“It’s been almost two weeks since my visit to North Wales and hopefully in two weeks I’ll return to it, Covid depending, to run my version of the Snowdonia Marathon.” – I wrote this a few weeks ago now. Anyone living in the UK will know that Covid caused Wales to pull up the drawbridge and enter a national lockdown. On the day of what should have been the Snowdonia Marathon I went for a walk in the Wye Valley, close to the border between England and Wales and stared across the valley at my homeland, so close to touch and so far to miss.
I was recently told about the Welsh word; Hiraeth. It has a variety of different meanings in English. The word Hiraeth is mainly used to describe a feeling of homesickness for the soul; a longing to be where your spirit lives. It fits on every level to how I feel about Snowdonia, a land I’ve never lived in but is such a part of who I am, ever since I was a child. More so than ever before it is a place I long for.
Sometimes Hiraeth is used by Welsh people to describe their admiration for the beauty of the landscape of their country. The photos in this post encapsulate this feeling for me. Wether it’s the high peaks, the endless trails running like arteries through the slate encrusted land or the lakes that lie as a dormant and shimmering reminder of times gone by. I’ve lived in India, spent a month in New Zealand and only their beauty comes close to the Welsh mountains.
It can also include grief or sadness for who or what you have lost, losses which make your “home” not the same as the one you remember. For me this is the loss of my Nain, her house was on the other side of the valley from where the photo at the end of this post was taken and she would look up at the same mountain as I am here. While she was alive it was why Snowdonia Marathon was my favourite race as it ran past her house and other family members’ houses and why the race will always remain so close to my heart.
I had hoped to run the route on what would have been the day of the race, to recreate it all as best I could. I wrote an Instagram post about this word two weeks before the Welsh Government announced a ‘firebreak’ a short, sharp lockdown to try and regain control of the Coronavirus. I was due to travel to Snowdonia on the day the firebreak came into force, it was heartbreaking and understandable in equal cruel measures. I let myself dwell in the negative hue of Hiraeth, of being so close to the place I long for but knowing that I cannot step upon it.
So I came up with an alternative challenge to still complete the 26.2 miles on the weekend that the race should have taken part. But once again 2020 threw one of it’s many curveballs and my knee injury that I have been battling since May last year came back with a vengeance. I attempted to run a 5k on the Wednesday only to have to limp home, utterly devastated that my body had once again crumpled against the strain of training.
So just like that I watched helplessly as the weekend that has been my cenotaph to my Nain, to my homeland and to my identity passed unmarked. It is a hard loss to grapple with.
My plan is now to travel across the border when it is legal to do so (Wales has exited their lockdown by England is now in one) and when my body can cope with the strain of running one of the toughest marathons in the UK. Until then I’ll carry my Hiraeth for every mile regardless, until my soul is home again.