A Bigger Picture

Dunes

Several of my blogs concern a role I once had which was commonly known as ‘line up’. Briefly the job involved making all manner of preparations (‘line up’) required for the floating bookship MV Logos to visit ports. The vessel was crewed by a diverse group of 140 volunteers from 25 nations. It was owned and operated by an international Christian organisation. Click this tag ‘line upif wish to read other blogs which concern this role. 

In the following story the main character is LUM (‘line up man’ ). 

LUM had had some previous experience lining up for the ship in a number of ports in various countries. He had now been asked to get involved in another country and port. It would mean a new culture, foods and people. An enriching learning experience to which he was looking forward to. That the country was in a state of emergency due to recent happenings did not seem to figure much in his thinking. In retrospect perhaps this should have been considered more.

Once he arrived in the country LUM was partly based in the capital city trying to secure government permissions for the ship to come. This included getting access for the general public to come onboard. However he still had to make fairly regular trips to the coastal city where the ship was due to visit. This involved some hours bus ride through the desert. Endless sand dunes piled like waves in the sea. Sunglasses were essential. Sometimes needing pain killers to ease headaches from the bright light. Usually there was one stop in the middle of nowhere in particular. Most passengers then piled out to follow the call to prayer. It was a dramatic scene to watch. People bowing down on their prayer mats in the desert. 

Just getting into the port authority area took half a day as various passes were required. Many dealings such as this seemed to take much time. As far as passes were concerned they also needed renewing every week. Slowly LUM awakened to the fact that most things could get done much quicker by ‘greasing the palm’ of whoever was in authority. This way of getting business done seemed to reach into every service required. There were also times when both officials and other contacts changed their minds. Sometimes people were very positive about the ship coming. On other occasions the same people were, at best, ambivalent. LUM was told that on a previous visit of the ship a number of officials were annoyed by not being ‘rewarded’ enough. Maybe this explained the fluid nature of some people’s views. Asking for written permission for things was not always straightforward. LUM recalls offending one official by pressing for more than verbal assurances. Did not LUM see that he (the official) was an honourable man? That his word could be trusted.

This period in LUM’S life was in the days long before mobile phones. You could spend half a day or whole evening trying to make an international phone call. First of all you had to visit the telephone exchange. Then fill in a form to book the number and destination country with the operator. Then wait, and wait, much like you might in a doctor’s surgery. Eventually the operator beckoned you to go into a booth. At last you would be put through. 

As with port entry the process of phoning might be speeded up if extra money was involved. For LUM it presented a moral dilemma. It seemed that for large parts of the economy people in jobs were paid very poorly. In order to make a living there was an expectation that a job would also be an opportunity to get tips. When does a tip become a bribe? 

LUM’s time in the country coincided with the annual fasting period of the majority religion. He felt awkward not abstaining from food or drink during the day when most of the population was doing so. There is something about eating that is a communal and shared activity. He felt very antisocial eating out in public when others were not able to eat. Once he recalls eating in a restaurant in the early evening. Everyone else was sitting at table with untouched glasses of water. All patiently waiting for the signal when the day’s fast would be over. For LUM it was not pleasant to have a roomful of hungry, perhaps resentful, eyes watching him eat. He concluded it would be better to avoid such embarrassments and eat at more suitable times. 

Due to security issues the contact LUM had with colleagues living long-term in the country was very limited. LUM felt quite isolated. Any engagement with others often meant surreptitiously visiting houses. Usually one by one entering and leaving at widely separated times. Done ostensibly so as not to arouse suspicion. LUM was not sure such precautions meant much. On one occasion a colleague living in the country pointed to an apparently crippled beggar. He was sitting on the ground across the road from the house they were meeting in. LUM’s colleague said the man was often there. At the end of the day he would leave and walk away. His lameness miraculously healed. LUM was told the ‘beggar’ was employed to watch their house and report on comings and goings. Probably any precautions taken pandered more to the need to feel careful. 

Maybe LUM had led a sheltered life but one unpleasant experience was the awareness of being followed. One occasion whilst out walking comes to his mind. It was chilling to look over his shoulder and keep seeing the same person behind him. To confirm he was being followed he took random turns through the streets. Yes it was same person some distance behind. Whether LUM was slow or fast or whichever way he turned LUM appeared to be shadowed. Strangely once LUM accepted he was being followed he put it out of his mind.

After a number of weeks preparations the ship was due to come. Due to other commitments LUM had to leave the country some days before the actual arrival. However all preparations seemed to be in order. Other line up people had come and they would be around for the ship’s visit. 

The ship duly arrived in the port and the gangway lowered in anticipation of being open to locals. Within just a few hours the shipping agent gave a distressing message. He said the vessel had to leave port immediately and anchor in international waters. Apparently there was a threat. What really was going on LUM has never come to understand. The door to stay was firmly closed. What was clear was that the ship had nowhere to go for weeks with a crew of 140 sitting many miles offshore.

For LUM personally it was also disconcerting that several of the foreigners he had contact with were deported shortly after. 

This crisis of a ship with nowhere to go opened an unforeseen opportunity. In a matter of days a colleague was able to get permission for the ship to visit another place. Somewhere that up till then had not been thought possible.

Many years later LUM reflects on this whole experience. He believes there is a bigger picture. Behind well intentioned plans that seem to come to nothing God is working out his purposes.

The Big Picture** by Elisabeth Grant

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭28‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

** elisabethgrantart.com

Coming, Going and Enjoying the Journey.

It was towards the end of a bright day this past summer. Our west facing windows are open. I am watching the sun as it blazes through the clouds. The view is punctuated by a plane every few minutes on final approach to Glasgow airport. Their flight path is a few miles away. The planes as well as the sun are low on the horizon. Their sound is muffled, more of a distant hum than a roar. Not the harsh noise that airliners make when you are right under their flight path. Observing these heavy machines defying gravity yet slowly descending is strangely enjoyable. A smooth and steady end to travel. The end of a day merging with the conclusion of people’s journeys. 

I wonder about the occupants of these planes arriving from many places. Is this their first visit to Glasgow? What are their initial impressions? Are some returning after years away to a new, uncertain future? Who, if any, are meeting those anonymous passengers? A family, a friend or a business contact? Maybe the more faceless, formal greeting of a sheet or board held by a driver with your name. These descending aircraft contain the hopes and fears of many.

In arrivals everyone wants to get out of the airport as quickly as possible. I don’t know anyone who savours hanging around in arrivals. There might be the joy of meeting a loved one but even then you don’t linger. You leave as soon as practicable. Yet to arrive one has to leave from somewhere. Going through departures is usually slower and encourages use of shops, cafes etc. In spite of decades of increased hustle, bustle and security the departure hall of today’s airports still hold a vestige of excitement. In the 70s and 80s it was different. For the most part air travel felt more special and luxurious then than today’s typical budget airline experience. However, even nowadays, once through check in, customs and immigration, the departure experience is usually not that bad. Yes you are in limbo waiting for your flight but not feeling you are in a queue. There is also the prospect of leaving one world to emerge a short time later to a different one. The reason for a journey of course determines how one feels about the whole experience. In that there may be a multitude of joys and sorrows. Saying goodbye to home and family, starting a new life or job, facing up to responsibilities.

I notice how much more often we ask “When do we arrive?” than “What can I see on the way?”

Disguises of Love p34. Eddie Askew

Commercial air travel however does not lend itself to savouring the actual journey. Travel in an aluminium tube is not very aesthetic. Any ‘in journey’ experience for me nowadays is more likely to be internally, in my head. Of course it may be different if you were flying the plane. However I speak here about a ‘seat 21E in a crowded 737’ experience. 

Here is one personal recipe for a more absorbing journey. Become a passenger, not a driver, in a car travelling slowly through quiet countryside. It’s a bright day with clear views. There is little or no other traffic dictating your speed. No rush to arrive anywhere. The destination may even be the same place as the trip’s beginning. Happy even to just stop the car on occasions and take a closer look at something. Especially helpful to have knowledgable fellow passengers/ driver who know the area and its people well. Small villages, isolated houses and the occasional walker passes by. Fellow travellers have stories to tell with each passing scene giving a sense of connection to what or who you are passing by. “So and so’s building has a new fence round it.” “‘Mrs. ‘X’ passed away last year but her son now lives in the house.

What’s around the corner?

Of course enjoyable journeys do not need modern means of transportation. We live in a restless world. I guess air travel can sometimes be a symptom of that malaise. One of the things that Covid lockdowns brought to me, a city dweller, was a better awareness of what is in my neighbourhood. This was through the simplicity of leisurely daily walks or cycles in our neighbourhood. Even in an urban environment there are things of interest and beauty on my doorstep. Lots of wild raspberries and blackberries (to eat) growing along hedgerows. Herons and ducks on their daily movements up and down the canal. Hidden streams in local parks, wildflowers by the roadside. These scenes were always there but I often did not have eyes to see. It took a pandemic for me to be less distracted. To become more aware of the rhythms of life that are always around me. 

“The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.”  

Psalms‬ ‭121:7-8‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

8 Miles Until 10pm

The above sign I have passed many times on the main road between Glasgow and Perth whilst heading to the north of Scotland. Each time I wonder if this is a window to a new dimension. Space and time merge on approaching. I have bored my wife at my childlike (she would say childish) enthusiasm each time we pass. My reaction is no longer funny.

For sure if it was 9pm and I was driving at 8 miles per hour it would indeed be 10pm in 8 miles. Any other time of day and it’s a bit more complicated. Maybe at 8pm it means 2 hours driving at 4mph. These speeds are very slow for a car so more realistically at 9:50pm it would be 10pm in 8 miles if driven at 48 mph. On the other hand it could be the sign is a cue to check the time and adjust your speed accordingly. Indeed reaching 10pm in 8 miles is possible at any time of day but requires great care to drive at the right speed. 

On the other hand am not sure speed is what is signified. ‘8 miles until 10pm’ seems to be saying that whatever speed travelled 8 miles will bring you to 10pm. 8 miles in any direction and at whatever speed brings you to a fixed point in time, 10pm! Yes this sounds rather fanciful. Yet some of the things that particle and quantum physicists theorise about our universe are even odder. 

Maybe there is something special about the time itself. For most 10pm is the end of day and rest beckons. Perhaps the sign is a challenge to reflect on the day past or prepare for day’s end. Experiences, things done or not done. Regretted or relished. It’s time to put to bed both literally and figuratively.

Context means a lot. The accompanying petrol pump sign on the notice gives it a more mundane, yet important, meaning. Still I’d rather hope that the roads dept. wish to fire up our imagination. I can choose to dwell on the depressing realities of the news that is often the backdrop to our world. It is also possible to believe in a magical, transformative world. Yet most of the time I do not have eyes to see. To complete a car journey it is necessary to have enough fuel in the tank or sufficient charge in your batteries. Yet our longing is for life and journeys to have more meaning than just the utilitarian. 

There is enduring interest in the works of fairy tale and fantasy writers such as CS Lewis and TR Tolkien. They show that adults have a need, like oxygen, for imagination. As much if not more so than children. People from every background and age have great affection for and are inspired by books and films like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. 

This humble road sign is an invitation to embark on an adventure. Like crew and passengers who choose to embark on some giant cruise ship. Everyone then makes individual choices of how to spend their time on board, living different lives. Yet all on board trust the captain will bring the vessel to safe harbour at evening’s end.

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

― C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

West Highland Way Challenge- Race Report 2021

Wearily descending Craigie Fort, Balmaha (122km)

They say getting to the start line is half the battle. In these pandemic times especially so as nothing could be taken for granted. Added to that about 10 days before I experienced back pain. I could walk but not run so it really played on me whether I could take part. Now think it was more of a sprain from over enthusiastic core exercises. It eventually healed a few days beforehand.

Night before had a fitful sleep and rose at 5am. Elisabeth was going to be my support driving me to Fort William and then seeing me at various points throughout the many hours that followed. Her effort was heroic in the circumstances and involved just as much endurance. Over the time she ended up running 31km and drove hundreds of kms to support me in this effort. As the official support due to restrictions was very limited it is a fact I could not have done it without her.

Had my usual breakfast and we left house at 7am for a pleasant trip north in good weather. Upon arrival in Fort William got registered at Claggan football ground, about 600m from the start. Dropped off my 7 ‘drop bags’ and a ‘safety rucksack’ (mentioned later). These would be taken to the checkpoints en route. So far so good. What was new was signing a disclaimer form.

There were 120 starting. In addition there were a handful of ‘crazy’ folks doing extreme things (more on that later). The rest of us were a mixture of ‘seasoned’, those completely new and those in between. Everyone probably a bit unbalanced.

Made our way to the rather inauspicious start sign for the West Highland Way (WHW) at the edge of a busy little roundabout. More commonly the finish as we were going in opposite direction. 11am was approaching but we were told that the 3 buses from Milngavie had arrived late so would start at 1110.

What was ahead was more of an odyssey than a journey. Such a kaleidoscope of feelings and thoughts experienced that no one thing could define it. It was (according to my watch) about 207,000 steps. Some of them easy and light and many hard. Live in the moment, don’t think of how far or how long you must endure. My thinking is if I can take the next step, time always passes with no effort required from me. According to the laws of physics time + steps = distance!

We are off!

The adventure began as promised at 1110. The first few km followed the road beside the River Nevis. Just before we turned off into the trail and forest of Glen Nevis 13 of our number took a left. They were first going up Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, before later rejoining the West Highland Way.

Going up the edge of the Glen is a long climb. Not so steep but long enough that it’s a waste of precious energy trying to move too fast. It was only the start. My GPS watch on record would only do a max. of 10-12 hours so would only use for certain segments, if at all. Main concern was keeping my heart rate as low as possible. Preferably around 127bpm. It was nice at this time to exchange pleasantries with fellow participants. Some might say competitors but unless you are at an elite level everyone else is there to get to the finish and help each other as and when. I did of course have my usual personal challenge with spreadsheet of where I hoped to be and when.

Original Plan!

Once over the initial climb out of the glen it was on to much more runnable undulations. Having run this route in opposite direction over the past 10 years it is amazing to see how the landscape has changed especially in this section to Lundavra (12.1km). There seems to have been a huge amount of ancient trees removed and can only assume it’s well managed. Anyhow after Lundavra the trail leads to the more open ‘big sky’ perspectives of the Lairig More. A long valley overseen by mountains which eventually leads to a long descent down to sea level again at Kinlochleven. I was feeling good. Noticed that the heat was proving more tiring than it had been on my recce run on this section 3 weeks ago. Then I had hailstones!

At one point I passed a man and woman and could see from their race no. that they were in the other category of extreme. Derek and Jo had set off from Aviemore on Friday afternoon on the East Highland Way and had now linked up with us on the WHW. It would be a whopping 288km. They were incredibly calm and collected, almost fresh, as if 150km was a warm up. These are unusual folks and for Derek this was ‘training’ for a 360km race in the Swiss Alps. Enjoyed a bit of chat and then moved ahead as they were moving at a highly disciplined but understandably slower rate. Heard later they made it to Milngavie in just under 55 hours.

Coming in to the Kinlochleven checkpoint (23.85km) it was great to see Elisabeth. I was on time, more or less to the minute, which was good. Others were not fairing so well. One poor man had broken his nose from an early fall and was bleeding a lot. He decided that he would carry on.

Due to pandemic situation all the checkpoints were in the open air. I think we were very fortunate that the hottest weather of the year had arrived.

Off now up a long, arduous climb. Most of us were still quite chatty but each was also adjusting to our own style of managing climbs and descents. This meant you kept seeing the same people many times as you passed them or were overtaken.

Finally arrived at the top of the disconcertingly named Devil’s Staircase where a fellow runner kindly offered to take a pic. of me with the imposing Glencoe valley in the background. Not sure if it was a smile or a grimace! In a strange coincidence in my recce here 3 weeks previously I had eaten a ‘Rocky Road’ biscuit in nearly same spot. Unbeknown to Elisabeth she had given me the exact same biscuit to take at Kinlochleven so I had the same thing again. Whimsically I began to wonder if ‘Rocky Road’ had a hidden layer of meaning as to what was in front of me.

There then followed a nice, runnable section downhill to Altnafeadh. Passed one guy who was suffering from cramp so gave him some salted liquorice. Then along the valley to the Glencoe Ski lodge (40km) and next checkpoint. Great to see Elisabeth who had been patiently waiting. Here race rules were to pick up a ‘safety rucksack’ consisting of a sleeping bag and survival bag. My already heavy rucksack now was 1 kg or so heavier and much bigger. However the reasoning for this was sound. As race was autonomous between checkpoints if you broke a leg or something during the night the drill was to use these to keep warm till you got rescued.

The other thing I took was running poles. I am sometimes ambivalent about them but find when you are very fatigued they are a help esp. on climbs. Not being a Scottish Athletics race their use is OK.

Managed a pot noodle. Fluid intake and carbohydrates are essential but I was eating very gingerly. I feared my old problem, nausea, was starting to appear.

Leaving Glencoe a bit refreshed I said goodbye to Elisabeth. She was going to head home for some much needed rest. Plan was she would meet me Loch Lomond side in the morning. It was not easy for her as she had to drive, try and cheer me up for a few moments at checkpoints and then wonder how I was doing through the night. Had agreed that I would text when I left certain places. There were a number of people who wanted to know how I would be doing so she had set up a temporary WhatsApp group to keep them in the loop. It simplified things for her just using one point of communication.

It was now on to the old, cobbled military road and Rannoch Moor. A place of stark beauty in the early evening.

The day had been hot, in fact the hottest so far this year, so was not used to it. The field was well stretched out now but there were several people that I passed or was passed by and had chats with. Otherwise was getting very quiet as walkers or campers on the WHW had arrived where they were going to be for the night. My legs and feet were fine but was starting to get that familiar feeling of nausea and dizziness building up. I could only trust that it would not get worse.

Arrived in Inveroran (54km), a peaceful hamlet, and on to a tarmac road for a while. Confess to being a bit jealous of all the happy campers relaxing in the evening sunshine. I was starting to struggle. Left the road and then on over the hill and down to Bridge of Orchy (58.35km), the next checkpoint. As mentioned previously I had drop bags for each checkpoint, filled with foods I thought I might like. Unfortunately even the thought of eating was making me sick. That combined with the midges coming out in their millions. A small insect famous in West of Scotland for their bite and their abundance. All credit to those valiant volunteers sitting outside for many hours waiting for bedraggled runners to come in. I did manage before I left to wash my face in the toilets. If I couldn’t have any joy from food or drink at least cold water could be refreshing. It would be fair to say I was glad to leave at 2120. Only 5 mins later than my predicted time so despite how I was feeling progress had thus far been according to plan.

As I turned into the railway station underpass what should confront me but a swathe of luxury train carriages above. The well heeled occupants of “The Royal Scotsman and the Flying Scotsman” seemed to be settling down for the night in Bridge of Orchy station with accordion music. A surreal contrast to my circumstances as I set off.

It was now into the gathering shadows and time for using my torch. From previous experience the bobbing of the head torch would not help my dizziness or sickness. However little choice. My next milestone would be Tyndrum and got there about 2325. Few people around as I negotiated the route through the village, only a few late night revellers. I did meet another race participant who had got lost so was good to help. It was about 5km to the next checkpoint at Auchtertyre farm. Shortly out of Tyndrum and my turn to get lost, twice. At same time I had a bout of retching. Needed to keep sipping water as it was the only thing I could keep down. Clothing-wise I had now layered up. Despite the general mugginess of the night I knew in my condition that I could not keep my body temp. up with exercise alone. The volunteers on arrival at Auchtertyre (72.85km) were very attentive so had a very welcome sit down and tried sipping some hot tea and soup proferred. The next checkpoint was 21km away, at least 4 hours at my speed so main thing was to carry water. I was now 28mins behind my scheduled time. Not much in scheme of things.

It took an age to get to Glen Bogle above Crianlarich and by that time was experiencing micro sleeps as I moved. Was craving rest. In normal circumstances I would not do this on my own outside in middle of the night but thankfully ambient temp was warm. My strategy was to lie down in a prominent place so any fellow participants would see me, layer up with all the clothing I had and take max 10mins. The picnic bench at top of Bogle Glen came into sight, bliss. I lay down, strangely mesmerised by the tree branches overhead. Maybe it was my stress hormones but at 0200 the night was utterly quiet. Words can’t describe but I could ‘hear’ the silence and it was deafening. Strangely a guy then passed by and all he said was one word ‘hello’, nothing else. He looked like he was going through his own struggles.

Time to move on, still dog tired, but a little less dizzy. Keep sipping that water. The next checkpoint was Beinglas farm, north of Loch Lomond. By about 3am signs of a new day were appearing. Usually it is a harbinger of new energy and hope, the sun giving light and heat. However I still was feeling miserable and just focussed on staying awake and taking the next step. What I did sense was the overwhelming beauty at God’s creation of a new day. Practicalities were also pressing in. My mobile phone battery was low. Time to use my mobile battery charger.

Moon over Beinglas, first light at my back

A new day awakes.

In Beinglas (88.85km) I told the marshall my need to lie down for a bit. As we were outside he obligingly offered the passenger seat of his car where I had 10 mins. Managed to ingest a cup of diluted orange juice and it was off again. Some time after I caught up with Paddy whom I’d talked to earlier in the race. He was of similar age and experience of ultras as myself so we had been comparing notes.

He was also suffering from sickness but could only retch. Bizarrely we had this conversation about the merits of being sick as opposed to retching. For me being sick gave me a boost of energy and dizziness subsided. However after a time the fatigue always crept back with a vengeance. Enough of this for you the reader.

The bluebells in the hillsides both north and south of Inversnaid were glorious in the early light.

There is a very technical section of about 4km before you reach Inversnaid. Rocks and boulders taking up reserves of concentration and at times needing to use both hands and legs to traverse.

Arriving Inversnaid (98.85km) just before 0800 I lay down on the benches outside the hotel. Paddy was still with me but left early while I contended with, yet again, another bout of sickness. Eventually caught up with him and passed. Started to get messages from Elisabeth who said she was leaving home and going to head to Milarrochy, about 2km north of Balmaha and would run to meet me. However this was still some hours away and there was the checkpoint at Rowardennan to pass first. Before arrival Rowardennan caught up with another guy Kristopher whom I’d met earlier. Younger and suffering from foot blisters he was upbeat. My time in Rowardennan (109.85km) was short. I had given up on food and had not eaten anything that I could hold down for last 12 hours. I managed to nibble tiny amounts of crisps which gave some salt intake. Keep regularly sipping, not gulping, water. Planned target times were now slipping. It was no longer speed that was the challenge but plan B, just keep moving.

Being a Bank Holiday weekend as the day progressed it was getting busier with day trippers. What a contrast to the earlier sanctuary at the head of the loch!

Elisabeth accompanied me to Balmaha where she left and I started to climb Conic Hill. A strenuous 300m climb at any time. After 122km in 26 degrees heat and with no wind it became absolutely brutal. Was concerned that dehydration would mean I just did not have it in me to climb. Most of time I was leaning on my sticks to stop from falling and then move feet for a bit and then stop. Repeat. Slowly, ever so slowly, got to the top. Other competitors were equally shattered by the experience. All the while day trippers striding past us wondering what kind of race we were in.

Then a welcome decline coming off the hill. Had a nice cool down with stream water at the end of it. At this point I met another type of participant. A husband-wife team who were walking. They had started at 9am on the Saturday and were trying to maintain a constant pace. I was really impressed – to do that you virtually cannot stop at all. Don’t know if they made it but they were not aiming for a time, just to complete in their own time. I lay down on the trail for 5mins of instant sleep and felt refreshed.

After several km of the Garabhan forest the next checkpoint was at Drymen (133.85km). Only now could I entertain the thought of finishing. The race director, Jim, was there and asked me how was doing. Giving him my woes he said short term memory loss would occur Monday morning. Leaving at 1710 there was 20km to go and about 4 hours if I kept the pace. 2210 was cut off time.

Concerned for my condition Elisabeth had determined to try and meet me as much as possible this last stretch. She drove and ran to various points at Gartness, Beech Tree Inn and Carbeth to meet up with me for a few mins.

AT 8:56pm, 33 hours 46 mins. after leaving Fort William I arrived outside Milngavie town hall (approx. 153.85km) on a quiet Sunday evening. For once I was a ‘first’ as the oldest finisher! 64th out of 76 finishers (120 started).

Presented with a crystal goblet by marshall my main thought was at last I could sit down without thinking about moving. About an hour later my appetite started to recover and on my way to regaining the 2.5kg lost.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It is now 11 years since first taking up ultra running. As far as ultra races go I may or may not continue. Some reading this might wonder why put yourself through what seems painful and unnecessary suffering. I like my creature comforts as much as anyone and can assure you I try everything to make it easier. However after 20 such races my experience is that in every one the ‘wheels come off’ in different ways. You are left with one thing, endure. Through all these races Elisabeth has been, in one way or another, involved in supporting. She has encouraged me when assailed by self doubt. Thanks for being with me on both the inner and outer journeys.

Psalm 139 verse 14 declares we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made. Fearful in that our lives are fragile, a gift and can be over in a moment. Wonderful in that we have been uniquely given physical, mental and spiritual resources beyond our understanding. The memory of pain or struggle fades away. It’s the finishing that enhances life, real life. Like the odyssey of our own lives we are each on a journey, but often caught up with present struggles. For me I live in hope of the ‘well done’ at the finish from Jesus, the Master endurer.

STARFISH ASIA
For a number of years I have chosen to do such challenges in aid of Starfish Asia. This run is no different. Specifically it is for the raising of scholarship funds for children of poor and marginalised Christian families in Pakistan who have completed school (16). Scholarships give the opportunity to gain vocational and educational qualifications. This gives the potential of better jobs so they and their family can escape the cycle of poverty. I have been greatly encouraged by the support and if you wish to donate please go to my fund-raising page here. It will remain open till end of June 2021. Thereafter you can go direct to Starfish Asia and find out more of their wonderful work.