"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Un-pilgrim

Sign noting distance to Farnham, Canterbury & Dover
If you run a pilgrimage route backwards - that is, away from the pilgrim site instead of towards it, is it like playing your Ozzy Osbourne record backwards??

Today Rolf and I took the train to Canterbury (yes, you remember the name vaguely from school... Chaucer's Canterbury Tales). Then we ran "home" to Charing, a distance of 28km.

I've spent the past week in Kent, England, a stone's throw from the North Down's Way and the Pilgrim's Way, running every day on public right-of-way footpaths. Some of these go back to at least the 1200s. The 246km long North Down's Way is a newish national trail that incorporates bits of the ancient Pilgrim's Way, a historical pilgrim route that's partly eaten up by motorways now.

In the year 1170, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was hacked to death by disgruntled knights, apparently thinking they were doing King Henry II a favour (although Henry had actually hand-picked Becket for the job). The pope then canonised Becket (made him a saint) and Canterbury became a major pilgrimage site for Christians. You walked there, bought some Becket blood (seriously), kissed the shrine, and hoped for a  cure of any nasty disease or other suffering. Cool. I'm in for a panacea. My Bib foot still hurts.

Passing through Chilham village along the way
However, sadly, in the 1530s, King Henry VIII decided that it was no good that the monasteries owned over 1/4 of the cultivated land in the country (I'm sure he wanted it - or at least didn't want the monk monopoly). So, Henry started closing down hundreds of monasteries. As we all know, he also made himself head of the Church of England. He had Becket's shrine destroyed, right down to his bones. So no magic mojo left for anyone. Too bad for the Bib foot.

The whole idea of pilgrimages ... a long distance journey ... made me think of ultra running and fast packing and all things similar in our modern day. Are pilgrimages only spiritual? Are they sometimes moral quests? Is an ultra runner really a pilgrim of sorts? Are we pilgrims looking for a sacred place? Is the finish line - the destination - a "cure"? A panacea where we can kneel down, kiss the ground/rock, and have our sins washed away?

Alongside King's Wood
Well, if that's the case, I should come up pretty good after finishing the 320km +15,000 mtr (average 40km/day +2,000mtr) Transalpine Run in 40 days' time. Surely my Bib foot will be healed after that!

In other news, Aus Immi said no-can-do to my writing the citizenship test abroad, so I have to wait until October.

Back in the push-up arena, Rolf and I got into a competition and he won the first day, but then we got the smart phone app that makes you go "nose-to-phone" and his pecs were destroyed from day 1's competition. So now I am Push-up Master again :)

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