After taking up trail running five years ago, Tina Page has really thrown herself into the sport. She is currently mid-way through her latest challenge, ‘Running the Summits' - a bid to run 1000 Mountains of the British Isles in 365 days in support of Mountain Rescue and Mountain Rescue Search Dogs. So, 462 mountains in, how is it all going?
This challenge has quite literally taken over my life, but in a really good way. It has become all encompassing and the mountains have been a real teaching ground. Day to day I am either running in the mountains, talking about running in the mountains, recording summits summited, planning logistics for those still to be scaled, visiting Mountain Rescue Teams, volunteering as a ‘dogsbody' for the Mountain Rescue Search Dogs training, running with nationwide running groups or undertaking the humbling work of fundraising . I definitely sleep well at night!”
People often say that one of the greatest parts of travel and adventure is the people you meet along the way and that has certainly been true of this challenge. I have met so many fascinating people, all with different connections to the outdoors and their own stories of personal challenge, dreams and achievements, from beginner Park Runners to octogenarian adventurers. This was a part of the challenge I didn't fully expect – just how much people would get behind it and, more importantly, how much I could learn from them.
Of course the main endeavour of this adventure is a physical one and after climbing over 107,000m (12 times the height of Everest) in 106 Days over 1888km, I have been frazzled and battered by every kind of British weather over some rough terrain. From deep, body and soul sucking bogs to steep, loose and gnarly rock faces and there has been a learning curve almost to match. My confidence has grown immensely with honed navigation skills, more fearless scrambling ability and a growing comfort that I experience each time I head into the hills away from the crowds, noise and distractions of 21st century living. A return to a simpler, quieter, slower way of being.
I am feeling far more at home and less intimidated by remote places as my experiences teach me that I will be fine and I can handle the challenges. And British mountains do offer up plenty of challenge. They may seem small and appear relatively tame in the grand scheme of mountains but they can be imposing places that punch well above their diminutive height, which was part of the reason I undertook this challenge. I wanted to show our mountains in all their damp, boggy, gnarly, spiky, and wild, photogenic glory.
Being in these landscapes teaches me humility and acceptance too, amusingly demonstrated recently when, after reaching a distant valley floor at the end of a long, hot day I had to turn right around and repeat the long climb back to the summit of the same mountain to ‘rescue’ my little trail-dog mascot, Patch, after accidentally abandoning him on the summit cairn.
Physically, I have been lucky so far to get away with just a few scrapes and bruises and only the occasional face plant into scratchy heather– fortunately when no one was looking! But my knees are definitely complainers and some of the more sheer downhills have been a struggle. I spent an agonising hour descending just one kilometre of distance off Rhinog Fawr in Wales recently. My knees winced sharply with every bend on the technical route down over a sharp fall of rocks and boulders. But I know it is a pure privilege to be able to do what I am doing and to spend time in these stunning places. In the hills any pain, discomfort or lung-busting breathlessness tend to pass quite quickly and just when you think you can't possibly take one more step you reach a col where the cool breeze delivers a new breath of energy and you are once again bouncing along the trail, renewed, revitalised and awed by your surroundings. There have been specific mountains that chewed me up and spat me out, but even at their most unforgiving these majestic landscapes rising above and watching over us will now, I know, always hold a piece of my heart.
Most of my runs finish with a return to ‘basecamp’, a micro-campervan in which I live and plan my adventures as I visit all the mountainous areas of the British Isles. This allows me to keep most of my travel through the hills fast and light, a relative term, but I am now looking forward to embarking on a 250km continuous round through the desolate beauty of the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, wild camping en-route and carrying an awful lot of food!
If you're feeling inspired for more check out The Journal for more epic adventures and stories.