In early August 2022 I decided that, as a 50th birthday present to myself, I was going to walk across the whole of England, from the Cumbrian Village of Saint Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire, following the path of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. I began a journal of the preparation and, hopefully, completion of that trip at around the same time. As it’s getting very long I decided to start posting individual entries, but all entires will still be available in the massive, original post as well.
September 29, 2023: In the hours after I posted my diary entry yesterday the pain in my leg got worse and worse. Also, what had begun in my ankle was also now much higher, alongside my shin. Sitting in the pub and taking ibuprofen helped some but the pain shot up my leg every time I walked and it woke me up every time I shifted in bed last night. When I woke up this morning it was unbearable. I can barely walk on it at all right now.
So, yeah: I have called off my hike.
This morning I got a bus from Osmotherly down to Northallerton and from there I got a train to Manchester. The pain was so great that I decided to get it checked out at the NHS ER/urgent care, which is not far from where I’m staying tonight in Manchester. I just got back from that and the verdict is anterior tibial tendonitis and a strain of my tibialis anterior muscle, which I likely suffered while unconsciously compensating for the tendon. I’m to stay off my feet as much as possible for the time being. I can make my way around to do the things I need to do in the comically over-the-top limping way I’ve done for the past 24 hours but I’m not to hike or take purposeful walks or work out on a treadmill or anything for a couple of weeks. Eventually it’ll just get better.
I asked the doctor if there was anything I could’ve done to prevent it. He said maybe stretching it more might’ve put it off some but even the most conscientious of people tend not to put a lot of effort into stretching that particular tendon/muscle area. He said I can be happy that my calves and Achilles and quads and hamstrings and knees held up because that gets more hikers than this does. Either way, though, he said that walking nearly 150 miles in 12 days over hill and dale is just going to get a certain percentage of people. More who are older. More who have flat feet like I do. But it can get anyone. Tough break, kid.
Someone at the inn who saw me leaving this morning asked if I had given thought to following the trail the rest of the way by bus or taxi or by hitching a ride with the luggage transport company or something but I couldn’t possibly do that. I really don’t want to see Robin Hood’s Bay right now. I’m just emotionally not in any place to do that. Nor am I in any condition to be doing tourist stuff (i.e. walking) in York and London as I had planned after the hike. As such, I made all of the cancellations and re-bookings necessary to get myself home this weekend while heading down on the train. Before I left I took the rock I collected from the beach at St. Bees, which I was supposed to throw into the North Sea when I got there, and placed it with some other rocks near the bus stop at the Osmotherly village green. That’s as far as I got so that’s as far as it gets. And while I understand that people may ask me, no: I’m nowhere approaching a mental state in which I can or will consider the possibility of trying again next year or some other time in the future. I’ll never be less-equipped to consider that than I am right now. That’s for another day.
I’m impossibly sad about this. I’ve cried more than once since last night and I probably will again tonight. I spent so long preparing for this and looking forward to this and it’s hard accepting that my body gave out while my mind was still willing. It’s particularly hard knowing that it gave out from simple overuse while I was walking across flat, boring farm fields. It’d be way easier to accept this if I had wrenched my knee topping a fell, broken my ankle scrambling down a boulder, or dislocated my shoulder getting pulled across a raging beck. I was prepared for failure due to more obvious injury, horrible weather, or even mental breakdown. I was not prepared to just . . . wear out.
Eventually I am going to feel differently about this. Eventually I’ll focus more on the 75% of the Coast to Coast I did complete rather than the 25% I did not complete. I’ll cherish my memories of walking through the Lake District, the Pennines, and Swaledale, of all of the people I met along the way and of all the interesting sights I saw. That’s not today, though. It’ll take a bit of time for me to be zen about this. Today the only thing that is making me even a little bit happy is that I experienced efficient public transportation and socialized medicine — both of which worked really damn well, comrades — and that I get a bonus dinner at Bundobust tonight and a bonus breakfast at The Koffee Pot here in Manchester before I go home tomorrow.
I had planned to take off all of next week as I finished my hike and hung around England for a few more days. I’ll probably still do that even though I’m going to be home. This hurts and I need some time.
Thanks for following along everyone. Your encouragement helped me more than you’ll ever know. I’m sorry this didn’t end the way I, and I presume all of you, hoped it would. It would’ve made for a much better read.
Other Coast to Coast Diary entries:
- Preparation: Coast to Coast planning, training, and general farting around
- Preparation: September 14, 2023: Hanging around Manchester
- Preparation: September 15, 2023: Another day hanging around Manchester
- Preparation: September 16, 2023: Traveling to St. Bees
- Walking Day 1: September 17, 2023: St. Bees to Ennerdale
- Walking Day 2: September 18, 2023: Ennerdale to Seatoller
- Walking Day 3: September 19, 2023: Seatoller to Grasmere
- Walking Day 4: September 20, 2023: Grasmere to Glenridding
- Walking Day 5: September 21, 2023: Glenridding to Shap
- Walking Day 6: September 22, 2023: Shap to Orton
- Walking Day 7: September 23, 2023: Orton to Kirkby Stephen
- Walking Day 8: September 24, 2023: Kirkby Stephen to Keld
- Walking Day 9: September 25, 2023: Keld to Reeth
- Walking Day 10: September 26, 2023: Reeth to Richmond
- Walking Day 11: September 27, 2023: Richmond to Danby Wiske
- Walking Day 12: September 28, 2023: Danby Wiske to Osmotherly
- Injury and The End: September 29, 2023: Back to Manchester and a visit to the NHS
- Finally: The entire Coast to Coast Diary — all 55,000 words of it — if you’re not into the whole brevity thing