Birthdays are supposedly a time to celebrate, with family and friends. For me they are also a big indelible mark in the calendar that another year has passed, and this provokes an intense period of serious introspection and the resulting reflection.
This year was to prove no different. Mid-way between two fairly big numbers, and supposedly now at an age where seemingly everyone is pretty well sorted and established, this was my first birthday in a new country and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The last few weeks have been the most wonderful rollercoaster, but pressure outside this has been building and building, with nowhere to go but inwards.
A couple of good runs have helped lift things however temporarily, and it has been truly wonderful to compare photos of my surroundings now to those a year ago.
These pictures below were taken on my birthday last year, on a Friday evening. This was the longest I had ever run at the time – a mighty 4 flat miles from my house down to Alresford Creek in Essex.
Last Friday evening, the day before my birthday, I went out to one of my new favourite places to run. It is reasonably hilly, and takes you through a big forest and out the other side with stunning views up and down the valley, and then takes you back round the edge of the forest and down again. I’d been hopeful of a gorgeous sunset, but the weather wasn’t looking particularly obliging.
As I came out of the forest for the first time, what I did get was a beautifully clear view out to the mountains around Ben Lomond. This was more than enough for me and I still stop in awe at this spot every single time I run here, to look at the hills around me and that I now call home. The green hills are the western end of the Campsie Fells – and the neck and shoulders of what is known here as the sleeping giant (the head is just slightly round the corner).
In a recent blogpost I wrote about beginning to dream again. I feel as though I’m a long way from where I was when I wrote that, and I am desperately hoping to get there again. But not by looking back. There comes a point where constantly looking back and beating yourself over the head with all your mistakes becomes utterly futile, and becomes damaging not just to you but also to those around you, and I have reached that point over the last few days.
There is a lot of what I call grunt work to be got through over the coming days and weeks. No other way through then keeping your head down and trying to keep everything else as balanced as possible and in perspective.
In between all this is a fantastic trip up to Applecross to take part in another long awaited adventure – the Applecross Duathlon. I need to make sure that nothing gets in the way of this as I am desperately looking forward to it, despite expecting to find it very hard and risking getting even more tired out.
I finished my birthday weekend with another run, an unexpected gift from someone who was also on a tricky journey of their own over the weekend.
We headed up Cort ma Law, over the other side of the valley from the forest where I stood to take the picture above, and just behind my house. The weather had been on the changeable side all day, but we were treated to some incredible sights which were thankfully happening further down the valley from us. Here, the sun is shining through a rain shower over Dunglass (just outside Strathblane).
It was a steep old climb up in places, but well worth it to get to the top, in so many ways. I’d wanted to be up there for a long time, and needed the space that comes from being high up and having done something new and big, this time with fantastic company.
I was not prepared for the bog run at the top – I thought it was further over from where we were. I’m afraid this former Essex girl had a bit of a moment when a brave jump off a rock was required to clear a particularly large area of bog. Admitting to someone else (who you hugely admire and does this kind of thing in their sleep) that you are incredibly scared just now takes some doing, and was probably harder than making the leap itself.
As usual, this post has ended up longer than I planned. I’ve missed getting my thoughts down while everything else has been so crazy.
Don’t Look Back is my dad’s favourite quote – from a former speedway champion called Barry Briggs. It has been written in numerous birthday cards over the years, and is often muttered by me but not often enough heeded.
(On another note, a gratuitous scary mountain shot of an entirely different kind – well it was my birthday recently, and I was very scared in this picture too)