I lace my waterproof trail running shoes slowly, methodically, carefully, in the knowledge that for the next couple of hours, my feet will be the contact point between my body and the earth. I inhale. I exhale.
I wake up early and drive to the depths of Dartmoor whilst the clouds ahead ooze and billow across the awakening sun, casting the tors into darkness. I park up next to a derelict stone house, and prepare myself mindfully whilst the coolness of the night still hangs in the hair. I stretch my arms up high, with focused attention on each muscle being stretched, before running, mostly at a slow jog, in a forest of mossy oak trees and the bubbling beginnings of the River Yealm. The rhythmic movement of my feet create ease and relaxation in my body.
I am alert and aware of the environment and the present sounds and sights. Up, up, up, I feel strong and free until my attention is drawn to the beauty of the water trickling over stones. I stop and squat down to notice the shoots of spring flowers peeping up on the other side of the bank. Self-absorbed under the hypnosis of the water, instinct jerks my head towards the periphery as a young doe emerges. She halts. We stare at each other. And stare a little longer. Until I get bored and continue running.
Still upwards I run, out of the forest and onto open moorland. The sun rises behind me, but it’s not time to look back yet. I must keep running. I’m not on a trail now. The ground is springy underfoot in some places, with chaotically placed granite slabs providing relief from the waterclogged earth. A folly of wild horses shimmer in the sunlight, their hair waving in the wind. I still daren’t look back.
SMACK. My knee hits rock. God that’s so embarrassing. I look around nervously. Did anyone see that? Only the horses look back with the same indifference as before. I laugh. I laugh because I can do whatever I want here. I laugh like I haven’t laughed in a long time. One of those big belly laughs you know? The one where nothing is held back. I can be whoever I want. I can come and go, fall over, pick myself up, laugh out loud, cry, sing. I can be filled with joy, pain, elation and fear – all at the same time! And that’s absolutely fine. In fact it’s natural. Out here I’m aware that I’m a human being. Not a youth worker or a student or a daughter or a friend. A human being and a wild one at that!
I reach the top of the tor, turn around and I am blessed by the sun rising over the sea in the far distance, creating another fiery red sea of heather around me. A large juicy raindrop touches my cheek, thunder rolls across the sky and a violent wind whips the hair around my face. It’s time to go. I run towards the sound of traffic. As I run closer, I realise it’s not traffic at all, but a waterfall! Connected back to the source of the river, I follow it back down, past a sheep’s skull, until I meet a farmer revving his tractor up for the start of another day. “Mornin’” he says, with a twinkle in his eye. Soaked through to the skin, I make it back to the car.
I unlace my waterproof trail running shoes slowly, methodically, carefully, in the knowledge that for the last couple of hours, my feet were the contact point between my body and the earth. I inhale. I exhale.