I can’t do this.
Though the room was warm, and the bed was nice and soft, sharing a bedroom with Rahaf and Ragat had one major downside: the alarm went off at 6AM, mercilessly screeching us out of the beds, even though we had chatted till past midnight.
I haven’t been able to get more than 5-6hrs of sleep on this entire trip, and it’s killing me.
But I got up with them regardless, desperately wanting to walk them to the bus stop. As I get myself ready in the bathroom, I notice that I’m bleeding, too. Great. Just great. I take a painkiller before the period cramps bring me to my knees.
Rahaf and Ragat load me up with more food than I can carry, which is not an exaggeration. The bag barely fits all of the extra food. But because I don’t want to say no, I can’t take that; because I don’t want waste food; because I know I haven’t been eating enough and I should get all of that extra food into my belly today – I take it.
I’ll pay for that decision in the longterm by not being able to run.
But for now, I’m hiking through woods, ignoring the stabbing pain in my abdomen, only slightly numbed by painkillers. As I walk, Ieat half a kilogram of peanuts that Ragat pushed into my hands with a smile. It’s slow going, but eventually the peanuts are empty, and I’ve reached what should have been my final destination the night destination. I meet a man on a bench and we chat for a bit. Then I move on – not having eaten more if my food, because I was busy chatting. Another mistake.
By 1PM I’m sitting on a rock in a town, head in hands. Water is low again. I ask a women watering her plants for some, which she happily gives to me. I stumble on, eyes fixed on a rather menacing thunderstorm cloud above my head.
I hope it won’t rain.
And of course it does.
I find a picnic bench, and stumble towards it, snuggling into my bivy and lying underneath the large stone table.
I am so tired.
I am so slow.
And I don’t think I can go on.
With those thoughts, I drift off to sleep rain pattering against the lower half of my bivy.
Perhaps some of you remember from my Berlin-Nordkapp story how my brother used to save my butt. All. The. Time. Well, he still does that. A lot. He still holds me up when I can’t stand on my own anymore, and gives me more reasons than I can count to be strong.
But someone else has also begun volunteering for the position.
“Denis, I can’t do this.” I’m on the phone and crying inconsolably. I woke up from my nap under the picnic table with a stuffy nose, a headache and very, very low morale. “Not at the rate you’re going,” he answers. I sniffle. It’s not that I’m too slow – it’s that right from the start, I’ve been pushing too hard. Barely sleeping, skipping meals – this is a recipe for disaster. “Can I get the truth a little less bluntly?” I whimper. “Alright. What can you do to do this run, and also not break down?” He asks. I think for a moment. “I feel like I don’t have the right backpack. When I walk, this running pack just hurts my shoulders so much. I mean, it works like it should when I run-shuffle, but then my body shuts down instead.”
“Do you want me to bring you your hiking backpack? After all… you’re walking quite a bit.” – “Just today!” I huff. But I tear up at the idea of seeing a friendly, known face again. Day three, and I’m already scraping rock bottom.
“It’s the lack of sleep,” he finally says. “Huh?” A small giggle on the other side. “Girl, you’re someone who needs 8-9hrs of sleep a night, and now you’re in Week 2 of getting an average of… what does that smart watch of yours say?” – “……5hrs and a bit,” I mumble.
“Send me your location. I’ll find you a place to stay. You need to sleep tonight.”
He does find a place. It’s 4km off course, but he says the place sounded incredibly friendly, and that they’re waiting for me. If I hurry, dinner will still be served and available. So I pack up my bivy, put all of my food into a separate bag (I’m shocked by how much it is, and briefly play with the idea of tossing it all) and run. I run for only the second time today, 4km, and I’m not fast, but I’m also not crying anymore. I rush through fields of purple, heather blooming all around me.
It’s gorgeous. I wouldn’t have found this place if not for Denis and this place promising food and beds in the woods. I arrive with 10 minutes to spare, tumbling into the mostly empty dining room. “Ah! The one we were told would come on foot! Welcome!” A woman gets up to greet me.
And that’s how I ended up in an anti-fascist wood camp.
The bad news: Bluie, my trusted cappie, who, even though I’d only known them for two days of levy walking…. is gone. The good news: “I now have a memento from the anti-fascist wood camp,” I think to myself, as I trundle off the campground area, after having stuffed myself with coffee and Brötchen that morning. Bea, the camp coordinator had been reluctant to give me the hat.
But as a fellow ginger, she couldn’t possibly let me go without one.
After sleeping nearly 10hrs, I feel alive again. Healthy. Hopeful. I can feel how my poor aching body tried its darned best to stitch me back together again overnight. And when I hit the woods, and see the purple heather bloom…
I run for the first 10km of the day, which I excitedly text Denis. “I’m running!” Well. Its probably more akin to scuttling, but it’s faster than walking, both feet are off the ground and I tick all the necessary boxes to call this a slow, but definitive RUN.
Around noon, which, due to my very relaxed start, is not too long after I’ve left camp, I begin walking again, eating 200gr of nuts as I hike on. Rain clouds tower above me, and when it finally hits, I scuttle off towards one of the hunting stands in the woods.
And because I still need rest, and its raining anyway, I eat a bit more and nap.
It’s a much sweeter rhythm than the madness of the days before.
The rest of the day passes in relative comfort, the kilometers clicking by, and my body capable and willing to move. I meet a few people, who I ask for the next opportunity to get some water. They point me towards a restaurant 4km south, 1km off route, but it’s worth it. I barricade myself into the restaurant bathroom to charge my phone and fill up on water. Two elderly ladies – it seems like only elderly people live in these parts of Germany, from what I can tell – ask what the heck I’m doing. “I’m… on a run from the Lowest to the Highest point of Germany!”
What I’ve noticed on this trip is the unquestioning acceptance of what I’m doing. No one wants to know why. And I don’t have to think about that question – last year’s trip was so much easier to explain. But the fact that they don’t ask doesn’t give the opportunity for any sort of emotional connection. I feel like I’m marching through a country of robots. “YES YES DO YOUR HIKE GOOD LUCK!” – “But… who are you? And don’t you want to know me?” – “GOOD LUCK PLEASE KEEP WALKING.”
It makes this trip feels more isolated than the last one.
I haven’t hit my kilometer mark for today when I spot what looks like a solidly built hunting stand in the distance. The sun will set in an hour anyway, and if I start early, I can make up for those missing 6km in the morning.
I’m glad I made the decision, as I hear a thunderstorm rumbling its way closer and closer. The raindrops smash against the metal roof with loud thuds. But I’m dry, warm and safe.
Today was a good day.