Oct 14 – Losing Your Shadow

It’s still the 13th and 10pm.  I forgot to turn my phone off and it decides to inform me that I could see the aurora in the next hour.  ‘Whatever!’ is my actually thought but I peer through the open tent flap…

How did I end up on a woodland horror movie set??

The clouds had rolled in.  Black trees gradually faded to grey and then blended into the fog.  This is great!  Wet tent may be the result, but warmer night is guaranteed with a cloudy sky.  I get my head back in to the tent and curl up, marvelling at the warmth within my sleeping bag.  I realise that the warmth is purely under the 3 layers of clothing I have on, but still… 

‘Warm’

Alarm goes off, it’s snoozed.  A repeated ritual until an hour later.  I heat what water I have left, barely enough to fill a glass but more than enough to moisten my muesli.  Muesli made & eaten, I begin to pack up.  The outer skin of the tent is coated in a tiny layer of condensation but the inner is dry.  Result!  They’re packed separately, wrapped in my floor mat and attached to my pack.  A slow walk into Matfors in time for the shop to open.

I seem to get trapped in a shopping time vortex!  I go in just after 8 and come out around 9!  Not a big store, not a massive amount of food purchased but still an hour lost to the land of commercialism.  I check the map as I walk, working out my route.  There is 75km between me and Friggesund.  I have all day so a steady wander, run the flats and downhills and cover around 35km.  I have no idea how far I’d travelled but a sign ahead says ‘Hassela 32km’ 

I hear the voice of many a Buxton student well up and float from my mouth…

‘REEEAALY!’

I head off, not sure why I questioned the distance.  I knew it was more than 30km from Matfors to Hassela.  I think I felt I’d travelled a bit further.  Gotten closer to Hassela but obviously not.  12pm will be lunch break. 

I’ve managed to add 3kg to my pack with the extra food and water.  I feel it in my legs as the first long hill starts.  It seems to keep going up for an age.  I refuse to have a break but the occasional passing lory provides the perfect excuse to step on to the soft verge and stop.  A few times I end up further off the road than I’d want and have to clamber out of the road side ditch, amused by the whole slip sliding afair.  Still I run a few of the hills.  Ill advised and often ending in a short bout of being bent over but it feels good to push the hills!!


Lunch arrives.  I sit on a rock and realise that if I don’t get off it, I’m likely to have the numbest and coldest arse ever.  I stand, move away and decide to squat.  The expectation is to squat down, feel and possibly hear the creaking of the miles behind me but I seem to drop into a comfortable position.  It’s actually quite warm when you squat down.  Waiting for the legs to burn, but nothing…

In fact.  I realise that my ankle is improving despite the pack weight.  My left hip and my hip flexors don’t ache as they used to and my calfs don’t burn.  My Achilles don’t click anymore.  Maybe this whole eating more is having a positive effect.  More up hills, but now I run them.  Just long enough to see the top.  The long expected downhills feels effortless to run.  My legs tell me the pack is heavier, but they carry the burden with little complaint.  A quick check of the time and I’m less than 6km from Hassela.  That voice again…

‘REEAALLY!?’

I can’t believe I’m less than a km from Hassela and it’s only 3:30?!  A trail appears on the left, I wander down it.  It’s been used by cars but looking at the ground, it’s not even been stepped on for a few days.  So I pick an open spot, a dry spot with a slight rise so my legs are above my head.  I pitch my tent, boil the interestingly yellow water I collected earlier and settle down for dinner (or tea depending on whether you want to say you are a southerner or a northerner), get changed for sleep and get in the sleeping bag.  Not sure what to do with all this time I have.  I could have continued.  I could have covered another 10km, but then, why use extra energy on a cold day. Now this is the downside of a cloudy sky.  The temperature is more stable.  Warmer at nights, but it is colder in the day, everything feels damp and I lose my faithful companion.  My shadow.  Yet I marvel at the difference in the trees here to further up north.  Most trees further north had begun to shed their leaves and embrace the long winter sleep.  A well earned rest for a few months productivity.  Here, some trees cling to their leaves.  Still green in colour.  It has been warmer here I think to myself as I run along the road.  The trees aren’t quite done yet.  

It appears I’ve cover 40km today.  40km and loads of time to recover, eat, write, drink and sleep.  

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Oct 13 – Warmth

I’m preparing for another cold night, but I have a good spot, in some woodland near Matfors.  After hours of road, I found a small trail and followed it here.  I wandered further and found a set of cabins.  All locked but bathed in the wonderful golden light of the setting sun.  I should have been setting up my tent but instead I stood and watched as the colour of the light moved towards red.  I quickly think back on today as the sun gets lower and lower…

I woke at 2am, cold.  When I say cold, it is that borderline between being cold and being warm.  The line where the discomfort take over and wakes you.  I move around, the heat from my body warming the cold sleeping bag and I doze for 2 hours.  I fight with the cold for another few minutes before deciding I need to just give in, get up and eat.  I eat the remains of my Brie and last piece of bread.  Some water follows it, cold enough to induce a spate of brain freeze worthy of the mightiest crushed ice beverage.


I’m getting warmer.  I light my spirit burner.  My tent seems dry.  The light of the burner covers the tent in an orange glow and I’m mesmerised by the vaporising and condensing beads of ice on the inner shell of my tent.  I resign myself to having a cold tent and get inside the sleeping bag, making the most of the warmth I have now.  7am and I’m out of the tent and packing it.  The forums around me isn’t frozen and the outer of the tent is dry.  Maybe it’s just because of the moisture that my tent is frozen.  I wander back to road, following the same path as I used to get here.  Passed the ant nest, over the dried out stream and…

The ground sounds like I’m walking on a layer of cheap plastic bags.  It’s coated in a thick layer of frost and frozen.  The soft verge at the side of the road is indistinguishable from the hard Tarmac when running and after 10k of frosty, frozen landscapes I’m at the shop in Bergeforsen.  Breakfast is purchased ready to be eaten later and on readiness for the next day or two.


Leaving, I arrive at the bus stop that faces the sun.  The one across the way from me steaming as the frost vaporises.  I start to warm up but a bus pulls up.  The sun is blocked.  The heat is gone and it’s a few minutes before the bus leaves and I feel the warmth again.  I write in my journal.  I’m finding it difficult to write at times.  What do I write?

‘Ran today.  Stopped and ate, waved at the cars to say thanks.  Pitched my tent and was cold in the night.  Woke up and ran again’

Hardly a tale of adventure.  But I’m getting off the point…

The bus wanders off and I’m warmed.  I check my map and head to Timra, passing another shop and wandering in to look for something warm.  The need for warm food is satisfied with a chicken leg, and I’m heading out.  The unexpected find of Lidl and I’m sporting a new pair of ladies leggings to help combat the cold.  Must be the added cotton for my comfort, but these things are warm!

I decide to skirt Sundsvall, opting to ignore the next shop.  I have food enough to cover the distance in two days.  Then I realise that the distance is too big.  Maybe with a dry tent and dry sleeping bag it wouldn’t be.  I stop.  Set up my tent at the road side, stretch out my sleeping bag next to it, both in full sun and allow them to dry.  If I don’t, the night will be colder than it should be.  I check my map again and realise the need to change my schedule.  35km a day is realistic with what I have to do to stay warm at nights and manage my gear properly.  I know I can do more, but this is what needs to happen so I create a new schedule.  I pack up.  Leave my roadside mini camp and head to Matfors.  I enjoy running the country roads. 


Not quite trail, not quite road and with lots of villages and hamlets full of character.  A down hill and I test how fast I can go.  That’s stops when I see the E4 ahead again!  Best get it over with is the attitude and it’s done with quicker than I though it would be.  Another E road and I’m less than 5km from The turning for Matfors, but there’s a trail.  I take it and that how I ended up here.  I’m preparing myself for broken sleep.  Broken from cold since the sound of cars is like a distant breeze here.  Matfors is close by and I have a leisurely few days ahead.  35km a day.  Just 35km a day.

Oct 12 – Schedules


Dry tent in the morning didn’t last long and it was another cold night.  Why so?  Condensation.  From 2am onwards I was just warming be moisture on my sleeping bag.  I ate a breakfast consisting of 5 digestive biscuits.  Didn’t matter really.  I was 12km from Ålandsbro and a shop.  Everything packed and I started to wander out of the woods.  The landscape outside was colder.  Frozen.  Frost covered everything including the road.  The trees and vegetation may have punctured a hole through the ground sheet of my tent, but they keep me warmer than if I had chosen the patch of grass next to the road.  A steady walk and run into town with a section that was yet again the E4, but his early, it was fairly free of traffic.  Things seem to start late here in Sweden and end late.  Not complaining since it made the last few kms easy going.  

I enter the shop, auto pilot kicks in and I leave with enough food for two days again!  No bother.  I’ll just eat it today as a way of fuelling recovery.  My legs feel good.  The smile still persists and drowns out any pains or moans of tiredness.  The route is more to my liking too. A dirt track leading through the woods, passed occasional farm based villages and lakes.  A school bus goes passed me and stops just ahead, and I run passed.  A small boy in the window stares and smiles.  I wander what he makes of this old man, ripped socks, sandals and a big pack on his back running?

The bus vanishes into the distance but then drives passed empty.  A wave and a smile from the driver provides a small boost.  It’s not often that drivers will even acknowledge you on the road.  I find running water and collect some after drinking what I have left.  More hills, up then down, bends and straights.  I’m further than I though at this point and slow the pace.  I don’t want to arrive at Bergeforsen today.  Too build up.  I’d not find anywhere free to sleep.

I decide on a spot around 7km away and carry on.  Some geese fly over head, bank to the right and cross my path, landing on the grassy field on the side of the road.  There’s loads of them.  All waddling along, eating the grass.  This land is now farmland.  Genuine farmland with a mix of cattle and wheat.  The smells remind me of being a kid on a farm and at the same time wanderin around Buxton.  Strange how smells have this power to transport us to different places and times.  I reach the turning where I hope to find a trail and some space to pitch my tent.  The contours on the map promise a night of perpetually rolling down hill, but I’d like to eat food and be ready for sleep before the sun goes out.  There are stil patches of frost on the ground and some streams are still engulfed in ice.  Let hope the lunch break in the sun, sleeping bag draped over a low tree, dried the down and outer enough for it to do its job well.  The sky is clear and with it the promise of another cold, frosty night, so it’s only the right thing to be hidden amongst tall pines and the red squirrels. 

On a different note, I realised today that the schedule I’ve been working to is based on 40km a day.  Today I decided to get as close to it as I could.  No competitiveness.  Just a simple fact that I had the time to do so without fighting against myself, fully expecting to stop should the opportunity for a warm evening in a cabin or shack present itself.

Oct 11 – Rules & Bridges

A dry tent!  That was the morning’s little surprise.  Then a snooze.  And another, followed by yet another.

I check how far Alandsbro is and got a shock.  58km.  There was me thinking it was 30 something.  I pack and briefly think about the problem of a drop in daylight hours.  I’m on the trail so I follow it and what a way to start the day?! A true woodland trail with a steep climb followed by a long descent but after a few km… The trail ends and it’s road.  I have a trail option but decide that actually, adding an extra 8km on to a log day is daft.  The legs are tired but the mood… The mood remains light.  I laugh and smile at the thought of what I’m doing.  The distance that’s left to do, the thought of the distance for today… All try to break the mood, but weirdly it doesn’t work.  I decide that actually, a schedule that averages out at 35km a day is easily don’t if I do 35km a day.  Why go further if I don’t need to?

I just run, walk, eat, drink.  The clouds begin to thin and the sun starts to shine through.  The E4 isn’t that bad.  Then the gap between cars and myself gets smaller.  Now I don’t like the E4, but no bother.  Every time a lorry drives towards me I step over the barrier and wait.

‘Just as well I decided 35km is fine!’

Then the gap becomes even smaller and I’m crossing a bridge where there is no gap for me to stand in!  A crash barrier in the middle of the bridge doesn’t give the cars any real space to move across to and I’m faced with lorry after lorry passing by me.  Around 6-8″ separate me and the sides of them.  I don’t like it and on the third lorry encounter disaster strikes.  I grab for my head in desperation but too slow…

I cling to the railing and wait for the lories to pass and look behind me.  Nothing.

I look over the rail and there, in the fjord, bobbing around with each small wave, is my Punk Rock Run Club cap.  The cap that made it all the way from Nordkapp, through bog, mountains, snow, frozen lakes and boat crossings sits way out of my reach.  A moments mourning then a sprint to get the hell of the bridge.  It’s over and a steady pace for the rest of the way.  A break for cake.  A later break for dancing, brie and flat bread.


Then a steady run along the road known as the E4 with a distinct feeling that I shouldn’t be on it.

A car pulls up ahead and someone gets out.  ‘Hold on!  I know that dude?!’  And as I get closer I realise who it is.

‘Dude!  No way?!  How random is this?’

It’s Ritsem Matt!  He’s on his way back from Ritsem having finished the work at the STF fjallstation there.  He offers me coffee and we share a cup and some cinnamon pastries.  He lives near my route and plan is to meet up with him.  He offers to send me his address to, so the wheels of doom can be posted there making my progress to Denmark even easier.

I leave…

Arse!  Forgot a photo!

I’ll get one next time I see him.  I run, the caffeine giving me an added boost to the chance encounter on the road side.  There’s just one thing.  Matt tell me that I shouldn’t actually be on this road.  I was fine before but now I’m paranoid about the police.  Just as the thought passes through my head, a police car drive by.  The look on their faces says it all and I keep running, increase my pace and look for the fastest way of the road.  I find it about 100m ahead.  A gate that leads to a small road running through a small village called Nordvik.  I follow it, the views far better and a distinct lack of traffic, but then back on to the E4 and face to face with another bridge.  No chance I’m even going to bother so I wander the long way round but then realise…

I have no choice but to go on the E4 and cross a bridge that’s around 1km long.  I prepare the lie in my head and plan the alternative.

 Plan A – get across as fast as possible and if stopped return the way you came.

Plan B – wait till late in the night, when the road is empty.  Get across as fast as possible.

I’m actually a bit worried.  I don’t want close encounters with large fast vehicles when I’ve got no escape other than a jump off the bridge!  I also don’t want to have to hitchhike.  The route I should have taken is around 100km north of me. I approach the bridge slowly, fully aware I shouldn’t be on the E4.  The lie is practiced.  A straightforward mix of truth and the lie.  I see signs for road works.  I carry on, plans in place mentally, no sign of police.  Then it happens…


I see that half the bridge is closed to traffic!  Absolute RESULT!  The mood was light before but now it’s threatening to turn into some kind of euphoria!!  I run across the bridge, admiring the incrible views of the fjord that runs below and to either side of me, and on the whole find the whole chances of this situation amusing and fortunate.

Breaking the law, breaking the law, whoo whoo


The bridge ends and I want to get off the E4.  Not so much because I know I shouldn’t be on there but because I’d like to find a place to camp and get away from the cars.  There is a road that runs almost parallel to the E4 so I head for it.  Another police car drives by, both police officers giving me a sideways, and decidedly shifty look.  I smile, walk alongside the road, looking for a opening in the woods to my right.  Eventually I find one and in I go.  The ground isn’t ideal but is it ever ideal?  

Tent is pitched, food is being eaten and I’m ready for the last 10km to Alandsbro tomorrow.  There’s time to get there but I have what I need and there’s no urgency.  35km a day is the target.  Why get all gung-ho?

Oct 10th – Kindness


Well, since I keep forgetting how long I’ve been doing this and since I feel it irrelevant, I’ll just stick to dates.  I actually don’t think they’re relevant at the moment, but they’ll serve to piece together the whole story later.

I don’t recall putting this into words here.  If it’s a repeat… Blame it on the addled mind of a long distance runner.
I realised the other day that there was a moment that could have had me still following the E1, further south in Norway and heading to Sicily.  That moment wasn’t when I decided to stick with Rooney and it wasn’t the decision to wait for a tent in Abisko.  It was the decision to leave Kautokeino without the tent pole.  It arrived 3 days later.  3 days that would have then altered the course of the rest of the adventure.  So, as I’ve said before, we make our own luck through our choices and although I’m more than happy with my path, it took a while to puzzle out and realise the mistake was so far in the past.

So…

On to today.

I had a restful day yesterday, ate just enough food, drank just enough liquids and generally relaxed and planned.  I posted on Runners World Sweden’s page on that well known social media site Facebook and in the Fell Runner’s Association page.  I wasn’t expecting any response but what I got blew me away.  I was amazed by the willingness of people to help and the interest in the run.

I left today, planning to follow one road and thanks to the advice of a local.  I hose a different path.  A meander near to the inland section where sea and river become one (I think they’re called bays or harbours, but that just doesn’t read right).  Passed woodlands, farms, small villages that I’ve grown used to and toward the small town of Bjasta.  A car heading towards me, a lady wearing a pink jacket.  Suddenly she waves smiling.  There’s a bit of astonishment from me!  There’s actually someone here that knew about my run and has come to say hello!

Liselott.  She got out of the car, double checked I wasn’t some other traveller and the the traditional greeting of a hug.  She generously offers me food, drink and then invites me for coffee.  I’m delighted and head off, repeating the street name to myself so I find her house.  Then the joy of running washes it away and I’m running and singing towards Bjasta.  I arrive, head to the wrong road, pause…

Quick Facebook post reply and after some general meandering in the wrong directions she find me and we run for coffee.  A warm house.  A comfortable space and Liselott offers me more food choices than the typical shop!  A meat stew looks interesting…

A quick taste while she sorts out the kettle.  Holy moly (I’m learning to censor my language, but maybe learning Swedish would be more useful!)!!  It’s proper tasty!

That’s me sold and a plate appears, I dish out a handfull of Swedish Almond potatoes (named due to their shape) and a serving of the stew.  I don’t want much. I have to run and I’m still not back to eating like I did before starting this whole adventure.  The on and off switch for hunger seems to be functioning a little too perfectly!

I eat, we chat, I notice the pole dancing pole (or that’s what I thought it wa) but don’t mention it and she shows me a trail that runs along the coast.  The road is easier to run on and I want to get to Docksta today, so I keep it in mind just in case and after a coffee and more chat I leave.  There’s a tipping point that I’m all to aware of.  The point where you suddenly decide to stop for the day.  After a thank you (and in hindsight maybe I should have apologised for my general running odour) I’m off again.

Holy shit! (Censorship just turned off) 

This is a busy road.  It’s like running on a single carriage motor way!  Huge trucks go by, I jump to the other side of the barrier as the small gap I use to run vanishes for a few meters or a huge row of card and trucks come hurtling towards me.  I need some highviz stuff.  Liselott offered me something and I felt bad taking it so I kindly refused but now, with the light fading around 4:30pm, maybe I should get some.

Docksta appears out of nowhere, I buy some food for today and part of tomorrow.  I head to that trail we looked at earlier.  There is a section where the ground levels out and I’ll pitch up there, hidden in the woods.  The start of the trail is through some farmland and it actually looks like an English footpath!  I plan a cheeky farmers field pitch, but then turn to find someone walking their dog behind me and so back to plan A and what a result!

The perfect flat, woodland flood.  The layers of pine needle giving a delicate amount of cushioning and the trees enough cover to hide me from passers but.  I expect no one, but I feel the need to be hidden while I sleep.  Tomorrow is a another day and my only challenge is to find somewhere to exchange my pounds into SEK.  The banks in the big town of Örnsköldsvik didn’t handle any cash?!

So in short or in summary, which ever you prefer. 

There is a lightness to my step and mood.  I find myself laughing and smiling as I run or walk.  The efforts of running feels good.  I’m left wishing I could do more as way of thanks to those that have shown me kindness on my journey so far.  I’ve said it before and will happily repeat myself…

Thanks just doesn’t seem like a big enough word to express the gratitude that I feel. 

Day 67 & 68 – Run Free

I’ve heard the expression run free.  I thought I got it.  I didn’t…

Or at least I get it at a different level.

Yesterday, I arrived at Örnsköldsvik.  I used googlemaps to give me an idea of an ETA and it said 11:30.  Two and a half hours for 11km!!  I had myself a challenge.  Get to the hotel (an unexpected treat from grandmother AKA Babcia) before 11:30am and include a trip to lidl for some chocolate milk and grapes.  The first thing you notice about being near a town is the sudden appearance of a pavement.  You stutter in your approach to it, but you realise it’s a better place to be than the road.  More industry.  The smell of petrol or deisel from cars, occasionally mixed with the over zealous use of deodorant or aftershave by the driver.  I ran passed people and all seemed to look with a mix of bemusement and disapproval.  ‘Why is this guy… What the hell are those on his feet?  His shoe things have massive holes in em!’ Must be their thoughts.   Ok, I paraphrase.  They probably think ‘he needs a wash!’ more since my clothes are rather pungent.

3k to Lidl…  I can see the sign for it towering above the warehouse type buildings.  The delightful wooden construct favoured in Sweden long disappeared as more civilised areas are reached and something I wasn’t expecting…

Outside of Lidl is a lady, sat down.  Head bowed.  A subway cup next to her.  She looks up as if to ask something.  Sees my feet, the state of my clothes and my backpack.  She says nothing and looks back down.  I’m surprised by the reaction less than by the fat that she is begging for money.  All round the shop I wander what she’d do if I placed the remains of my food next to her before I leave.  I get a small milkshake, end up putting other food back as I still have a few km to the hotel, and leave drinking my milkshake.  As I pass her the same reaction.  Her eyes look as though she feels sorry for me!?  I have nothing to give her, so I leave.  A slight pang of guilt for my lack of help!  Strange.  Never had that before.
Along the road, into the main town.  Whistling to some random tune, occasionally breaking into some air guitar action whilst running.  Google said 11:30, I say 11:25 with a shopping trip.  Amusing, since I completely forgot after drinking my chocolate milk that I was racing google.  In to the hotel, checked in, bag away in the room.  There’s a massive TV on the wall, a giant bed and the room is ridiculously warm.  I have a headache and feel like I have a cold.  Shopping happens quickly and features heavily on food.  Another beggar outside the shop gives me the same reaction as the last.  It’s as though I don’t warrant being asked for money.  I appreciate this.  I have money but nothing of small amounts and would prefer to give some of my food.  On my exit, I don’t even warrant a glance, but I’m not sure I care since I’m running back to the hotel.  Feels odd to run without the weight of life on my back.  It kind of is life that I carry.  Water, food, shelter.  There’s more to life, but they’re the basics.  I grab a few bits to help with the running.  K-tape, a bivvy to help insulate my sleeping bag, a thicker foam mat.

Back to the hotel, feeling grotty.  5pm and I’m trying to sleep.  20:30 I’m awake feeling far to warm and sweaty.  Repeats 3 times in the night and it’s 5am, an hour before breakfast.  6am I’m at the buffet.  3 plates go by fast!  Fruit gets eaten, fruit juice drank and some reasonable coffee.  Result.  I contact Pete.  Normally he’d offer advise and I’d listen but generally do what I thought.  Today he asks about me resting.  I reply I wasn’t but ask if I should.  His reply is yes and start to find places to stay for free.  I listen and do as advised.  That’s a little bit new too!

Now I’m in for another night, free breakfast and the ability to exchange the cash I have for Swedish Krona.  The bivvy will be returned as it is too sweaty.  My down bag needs to be dry to allow t to loft.  The bivvy, in a small tent will just enhance the damp and probably cause more cold.  Now to my earlier comment…

Never did I think that being a runner was going to be more than just running regularly.  Not a type of runner either.  Not a mountain runner, fell runner, road runner, trail runner, track runner.  Just a runner.  I never even thought that running would be the way I start to come to terms with myself.  I have lived a life saying I work to live, but really I’ve lived to work.  Cliche alert!!  Running is now more than just running.  Meditative movement, self discovery, a way of life & oddly, something I’d like to understand at a whole knew level.

I guess I’m on the right path to do so, but always remembering the one truth about running…

#RunningSucks

There’s more to it, but words fail me.  I have no idea how to put into words the relationship I’ve developed with running and this way of living over the last 2 months.  Enlightening would be one word but what does it actually mean in language that isn’t hairy fairy or nebulous (thanks Pete for the word)?

Answer… I’ll tell you later, but neither of us is likely to understand till we experience the same thing 

Day 62 To 66 – A New Pace

Day 62
It’s hard to not repeat yourself when days feel like a repeat. Groundhog Day is what running in this part of the world is like. Not a bad thing really…

The view is mostly pine, spruce and birch woodlands, occasionally they break to give views of grassy marsh land and there’s a smattering of lake and river views that are stunning. The morning was the coldest yet. Again, the ground and vegetation frozen and again, a blue sky dappled with cloud. My tent is frozen solid. All condensation turned to ice. I wait…


This is just laziness really and avoiding the biting cold, but still I wait in vain for the ice to melt. It’s not melting, so I get packed and out. The tent is unfurled from its pole and peg imprisonment and shaken like a dusty rag. The ice breaks away and slides out, covering the floor. ‘Result’ says I. ‘Less moisture on the tent’

I fold and roll. The tent is now the size of a 12″ baguette, bagged and placed inside my cut down floor mat. All is ready for my to move and so I do. Slowly…


This is a rest day and I will only walk.

I amuse myself by saying the words 50k rest day out loud. The benefit of km is that 50k or any distance, rhymes with day. The only word I can come up with to rhyme with miles is piles! More self amusement. Then I check the map whilst sat eating in a riverside shelter…

A shorter route! A shorter route but it involved off trail hill and bog navigation.

I veer away and wander down a dirt track. This is a loggers tracks and evidence of their trade is everywhere, including stack after stack of wood.


‘4248’

Numbers stamp on every other log and I find the patterns and image pleasing. A break to charge my phone with the solar panel…

The sun is lacking in power and is setting. I keep marching on, determined to reach the river I have to cross and I do… Just as the sun vanished behind the wooded hill. There is a shack. Incomplete on the inside, a huge double door that doesn’t shut properly and dusty inside. I check out the terrain and river, deciding whether to push on or stop.

The sun is setting fast, light diminishing. To carry on would be foolish. I stop.

The routine is still there, but it’s adapted to the new situation. I clean the few floor boards that are in the cabin, perhaps it was destined to be a garage of sorts and never completed. No matter. It’ll make a sleeping place. A pit is dug, the chimney hole in the roof is cleaned out in the hope it’ll act well enough to stop the cabin from filling with smoke. Wood collected. Rocks placed on the rim of the pit, fire started. Smoke fills the cabin, eyes burn, eyes water. All doors and the solitary window are now open. The smoke billows out and I can breath again. The fire is left to burn out, the embers used to cook a meal of barley and adventure sausage. With the addition of coconut oil it’s actually rather tasty. Then it’s time to sleep. With the warm meal, I feel warm. I put on an extra layer. The sky is clear and the stars wink at me, warning me of the cold ahead.


‘My nose isn’t cold’ is the last though before is fall asleep.

Day 63

I wake. Cold. Actually cold as apposed to uncomfortable with the temperature. I put on my waterproofs. They have little effect and I curl up, head inside the sleep bag and the ends wrapped up. I cling on to the tiny bit of warmth that fills the claustrophobic space and sleep a little more.

Alarm goes off. Snooze. Alarm goes off. Snooze…

I have no idea why I’m snoozing it. I’m not actually sleeping and avoiding the cold is pointless. It’s cold and will be cold most of the day if not all day. I light another fire, using smaller pieces of wood that will burn fast and with less smoke, embers used to warm water ready for breakfast. Amusingly, it was cheaper to buy hot chocolate powder (which contains milk) than to buy just powdered milk, so a mug of chocolate muesli is eaten. Bag packed… You know the routine now I hope.


‘Cross the river when it is its closest to the road. Head south west’. A reminder to myself. The river is deeper than I was expecting but I cross, neoprene socks doing their job well. Crunch after crunch, I step along the frozen miss and peat hags. The frost clings to my feet and freezes the moisture on the outside of them. It is more winter than Autumn.


I miss the clearing and the start of the road, but redirect. I was 3m to far west, although I couldn’t see the clearing for the small trees. The road is again a dirt track. Infrequently used and appear to be more a snowmobile route in the winter. All sparkles. The spectrum of visible light, twinkling as I walk along. 55k day is the plan. I glimpse a lake through the trees as it develops a layer of mist, aided by the warmth of the sun’s rays. I walk and another lake, this one in the shade. The land is far more pleasant on these roads. More inviting of exploration, but still woodlands.  So I realise that the Swedish are shaped by their lands, as apposed to shaping it. The small shelters, the camping spots, the rest areas for drivers, all give the impression that the land is being shaped by humans, but really… It’s the relationship with these forests and wood that shapes the people. Just as I realise this, a cabin appears. The chimney stack tells of the wood stove inside and the lake provides a nice back drop.

‘Yet another nice spot that I will wish I stopped at’ and I walk off. Then I stop.

‘A rest day in a town is costly. A rest day here is free and far more resting’


I go back, I go in, I sweep, I collect wood, start a fire, lay piles of wood to dry and collect water, heating it on the wood stove.


The wooden spoon is carved some more, making it more spoon like. There is a joy, a profound joy in using my hands to make things. I recall wanting to be a bricklayer when younger and realise that maybe the root of this though, the desire, was the joy I felt when making things. Now I sit with all my equipment either draped or hanging, the moisture leaving them all with help of the heat. A lunch of cracker bread, beetroot salad and adventure sausage, a cup of coffee, and listening to the crack and creak of the fire mingling with the sound of the 3 flies that have been awakened from their cold induced slumber. An early start tomorrow, but more importantly, a good nights sleep tonight.  

Some locals appeared at the door. All dressed like atypical hunters, all carrying their shotguns and all wearing the trousers that everyone outdoors wears here. The guy who tried to get in apologised, told me they’re hunting and then insisted that they are going to stay outside. I invited them in but the reply was no, we’ll stay out here. But it was said in an almost apologetic tone. They wanted me to shut the door quickly too so I didn’t waste the heat. Now they sit outside, a fire cracking occasionally, chatting and laughing. I’ve managed to dry everything, heated the cabin to almost sauna like warmth and the sun sets again.

The time for rest is almost over. Tomorrow promises to be another fine frozen day…

Day 64

2am and the cabin temperature dropped enough for me to wake. A new fire is lit. The heat permeates, fills the space where the bed is. 2 hours more sleep…

The fire burns out quickly and at 4am I’m wandering around in the dark for wood. A couple of armfuls and I go back in. A new fire burns, it’s orange light dancing on the walls. I eat breakfast, drink a coffee and pack. Shortly before 7 I leave, the sky a light blue colour. The colour that promises sunlight soon. Running isn’t a mode of transport today. It’s a heating mechanism. My beard freezes. Develops a crust of ice. A slight detour off route provides the chance of some loo roll. I’ve noticed that each small town or area has its own animal and wander if it’s based on the prevalent animal in the area. Varträsk proudly shows a wolf on their welcome sign. I get back on route, run along a road that is more like a trail and the sun rises higher and higher. It seems to lack the warmth it had a few days ago. It’s cold enough for my beard to freeze, which helps pass a few cold minutes as I try to take a picture of it.


The land refuses to let go of its frosty coating and the streams and smaller rivers have inch thick layers on ice on them. A new problem to solve, especially when rocks are frozen into the ground. The hours pass and Frederika appear around me. I diversion to a shop and a lunch in the sun. I have ages and should make 50k today. I stroll out and head to Bjorna. I pass close to a Buddhist temple and want to go over but I keep on route. I just want to get closer to Örnsköldrvik. I need to get a solution to the cold nights and there is a long way to go. The sun seems to be waking up…

The warmth from her light forces me to take of the 2 extra layers and I’m running in leggings and T-shirt again. Locals drive passed and look on with what I guess is bemusement. I come across an abandoned building or two. I find them fascinating so I explore them quickly. One is little more than an old farm shed and the second an old house. Normally I would have stayed in the house for a warmer night but this one is different. It has the feel of a house that saw a loved one pass away. I wander through the kitchen, the living room and finally a toom that has a makeshift bed at one side. At the foot of the bed, facing it, a chair. The sense of a loved one passing away is stronger now and I feel the need to leave.


Back into the cold and up the hill. The sun’s light shines at the top and I’m starting to get cold again. I push on. ‘Reach the light before the sun goes behind that hill’ I say out loud and before long I’m there. She warms me. A smile and I run down the hill. The aim to reach a lake or suitable spot with water. On the map there is promise of a cabin at a lake side. I hold no hope of it coming to anything other than a lake with some houses next to it be still run on. The sun is dropping fast and I want to be settled before her heat leaves the ground and I am forced awake by the cold. I arrive. A groups of buildings, all resembling a postcard picture of an old farmstead. I find a clearing in the woods opposite and wander in. There is flowing water near by, the ground is free from ice and it’s time to setup camp. 6pm and I’m asleep knowing that at some point in the night, the temperature will drop enough for the cold to sink through my layers and touch my skin.

Day 65

3am was the coldest. Cold enough to wake me from my broken night’s sleep. Tent checked…

It’s frozen of course. Sagging under the weight of the solid water that clings to its inside and outside. I eat something. I move around to generate some body heat. I cocoon myself, trapping any and all body heat that I can. I stay on there. Alarm goes off and the snooze function keeps on at me till 8am. 4 hours of snooze! All to hide away from the inevitable. Cold and a frozen landscape.

I eventually get out, pack, shake out my tent and watch in satisfaction as layers of ice fall from the outer and inner. It’s gonna be soaked in a few hours as if defrosts, but I have distance to cover. Rolled up, attached to pack and it’s the road again. The sky has a thin film of cloud and I rejoice at the chance of a warmer evening. It may not happen but one can hope.


It’s time to move but my legs refuse. My brain sends the signal to stop and walk and my legs listen. I don’t even realise it’s happening. I just amble on. Then a sign warning me of a restsplats ahead. I run the last km to it and wander in. It’s a pleasant spot. The road hidden by trees, two shelters with spaces for fires, two cabins (locked and I assume bookable) and as expected, toilets. I start to run off and change my mind. I collect wood instead and start a fire. I get my tent out and spread it from the rafters. I hear water for a coffee and realise that yesterday’s sausage fest was raw sausage! I had no idea I was meant to cook em first.

Sausage eaten I confront the mental weariness that I acknowledged on the way here. Now this part I’ve written once already, but it was all waffle without purpose. I find myself in a strange head space. I know why I started this. Inspire others, put my money were my mouth is as a teacher and to raise money for charities. The odd space is that they don’t seem to matter. Not the right words so I’ll explain my sentiment…

The more I run, walk, live from the pack on my back. The more I exist in this way the less the reasons matter. I’m doing it because I’m doing it. The bravado, the ego, the incredible endurance adventurer aspect rear their heads and when they do I feel the weariness. When I let go. When I run for runnings sake. That’s when the weariness vanishes. My pack feels lighter, my legs don’t need to be forced into running. They seem to do so on their own accord. This is me showing what ordinary can achieve and that’s it. I am pedestrian. What I do is pedestrian. Yet for some reason, being pedestrian seems more than it was. I am studying my body. I’m learning the mystical art of living through movement and all seem to be leading me down a path that I can almost touch. So now, having found another secret little resting spot, with wood for fire, I will make myself another coffee, drink from the lake and wait for my body to say…

‘Time to step on.’

A quick note before I do though… And more for the students that I no longer teach and the teachers I no longer call colleagues… It seems that we miss a huge trick in not making resilience more explicit. We say what it is but we never demonstrate it, show them what it really looks like. There’s definite steps to it. Acknowledgement, defining, solving. Acknowledge the failure, your own part in it, all the potential problems that may arise, define the feeling of failure, how the failure came to be, what actually was the exact reason for it and then move on to create solutions, avoiding repetition of be same mistake. Javad has it right, since this is really the creation of a story… A story of failure and how it was overcome.

Now, COFFEE 🙂

Coffee didn’t happen. Dinner and a burnt thumb did though and after a few hundred meters a trail that led into the forest. A spot to camp. Close to the road but hidden, slightly sheltered by the trees but I’m hoping for a warmer night. There seems to be a hint of cloud cover, even though the early clouds vanished in the warmth of the midday sun. I actually feel rather good. Tomorrow I’ll head to Bjorna, grab some food and then head to Örnsköldrvik, although I won’t attempt to go the full distance. If I decide to have a rest day there, it would be better to arrive early and make the most of the day, spending one night there as apposed to two. Right now, it’s time for routine and finally, sleep.

Day 66

Sleep didn’t happen too well. 10pm awake and cold. Another layer put on. Doze after having a small alcohol burn. Tent frozen already. 3am.. What is it with 3am?? Every time I wake early it’s 3am. This time it was the cold. Freezing cold and no extra layers left. I made breakfast, left it to warm the tent and me before eating it. The coffee. The coffee placed on chest, zipped into top and left there. The burning sensation was pleasant and before log spread throughout my body. There’s a solution right there… A bottle just for hot water but not my water bottle. It leaks which would be disaster with a down sleeping bag.

I dozed off I think and woke to a Luke warm coffee. It’s now 4:30am and I make a second coffee, delighting in the heat from the stove and then from the metal cup placed on my chest. Wander if Alpkit ever thought of it being used as a bed warmer? Probably not.


I start to move, write some words in my journal and get out for a visit to the wood loo. The first step I take with my right foot is painful. Really painful! Confused I hobble off and then head back to pack away the tent. Quickly flicking through then memories of yesterday for a reason behind the pain…

None. Yesterday felt great. Smooth, lift and easy once I left the restsplats. I walk. Perhaps it just needs warming up, but the pain persists. Trying a run proved even worse! ‘Oh well… Go with the flow and all that.’ I still wanted to run though. A quick break at a roadside random shelter. A fire, clothes out for drying. The damp must be annihilated! I fiddle with my ankle.


Can’t get it to hurt by wiggling it so after I have no idea how long, I leave. I start to run down the road, determined to give it at least a minutes or two before vetoing running for a while, just inc…

Forgot my wetsuit socks! I turn around and run back up the hill. The run turned into a wall quickly from the pain, but still… I’m amused.

Socks stashed away, pack back on and I head off. The sun is coating the land in gold, I pass through Nyliden, seeing young children ready for school waiting for the bus. I pass through another village and there’s the school, children playing hockey outside. Eventually Björna appears. Straight for the coop. Straight for food and out again. I eat as I walk. Enjoying the peacefulness of the town, wandering how far before I find a pleasant rest spot for launch. One appears ahead and.

Wrong way! I turn around and head back to the shop. I missed the turning in my jovial meandering swig food in hand and mouth. I head to Örnsköldrvik now, find a spot in full sun. Sit. Sleeping bag draped over a large rock, solar panel attached to the battery and food in hand. Dallas salad was nice before so I decided to live a little and try Mimosa salad. Peach and pear brought together in a creamy mayoesc erm…. Cream.

This stuff is more pudding than a salad. I try it with some meatballs. All I taste is peach and get the texture of the meat along with it. I try it with the salami I have… Nope! This stuff is not to be eaten with meat. I move on to biscuits, a drink of cola and some dry roasted (it says clearly on the packet that this is roasting without oil! Funny for some reason). Too much food! The next hour is near food induced coma. Still, there’s a game afoot. Count the lakes to measure pace. A stupid game involving counting up to 6 and having no idea of how far or how long it takes to get from one to the other. The sixth one arrives after a session of road dancing and being amused by the skinny backpacker that walks on my east side at around 4pm everyday.

Thirst kicks in with a vengeance and I can’t get to the water in the lake without first crossing a bog. Map planning was to stop at a stream but looking at he ones I’ve passed, water is in short supply. Eventually I get to the stream, it’s running, I drink and then take extra water. Time to pick a camp spot. This is do with glorious efficiency. Meandering first for 20minutes before looping right back, next to the road and where I first thought of camping.

My skills are sharp today. 

Without intending to, I’m around 10km from tomorrow’s destination. A mission is on to have a few solutions in place for the cold and for the inevitable increase in pack weight as I have to get more wintery in my gear choice. I should get there early though and have plenty of time to visit a cash point, go for a shopping meander, find some bargains and maybe a set of shiny new wheels 😉

Day 61 & 62 – Frost & Sunshine


Day 61

I wouldn’t rate a disabled cubical, regardless of dimensions (this one is extremely roomy) a great place to sleep. Maybe it was the permanent lighting, the noise of the air conditioning or its odd rotation between uncomfortable warm air and cold air, but either way…

It was a night of sleeping in blocks of 2-3hrs. I woke at least 4 times in the 7 hours I tried to get as quality rest. Today may be the slowest day and a day of the walking dead. I also feel distinctly dehydrated. Like a moisture vampire invaded my quarters and drained me of every last drop of liquid water. I can even hear the dry rustlings of my blood as it circulated round my body. Each heart beat, a dry sigh. I have coffee though…

Fuel of the gods along side access to water. The latter needs consuming in copious amount before I leave. Disappointed too. That I didn’t sleep well enough to rise and go see if the aurora was visible. I still have a small amount of time to do this, but I would have to leave soon.

In all honesty, it has been one of those nights where I’ve wanted the comforts of my tent. How amusing is that?? The comforts of a shorter that on the whole, is no more comfortable than the ground you place it on.  

So, today I march (there will be no running today! Well, maybe a little if I get excited) towards food. I need to get 4 days worth of calories and get it as cheap as possible. Money is something in a commodity in short supply when you consider how far I have left. Now I sit, drink the remains of my coffee and wander what the weather is like outside. In a tent you kind of know what it will be like before even looking outside. There’s a closer connection with the outdoors. In this building, I could well be on Mars and have no idea about it. Self contained and completely detached. So, it’s time to get myself up and out. Early start means early finish or a greater distance covered. 
Outside…

Eyes adjust to the lack of light…

The predawn sky a distraction.

I stand transfixed, the cold not registering. Then I look down. All surfaces twinkle like the sky. I test the sandy bank aside the road and it refuses to move. Frozen solid. The decision, although costing sleep was a good one. No icy tent to sort and no calories wasted on trying today warm through the night. A day of walking lies ahead and there is 36km before reaching my food stop.

Crossing the river I stop and stare again. The sun rises on one side and a low most clings to its surface. I have to take a photograph. In both directions. It changes… Morphs as the sun gets higher. Colours shift from orange to pink. Frozen puddles. Crystalline grasses. The pines painted red. Three birds fluttering into the light. Finally…

She is high enough to shine her light between the trees. Sending strands of golden light across my path. The land is more civilised yet beneath it all, nature keeps a firm hold. The forth day I wander south I realise…

The land is changing again. There is more of humanity here, although I am yet to meet anyone since leaving Arvidsjaura. 10km left now. 10km till I look for a chance to recharge batteries, grab food for three days and head to Bjorna. 137km of landscapes before another chance of food. I have set myself a target. A marathon a day is the minimum distance whether walked or run. I will be in Leksand in 15 more days. For now I’ll ponder what path this is that I’ve put myself on…
I found myself running to Lycksele. Not sure where the energy came from. The sun was warm enough for T-shirt and leggings and I enjoyed the feeling of my legs getting tired. The Achilles weren’t as bad today. The quad is sore but again, not as bad. I arrived at Lycksele at around lunch time. Visited the nearest shop and purchased what I thought was 3 days worth of food. £30 it cost and I think I have more than 3 days worth! The bigger towns have cheaper food it seems. I sat outside, eating some roast chicken before wandering off. The ritual of transferring food to ziplock bags took place right outside the shop to a multitude of confused looks from the locals. As I left and began the run out of Lycksele and towards Björna, I noticed a statue in the middle of a roundabout. A moose, sat on a hunter’s hide with a gun in hand. It seems to be the done thing here and I suspect that the animal is then used to feed a family for a fair while as apposed to shot just for sport. Despite the trappings of modern life all around, I think this is a good thing. A link with a past that relied on nature and her currents.

Slowly I walked out of Lycksele. Slowly I climbed the hilly road and eventually came upon my resting place. A dirt track off the main road, close to fresh water. Tent set up, I write some words. I seem to be planning what to do when I return, as though this journey is a done deal. I still have a long way to go and a winter to overcome. Now there’s something else that makes this a more challenging journey when compared to LeJog…

The weather is less than ideal, and unlike LeJog, cold means cold. The sky is clear again tonight and I suspect another frosty start. All layers will be worn in preparation for the cold, but if it means a day like today…  

I guess a cold night is a small price. 

Day 58 To 60 – Is This Living The Dream Or Testing A Persons Limits?

Pictures first, words later.  Lots has happened and at the same time nothing has happened.  The 150km of the last 3 days came, not easy but not hard.  The temperature today is below zero and every minute stationary is energy wasted on staying warm.  My commitment got tested and I found I am prepared to face anything, including the chance of bankruptcy without even blinking.  This journey will not get easier…

Day 58

Finally warming up a bit after an hour of struggling to get warm, and yes…

I skipped a bit of the story because this part will be one of those memorable ones. Lying down in an old wooden shack, lined with polyester curtains, small Perspex windows on each side, nails as hanging hooks on both sides, 4 separate wasps nests, a small broken office chair and a ladder used to prop up a makeshift table, made of an old metal tray. I lie upon a folding bed, covered in a sleeping mat and two different rugs. I arrived at around 3, 3:30, having covered 27 before the temperature dropped and the heavens opened up. It’s strange how the temperature drops so much before it rains here. I’ve never noticed it before, but thinking back, the same has happened on most rainy days. Waterproofs on, I was still getting cold fast. I took the easy option and spotted a shack in the woods beside the road. By shack, I am describing a small wooden shed. Around a meter and half in width, 7′ in length, and just high enough to stand up in. The road leading here felt easier than other days. Legs worked as they should. The odd complain was banished with a handful of sweets. My next destination was drawing nearer and nearer. The road seemingly busier than the previous road and with more drivers reluctant to move aside slightly as they passed. A couple of close calls as cars overtook cars on the opposite side of the road making me jump a little as I looked to see a car apparently veering in my direction. The sun was out and it was warm. Warm enough for bare feet and the strange looks off passing drivers. I had just purchased a new set of headphones. The cheapest I could find to fill the gap that a lack of music leaves me. I paid cash having visited the bank and exchanged all my Norwegian money for Swedish money. The bag I’ve used since the start of the trip now starting to show its age with a couple of sizeable holes. The cashier joined in with my laughter at the state of it. A small piece of diamond had been inserted into her tooth. I never did understand the need to accessories teeth. I guess it would be a similar urge to tattoos and piercing but still seemed odd to me. I left the hotel to get here, having asked the kind lady that worked there were I could exchange my money having finished my last coffee. Packing seems to be getting easier and I can reduce the space my stuff takes each time I repack. I felt a little groggy though, despite the coffees with breakfast. I could get to sleep in the comfort of the hotel room. Maybe the bed was too soft, or there was too much light from outside (the first town on the trip with street lighting!) or maybe it was too warm… Either way, I didn’t manage to fall asleep until passed midnight, where I’d usually be fast asleep and having gone to sleep around 7 or 8. It could also be the lack of physical activity or the amount of food I ate. Haven’t a clue, but I was glad I purchase those headphones as I ran. The kms passed quickly.

But what of the shack I’m in? It sits in the middle of marshland, around 100m from the road. There is a clear set of trod in the surrounding woods and one meanders its way here, providing access passed a deep boggy section with a single piece of two by four. I sat in here wandering about who used it and when, but then the cold turned to that unbearable burning and the need to get warm took over. Right now, I’m contemplating an early night. The sun is still up, but maybe I can get an early start tomorrow and the rain will have stopped. Would be good to have a brisk, sunny autumn day or two.  
Day 59

The night was surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly noisy. The rain bombarded the shack and at time sounded like I was being buried alive under a thousand peddles. It stopped at around 3am…

There’s that blooming time again. Maybe I need a head torch and to start super early each day?

Occasionally, the sound of a passing car could just be picked out amongst the rains percussive onslaught. I wake feeling rested but hiding from the cold. My sleeping bag is at its temperature limit. In fact most of what I have are being used at their limit. I seem to be getting used it to though. It feels no colder now than in the early stages of this journey. I collected some water by squeezing a patch of super saturated sphagnum moss. Unsurprisingly, the water was a delightful shade of brown. The water boiled, a coffee made and the excess acting as a heater in my water bottle. Breakfast comprises of a couple of pieces of cake and a coffee. Equipment will be packed, gloves put on and the distance between me and Glommerträsk shortened. I should really stop typing and musing. Musing equals cold hands and feet, which before you’ve dealt with the section of bog you need to get out of isn’t a good thing. 

As predicted, the bogs got tackled and Glommerträsk appeared ahead. An extra couple of kilometres and I was at the shop. I got 500g of barley, an adventure sausage, some Swedish (original) Nutella type spread, small cup cakes, a bag of fruit sweets, some of the nice rye bread (with added chia seeds!), the world’s smallest avocado, and a small chocolate milkshake. £15 it came too!? I’m amazed how expensive even the cheapest things are. Still. There is enough barley to last 3 days, the spread will last a few days and all I need to get at the next shop stop is some protein (I think I’ll go with soya!) and maybe something small as a treat. The biggest gap in food is approaching and I’d like to be ready for it physically. Once food was purchased and a light lunch of bread, adventure sausage, cup cakes and chocolate milk was eaten, I was off. If gotten cold again and needed to move with purpose to raise my body temperature. Didn’t take long. Just a few minutes of slow running. The only. Running that seems to happen at the moment.

The distance between me and Norsjö shrank by the hour. My pace faster than I realised. A quick break at the river, lying and eating on a set of concrete blocks that looked like curbs. I nearly stopped there. Perfect camping location with water, flat dry dirt amongst the trees and plenty of space away from the road. It was only 2pm though! I could get closer to Norsjö, so I left. Run one song, walk the next.

I saw fewer cars on this road and unsurprisingly I saw no one walking. Only a frog at the side of the road.

My Achilles ache. Seems to happen when I wear my neoprene socks and sandals as a combination. For a few kilometres I ran barefoot to try and give them some relief. I decided to put the sandals back on once my feet started to get cold.

Another river passed, except with nowhere to camp. A spot near a quarry was ditched for a spot in the woods, about 50m from running water, which is where I type these words. A meal of bread, adventure sausage, boiled barley, coconut oil and some nut spread and it’s time to get in the sleeping bag and warm up, or more accurately stay warm. The temperature is likely to drop fast with the clear sky above.
Day 60

Sixty days??!! I can’t believe I’ve been at this for 60 days! Doesn’t feel that long and seems like it’s the way I should have been living all along. Stress is gone. Problems arise and solutions seems simple, straight forward and consequences are accepted as a matter of fact and without complaint. Last night the sky was crystal clear. I woke at 10pm, thirsty and knowing I had to wander towards the stream for water. I got out, sandals on and wandered off. I mused whether this would be like the last trip for water in the woods as I did. Stop!

Water had just touched my feet which meant I was off by 3m and heading straight into the bog. I turned 90° and headed to the stream. Water bottle filled, I headed back wandering how difficult it would be to find my tent with only the torch on my phone for light. I look up and the stars are incredible. A million points of light all shining down with no other light source to be seen. I get to my tent, please with the directness of the line I took and get my camera out. I take 2 pictures. One straight up and the other at a slight angle. Back in to bed before I get too cold and I drifted back to sleep. In the morning I wake, decide I want more sleep, sleep till around 7 then check me camera. ‘No way!?’ Comes out of my mouth as on one of the pictures, the sky has a stripe of green through it. I’d taken a picture of the aurora and not even seen it myself. Next time, I’ll make sure ther are less trees in the way.

I pack up and head off, a breakfast of coffee, cup cakes, a slice of bread and nut spread (I think this should come with a health warning just based on its sugar content!). A late start but I already know I’m heading for a restsplats 45km along the road. I set off, wandering how far I actually am from Norsjö. 13km says the sign after about 40mins of walking. My left quad feels a little sore. Maybe a slight pull from a misstep the day before. Doesn’t really matter. Still going to cover that 45km today. I reach the small village at the junction for Norsjö. A coach passes me, pulls up on the left and there are lots of people milling round. It’s a petrol station that I didn’t know was here! That’s 5km in to Norsjö saved if it’s open. I get there, go in and it’s rammed with people. I buy some crisps. I miss the crunch and texture of proper food, a bar of chocolate and a small bag of sweet. A chocolate milkshake makes its way into my hand and I pay, leaving to eat. A 20minute break after only covering 15km seems a little extravagant but I don’t notice. Sweets in hand, I bin the rubbish and leave. Running feels good and the sun is shining.

The kilometres don’t come easy today, but at the same time… The don’t come hard either. They just happen at a steady and almost metronomic pace of 8min/km, unless it’s a downhill. Then the pace rises, peaking at 6min/km.

I keep plodding, singing the songs I know, some dancing on the road, a break next to a small lake, some stretching while I wait for my water to boil and then more running. It’s approaching 4pm and I push a little more. I think there’s 5km left and I need to get there in 30mins to stop for 4. A sign ahead…

1km left?!

I increase my pace. The ache in my Achilles, the quad all seem to vanish and I arrive. I notice the toilets! Remember the missed opportunity of a warm night and a dry tent. I wander to the river, sit and eat the rest of the adventure sausage, some coconut oil and drink my water. I head back to the toilets and get some water for dinner and checkout the disabled toilet. It’s cleaner than the other, seemingly unused and warm! Decision made. A warm night and an early start are the plan. They are checked regularly. Everyday at 7am and I plan to leave at 6am. That give me an hour for the person to arrive early and if I get up earlier, I can make a breakfast in the warmth and enjoy it in the light of the rising sun. Another 40 or more kilometres tomorrow, with a rest at Lyckselle. Maybe even a coffee and some electricity theft is in order. The next gap will take 3-4 days to cover with no sign of any respite till I reach a small village with a shop. Right now, I’m sat outside in my sleeping bag, a fresh, warm meal to my left and a slowly darkening sky above. Time to eat and go brush up on my hobo skills and prepare for an extremely warm evening.

Well, I’m in. Door locked, tent stretched out so it dries (I really need to figure out a way to reduce the amount of condensation that forms in it) and I’m in my sleeping bag ready to sleep. Alarm set for 3am. Early enough, I think, to possibly catch the aurora again. It’s already looking pitch black outside, but I’m not heading out since there is a group of people camped out in their vans. Instead I’m having my usual early night and questioning how much sleep I’ll actually get…

Day 57 – Teachings Of The Road

I would discard this post if you feel reading ramblings a waste of time and would prefer to read the day to day adventure.  This is a post of something learnt.  Something I think is important in making sense of the distance, the act and the currents experienced.  Probably best read with a something that makes you feel nebulous


There’s a certain loneliness to running.  Be it road or mountain, every step is yours.  Every view, sensation & thought are yours and yours alone and to expect others to understand is like explaining to someone a colour without a frame of reference.  I typically run trails.  I head off on routes that are less used to get a sense of what a place is really about.  To get a sense of what I’m about.

Here’s the learning…

The mountains and trails are kind.  Nature is kind.  She provides you with distractions a plenty, typically when you need them the most.  The road has no such remorse.  It seems to provide little solice, little respite and gives a sense of the relentless march of man to make progress.  The view at either side changes so subtly.  Blink and you’ll miss it.  Occasionally there is respite.  Respite provided by nature.  The road has no room for such sentiments.  The road is where you truly learn who you ar and what you are made of.  In the mountains, there are many places to hide.  Many places to shift your attention to.  Many places to avoid confronting those thoughts that you hide away.

Head to the mountains for solice.  Head to the road for learning of a different kind.

In reality, I’m enjoying the running.  The effort.  The burning in my legs.  The ache of the hips.  The heaviness of limbs.  The cold on my hands.  I’m discovering a few truths about myself.  My ability to whittle and moan when the need to do so isn’t there.  My ability to torture myself with ideas of resting early, with decisions I should have made with the hindsight of new information, the places I should have stopped for food or rest.

All the while I tell myself that these actions, these words are pointless.  You have been in more pain, lower in energy and far colder.  So what is this need to speak out about the most insignificant of things?

Simple… Acknowledgment.  Acknowledgement of a pain, tiredness, hunger.  I am not a martyr to a cause.  I’m simply experiencing what it is to run free.  Any provisos, any rules, any restrictions are there by my creation and not that of any other. I am my own god, demon and master, but with this thought the ‘I’ sceases to exist.

What we call ’I’ is just a swinging door, which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.  The world has its own magic (Shinryu Suzuki).

These thoughts aren’t quite fully formed and a bit nebulous for some, but they’ve bounced backwards and forwards in my mind over the last few days and in sharing, acknowledgment is achieved.

I always felt road running was ridiculous. Why would you run on road when you have trail?  I have said ‘in the mountains and on the trail there is no place to hide’ but as I travel I discover there is.  I’m sure I’ll find places to hide on the long road ahead but for now, the road is exposing.  Laying bare for me to see and learn…