251 Mountains – the Zen post.

You wait for a post then two come along at the same time. So much has happened since I last wrote that I didnโ€™t know where to start or what to write about to update this highly neglected blog site so I decided here to put down some ‘keeping it real’ thoughts after yesterday passing the 250 mountain mark and 25% completion of the Running the Summits challenge. If this post sounds a bit too touchy feely and you prefer your yang to your yin check out the alternativeย 251 Mountains – The Wahoo post ๐Ÿ‘Š

Right now, the Brecon Beacons are just outside the window. I canโ€™t see them, lost as they are to the clouds, curtains of rain drifting across my view of only the very lowest of the lower slopes. Even the sheep are huddled close into a tree sheltered corner. Itโ€™s the third consecutive day of unfathomably and distinctly eclectic weather – one of deep snow and teeth chattering wind chill, one of warmth and clear sunny skies and today, one of wet, claggy cloud and sheets of rain. I was well overdue in taking some time out to get caught up on those real life chores – refilling water supplies, doing laundry, scraping all the farmland muck off the campervan and responding to weeks of emails. Yet, still, early this morning I peeled on my slightly damp, offensively smelly running gear, eager to be out, hauling my (as yet still not athletically-toned) bum up a mountain or two. I think it has become a mantra.

It is said about the Camino de Santiago – a favourite long distance escape of mine – that there are three stages to the endeavour. Firstly the physical, as our body aches and suffers at the sudden increased demands put upon it until it miraculously adapts and grows stronger.

Free from the physical distractions the second stage is the emotional as our minds gradually move from doubt, fear and questioning to perspective and acceptance. Finally, the third stage is that of the spiritual where, only because we have passed through the first two stages and shed the unnecessary can we now fully experience a total awareness, immersion and gained sense of freedom. While specifically aimed at the experience of the Camino I strongly believe that any adventure, large or small can be a great metaphor for life with many lessons to be learned.

Zen and the Art of Adventurous Living?

Now, I still think my body has some considerable ongoing work at Stage one (as mentioned, I had been expecting to, at least slightly, resemble the streamlined physique of an athlete by this point) and trying to run uphill just doesnโ€™t seem to be getting any easier. To be fair both of these issues could be explained by cake.


Possibly the reason I do NOT look like a finely honed machine!?

But even with a lingering toe or two in stage one I do feel I have made some small progress to the great blue orb of enlightenment. I have indeed discovered that this, as all adventures in life, can best be described using that oft spouted clichรฉd saying ‘It’s been a journeyโ€™ (and is going to continue to be a journey for some considerable time as I still have 749 summits to run). But as well as dipping my toes, usually unintentionally, into bog, rivers, bog and more bog I also feel I have been dipping them into stages 2 and 3 and learning a thing or two. (just not how to avoid bog!). As in life, we do not move cleanly from one stage to the next but there is a blurring of the edges and knock backs when new challenges fall out of a cupboard and smack us in the head (also metaphorical – if I have grasped the correct use of the concept!?)


Patch – The Enlightened One

Super-enthused adventurer Anna McNuff wrote a wonderful poem (1) along a similar vein telling of a journey that begins doing battle with nature – setting out to conquer, before becoming beaten down by nature’s far superior and ambivalent….well, nature! Eventually, this traveller no longer passes through or against but travels with and in this natural environment. This is the journey I have been really hoping and expecting to make and I am already becoming familiar with the elements (literal and metaphorical).

On the 251st Mountain summit, I sat for a long while (as long as was possible before extremities started to go numb) fully absorbing the views, the solitude, the peace, the simplicity and vastness of the landscape around me, calm and happy to be right where I was, unencumbered by concerns or stresses. As the terrain and climatic challenges grow greater it is liberating to gradually become confident and at ease in your surroundings as you learn and use new found skills and understanding. There is still an awful lot to learn but hopefully I am becoming willing and humble enough to listen and appreciate all that the mountains have yet to teach.

On a literal note I am throwing in a reminder that my Mountain Joggist Extravaganza is also in hopes of raising a few well needed squidlies for the amazing volunteers of Mountain Rescue England & Wales, Mountain Rescue Search Dogs(the doggy rescuers formally known as Search and Rescue Dog Association England!) and Fix the Fells.

Please spare a pound to chuck in the bucket if you can HERE๐Ÿ˜ Thank You

It’s also really easy to donate by text too…. just text TOPS50 followed by an amount to 70070 . Thank Youโค

(1) PS. Anna McNuff’s poem is featured in the book Waymaking – an anthology of prose, poetry and artwork by women who are inspired by wild places, adventure and landscape.

Happy trails ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿพ

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Why run 1000 Mountains?

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After my seemingly spontaneous decision to take my #RunningtheSummits Mountain Challenge to a whole new level it seems only fair to answer the big question……why???

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When I had the idea to take myself off on a little jog over the 180 Hewitt classified ‘Mountains’ of England that in itself seemed pretty daunting and to tell the truth I found the whole idea quite scary – I only had to climb a mere THREE summits on my #3PeAksRun, on all of which I experienced bad weather and some challenging conditions, and this was summer time on the most visited mountaintops in Britain with good paths and rarely a place to find yourself really alone. Of the hundreds of other mountains around the British Isles many are much more remote, difficult to reach, pathless and far less visited places.

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I do have a strong background of hill walking, a reasonable level of experience and have taken several courses in summer and winter hill skills and navigation, but I still hold a very cautious and wary respect for the mountains as places where I have often been tested. I relate it a little bit to the person who dives into the ocean proclaiming themselves a strong swimmer – it doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer you are, you will never be a match for nature!

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But at the same time, being in the mountains has brought me moments of my greatest joy, and certainly nowadays, running trails. As trail, mountain and fellrunners will surely attest, there is nothing quite like the feeling of freedom and agility of moving quickly along a technical trail skipping lightly from rock to rock. When the trail stars align the experience is that of a sublime dance with thd landscape. Then again, when they do not and you faceplant into a tree it can smart a bit!

So the decision to attempt to reach the tops of 1000 Mountains was not taken lightly. But I was feeling that the challenge needed to be something bigger, something to really test my mettle, but also a (dare I say) ‘journey’ to experience and learn so much more about our high places. I wanted the whole experience to last longer and have the opportunity to involve many more people. I had also set a ridiculously big fundraising target and felt it needed a challenge to match.

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I also seemed to be getting signs ( I know, sounds a bit sketchy) – but I kept coming across inspiring adventures of others, relating to their motives and experiences while my own growing obsession with mountains was quietly cultivating away. I was beginning to get strong emotions attached to random hills and was discovering I could recognise many peaks from photos of their ridgelines or surrounding landscapes as easily as old friends. The time was right to spend some serious time in the hills!

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I recently came across a trailer for the upcoming film ‘Edie’ starring Sheila Hancock which is the story of an elderly woman fulfilling a long held dream to climb a mountain in Scotland. The mountain in question is Suilven, an enigmatic peak which had held me quite entranced when I finally saw it for the first time last winter while spending some time in this remote corner of Scotland. I was equally as inspired by Sheila Hancock. Although the story behind Edie is a work of fiction the true story is that Sheila at 83 years of age did indeed climb that mountain proving the films tag line that it’s never too late.

assynt-suilven-autumn-glencanisp-lodgeThe majestic Suilven – photo credit James Barlow Photography

A final and far more straightforward reason to up my game to 1000 Mountains is simply…..because they are there? Not in a flippant sense but because we actually have so many incredible peaks in the British Isles and it seemed a shame to limit my adventure to so few of them. Climbing only those classified as Hewitts did seem to mean missing out on so many beautiful summits so the #RunningtheSummits 1000 will include peaks classified as Hewitts, Nuttalls and Scottish Munros…..all meeting the loosely accepted definition of a mountain by rising to a minimum of 2000 feet, and Marilyns, which include some lower hills but they do all have an elevation of at least 150 metres relative to the surrounding terrain making them really dominate their surroundings – true ‘mini mountains’. I also plan to include some people’s choice favourites that may not have made it onto any peak-bagging list! There have already been some fantastic hilly recommendations!

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Perhaps a bit of a clichรฉ but #RunningtheSummits has all the potential of an adventure of a lifetime for me and I can’t wait to begin. But what I am most looking forward to is seeing some of you guys out there in the glorious British hills and meeting more of the incredible people who voluntarily give their time to help others as part of the Mountain Rescue Teams, Search Dog handlers and Fix the Fells – the real heroes of this story!

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Please join this mountainous adventure by following this blog, liking theย facebook pageย and supporting the mountain charities byย donatingย a little if you can.

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Happy trails – see you on a summit!ย  Tina and trail dog Patch๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿพ

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