Run Bosnia-Herzegovina 2018
How it begins.
A while ago I decided I wanted to walk the Via Dinarica. Being the world's newest long-distance trail, covering 1260 km of mountains across the Balkans, I knew I wouldn't ever have the time to do it in one go, so I decided to complete the Bosnia and Herzegovina section in summer 2018. According to the few people who have already passed through, this section is reputed to be one of the most beautiful sections, and also one of the wildest with some of the last remaining primeval forest on the continent. A far cry from the Western mountains, and a great addition to my eastern/central European mountain CV following on from Romania last year. Fine, I decided. This will be a lot of fun. I was excited.
Then one innocent, unsuspecting afternoon an errant thought popped into my head. A thought so unhelpful and resented that for weeks I tried to dismiss it as ridiculous. A disjointed but related thought to one I had two years previous (and mentally bookmarked for 'another year') whilst doing the alpine Haute Route: why don't I run this?
And that was that.
I knew that I couldn't go back. If I rejected the thought, it would always be taunting me. If I gave it life then...maybe...maybe...I could be one of the first people (if not the first) to run the entire 350 km length of Bosnia and Herzegovina across the mountains.
And what if I did it Solo and Unsupported, wildcamping my way across the country. Me. Just me. With my tent and stove.
Now I was truly done for.
I got scared. Really scared. I didn't dare breathe the idea outside of my head for weeks. I was full of self-doubt and loathing. Why do I have to have these ideas? I don't have the time or the ability. This is a fatal combination. Why can't I just say No to myself? What if I die a miserable death alone! It felt impossible. And yet...and yet...
Something in me felt it could be possible. I thought of the things I have already done. It's not like I don't run in the mountains. So, I did my first mountainous back-to-back running weekend in Scotland to find a baseline in myself. To see 'where I'm at'. It went well enough.
I've always had a pretty high level of self-belief, and tend to throw myself into things with only a passing regard for the potential of failure. So, the seed of confidence was there, but still I couldn't say it out loud. This perplexed me. Usually, I would have said it by now and be on my way with preparation. Whatever it is. So, why this reticence? I began to journal my fears, to reveal what could be attended to and mitigated, and see whether that process removed the blockage. There were plenty of fears - I filled pages - but there was no shift in my mindset.
And then I spoke to my husband, and a few good friends. And through speaking my worries out loud I realised what it was. I was, and still am, deeply afraid of failing my challenge. Of not making it and having to come home. This probably sounds like a really obvious thing that I should have known, but I didn't see it at all. When I finally did, it was the precise moment I knew for definite I have to do this. I have to at least try.
Let me tell you why.
The thing about me is this.
I don't tend to do things if I think there's a high chance of failure. That's not to say I stay comfortable; far from it. I have changed career twice, set up businesses, taught myself new skills etc. etc. I'm a walking-talking list of certificates and experiences ranging from useful through to esoteric. I love to learn, what can I say. People probably think I'm the type of person who is always pushing out of my comfort zone.
But the truth is that because I know I can apply myself and try really hard I tend to believe in my capacity for achieving my goals. I suppose this is why I got into coaching. I know that the difficult things are possible. I like to look off into the future and test in my head whether it feels doable. And almost always it does. This has served me really well. I'm lucky. I've worked hard at that luck ;)
But when I thought about running the Bosnian mountains alone over a distance that is almost inconceivable to me, I couldn't see a strong chance of completion. There was just a hope but little more. I realised with a crash of self-awareness - I have to do this, precisely because I don't think that I can.
That's because I need to be better with failure, because I'm only at the beginning of full-time self employment and disappointments (big ones) will come. I also need to remember how agonising fear of failure can be. It's humbling when you come across reasons to remember your own, and you can use that in your work.
And because what if I did manage it? What a step up in my own development this would be. What might I be able to achieve if I really pushed the boat out? What might any of us be able to achieve if we really reached way beyond.
I began to acknowledge that I have a dream that is bigger than me right now. A dream that doesn't quite fit me, yet. But it will.
And so I decided.
I would do this differently.
From the outset of my doubt, I started keeping a private journal of my fears and anxieties about this endurance challenge. This was supposed to help me resolve my worries, until I realised it never would entirely. I am supposed to be worried. It wouldn't be a genuine endurance challenge and adventure if there wasn't an immovable fear. The utter terror I feel (mixed with potent levels of thrill and excitement) will make sure I plan like I've never planned anything before. My fear will hopefully keep me safe.
I thought about how so few adventurers talk about the stomach churning terror of going out beyond themselves. They seem to talk about it afterwards, but not necessarily before. As such, I've always got the sense that adventurous people were born and not made. That they just don't feel sick with fear. That they speak afterwards of the lows because it makes them seem human, and they know us mere mortals need that. I have believed, it seems, that they just set themselves a target and execute with total ease. Their prep is focused on PR, money raising and hardcore training. I am inspired by their endeavours - how could I not be - but I don't know how that relates to me. Because I'm Not Like Them.
Or so I would tell myself.
This is rubbish, of course.
I decided that to make my challenge different I would talk openly about my struggle to do this; my battle overcoming the physical, mental and emotional worries and give it a go anyway. To prove to myself that adventurers are made and not born, and can be made at any time. And can come undone. And that they can be terrified. And can be totally bog-standard average like me.
I am not a runner. I am a person who runs. I am not an athlete. I am a person who likes to push their body. I am not a full-time adventurer. I'm a person who likes to use my spare time adventurously. I love my work. I love my home. I have a few weeks of the year to make my down-time count. I want to come home in one piece.
The final deal.
So the plan is that I will run my 350km across Bosnia alone in September/October time (depending on work commitments). I will do it as fast as I can whilst taking photographs and enjoying the mountains, my way. Soaking up nature, learning what I can along the way, paying attention to what needs to be seen.
And with no pressure. This isn't about pressure. I will run until I can't, and walk if I have to. I will discuss it all along the way and show that the destination probably isn't the point. As we therapist types know its all about the process. TRUST IN THE PROCESS.
You can read a bit more about my challenge 'ethos' here.
Now that I've said it out loud, I would love it if you would follow along with my journey and give me some support. Hell, I need it. I'll be documenting it here on a dedicated Diary blog, and on Instagram as usual. I might even choose a hashtag like #BosHerRun ;) Your positive vibes will keep me accountable I'm sure of it.
I'm not doing this for charity. This challenge is for me. But I do hope the lessons along the way will be helpful for others as they flirt with their own over-sized dreams (whether that's run-related, work related or...whatever!).
I'm going to need some new lightweight kit, and other stuff that I don't have because I've never had to run with it for days and days at a time. So if you'd like to support me in my challenge and you're a company that can supply any of the kit on my list by way of gift/sponsorship then I would love to hear from you (drop me an email, or a message on Instagram). Furthermore, if you're interested in being part of my story before or after in print or online, then please drop me a line for a chat!
For friends, family, well-wishers who might want to help me get my kit together then I've set up a Go Fund Me page. I will of course acknowledge everyone who helps me out, and aim to Pay It Forward as much as I can, as opportunities arise and unfold.
So for now. Thank you.
Thank you for reading this far, and for caring. And pre-emptively thank you for supporting me. I hope to make a good go of it.