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What you are about to read is an exclusive extract from the book "In it for the Long Run" by Damian Hall, which can be purchased here from the Vertebrate Publishing website. I had a magazine commission to run a sub-three-hour marathon two weeks after my first mile run. With an hour gone I was still on target, but the struggle was getting real. On a secluded stretch I spied a fellow runner caught short and watering the plants. He apologised, needlessly, and we laughed it off. But after he ducked off to the toilet again, this time in more formal facilities, I let him run in peace.

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My alarm went off at am the morning of my 15th and final day on the Pennine Way. Already the sun was starting its slow rise over the horizon and soft light was pouring through my window. At this early hour I knew that I could pack my bag, drink a fast cup of coffee in the kitchen downstairs, and slip through the door and out of the village without anyone noticing.

I could leave, and I would never have to return. Every day is a new day, and every day you move on to some place different.

In this guide

In regular life, a bad interaction or experience can linger: often, you need to drive down the same ro, go to the same building for work, encounter the same people, the same neighbors, sleep in the same bed. It can feel hard to get away from a bad day.

But on the Camino, or the Pennine Way, or any long-distance trail, you get to walk away and never look back! For better or worse, every day is different. From the terrain to the villages and towns, to the people and the locals. So after washing my face and gulping down some coffee, I hoisted up my pack and started walking out of the village.

It was just past 5am. I had never had an earlier start, nor had I ever carried a pack so heavy. Both of these facts were due to the day I had ahead of me: miles through a mostly wild and remote landscape in the border country of England and Scotland. There would be no water sources that day, no services or pubs or food trucks or towns or villages for just about the entire stretch. It was also due to be another hot and sunny day, and while I vastly preferred this kind of weather to rain, I knew that the heat would take its toll.

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Which is a little under 9 pounds. Instead, I was grateful for the long hours of daylight that the summer days had been giving me, beginning with a sunrise around am. With a very long day of walking in store, I decided that I might as well start as soon as the sun came up. This was what it was all about: walking into the hills in the soft morning air, alone and free.

The climb out of Byrness was a doozy, and as soon as I started going up I could feel the weight of my pack pulling me back.

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But I just leaned forward and propelled myself up, stopping every once in awhile to look behind me. I was climbing above the tree-line, and soon I was above even a thin layer of clouds. The morning light was golden, it lit against the blades of grass and shone through the white puffy flowers and etched out the trail so that I could see its snaking line, winding over the hills.

I was walking down one of these hills when I fell. There was a subtle mound in the grass and as I was descending a small hill my foot hit the mound and threw off my center of gravity. But my pack was just too heavy, and as soon as I was thrown off balance my pack did the rest of the work, and pulled me toward the ground.

I felt like it was all happening in slow motion: I realized that I stood no chance against the pack and so I just sort of tipped over. I landed with my pack mostly underneath me and for a minute I just laid there, sprawled out in the grass, unable to get up easily because my pack was keeping me down. When I finally pulled myself up, I noticed two things.

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One: the end of my walking pole was now bent I had tried to catch myself with it to no availand two: a group of sheep was staring at me in alarm. All good. My strategy for the walk was to break it up into chunks. My first destination of the day was the Lamb Hill Refuge Hut, about 8-miles into the walk. On and on I pushed, and those first 8-miles were difficult and glorious. On and on and there, in the distance, the only thing for miles and miles was a little wooden hut.

I threw off my pack and sniffed around. The simple wooden shelter would be a relief in bad weather, and is used by some hikers as a camping spot. As for me, I kicked off my shoes, settled in on the wooden porch, and dug into some snacks. When I left the shelter behind, I felt a bit like I was heading back out into the great unknown. But there was a wildness to that last day on the Pennine Way. To have that great, rolling, open landscape all Kirk Yetholm woman wanted for drama free fun myself make me feel like I was alone in some far corner of the world.

The spine race and other mishaps

I loved it. I walked and I walked: up Lamb Hill, down a sharp descent. Over stone slabs and wooden planks, down the narrow path worn into the soft grass. All around were the soft, rounded hills of the Cheviots, the highland range that marks the boundary between England and Scotland.

I paused here for a photo, dropped my pack and stretched my back and stood sipping water for a few minutes, but then continued on. It was somewhere around this point where I caught up to the four Australian women who had stayed in Byrness the night before.

They had split this last stage into two days and were on their second and final day, having been dropped off somewhere a bit further back. When they saw me they stared in surprise. I was tired, I could feel it all over my body, but I also felt like I had found a good rhythm.

I chatted for a minute but continued on: on and on and when I got to the Auchope Cairn- a huge pile of rocks that sits just before the descent to the second refuge hut- I took a break. After the break, and after the second refuge hut, I still had 7-miles to go. Clouds had rolled in and I hunkered down and set my mind firmly to the task ahead.

I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, over and over, and in this way, somehow, I would make it to Kirk Yetholm.

Planning your pennine way walk

The Schil was the last ascent of the day, a slow and steady mile and a half climb from the second refuge hut, and I remember my determination as I walked. The name felt dramatic, direct. I paused for just a moment at the base of the steepest part of the climb, and looked at what stood before me.

It was here that the route divides, giving walkers the option of either a higher or lower route. The higher route is more scenic but also more challenging, the lower route offers a much more straightforward and easy path to the finish. For me it was an easy decision: I was taking the lower route all the way.

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The day had been full of beauty and adventure, and I was done. I plowed ahead, willing myself to continue putting one foot in front of the other, savoring the last of the hills and simultaneously hoping that civilization would soon come into view. I was exhausted. Exhausted, but also quietly triumphant. I walked around the tiny village twice before asking someone to help me find my lodgings: the Kirk Yetholm Friends of Nature House a hostel with a lovely name. The man working at the hostel was so kind and thoughtful: he congratulated me on my walk, showed me to my room, and promised that he would help me navigate my travel options for the following day.

And then, after my shower, I walked over to the Border Hotelwhich has become something of an unofficial end point of the walk. Inside, if you ask, you can a Pennine Way guestbook, receive a free half-pint of beer, and a Kirk Yetholm woman wanted for drama free fun, too. He promised to buy a pint for anyone who completed the entire trail, and this tradition has lived on today, though it was downgraded to a half-pint sometime in the last few years.

After my half-pint I ordered a full pint along with a good, hearty meal, then walked back to my hostel. The sun was setting, the sky blazing pink and orange and yellow and I stood outside for a minute, watching the colors, watching the clouds shift and expand.

I breathed deeply, and thought about how I felt. I felt tired, but I also felt strong. I felt sad that my journey had ended but I felt so proud, too. The walk was done, and for now, I needed a rest. But long-distance walking has me hooked, and I knew it would only be a matter of time until I started planning the next journey.

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My 14th Day on the Pennine Way and my penultimate day! For all intents and purposes, it was a fairly standard day. I also stopped at a bakery around the corner from my bunkhouse before leaving town, where I bought a blueberry muffin that I carefully wrapped and tucked into my pack for a mid-morning snack. The walking might not have been difficult, but it was another day where I felt like I was dragging. Or, maybe, this is just long-distance walking. But, as usual, there was nothing to do but keep walking, and so I did. Then, in the middle of a great stretch of empty moorland, I felt desperate for a break.

But then, shortly after the break, I managed to get myself off track. I walked and walked, ignoring the gut feeling that was telling me I was wandering further and further from the Pennine Way.

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