Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The joy is in the journey

Whilst in Devon this month I had promised myself a run on Dartmoor. Family in Okehampton gave me the perfect excuse- go for a lovely run then come back and visit my brother. A previous visit and short run earlier in the year had given me a taste for further exploration; looking at the map I could see getting up on to Dartmoor was quite straightforward. Just pick up the Tarka Trail at the end of Belmont Park:

...and follow the Okement:
Until you cross a footbridge, follow the trail up a hill through the woods:
...until you're on the moor:

Well, clearly something went wrong!

This time I've got as far as Belstone Common. I can see Belstone Tor but there are so many paths I don't know which one to choose. So of course I choose the one which is up hill (well, Dartmoor is up) and that happens to be a stream as well:

I find lots of places of unexpected beauty as I choose one path then another in a fruitless attempt to get onto Dartmoor proper. Waist high in gorse, head high in bracken it's fun and I love the challenge of the terrain but I'm beginning to get a little bit cross and frustrated. I'd set my heart on climbing a tor and it's staying tantalisingly just out of reach.

At last it looks more promising. But although my legs feel fine my mind is getting tired. I had set out not knowing quite where I was going, how I was going to get there, what the going would be like nor how long it would take. Sure I had a map but actually translating what I was seeing into marks on the map was much harder than expected. The Tarka Trail at this end  is barely marked and there are so many more paths and trails than are shown on the map. It's going on 30 years since I was last navigating on Dartmoor with a map!

Finally Dartmoor proper. Start to follow a broken track unsure where it goes. Straight to a bunch of army cadets unfortunately.

I'm just full of mental niggles now. Stupid cadets. Hate protein flapjack. Why can't I find a tor to climb?

I felt like I had to admit defeat- something I truly hate doing. A bit of me wanted to persist because my legs were feeling fine. But because every bit of this run was about the unknown I was concerned about pushing too hard and running into a mental or physical wall. There was no safety net if it all went wrong.

Very reluctantly I turned around and headed back.

I tried very hard not to feel defeated. There had been so many good things about this run- I'd been comfortable with some challenging terrain; I'd happened on so many beautiful places; my legs were feeling good; I'd been sensible about pace the whole way. Almost everything about this run was outside my experience and comfort zone and I'd survived. No, not survived- I'd done well. Sure I didn't get to where I'd wanted to go but was that really the point of the run? Is a run a failure just because you don't reach your planned destination?

Today I'm drained. Physically a bit tired and sore but mentally I'm all over the place; Dartmoor gets under your skin like that. And I keep coming back to this:

 running is in the mind and soul more than it's in the legs
There is so much more to learn. I think this journey never ends.

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