Day 41 of the challenge has seen me pulled through a difficult morning through the strengthening of a new friendship while walking 12 miles and climbing a further 859 feet.

I dreamed my alarm clock went off this morning so got up, went to the loo, switched on the lights and started my morning routine before glancing at my alarm clock to confirm that I had switched it off and through my slightly drowsy brain realising that it was in fact only 1am. It took a couple of double takes and the reinforcing of the realisation through the squinting at my watch to believe it was still only 1am. As it sank in, rather than getting frustrated with myself I started to giggle a little as I thanked my lucky stars that I had not been planning an early morning run.

While a border at school in Somerset I realised that I wasn’t as fit and strong over long distance runs as some of the other boys so set about a regimen of early morning runs to start to improve my distance running. One morning, my alarm went off and I switched it off rapidly then started to get changed in to my running kit, in the dark, so as not to wake the rest of the boys in the dormitory. Wondering in my sleepy head why it was still dark as I put on my trainers, I guessed that it must have been a cloudy morning. Yet, as I stepped outside a clear night allowed the full moon to light up the countryside. I was still wondering why it was still so dark when it was normally getting lighter but brushed it aside with a shrug, that the days were getting shorter as we headed in to Autumn, and off I went for a run. It was one of my favourite routes that I had been shown by a senior pupil who supported my intent to get better at distance running in preparation for the inter house cross country event. Across muddy field and muddy field I ran, at one stage running arms outstretched along the side of a grassy bank on which a number of sheep tracks ran. Thin, narrow paths that were fun to run along with the arms out for balance, giggling a little with each slip before back in to another muddy field, still smiling as I breathed deeply, the cold mud splashing up my legs, the condensation from each breath billowing over my head in to the cool Autumn morning. Eventually I got back to the house and stretched off, the sweat evaporating off me in a swirl of fine mist visible in the bright orange street light outside the house, the mud drying on my legs in flakes. I took off my trainers to avoid a ticking off from the matron and crept back in to the house, in to the dormitory, still shrouded in darkness, with the restless noises of sleep. I grabbed my towel and went for a shower. It was Baltic. The coldest shower I think I have ever had. It just didn’t make any sense. The water was normally warm. The boiler had to be broken but I needed to get the mud off so on I persevered soaping myself down and rinsing as quickly as I possibly could, struggling with the sharp intakes of breath each time I dived under the cold shower. Job done, out I walked and towelled myself down rubbing vigorously to try and warm up. The plumbing started to clunk away as the heating came on. Puzzled as to why the heating was coming on so late I walked out of the shower room, across from which, on the wall, was a clock. 4 o’clock in the bloody morning!!!! I had dreamt that my alarm clock had gone off so vividly that I had just been for a 6 mile run at 3 in the morning. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, as I told myself how stupid I had just been through my chattering teeth, as I crept through the slowly warming corridor back to the dormitory and the welcoming warmth of the duvet.

The memory fading in to the sleep induced by the warmth of the duvet helped me this morning to drift back in to sleep once I returned to bed. So I did get some more sleep but not, it would seem, enough. I was organised, and the children were being particularly efficient so with no panic and a confidence that all was in order I said goodbye to the children, took Georgie out of retirement and headed for the bus stop. As I sat there waiting for the bus I started to feel the slight bubbling of a seizure behind my nose. I otherwise felt okay and was pretty certain that it would pass. I just needed to take some exercise. Bus taken and on to the train for Edinburgh I sat with a very nice chap who again departed with a promise to look up the challenge. I hope he had meant to get off at Polmont and that he hadn’t just chased jumped off the train to get away from me!! I was feeling okay and very much looking forward to linking up with Allie, the delightful woman I met on the train down to London for the christening of my nieces, and who wanted to come and join me for a hill climb. The tingling was still there but would pass. I arrived bang on time, Allie was waiting for me, we said hello then sat down to work out on the city map how best to walk to the start of the hill walk. A distance I have now measured as 3 miles. As I struggled a little with the fizzing in the back of my nose I said nothing but was glad to have had Allie volunteer to come with me. I was concerned as to how I was going to deal with the hustle and bustle of the city in the maze of city streets where a good sense of direction in relation to a knowledge of the city was more important than a compass bearing. I put my compass back in my pocket and off we went, me trying to focus on the conversation flowing between us rather than what was flowing behind my nose, which brought to mind the element of a sermon I listened to at the Elim Church 100th birthday celebrations, in which the growing faith within an individual could be like the bubbling of super heated water below the Earth’s crust, growing and growing in pressure before bursting out of the Earth in a glorious plume of a geyser. I swallowed hard and convinced myself that I was not about to turn into a geyser and that the feeling would pass now we were walking. I was struggling to concentrate but Allie was sharp and kept us on tack through the city and to the start of the walk. Still the conversation flowed but I realised on a couple of occasions that I had lost the track of what I was saying or interjected at inappropriate moments to do a map check when Allie was trying to say something. I was just frankly struggling to get the brain to be able to interact within a normal social construct of conversation and navigate or avoid getting run over at the same time. Allie gently stopped me getting run over as we crossed roads and kept us on track to the car park at the start of the walk while I fought to get my cognitive norms functioning properly. To get the brain to function through the fuzz.

We got to the start of the walk and map orientated we set off Allie confident that I knew where we were and where we were going. I was, just not so sure how we were going to get there as I fought to contain the brewing geyser. As we progressed, though not perfect navigation, Allie’s patience and trust in me paid off and the brain was starting to work again. The fizzing was still there but the brain was functioning. After another map check we approached the club house to the golf club at Braid Hills. I caught sight of some tables side on to us through the French windows leading out to the area through which we were walking and then suddenly and without warning the geyser erupted. I had a massive déjà vu. I had been here before. At the table in the club house was sat the faded image of a man and woman in their mid fifties laughing together as they enjoyed a coffee and then, just as we got to what was about to happen in this déjà vu, the whole picture went fuzzy like the black and white dots and lines passing up the television screen when reception is lost. This image came complete with the static white noise before the flickering white lines returned to a faded repeat image of the couple at the table again, drinking the same coffee and laughing in exactly the same way as before. I was stuck in a repeating loop of an edit of an old film but had no idea what was about to happen as the pressure inside me built, the metallic tastes and smells becoming overpowering, my legs feeling as if they were about to buckle I grabbed for Allie who immediately realised I was struggling and offered to sit me down at a bench. I was scared. Every time I tried to look at the club house the static lines flicked across my line of sight and the couple were back in their chairs drinking coffee and sharing a joke at the table. I had to walk on and as I did so grew, slowly but surely, stronger. The fizzing sensations subsided the seizure over. The head cleared but I still had that most unnerving feeling that not only had I been here many years before but that something quite unpleasant had happened.

Allie was a rock and seemed to understand that I didn’t want to go over what just happened but instead hear more about her story as we finished the short climb up to Braid Hill. We sat in the bench at the top chatting away while we ate our lunch impressed that Allie had a vegetable snack box fit to rival my veggie pick and mix bag. The view was great. The rest of the walk was great as we moved onto descend from Braid hill and climb to the top of Blackford Hill. Again great views over Edinburgh and more nice people met and promises secured to go and look up the challenge. I was feeling great and normal again. 6 miles completed on the walk and another 3 miles completed on the way back to the station the walk was over but there was just enough time to get a take away Mocha and a flapjack before time for a celebratory hug which for me was also a hug of huge thanks for not only being there to steady me after quite such a powerful and unsettling seizure and for being able to sense my need at the time and bring me back and keep me grounded with friendly chat but also for being able to keep me on track and safe as we navigated the streets of Edinburgh to the start. Allie thank you so very much for being there. I can’t promise but will try and ensure that the next time I will be a little more together!!