After two long days of running on tarmac, I was relieved to see the start of a trail path I would take. The B7078 snakes its way down through southern Scotland criss crossing the M74 every now and again. I stepped onto the stony trail and smiled to myself. There is nothing like that feeling of being all alone on a trail, jogging along at your own pace, enjoying nature. After 33km that day, I had another 7km to run on this path, then 7km on the road until my campsite. Life was good.
The path was wide and comfortable to run on. To my right was a forrest of densely packed trees and to my left small mounds of grass, with occasional clearings you could pitch a tent on if you needed to.
I came to a section of the path that had been taken over by a wide stream. There were no stones to cross over on and it was deeper than my trainers. The sun was shining so I took off my shoes and socks and paddled across, enjoying the feel of the cold water on my feet as I made my way to the other side.
Setting off again I was looking for a cross roads of the paths ahead. The direct path ahead was called Old Road. It was marked clearly on my watch but also on google maps. I came to the junction and there was nothing straight ahead of me but trees. Lots and lots of trees.
To my right was a path which I tried out in case it led somewhere useful. It ended after just 200 metres with a pile of rubble and a digger. Ah, not too useful then.
To my left was another path. I couldn’t see the top of the path or where it went but I could hear cars in the distance. I had two choices. Go back 7km or go up the unknown path towards the sounds of the cars. I chose the latter. It was a steep climb but my frustration at potentially losing time meant that I jogged uphill. This was unusual on this trip as the 12kg backpack normally meant this was not worth the effort.
Reaching the top, sweating profusely, I found myself on the quietest A road I’d seen since the highlands. There was a recently mowed grass verge on the right to walk on but with hardly any cars about, I ran on the road, only stepping off onto the verge when I needed to.
I reset my route and my watch told me I had 9km left. Phew, the alternate route hadn’t added too much mileage then. After a few km I saw a viewing point on the other side of the road. Crossing to take photos of the views I realised this was the Devils Beeftub I was looking at. It was utterly stunning. As I carried on down the hill, I enjoyed beautiful views to my left as I jogged. Even when my jog turned into a painful hobble for the last few km, I was thankful for the missing road earlier on. If the road had been there, I would have missed out on these views – these moments. I was happy. I exhaled slowly and breathed in the views, the feeling of being here, being at peace, being content.
The idea of running JOGLE was in my head and my dreams for many years. The idea of running via the 3 mountains came about just two years before I set off. It was also around this time that work agreed I could take the time off and I set about finding the right coach for me.
Although I wanted my adventure to feel free and not too overly planned there was still a lot of planning that had to be done in the time up to the run. A rough plan of the route, an idea of timing, ensuring training and handover at work, practicing with kit and of course the actual physical training, running, walking, strength work and cross training. Thinking back I’m glad I did this over such a long period of time (1.5 years).
I set off on 3rd September from John O Groats with my husband there to wave me off. I didn’t want to let him go. The confidence I’d previously had, left me completely in the last hour and I found myself clinging to him tightly. So many doubts set in. What was I doing? Could I do this? Wild camping alone on my first night? I had very few places to get water or food for the first 3 days. I was carrying my water filtration kit and a lot of camping food and snacks. My kit weighed in at 12kg and boy could I feel it on that first day.
I finally let go of my husband, turned and ran without looking back. I couldn’t look. I had to just think forwards, onwards. Perhaps it was this mindset that meant I ran well or rather too fast on that first day.
I paid the price for going too fast and getting too giddy in the afternoon of Day 1. My stomach started to cramp and I found myself constantly eyeing up fields left and right for somewhere to take a rest stop.
I managed 47km on the first day and found somewhere perfect to wild camp. Snuggling up in my sleeping bag on that first night I felt my nerves gradually ease away. I’d done my first day. I was alone and felt completely safe and happy. I knew I had to find water the next day but for now I was relaxed and lay with my kindle reading Jenny’s Tough’s Solo; finally drifting off into a contented sleep under the stars.
My journey from John o Groats to Lands End took me through the remote highlands down to the Great Glen Way and onto Fort William. I met up with my husband there as we were going to climb Ben Nevis together. Unfortunately my feet had other ideas and struggling to walk at this point the idea of climbing mountains was abandoned. Instead I took a rest day, hobbled about Fort William and purchased a new waterproof poncho to go over me and my rucksack for the rest of the journey.
I was, and still am gutted about the mountains, but my feet were such a mess I was struggling to walk. At the time I thought it was the mileage. I later found out it was the trainers I was wearing. Unfortunately I found this out too late. I did, however, decide to keep the route of going via the mountains. I wanted this adventure to be unique – to be my own version of JOGLE.
I said goodbye to my husband in Fort William and set off to run the West Highland Way (which I can highly recommend) in new trainers. My feet slowly recovered (although I put this down to the trail paths at the time). Like the Great Glen Way it was utterly stunning and this definitely made the mileage and hills easier. In fact I preferred the hilly days as you were rewarded with beautiful views.
From the West Highland Way I made my way down to Glasgow and faced a new difficulty. The urban jungle. So many large roads and roundabouts, multiple pedestrian crossings. Lots of people and lots of noise.
Southern Scotland down into England was possibly the least exciting part of my journey. This was by choice. There are some very beautiful places you can run but I chose the shortest and least interesting route. It did make for swift progress to England though. Once south of the border I was excited as I was now going to head into the Lake District and over to Buttermere to meet my husband. Meeting up there on a Saturday morning in gorgeous sunshine, we climbed Scarth Gap and Blacksails Pass together heading for Wasdale Head where we both enjoyed a rest day together.
The day of leaving Wasdale Head was a difficult one for many reasons. I had to part with my husband again and get back into solo mode. I had to walk over Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass, which are incredibly steep (33% in some sections). I was back in the same trainers I’d worn in the first 9 days and realised after only a few km they were the source of my pain. At the end of this difficult day of hobbling, I made it to Ambleside where I walked into a hiking shop, bought some new trainers and threw the old trainers in the bin as I left. Goodbye instruments of torture!
The next week was one of the hardest of the journey. I covered high mileage every day and spent my evenings working on routing and finding places to stay/sleep. This would be a combination of camping, hostels and B&Bs. For the latter I was constantly contacting them and asking for discounts where possible. I had almost no rest time so would make the most of the running/walking time, when I could just let my mind wander and not think about route planning and admin.
After reaching Chester I knew I had some slightly shorter days ahead but I was now going to have to turn right and head around the coast of Wales. Part of me wanted to just go directly south as I could finish JOGLE in two weeks from this point. But I’d promised myself that climbing mountains or not I wanted my JOGLE to be unique. I still had to head around Wales to circumnavigate Snowdon.
My first day running along the coastal trails of North Wales was very very very wet. It was also really windy and my black poncho would fly up every few minutes. I’d lift my arms out, grab the flying poncho and yank it back over my backpack to keep everything dry.
On my first night in Wales, my brother and mum came out to meet me in Trelogan and took me out for a meal. It was so lovely to see them. My brother made me some make shift shoes out of plastic bags to where to the pub as my trainers were soaking wet.
This was essentially my fourth ‘support point’. My fifth point was near Snowdon where my PT/friend Emma was coming over to pick me up and take me to Anglesey for the night at her cabin. She dropped me off the next day at the same point. Other than my 5 support/kit exchange points on the journey I did the whole thing self supported. (Self Supported is where you may carry your own kit but also supplement this with getting food/water/accommodation en route. It can only be sourced in a way that is available to anyone taking on the adventure. In other words strangers can help you but a friend bringing you kit is classed as support).
The run through the rest of Wales was largely wet and hilly. That’s a reasonable summary of how it felt :-). It was, however, also so so beautiful. Most memorable was the mountain paths to Llandiloes from Machynlleth and from Llandrindod Wells to Talgarth. The sun came out on that second day and there were breathtaking views the whole day.
Leaving Wales and heading to England via the incredibly long Severn Bridge was so exciting. I’d had a great day so far that day. The sun was shining, I’d had lunch with Abichal from Ultrarunning World in Chepstow and I was finally going to be back in England for the last stretch to Lands End. It felt like the end was in sight.
The last 12 days took me through Monmouth, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. I had a day walking with my son, who came out to meet me. I was thrilled to hear him say that I’d inspired him to do something like this one day. What else could a mum want?
There are a lot of hills in Devon and Cornwall. I’d been warned about this so it came as no surprise. None the less my Achilles started to complain in the last week and I took to walking backwards up some of the hills.
On the last morning, I woke up in Penzance feeling giddy with excitement. I wasn’t sure what time to set off. I’d told my husband who was meeting me at Lands End that I’d get there at 12 lunch and not before. I didn’t know though if my legs would be tired knowing they would be stopping soon or if I’d have more energy than ever before. In the end I set off at a time that allowed me to make it not long after 12 if I was slow and I’d simply walk a little if I was too fast.
8km into my my mere 19km I realised I was going too fast. I allowed myself to walk for a time and enjoy the feeling of this being the last day. This is the last time you will ever have this moment. Enjoy it Lorna.
With 3km to go I found myself on the last stretch of the A30 heading for the end of my journey. I couldn’t believe it. How had I made it here? Obviously I knew the answer to this, but it just didn’t seem real.
In the last hundred metres I could see my husband on the finishing line. Standing near him was my son. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was supposed to be up north at our house this weekend. I pointed at him and promptly started crying. Just as I started crying, I noticed my brother pop out from behind a wall on the left. I was so shocked and emotional. I ran over the finishing line grabbing my brother in a big bear hug, sobbing on his shoulder. Reaching out I gave my son a big hug and then hugged and kissed my husband.
The last hour of my adventure was filled with congratulations, photos at the signpost and a lovely mug of tea and cake in the cafe. I felt elated, happy and in a state of shock all at once. It has taken time for it all to sink in. I’m not sure it fully has yet.
There are so many photos and moments to share I couldn’t include them all above here. I’ve included a number of other favourite photos and moments below.
37 thoughts on “John o Groats to Lands End”
Reblogged this on BionicOldGuy and commented:
Lorna’s postrun description of her recent Jogle adventure. A great read 🙂
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Thank you 😊
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You’re welcome! Thanks for the inspiration you provided us all 🙂
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