An update from Frances Mills, who is 1000 miles into a slow-running and camping journey around the south coast of the UK this winter
When I started my run I worried that I was setting off on a rather lonely journey. I plan on jogging the entire 4500 miles of our rugged and beautiful coastline over the next few winters and, although I enjoy being that lone figure in a landscape and the sense of isolation that comes with it, I worried how I would cope with weeks on end of solo journeying. If I found the populated South lonely, how on earth would I cope when I get up to Scotland?
Travelling in winter, very much out of season, I suspected not many people would be out on the trails for me to chat to - or give that breathless nod which seems somehow to encompass a warning of the steepness of hills to come as you jog past each other. I chose to run during these months mostly to encourage more people to get outside and explore the edges our wonderful Island throughout all the seasons.
Several months in, and 1000 miles along, I ought not to have been worried at all! Runners, walkers and campers have joined me along the way, enjoying my slow routine of run, tea, run, pub, sleep! Keep the sea to my right and keep moving forward: across fields, over styles, around castles, along beaches and up cliffs.
One thing I have learned is not to push my running too far or fast. Waking each morning, cooking my porridge, packing my tent and setting off at a jog, it is easy to feel energised and overdo it by the morning’s tea stop, forgetting I have the entire afternoon to go! I often end up walking the afternoons to cover ground and give my legs a break, knowing that I will need them every day in the weeks to come.
Of course, sometimes I’m just muddy and soaked and tired and fed up. One day this January along South Downs, my drinking water spontaneously exploded all over my bag, while my roll mat was pierced somehow and leaked air out of a hole I simply could not locate, deflating and forcing me to sleep on the cold hard ground that evening. That was not a fantastic day.
However, there is an elation from reaching the top of a hill and embracing the wind, as well as slower steady contentment from being more in tune with the landscapes I run through, when I cease to rush and choose to explore, jogging my own rhythm. Sometimes that rhythm is a walk. I watch a bird sweeping through the sky above, hear the waves crashing below, turn to see the cliffs I’ve climbed and sit in the evening, limbs aching, to watch the sun set over my tent.