And we did the walk, all 87 kms of it. At the moment I'm still running on the fumes of adrenaline and I ache a lot less than I expected to. In fact, the the thing that hurts the most is the palm of my hand which I grazed when I slipped over on some wet stones and was lucky enough to get my hands out to break my fall and not smash my nose in. After this I rolled over like a sack of potatoes and was stuck on my back, lying on my rucksack, looking like a turtle trying to right itself. The lack of blisters I put down to having a very good pair of walking boots that I've been using for over a year now and when I had the vaguest threat of a blister it got covered with Compeed and those little babies are worth every penny spent on them.
Although the first day is the long stretch of 49 kms it's easier walking because it's in Niedersachsen where it's pretty gentle, mostly flat, with only very gentle hills. After 10 kms you get your first glimpse of the Brocken and at that point I couldn't quite believe that I was going to get there. Setting off at 6.00am with 400 other people was both exciting and irritating because for the first couple of kilometres we were a clump and it was difficult to set a pace and not be jostled but gradually we spaced out, it became less frenetic and after five kilometres we'd all got the space we needed and there were loads of stretches where you couldn't see too many people. Climbing on the second day takes you into a completely different landscape which is much more forested and hardly any open land. Every now and again there would be a break in the trees and if it hadn't been misty and raining we'd have had brilliant views. Luck was with us and for the final 10kms the rain stopped and there was no wind – there was no sun either but it didn't matter, it wasn't raining.
There were so many fantastic things about the weekend and I can't remember when I last enjoyed myself quite so much and felt so good about so many things. Some of the real highs were: seeing poppies and cornflowers for miles and miles; the goats standing on their hind legs to eat leaves from the trees; the rest stop with hot soup when it was raining; knowing that it was only 2 more kilometres on that first day; the restorative power of chocolate; the encouragement of other walkers; realising on the second day that there were only 4 kilometres left to go; dancing in walking boots; doing the walk with Johnny; the fun and the laughing; the clapping and cheering; the three young children who did it; the dutch guys – 'we have no hills in Holland'; the start and the finish and the bits in between, even the rain.
And the lows: I simply can't remember them now and I probably just imagined them.