So it appears I have to revies the long blogs, so as voted for by you here is the first of many.
A years worth of planning was steadily coming to a head, Christmas 2018 brought its usual cheer and joy but for me it signal the start of #projectparkrun2019.
The gods of running did not seem to want me to start, with first a dodgy knee, followed by a severe bout of flu for both me and Kerry that we suffered with through the whole last weeks of Christmas, a leaking washing machine and then a leaking pipe in the ceiling pretty much sealed the bag of bad luck.
Luckily with only a few days left the flu cleared, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to run the first park, having not run properly for over a month I set forth into the unknown.
The few days running up to the start were spent watching the weather with some reservation, the temperature dropped quickly and steeply promising a -6 camp for the first night out, I packed and unpacked many times before I was able to settle with the kit I was taking. Packing in this way becomes a work of art and one of restriction, as you move items around and try to compress them beyond what is naturally possible.
The 4th January arrived and along with the family we made our way into Birmingham for the pre adventure breakfast of pancakes and syrup before the obligatory photos were taken at the departure area.
I boarded the train and stowed my bag in the luggage tray and settled into the mammoth 3hr journey, for a change the train was nice and I watched the scenery fly by as I took some pictures and video for the documentary , sampled the on board hot drinks and tried not to fall asleep. I arrived at Lymington to a lovely warm sun but with the added coolness of a January breeze. I loaded my pack onto my back and set off wandering through the town, taking in the local pasty shop for lunch. I noted that people were tending to give me a slightly wide berth due to my wild beardy look, before long I was booking into the campsite and setting up camp. I became aware that I was being watched by the good folk hiding away in their vans, wondering who this strange person was camping at this time of year.
Shortly after setting up, one of the men approached me and cheerily announced that he couldn’t believe I was setting up a tent, I gave a laugh and assured him that I would be ok, he reported that last night was cold despite him having a heater in his van, he offered the use of their camp fire later that evening and I readily accepted.
I made my tea, a delightful freeze dried mushroom risotto and apple and custard, to much water saw the pudding more of a apple pie flavoured tea but it was a welcome warmth on the cold night, I climbed into my sleeping gear (just to try it out) but as I warmed and felt comfy I decided that at 7pm I would go to bed.
I awoke somewhere around 11pm to very cold night, opening the tent it had turned from its manufactured green to a frosty white, movement of the fabric created a slight snow storm around me, I quickly ran to the loo and quickly climbed back into my bag to the warmth, the rest of the night was fitful one with the cold slowly freezing parts of my face that were not covered.
I rushed to the loo and hurriedly climbed back into the warmth of my sleeping gear, I packed a sol emergency bivvy just in case it was too cold and im glad I did, the extra reflective layer made sure that through he night my main body was warm and toasty, my face however took the brunt of the -6 temp.
My alarm went off at 4:30am, during the night the temp had picked up due to cloud cover and so packing up was a little warmer, by the light of my head torch I packed away my home and belongings, trying not to wake the other residents. Hands frozen from the cold, I donned my gloves and set forth to my starting point, I have always enjoyed running in the dark, head light illuminating only a small portion of the world around me.
I reached the local boat yard and sat on the wall, looking out onto a darkened Solent, the lighthouse beaming its light onto the waters around the spit, I set my watch and at 6am I began running, usually at events you are cheered on by a lovely bunch of support crew, giving you well wishes and motivational speeches, today it was just me, on my own running into the unknown.
I set off with a slight air of giggles and excitement, no one had run this before, no one had crossed the New Forest or recorded this type of run before this honour would be mine to take, I set my gps up and followed a little red line set before me, leading me further and further into the darkness.
The world was quiet, still asleep, birds fluttered in the trees surprised by the intrusion of such an early encounter from a human, I crossed roads, avoiding the few cars that happened to be out at this time, wrong turns were taken as I struggled to navigate the small intercrossing streets of towns, but before long I was hitting trails, hitting the forests and its unique terrain. I came across my first New Forest ponies stood at the edge of a road merrily chomping away on grass, around their necks hung reflective collars to help protect them from cars, they eyed me with little concern, I stood and took some pictures and left them be.
Before long I was passing into more woodland, as I went it became denser, I headed in as straight as line as I could trying to avoid to many twisting paths to save miles and time, but more often I came to a dead end as I hit numerous bogs and small sections of wet land, the ground frozen nether the less gave way underfoot to a very chilly water seeping into my trainers, I back tracked and took alternative routes where needed, keen to avid the cold again.
After an hour or so I noted that the gopro had died, the gimbal that I had brought to steady the footage was also playing up, spinning around like it was possessed, I gave up trying with them both and settled for using my digital camera for filming.
I ran on my own for much of the time, lost in the quiet and stillness of the forest, nothing around but me and the wildlife, the occasional time I would come across peoples, hellos exchanged as I passed by on my way.
At one point I came charging through the forest and came upon two ladies who were startled by a bearded man running out no where only for me to say hi and disappear back into the forest again, this became a bit of a regular thing as I appeared and disappeared into the undergrowth.
I was lucky to meet some lovely people on my way through, one such person came out especially to find me, she skidded to a stop on a quiet road and quickly shouted in my direction before taking off down the road again, I was a little unsure who this person was and did wonder if they were just angry with me for being in the road, but to my delight, she came back and introduced herself as Sue, one of the ambassadors for trail-running magazine, she offered to meet me further down the trail and I happily agreed, we meet a little later on, she had already completed her run for today but wanted to meet me to offer some company, a seat and more importantly a cup of hot chocolate, this simple act of kindness was a first for me, a stranger had come out of their way to meet me and offer me comfort, I was truly touched and even more so when she then offered me some money towards my charity cause, £5 didn’t seem a lot but the whole gesture was an important one and one that I have talked about in my other posts, a trusting nature that we all to missing from our world today.
I came across another act of kindness a little further one when I meet a lady walking her 2 pure white poodles, I remarked how muddy they would get and she seemed intrigued to ask what I was doing, I regaled her with my tail of daring and then out of nowhere she produced £7 in change, I have to admit that I was almost moved to tears at this point, again a perfect stranger to me had stopped and taken time out of their day to talk with me and listen to what I was doing and to then give me a donation was beyond what I had imagined I no longer consider these people strangers but friends, strangers are only strangers until we say hello.
I meet a few more people along the way happy to speak with me and wish me luck, time was passing quickly, I stopped for short periods to refuel and at one point hidden away from the main paths, I stopped for a piddle and I have to say reapply the Vaseline (if your a runner you know) and laughed to myself at how this might look should a group appear and walk by, but I enjoyed to alone time, I enjoy to non paths, fording my way through ground no one else has used.
The temp barely increased all day and being hidden in the woods the sun never really reached me, running helped to keep my temp up as I wound my way through varying terrain, streets gave way to heathland giving way to woodlands given way to small country roads and tracks.
I sat at points and ate the food I had, sweets, chocolate, sports jellies and sesame seed snaps helping to fuel my body and its ever growing need for calories, I never really felt fatigued along the way, stopping to eat and drink and regular intervals proved to be an essential part of the journey, I did get the distinct feeling that every time I set my pack down that small faerie’s appeared and placed heavy rocks inside making me groan at each lifting.
All to soon I was reaching my final destination, I checked and rechecked my mapping as I approached the imaginary boundary line and just like that I was standing upon it, my feet touching something that didn’t exist in the real world. I stood along in a boggy and wet field and congratulated myself on a job well done and as I started along it ended alone with no fan fare or medal, I did feel emotional to think that I had completed my first park alone and self supported. I felt strong and still had energy to give which was a good job as I still had a few miles left to reach my transport home.
I set up temporary camp at a bus stop, 1hr awaited the next bus home, I tentatively began sorting my kit and noted how much I actually smelled a familiar odour of damp dog mixed with sheep, not something I wished to put upon other passengers and so I waited, watching people come and go from the local village shop and in between visitors I managed to change my top, after this I also took a bath, well a wet wipe bath inside the bus shelter as secretly as I could carry out.
People passed me by and eyed me suspiciously, I ate more sweets and boarded the bus into Sailsbury where I partook of the local train station food and ate more sweets from my bag as I struggled to stay awake.
People eyed me suspiciously as I sat messing with my gear and I can only assume that people thought I was homeless and wanted to avoid any contact with me, it was an odd feeling of being actively avoided for no reason other than the way I looked.
Projectparkrun2019 was now underway, 2019 was going to be epic.