Thursday, 14 July 2011

Kungsleden - a dream come true

Sitting in the warmth of the flat after a hot shower, I cannot believe that a couple of hours ago I was running on Kungsleden. That I ran most of the 22 kilometres to the first cabin and back.

A change of plans. Originally I wanted to run to the cabin on Friday, seeing as the weather was supposed to be better then. But there are so many other things I want to do in the short time we are here, so many places I want to visit. So it had to be today. Alone, because J's niece has a cold.

I filled my Camelbak with water, packed my Inov-8 rucksack with warm clothes, food, my Nikon and other necessities and left just after 8.30. My revised strategy was to run walk the distance, knowing that there would be no way I could run the whole route, not today, not with so little terrain training. So I started off by walking the first couple of kilometres that just climbed up the mountain side and started running when the ground got flatter.

The solitude was striking. I couldn't see a living thing. In the distance I could hear the sorrowful cries of the plover. Never was I lonely, even though I was alone. My soul was at peace in these eternal surroundings. I felt so little, so insignificant, a speck of dust in the universe.

They say that time does not exist without the movement of matter. It's easy to believe that time stands still in this environment of ancient, majestic, motionless giants and endless, undulating grass fields. Yet, the place is bursting with wildlife; not just plover, but all sorts of birds that make their nest on the sides of the mountains. Reindeer seek food on the hills and drink water from the ice cold streams. Lemmings bolt at the sight of humans and hide under rocks.

See it?
I ran on. Started meeting people on their way from the cabin to the village. Couples. Families. Friends. Pensioners and kindergarten aged children. The wind was howling at certain places where the mountains did not protect me, and with it came a freezing rain.

The single track trail was littered with stones, roots, brooks. I had to stop often and walk, then run 50 metres, then walk again. The idea of twisting an ankle did not appeal to me.

My strength was starting to leave me. I had no idea how much I had run or how many kilometres were left to the cabin. Suddenly, a familiar view appeared before my eyes. After a sharp bend in the trail, I saw the river that flows past the cabin. I was relieved. The cabin could not be far. It meant warmth, it meant food, it meant shelter. A sign soon informed me that there were 4 kilometres left. 

I pushed on as the trail became more and more treacherous. A large stream that cascaded from the snow fields higher up on the mountain cut across the trail like a sore in the landscape, with two meter high walls on each side. I climbed down carefully, as the slippery stones gave way under my feet causing minor landslides. I could see no way across the stream without getting my feet wet, and for a moment, my courage left me. Had I come so far only to turn back a mere kilometre before my destination?

I found a relatively dry passage and got across. The trail was nowhere to be seen, and I spent a few minutes wandering around looking for it. Once I found it, I started running again. Finally, the cabin was there.

The cabin host came out to greet me. He said he had seen me running and was worried that something had happened. I told him I just needed to get warm and eat some food, and that I would soon be on my way again. He showed me where the kitchen was, and I collapsed on a chair.

Several people were using the cabin, some of them as a temporary respite from the road to cook some food, some who had spent the night there and were getting ready to go. Everyone seemed friendly and in a good mood. These were like-minded people. I felt warmth not only in my body, but in my heart too. 

I was reluctant to leave the cabin and get out in the rain again. My only consolation was that it would mostly be downhill on the way back, and the thought of a hot shower when I got home. Sure enough, more kilometres were logged running back than running to the cabin. I hardly had to walk. There were more people on the trail now, and the feeling of solitude disappeared.

I got to the cabin, and the long awaited shower felt as good as I had imagined. My feet looked terrible, and I wouldn't be surprised if a nail falls off in the days to come. My knees had taken a beating too, bearing so much weight on the downward slopes. But the emotional satisfaction I got from making this dream come true made it all worth it.

18 kilometres of pure running, of a total of approximately 22. Elated.

1 comment:

  1. wow, imponerande! vilken härlig känsla det måste vara att uppnå ett sådant mål till slut!