Kendal, Cumbria
I am now back at my sister’s house in Kendal, after we completed the West Highland Way together on Thursday afternoon. We covered 95 miles in 6 days, which may not sound much (especially since I found out there are some hardnuts who run it in under 24 hours) but it’s no mean achievement either – especially carrying a full pack of tent, sleeping bag, camping stove etc, over a route that includes 11,500 feet of ascent.

The West Highland Way brought its share of highs and lows. The highlights included beautiful scenery on the shores of Loch Lomond, rainbows and white-topped hills on Rannoch Moor, the bleak majesty of Ben Nevis and the surrounding mountains – and an unforgettable breakfast at Glengarry House B&B, with eggs from the backyard chicken run and the tastiest field mushrooms I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

The lows were accidentally pulling half the skin off my heel on Day 2, a freezing night on Rannoch Moor on Day 4, and a brutal walk down a rubble track into Kinlochleven on Day 5. My body is still in shock (“where are the oars?”), with the final tally being two sore heels, two toenails bruised and likely to fall off (again), one dodgy knee and numerous midge bites.

I found out part-way through our hike that there are many companies that will carry your bags from one B&B to the next for only �30 (about $60) – but that my sister had decided we would go hardcore: the double whammy of camping AND carrying our own packs – with the associated impact on our poor aching feet.

As we took the train back to Mulngavie yesterday, retracing in 3 hours the distance that it had taken us 6 days to walk, it struck me that this was not so different from choosing to row an ocean (3 months) as opposed to flying across it (5 hours).

This leads me to conclude that there must be a masochism gene that didn’t manifest itself in either of our parents, but somehow emerged in the next generation. Or maybe it’s the way Mum brought us up – those cycling and hiking holidays we took as children may have imprinted our young psyches with the message that these challenges were some kind of fun.

But whether it’s nature or nurture, I’m glad that the urge is there. The sense of achievement, especially when you’ve been through that stage of “Am I going to make it?” but you push on anyway, makes it all worthwhile.

P.S. Good luck to all those running in tomorrow’s Great North Run. Sympathies!

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