I awoke on Wednesday morning with the same feeling you get the morning after something terrible has happened – that split second moment of consciousness where your brain acknowledges what’s happened, and you feel confusion and disbelief. That’s how I felt, waking up in a warm, dry, safe place on Wednesday morning.
As I slowly gathered my things together, I kept looking around the room. I looked outside; everything seemed calm. There was even blue sky!
Everything felt a little surreal. I threw out my socks and underwear from the previous day as it felt like no amount of washing or drying would rid them of the mud, dirt, sweat and rain that had built up in those 14.5 hours. I was glad to be rid of them.
I applied all the Compeed plasters I had… which wasn’t enough. I applied RockTape to the rest of the blisters, and attempted to tape up my ankle and shin using a YouTube tutorial. I was in pain. And not the kind of pain you get after a long, challenging run. There was no soreness; just pain. When I made it downstairs, a map of the coast to coast lined the wall of the dining area, which I gawped at until Eeva brought through my cooked breakfast.
I was ravenous, but I really struggled to eat it all. I chatted briefly to the man next to me, who commented that he hadn’t seen me the day before and that it’s frequent for people to see familiar faces each day on this route. I explained that I’d arrived late and what my plans were.
As I went to drop off my key and pay for my room, I was greeted by Scott, the man who ran the place I was staying in – and a fellow type 1 diabetic, as it happened. He took one look at my bag and said I was carrying too much. I agreed. We weighed my bag, and it came to 13kgs.
Scott told me to leave what I didn’t need at the hostel and that he could post it to back to London for me, or I could collect it when I next passed through. I tossed a kilos worth of stuff in the bin and left behind another 4kgs. My bag felt positively light now. My shoes were still soaked through, but they felt okay when I put them on. I’d arrived at New ING Lodge in the absolute worst state – and I left practically bouncing out of there with a big smile on my face. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay. My only regret was not having longer there – they even had their own bar and living area for guests.
The man who I’d chatted to at breakfast had said that the highlight of today’s route was the M6 motorway. He hadn’t seemed too impressed by that fact, but I thought it was hilarious. I’d covered the Lakes in solitude and in 2 very long days – I was excited at the thought of seeing a motorway. A mile and a half in, and there it was.
Very shortly after this, I took my right shoe off and slipped my supportive calf compression sleeve on. My right leg was giving me a lot of grief – I’d already taken the maximum painkillers possible, so I doubled up on the compression, which helped.
After about 4 miles I was faced with a problem: the gate I needed to pass through was in the corner of the field, and was blocked by several cows. They had the whole field to roam in, but chose the corner that I needed to pass though to stand in. I tried speaking to them, but they didn’t move; they just stared at me. There was only one thing for it: I started climbing the wall alongside it.
After successfully climbing the first wall (muttering to myself and talking to the cows in the process), I had to climb yet another wall to get back onto the path. This is where things got a little bit tricky (those walls are basically stacks of rocks balanced on top of one another) and I caught my expensive 2XU compression tights on the wiring above the wall, ripping a hole in them. Oh well. I had a little ‘Look what you made me do’ Taylor Swift moment with the cows, but they were very blasé about the whole situation, so I bid them farewell and went on my way.
I hadn’t left Shap until about 10:30am after having the later breakfast and my complete rethink about what I was carrying. This was also my shortest day of the week – a ‘recovery day’ – so I knew I had plenty of daylight hours to get to Kirkby Stephen. Because of this, I saw lots of people along the route because for many of them this would be their longest day – a 20 mile hike towards the Yorkshire Dales.
As the day progressed, so did the pain and my limping situation. The back of my left heal had begun to burn – and when it came to flat land and uphill, I could only limp my way along. Downhill was fine; downhill, I ran. At one point I ran past a couple with matching rain covers on their bags (cute) and the lady commented that I was much fitter than they were. I was like ‘nahhh, I’m only good on the downhills – I’ve got over 10 blisters and problems with my legs!’
I made it to Kirkby Stephen just after 5pm and was very excited to limp past a Spar before reaching the hostel. When I booked the place over a year ago, I thought the concept of waking up in a hostel that was a converted chapel would be quite fun – as would being around a bunch of people. I was wrong. The place itself was dark, basic and disappointingly empty. But then again, it was the cheapest place I’d stayed on the route.
I was given a key to my dorm, which turned out to be the largest 8 bed room. It seemed empty, and I hoped more people would arrived. Downstairs, there was an older lady who sounded like she’d had a bit of a rough time of it during her life, and she proceeded to tell me all about it… in great detail, and at great lengths.
All I wanted to do was sit in silence, eat my Babybell, and catch up with people on my phone. I didn’t want to be rude, and I was there to meet people – anyone – from any walk of life – but I found myself sat in a dark, depressing, converted chapel having my ear chewed off by someone who was as depressing as the decor.
I’d also realised by this point that I was in some trouble: I couldn’t walk. I’d been to the Spar and bought a pack of Babybell (I ate all but one), some cooked Turkey Breast Chunks and some Pork Fast Fridge Raiders… but it took me a long time to do so, limping, and stopping every few steps to wince and control my breathing. This really wasn’t looking good.
Back at the hostel, I had a brief chat with a man who left as quickly as he arrived, commenting that perhaps I’d better abandon my coast to coast journey now. I said ‘no’ whilst standing on one leg… and then proceeded to drag myself back to the sofa – this time, with ice wrapped in a towel.
After some time, the couple I’d passed in the fields earlier in the day showed up, popped their heads in and, upon being told by my depressing new friend where the kettle was, replied that actually they were off to the pub. My face must have dropped at hearing that as quickly as my eyes lit up when I saw them enter the room.
So when I really couldn’t take any more of the older lady talking at me, I excused myself to ‘charge my phone’ with all of my possessions and ice and made my way slowly up to my room (which was on the second floor… obviously). I raised my leg, put the ice back on it, lay in my bed and began texting my mum and my boyfriend with my concerns about not being able to continue. And then I began to cry. And then… I scored myself a roommate. Just one. And it was no other than the same older lady from downstairs. Brilliant. I was going to wake up on my 30th birthday in a depressing hostel with a depressing lady with legs that didn’t want to function properly anymore.
All I could do was go to sleep.