“I should think the situation of Madeira the most enviable on the whole earth”
Henry Coleridge, 1885
It is interesting the things we take for granted. Running for example. To be free to run amongst the hills in sunshine, rain, snow and darkness. I know that most people don’t even move much anymore, so it might seem incomprehensible that not being free to run can have such an impact on one’s state of mind.
I picked up a niggle in my foot after Christmas, meaning I had the best part of 2 months doing very little running. I can see now that in the grand scheme of things it was no big deal. But during that period the uncertainty of it all nearly drove me to despair. Initially I was so hyper focused on finding the solution that I probably didn’t give my foot what it really needed. Rest. At my lowest time Matt persuaded me to go mountain biking with him. I have always insisted that I hate the sport; why pedal up a hill when I could run faster with a much lower risk of falling? And I’m a wimp when it comes to descents. But he proved me wrong. I enjoyed it so much I bought my own bike a few days later and we did a lot of mountain biking for a few weeks. This distraction was exactly what I needed allow my foot to recover and to rekindle my love for being out in the hills. That clear-headed exhaustion at the end of hard day is the same for mountain biking as it is for running.
The turn-around point was The High Peak Marathon in March (a 42 mile overnight mountain marathon in The Peak District). Despite feeling very sluggish after my prolonged rest our team, led by Nicky Spinks, set a new women’s course record. My foot hardly complained at all afterwards so finally I could start to look forward to the rest of the year.
Now, for the first time this year, I feel well rested and healthy. I may not have got as much climbing in this year as I’d have liked, but at least I have a spring in my step. With an open mind I am off to the beautiful island Madeira for the Madeira Island Ultra Trail. Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic, 600km off the coast of Morocco, and famous for its dramatic scenery and botanical wonders. “I should think the situation of Madeira the most enviable on the whole earth. It ensures every European comfort with almost every tropical luxury.” This is what Henry Coleridge (nephew of the poet Samuel Coleridge) said of the island following a visit in 1825. It sounds like paradise to me, especially after the long British winter that dragged more than ever this year. I’m looking forward to spending the week before the race exploring the island, running, hiking, swimming and trying out the fresh local produce. The race itself covers the length of the island from sea to sea over 115km and promises to be as staggeringly beautiful as it will be steep. It will be a dream to race in such a perfect corner of the world, whatever the result.