

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Run #10 Reflection aka Day 2 of The Cotswold Way

Screenshot_20170421-091415Not as many animals today nor as many people. A little bit lonely at times but still peaceful. There was another near-spectacular fall as this time I decided to imitate Bambi on ice! Fortunately I just about kept my balance. With my phone having enough battery, I finished an audio book along the walk (“Grit: The Power of Passion and Persistence” by Angela Duckworth – it’s really interesting!). I also did A LOT of map reading as I decided to take a mix of different routes since many of the locations on the route were ones I’ve visited numerous times back when I lived in Gloucestershire. It was lovely having the sun and lovely to get to my B&B in sunlight. Although I did have help from a 4-wheeled friend… For about an hour I was deliberating over whether to carry on today or not, as I was supposed to have walked twice today’s distance.Screenshot_20170421-091458 But it got to the point where I was slowing down so much from painful ankles that I knew I’d end up walking in the dark again – something I really didn’t want to do. So I took the decision to cut the walk short, get to my B&B to rest up and start afresh tomorrow. Part of me feels like I’ve let myself down but then I’m trying to see the bigger picture and why I’m doing this walk. It’s not to do with racing the clock or walking the furthest for the sake of it. It’s about taking time to be in the present, focus on me for a bit and look after my health – plus to enjoy the beautiful countryside. So when I think of things like that, actually I don’t feel like I’ve let myself down after all.

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Run #10 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 2

While I can put it all in to context and try to be kinder to myself and not beat myself up, I can’t move away from the fact that I didn’t walk as far as planned and also got a lift – one thing I really didn’t want to have to do.

Enjoyment = 3

Was much quieter on today’s walk although I appreciated the time to listen to an interesting book and just be.

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Run #9 Reflection aka Day 1 of The Cotswold Way: 100 miles in 5 days (well, that was the plan!)…

“Where you going to love?”, said the taxi driver as I wriggled across the back of his car with my heaving rucksack. “Chipping Campden please. I need to go to the start of the Cotswold Way”, I reply as my cold breath fills the warm, cosy car with condensation.

The quintessential English countryside looked glorious as we rolled on by in the sunshine, talking about the work I do in BBC local radio. That would be the last time I would talk – even think – about work for the next few days. That part is true. But to say that the absence of thinking about work was bliss, as I expected, would not be true. Little did I know that the rest of the walk would be more blister-full than blissful, literally and figuratively speaking.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I’ve recently gone through a break up. I’ve been here before, just like many millions of others have. My situation isn’t unique nor is it special. But it’s my situation. It’s my experience. And I’ve been before. Many times, actually. But the last time I was here, the dark, grey days turned in to a storm full of raging gales strong enough to knock me over and relentless rain, turning everything miserable; my last breakup was the proverbial straw which essentially triggered 3 long years of living with depression.

So I spotted the warning signs. I mean, at least this time I could prepare for what might come and attempt to circumnavigate the inevitable rocky patch. And this was one of the ways I decided to do that. Fresh air. Alone time. Exercise. The countryside. And of course, a challenge. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew some parts wouldn’t be all that enjoyable. I knew I’d cry, I knew I’d hurt – inside and out – but I also knew that this is what I needed to do. I needed to start the healing process and I needed to prevent any further damage. So off I set: 100 miles in 5 days. “Let’s do this”, I thought…

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The first day was energising, liberating, tiring, painful, and, as the sun went down and I realised I was still hours from my B&B in the pitch black dark but for my little head torch, bloody terrifying. Energising because it felt so good to feel the crisp wind fill my lungs and the result of my body producing and pumping around happy hormones. Liberating because my phone had died and so it was just me, the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside. Tiring because I walked 20.35 miles miles with 2o kilograms on my back, which wasn’t helped by me forgetting just how hilly Gloucestershire is. Painful because on day one I gained 3 little friends in the form of expanding skin filled with liquid on the inner side of each foot – typical. And bloody terrifying because my over imaginative mind convinced the part of me that’s a scaredy-cat that I was being followed through the woods every time I head owls – ok, more likely pigeons – sound and flutter away as I walked by (sorry to the people whose garden I trespassed through with all of 5 metres – I just had to get out of the woods and on to the road and when I saw my chance I took it… I promise I was careful and just nipped around the edge once I jumped the barbed wire fence – not an easy thing to do when carrying a third of your body weight on your back!).

What I noticed the most from the first day’s walking was just how often I would stop and be in the moment. I know very little about plants and wildlife but what I did come across I’d stop, look, study and take in what was in front of me in that very instance. I’d notice the tiny leaves on flowers, the eyelashes on a horse that followed me through a field or the shapes of the clouds in the sky as they merged in to the mist in the distance, making the landscape looking something more reminiscent of Lord of the Rings than Gloucestershire. In fact, I was so in the moment throughout the day that I really did take in everything, and for once I managed to remember it all, too:

11 villages. 8.5 hours of walking. 3 blisters. 2 pheasants. 1 pony. 1 breed of cow I’d never seen before (turns out it was Belted Galloway). 1 squirrel. 1 man and his dog (that got lost and I helped to find… the dog by the way, not the man!). 1 dead phone. 1 castle-esque tower. 1 near spectacular fall (I was trying to skid down some mud!). 1 incredibly stunning sunset that distracted me, resulting in 1 missed turn. Numerous ‘diversions’ in the dark, resulting in 1 slightly scared and paranoid walker (I watch too many psycho-thrillers). 1 lost hat. 1 found hat. Tonnes of clumpy, sticky mud. Tonnes of Deep Heat. Too many hills. Too many scary looking sheep. And 1 lovely B&B (once I could get in!).

So with day 1 under my layers of warm clothing and waterproof jackets done, I turned to think about day 2 as my head hit the pillow of my luxurious bed. The sun had been shining all day and, despite the inevitable ups and downs, the sun was still shining inside of me.

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Run #9 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

I survived!

Enjoyment = 3

A mixed bag of emotions for the day.

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