One week on.
It was almost exactly a week ago that I was running through the streets of New York for the first time. I remember vividly splashing through the fairly empty streets of Broadway towards 52nd street when a makeshift finish line was constructed. Now I am at JFK airport, in the posh Virgin lounge no less (Thanks Jill for sorting this, beats going to Costa for a stale sandwich) trying to make sense of all of this. I still haven’t, perhaps I never will. I think some time on my own and being reunited with my home and my friends might help all that.
So, a summary of what I have been doing and feeling in the past week. I have felt a little overwhelmed by the big city to be honest. More so that I felt when I arrived in LA and if I came here straight from London I would probably not let it bother me too much but everything just feels too busy and fast right now. Having spent so much time running along roads with nothing but the occasional dead animal I feel a bit overstimulated here.
The first few days were hard. The desire to explore New York was restricted by aching feet, waves of tiredness and perhaps most upsettingly disabled by a feeling of indifference. I am in New York, so what? What is so great about this place? Why would anyone run for two months to get here? This made it quite frustrating (particularly for Gemma) for me seeing the sights. We went up Rockefeller tower (a bloody great big building) in order to get a view of other bloody great big buildings. I did not take any photos, there was no need to, there are photos already on Wikipedia.
The second day we met up with Rainer and two of his friends Matthaus and Dani to do a walk of the city. We probably walked in total for about 8 miles, stopped in a few pubs along the way. Many times I just thought “why am I doing this? My feet hurt I could just get a cab home if I want”. Now that I don’t have to be on my feet then why should I? I managed to brave it out though and complete the 8 miles of walking.
It got a bit better later in the week. I am really enjoying the food and the task of replacing some of the 12kg I lost during the race.
Yesterday we went to Fire Island, a sort of holiday beach island that I think New Yorkers use as a holiday place, not so touristy. One of the things that I wanted to do on finishing this race was to go to watch the Atlantic Ocean. About 75 days ago I dipped my feet into the Pacific for the first time and at points during the race I just thought about the sound of the sea. I thought about the sound of waves gently crashing against the land when I was sitting on a chair under a parasol on day 18 trying to avoid a disaster. I thought about that sound many more times during the race where I felt I needed to relax and take myself away. It worked usually and now I was just indulging myself with that sound.
And funnily enough when I was listening to the waves I was taken back into the race. The anchor I used to get me out of the stressful situation can now be used to get me back there. I like this. I still am having problems processing this adventure but re-living it in this way might help. While I was lying on the beach in perfect safety and comfort my mind drifted to when I was sat in that chair, very ill, 23 more miles to stagger while not being able to eat and letting my body chew itself up and with the very real prospect of getting pulled out of the race, ending my dream.
There are other anchors I used to get me out of the race, imagining what it will be like when I see various friends for the first time when I get back, what the first Wednesday night run will be like, looking at my map in the clubroom and being able to say “that’s done”. I might have to go to the clubroom early so I can do that one on my own, it could get emotional.
I have been away from the UK for 80 days now, more than I have ever been away before. I am just really looking forward to getting back home. I feel like I am still just hanging around at the finish line which is perhaps why I have not switched off from the race yet. 2 nights so far this week I have had a dream where I knew I have finished the race but for some reason I am running around in New York looking for the end and I cannot find it. It never comes.
Dear 4am, we need to talk. I have tried not to let it bother me for the last few weeks but now I must say something. It’s not working out. It felt quite exhilarating and refreshing at the start but now after more than two months I think the magic has ended. It’s not you, it’s me. You have always been there for me over these past 70 days and I appreciate that but I don’t think we are right for each other. It is with a heavy heart that I say today I think we should go our separate ways. I have changed so much this summer and I think I need a change. I know you will be able to make someone else very happy someday and really hope you find that special someone, but it is not me. I hope we can still be friends and perhaps one day we will meet again and I hope that moment will not be too difficult for both of us, but for now it is goodbye. I will never forget you.
Day 70. I have had visions of how this would look for about 69 days and in reality it was much different. I though the night of day 69 would be a great relaxing evening of eating and drinking and celebrating a job almost done before a glory canter into New York. Instead it was a stressful long night of trying to figure out what we would do if New York shut down. One of the scenarios was that we would not get to cross Washington Bridge and hence not actually get into New York. It was only 8 miles from the finish line but imagine doing the Los Angeles to New York race and then having to live with the fact that you never actually made it to New York.
This made me feel a little down today. In the morning we discovered that it was very unlikely that the bridge would be closed but that did not change my mood. I have felt a bloating in my stomach for 3 days now which I thought might be a stomach problem but it wasn’t. I think it was nerves. And now at the beginning of the last stage of the race that has been consuming everything I have for the past 69 days I just felt so empty. There was no excitement or anticipation anymore, very little emotion.
I have been warned by a few veterans of this kind of think to expect a 2 week funk after the event while I try to adjust back to normal life and wake up to the reality that the incredible thing you are doing is now done and in the past. I have experienced this in some of the races I have done before but in each case I have had another race to think about in the future which normally helps. Now I have nothing. Could it be that I have started suffering the post race depression before the race has actually finished?
The first few miles were through the busier and busier rolling roads of New Jersey. It was a staggered start today with Myself, the Japanese, Serge, a slightly more mobile Patrick and Phillippe starting off with the “Slow” runners at 5am. Alex, Markus, Jenni, Anneke and Girard were to start at 6 and Rainer, Italo and Peter at 7. It was perfect conditions for running, cloudy and cool like it has been for a few days.
The day slipped by quickly, soon I was at half way and at this point Rainer passed me running so fast I could not believe it. Italo as soon after trying to get the 3.18 hours he needs on Patrick to get second place. He got 2 hours of that in the first half of today and soon after Italo passed me Patrick did too, realising that his 2nd was now very much under threat.
I just plodded along at my usual pace expecting at some point the significance of the day to catch up with me but it was not happening. I thought “just wait for the bridge, it will get better when I get to the bridge”. When I did get to the bridge it started pouring with rain. I was impressed with the structure but in the cloud I still could not really see New York. It was quite exhilarating passing the bridge with the noise of the cars rattling it. Once I got off I was in New York and only about 7 miles from Times Square where the finish was.
Most of the last few miles were on the riverside path which was pleasant as New York (the city that never sleeps) had been tranquilised with weather channel scaremongering. There were a few people out for a run but very little traffic and not so many people wandering around.
Laurie and Bennett were supporting too while Gemma was sometimes running with me. Whenever I stopped for a drink every 3 miles I did not really know what to ask for or what to say. I wanted this to be the perfect day for over a year now and it was not living up to that. Gemma ran along the river section with me while we talked about what hurricane Irene (later downgraded to “tropical storm” Irene and by the time I post this blog with will be downgraded to dog fart Irene) had done to this city.
2 miles left I left the river to head onto Broadway towards Times Square. It got a bit better. I have run for nearly 800 hours and I have about 20 minutes left. I had to look intensely at the turn sheet though so that these confusing roads did not mean I ended up somewhere else. I was trying to then find 57th Street where the hotel was and then heard the incredibly loud sound of a horn and Rene running towards me. The finish line was outside (I was expecting it to be inside) and without really thinking about it too much I found myself on the other side of the finish line.
It was a great atmosphere at the finish with some of the runners and all the support crews there. Laure had wanted this to be a low key race which is why there was no media coverage or fanfare in the places we went. Every now and again someone would find out about the race and make a noise but on the whole we crossed the USA unnoticed. I was fine with this and she said about lack of media at the finish that they would make it look like it’s all about one moment, crossing the line. It’s not, it’s about 70 days of unique experience at only the 16 of us would really understand. I still feel a bit down about it now but I know that it will sink in soon and I will realise the magnitude of what I have done.
I have so much more to say about this race and will be doing so in the next few weeks. Right now my brain is just an empty space, unable to really think about anything. Gemma is a bit worried about my silence but she needs not to be. It will pass.
I have just run across the United States of America. I just need to say that to myself a few more times and then perhaps I will believe it. And then my emotions should come back.
Day T minus 1
OK, not too much time for a blog today , I thought I would have lots of time but we have just had a long meeting about what might happen tomorrow regarding the hurricane Irene.
It’s due to hit late tomorrow, after we have run but there will be heavy rain perhaps spoiling our run. The problem is New York is closed, and Washington Bridge may be too.
It is possible that the bridge will be closed before noon in which case not many of the runners will make it across. In that even the race will end at the start of the bridge, in New Jersey. So I will have run the LANJ race. Does not sound quite as appealing.
The finish has been changed. Central Park is closed so we can not finish there nor can we do our staged finish. Instead we will finish on the 7th floor of the Novotel in times square, emerging from an elevator soaking wet. That is of course if we even get into New York.
Tomorrow was meant to be a nice stroll to glory but now it has become a headache. Damn nature interfering with our ultras.
Anyhoo, let’s hope this hurricane does not hit till later. I am not too worried about being indoors for all of Sunday.
Anyhoo, today was great. I felt quite relaxed when running the last few hills of the USA and in some busy roads. It was half nice half horrid but I enjoyed myself today and always thinking of “this time tomorrow” while doing it.
And then a great surprised, at around 16 miles Laurie popped out of some trees. She and Gemma had been plotting this for ages and it was a real shock to see her I could not think of anything to say but I had suncream in my eyes soon after as I thought about tomorrow. Laurie was here at the start and it will be so great to have her there at the finish too.
Patrick still struggled today but comfortably managed the cut off. His second place might be in jeopardy though as Italo today ran like Rainer and smashed the 47.4 miles in 7 hours and is now I think just 4 hours behind Patrick.
I can’t really think of anything else to say right now. I have an earlier start than expected so need to get to bed. But I need to get ready. No faffing tomorrow I have to get to that bridge before they may close it.
Day T minus 3 – Lancaster to Kutztown – 50.5 miles
“Who is this new young good looking chap? And where is that smelly tramp who has been hanging around for the past 2 months?” Well no one actually said it but I am sure they all thought it. My new shaven face was certainly a discussion point this morning and during the stage. I still look in the mirror and not quite recognise myself, I have lost so much weight and it really shows now in my naked face. I am not sure whether I should try to get fat again when I finish this, saves me having to buy new clothes.
The race briefing this morning was long. I think Laure was frustrated by people going wrong yesterday (or perhaps by people complaining about it) so she went through all the turns. I can’t see how anyone could really complain about yesterday. It was basically one person going wrong and then lots of people sleep running, our own stupid fault.
But for some reason today at the start my head was not in it again. We are so close now yet the thought of 3 more 50 milers and then the last day just feels like too much effort. I commented to Gemma in the early stops that today does not feel like it is going very fast. I was not talking about actual speed or time but by my own perception of it. I knew I was going along at about the same pace as usual but it just seemed to drag which in this race for me is so much worse than actual times. Yesterday even having done the extra distance the miles seemed to pass quicker. I moaned to Gemma that today was going to be long.
The town of York was lovely but soon we were on the busy roads again where I feel less and less welcome. Drivers pulling out of side streets and turning right do not seem to look right before pulling out and I have to be really careful of this. With 4 days to go no one is going to pull out now with blisters, fatigue, shin splints or diarrhoea. Getting run over by a car though will bring an end to it though. We all need to be careful now.
I have not really spoke much about Patrick on this blog. He is a really nice guy who does not speak English but I get the impression he is the joker of the French crowd. He is currently in second place and is obviously a fantastic runner but recently he has slowed and today he looked a cripple at the start. At some point I saw him go to the side of the road to take a leak and then have to be helped back onto the road by his wife and Girard. He could still run faster than me though. Whatever his issues were they must have eased at he slowly slipped out of view.
We passed a couple of nice places today in the middle, one in particular called Gouglasville (I think) which was a beautiful town just off the interstate. I was good to get off the busy roads even though we could still hear them. I said to Gemma “Perhaps there is a place to get a smoothie here”. It was a loaded “Perhaps”, and Gemma responded by getting me said smoothie.
We then went through a city called Reading. This was the most horrible part of the day. The city was fairly ugly like it’s British counterpart but this was quite rough to run through. The sidewalks were all smashed, people everywhere looking at you with disapproval and I was afraid to go for a piss in case I got sucked into some sort of territorial war. Not nice.
And after that there was more really busy highway but by this point my head was better and the miles seemed to be going faster again. I was still in last place, everyone seems to have found some source of speed for the last few legs that I have not. I’m not worried though. 2 more 50 mile days and then the glory leg.
Day T-2 Kutztown to Washington – 51 miles
This will be a short one as it was a long day and soon my eye lids will overpower me. Today was tough. Laure called it a “5 star day” for hardness. There were hills, traffic, lots of turns, ugly roads, busy towns, intolerable intersections and on top of that a good hour of really hard rain that promised to bugger up everyones feet.
All eyes were on Patrick this morning. He can’t walk. In the space of a week he has gone from the runner who finishes second most days to a cripple. Makes all this talk of “In the bag” feel a bit premature. Alex and I spoke at the start that we got into the “we’re so close” talk way too early. 500 miles is not that close. Less than 150 is but because we have been thinking about being so close for too long it feels like we should have finished by now.
Today started a little slow and just got slower. The first 7 miles were on a road of angry truck drivers (I don’t think they were angry I just imagined they were). Then there were a few miles of beautiful but very hilly roads which would have been brilliant but for the rain. I have loved the rain up until now but now I just think about my feet. After a rain shower my feet just burn. In the end they didn’t and overall I had nothing to complain about but I found today really mentally tough.
It’s funny, I am 3100 miles into a 3200 mile race and hence “near the end” but all I can think about is how it sucks to only be 17 miles into a 51 mile day. I can’t get myself into New York mode for some reason, I found it easy to think about it before now but all I can focus on is the next horrible mile.
The day eased up though and just before entering New Jersey a Fetchie called Jeff came out to see us. It was really great to see him and as always it would have been nice to spend more time chatting to someone who made the effort to come out and see the race. He bought some really nice tomato that got put into my sandwich and I really enjoyed it. I may change my mind about this salad stuff….
Near the end I saw Serge’s crew and asked them how Patrick was doing. They said he had been to hospital for pain killing injections and was back on the road. From what I heard he was on about 60k when I finished and was likely to miss the cut off by some time but that is OK so long as he does not miss it tomorrow. I really hope he makes it and hope that they would be lenient with the cut off if needed, if he has to crawl all day and all night to get to Central Park then let him. Come on Patrick. COURAGE.
And that was about it for today, I finished in 13.30 and will not sleep much tonight. Tomorrow is about 49 miles and then the last day. Gemma and I celebrate 2 years since our first date. She will be treated to me eating pizza in bed and then falling into a coma. I might shower beforehand though, I’m romantic like that.
Two more days, 85 miles. NOT in the bag.
Day 65 – Waynesboro to York – 48.8 miles
My legs hurt all night again, keeping me awake along with the usual thoughts of running the next stage. When I woke up in the morning I commented to Gemma that my legs do not normally hurt this much.
I don’t think I was as grumpy as usual even though Gemma said I was at breakfast when I complained about having to eat a banana. The motel put on breakfast for us and as best as I could I tried to force bagels and creamed cheese down my throat. I still have tooth ache which means sometimes I have to eat like a geriatric hamster.
Gemma got me a proper egg and bacon roll from a diner early on which went down a treat, it had a real egg in it rather than the yellow circle thing you get in the McMuffins, not that I am complaining about those though.
Today was fairly boring on the whole except for a really nice stroll through Gettysburg around half way. I don’t know too much about the battle of Gettysburg other than that it was a very important one in the American civil war where the Union army defeated the Confederates somewhere near there. Americans probably know all this from their world history lessons.
There were a huge number of historical signposts with information on which I stopped to read but it was hard trying to put it all together. Taverns where armies gathered, roads that were marched on, profiles of generals and heroes and villians. This would be a great place to spend the day as it looks like such a proud historical town. I got the sense that I was marching along the same routes that the armies would have done nearly 200 years ago. Pennsylvania is full of history, the buildings look old but beautiful. Previous states where all the large scale farming happens buildings look like they are only built to last a few years before being pulled down and replaced. I like this state.
New Oxford was lovely too and it had a McDonalds. Gemma asked me if I would rather have a sandwich that she had made with my smoothie rather than a Big Mac. It was a loaded question like many of hers such as “would you like to eat some vegetables” or “would you like to shower before getting into the bed”. It was a nice beef and cheese sandwich though.
The blister that had bothered me the past couple of days had gone and in the last couple of weeks I feel pain on the sole of my right foot just below the toes. Not sure what that is but taking my shoe off and giving it a bit of a run seems to help it. Not sure whether it might be plantar fasciitis (I hear people banging on about this one a lot). I remember reading in Marshall Ulrich’s book that he got this and his solution was to reduce is mileage from 60 a day to 40. I am doing about 50 a day and have no option of reducing. I’ll get through it.
We finished on a very busy road at a café a few miles from the motel we were staying in. On finishing we ate in the diner that managed to get our orders a bit wrong. I asked for chapped steak and eggs and got a whole steak and an omelette, Gemma got most of her gluten free dinner correctly except for the bread stacked on top. It was not too slow a day and tomorrow will be nice and short.
Day 66 – York to Lancaster – 26.9 miles
26.2 miles was the distance we were expecting but Laure said there was a diversion and now it was to be 26.9 miles. My chances of a marathon pb were slipping.
There was an announcement that Alex had a baby girl this morning (back in Italy of course) and that mother and child were doing very well. He found out just before the finish yesterday which probably explains his quick time and hasty exit. Today we had two guest runners of David (dressed as a cow) and Berangere running today.
We started on the same busy road that we finished yesterday on and in the pitch black 5.30am morning it was still quite busy. I had the turn sheet and I normally just look for when the first turn is, today it was 16.9 miles which meant I could just put it away for a few hours and sleep run and follow everyone else.
We ran along and soon we were on an interstate, it felt a little strange but I could see a long line of runners ahead so stayed with it. After about half an hour on here Bando caught me as asked if this was the right way. I was sure it was not as Laure would have told us about this, there was no way a crew could access us on this road and she would have said something to us. There was debate, Phillippe said “yes, this is good way, good way” and sped off. I thought we should just walk in the same direction till someone tells us otherwise (yeah stupid). I had no phone on me so could not call anyone.
Then we saw Fabien (Patricks wife and support) drive past and honk at us and somehow she managed to turn around to tell us all to go back. Doh. We are now further from the finish that we were at the start. I blame David. Silly Frenchman.
I was quite upbeat about the whole thing as was Patrick and Italo who soon sped past me. Rainer, Jenni, Markus and Alex had all gone the right way, the rest of us didn’t. Bando flew off, I think he was worried about missing the cut off now which could be an issue for many of us. Mr Koshita did not look very impressed though.
After about an hour and a half I met Gemma at the 1 mile point to have a drink and sandwich. I think we had probably added about 4-5 miles on with that detour. Still, 26 miles is a silly distance to run. WE ran through a pretty town (York I think) and I think we are reaching that critical point where I can no longer say hello to everyone I see. In Oklahoma where you only see one person a day its easy to do, in fact I would say hello to horses and cows too just because I was lonely. It’s going to be harder now in all these busy towns. “Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello …..” I would get out of breath quickly.
10 miles a stop in McDonalds where I was allowed an Egg McMuffin and smoothie this time. At 16 miles there was the first official turning which was on a very long bridge over a huge wide river. Can’t remember the name of the river but it was lovely to see in the sunshine.This is where I caught up with David dressed as a cow still (Silly Frenchman) and Berangere who looked like she was suffering a bit. Still I think after today they will be celebrating running their first ultramarathon. Who knows, perhaps in a few years they might end up doing something really stupid.
Not a lot else happened today though at the start we were briefed on how the finish into New York will work. We are to run the 35 mile stage as 2 groups, fast and slow (apparently I am slow). We will run to a Starbucks about 1k from Central Park and then re-group and finish the race together. I really like the idea of finishing all together but not all are keen. Oddly Bando is really against it “But it’s a race, we should race to the finish”. Bando has had a miraculous recovery recently but I don’t think in the next 5 days he is going to catch up the 300 hours he needs on Rainer.
At the end we were informed that we have now done 3000 miles, I thought that was coming tomorrow but we are already there. In fact I am on 3005 miles : )
There was an earthquake nearby today which I felt as I went into the motel room. I was too tired to really get excited about it. Later after a much needed nap I had my beard shaved off and then a hair cut. When I started this I felt like a boy amongst men. Then during the race I became a tramp amongst men. Now I really really do look like a 12 year old boy amongst men. Mauro actually did not recognise me when he saw me earlier.
Day 63 – Frostburg to Hancock – 50.6
Today was the second of the “mountain” days. I think after this it’s pretty plain sailing to New York. Yesterday was beautiful and interesting although the length of time on my feet took it’s toll. From the very first steps of this morning I felt like my feet had been battered. Wearing wet shoes and clothes from yesterday probably did not help.
The first 10k of today were all down and at the bottom of the descent was a McDonalds that I had earmarked for breakfast. We then went through a small town called Cumberland which had been written on very old mile markers for miles and miles so it must have been important back in the day. Now it is just a regular town like many others we have passed through only there were a lot more morning joggers today.
Now we are in the founding states there are a lot more interesting buildings. Ones made out of stone and brick and made to last. We have been following the “National Road” more or less from Indianapolis, one of the first national highways built about 200 years ago. It is not a very busy road but it is littered with relics from the past when the country was only 13 states. There are forts of previous battles and toll houses with prices on. To take a 2 horsed 6 wheeled carriage into Hancock would cost 6 cents I think. Not sure about a weary runner on two tired feet and a badger on his back,
I am going to learn a lot more about this area when I am done here which is not long now.
Anyhoo the running went ok. The climbs did not really start until half way and even then they were not as bad as yesterday, certainly not the first climb. There were some awesome viewpoints though, one at a place called “Town Hill” which had a great looking B&B (yes, sounds very British doesn’t it?) at the top .
Today I was excited about Gemma being at the finish though she got stuck in traffic and I am still waiting for her to arrive. I have been counting the days since we said goodbye in a rushed way in Oklahoma at the start of stage 36. It seems like such a long time ago though I have trouble now remembering what happened yesterday from the day before from the day before, like the days really are merging into one enormous tract of time. Los Angeles was two months ago (TWO MONTHS????) yet somehow it feels like that could have been years ago. My summer has been so crammed with excitement, despair, fear, hope, experience and all other emotions that by brain has probably spread it over more than a year just to stop me exploding.
Now I don’t feel like I can even measure time. I think some days “I have about 8 hours left of running today”. I don’t even know what that is anymore. 8 hours used to be a working day, or a 50 mile race, or an after work pub session getting out of hand. I don’t know why I even look at the time anymore, I just plod along and at some point during the day it finishes.
Serge said to me this morning “from tomorrow we will be able to say this is the last Sunday, and then this is the last Monday etc”. It’s true and it’s going to be awesome. This time next week I’ll be in New York. I prefer to think of it this way though.
Remember that thing I had to do ten times this summer? Well now I only have to do it once more.
Day 64 – Hancock to Waynesboro – 46.2 miles
This is the “last Sunday” of the race. No more running on Sundays after today. This time next week I won’t have to do any running. Etc
It really lifts spirits to be able to say things like that, to say to a passer by who asks “yeah we started 2 months ago in LA but this is the last week”.
Gemma arrived later than expected last night while stuck in traffic in a place called “New York” and we did not get a huge amount of sleep. I felt quite tired but so happy that Gemma was here now. Things seem much easier when she is around.
I also had a visit from John Price this morning. I had met John once at the Spartathlon 2 years ago and kept in touch with his crazy antics on Facebook. Earlier this year he ran across America pushing a baby jogger on his own. It was great to see him and he brought along some good beer and cookies too. Even better to see him : )
I started the day still being crewed by the organisation while Gemma got more sleep and it started quite well with the feeling that this will soon be over. There were a few more hills left of the Appalachians but it was not nearly as hard as the past 2 days. The roads were quiet and lovely and after about 15 miles Gemma came along and started running small sections with me. It was great to have her back. Her bum is much easier to follow than Mr Tanaka’s.
John popped up too and was taking photos and walking alongside me up some of the hills. It was great to chat to him as the last time I would have spoke to him was when I was an absolute wreck after my first Spartathlon and I did not want to talk to anybody. However I feel in this race I at least know that I would never feel that bad.
Around half way a chap pulled over (I think his name was Bennett but I may have misheard) who said he was a friend of Laurie and that he drove up from Baltimore to say hello. That was really kind and I said I was on my way to the McDonalds and that Gemma and John were there. I think they ate McDonalds together while my Big Mac and Smoothie were delivered on the road (this is the advantage of a support crew). I did not see him again but it was really nice meeting you and thanks for donating the beard trimmers : )
The second half of today felt a bit crap. The euphoria of “The last Sunday” wore off and the reality of “I still have 20 miles to go which is another 5 hours of slogging” set in. It’s funny how I have don’t this now for 63 days, run nearly 3000 miles and the thought of doing another 20 just make me feel crap. I have the blister on my little toe back that I got on the first day and it was burning a bit. I also seem to have started creating electricity and every now and then getting a shock in my balls or on my back. I think the humidity is quite high again and maybe my damp clothes are causing that.
I was a bit grumpy and sore for much of the rest and came in a little later than I would have liked but the finish was quite nice, some cookies (John’s cookies were amazing, peanut butter that just melts in your mouth which is actually a really good thing to eat on the run) and a lady (whose name I forget) with cake.
We went to a buffet later which was an experience. I know I have lost some weight recently but a womans arms should still not be bigger than my torso. Yuk.
Well today went just as I kind of hoped for yesterday, the opposite of yesterday. I woke up in a good mood but that was shortly ended by the nature of the start of this run. The town of Uniontown was like most other towns we have crossed. Broken traffic lights and uneven sidewalks (usually with an injury lawyer practice beside them). It can be hard work in the dark trying to step over all the obstacles but within 3 miles we were on a highway that put me right off running.
I don’t really pay attention to the profile of the routes, don’t really see how it will help me. Peter has been talking about “stage 62” for a while now. I just get out of bed and get given the miles and then do them at my own slow pace.
I wished I looked at this one though, the first climb was huge, on a busy road though the trucks were only doing 10mph downhill. As the sun rose I grumpily trudged up this thing for about an hour and thinking “how many more of these will we have”?
I also got a bit annoyed at Girard who seems to be able to walk as fast as I can run and he was doing it right in front of me, obviously not deliberately but I was close to asking him to at least look like he is making an effort cos I am busting a gut here.
I have been told I have a significant limp, denied by me for a few days but now I can clearly feel my body rocking more to the right and my right foot curving in more as I stagger forward. I have become one of those old men you see at races who look like they are running sideways and I remark “they should get that sorted out, it must be killing them”.
I was getting annoyed at my beard too, everything I eat now has hair in it and my beard get full of everything I eat. I can’t wait to get rid of it. End of day 66 it goes (because that’s a short day and this will be a big job).
Anyhoo, at the top of this first mountain pass was a lovely looking resort and then the rolling road from then on seemed to have nice resort after nice resort, much nicer looking places than we have stayed so far. I looked at my phone time when I knew I was at 11 miles to see how far behind the “4mph” I was and it was only about 10 minutes, not as bad as I had thought.
But the grumpiness went away as soon as the highway got less busy and the lovely trees and scenery came out, I looked back having made the first mountain climb and saw just how high we were. Earlier today we were way down there in the fog, now look at us. I think today will be a Cheryl Cole day, really pretty but really really slow.
Bando had run off again, he has had a great second wind towards the end of this race and its great to see. I ran close to Koshita and Phillippe most of the day but they got away from me and I was in last again. I didn’t mind this time though, I knew it was going to be a long slog but I was well inside the cut-off again and looking around it was just beautiful.
I nearly trod on an eagle. It was just in the road, unable to fly but it was trying to fly and get out of the way. I slowed and moved around it not sure what it might do and it managed to flap over up the embankment. I am not sure whether birds with damaged wings survive long or heal at all, poor thing.
I started to limp a bit quicker on the parts that were only slightly up or slightly down. It reminded me of yesterday when I ran past a school where a brass band were practicing. I managed to go faster than them and overtake and after doing so they all turned and cheered for me, that was quite cool.
32 miles in after lots of hills was the first McDonalds on a run I have seen for 2 days. Perhaps that’s what perked me up. Big Mac and smoothie and David insisted on recording the whole thing, me walking in ordering, eating, spilling, getting gherkins stuck in my beard.
More down and up and then David appeared in a cow costume. At first I thought it was a biker and he had a bell in his hand that I thought was a spanner or something and that it was a nut wanting to kill me. Silly French Person.
I was just really enjoying the day and then Gemma sent a picture from James Edgar’s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMES) of a load of friends wishing me good luck. That was really nice to see. Gemma is now less than 24 hours away, it’s going to be wonderful to have her back here again. It’s much nicer here than in Oklahoma too.
Two miles from the end it rained hard, David asked if I was wet and I said no, I am British and hence I am waterproof. I loved the end of today, getting really wet and heading downhill to get to the finish that they were waiting for me so they could pack away and get out of the rain. I finished and was handed lots of Guinness from David as a present so long as I promise to stop saying he is a Silly Frenchman.
So, I was hardly king of the hills today but I loved them. Actually if Budweiser are allowed to call themselves King of Beers then I am going to call myself King of the Mountains anyway.
I woke up feeling more energetic and awake than usual. Since there are so few days left I have decided to get out of bed with more of a spring and make more noise at the race briefings. It was going so well. The first few miles I ran pretty well too, no pain and comfortable. I did not eat much at breakfast though as I have toothache and the nuts were getting stuck.
Anyhoo, a few miles through what remained of Washington and then out onto some narrow roads with a fair few cars and trucks on them. It was a beautiful road spoiled a little by the traffic but I was determined not to let it get to me. Around half way we passed through a little town and there was a right turn onto a smaller road that seemed to disappear up into the sky flanked again by trees. Wow I thought, here is where the proper climbing starts.
There already had been a few hills of the day but I was expecting more and this was the start of it, a great incline at around 27 miles and it was nice but really hard to slog up. David and Rene were at the top to give me some much needed refreshment while David and I continued our “English people are Stupid because”, “No French people are stupid because….” Debate. I am clearly winning. Stupid Frenchman.
The road flattened out a bit and then there was another turn onto a very busy road. This is when I lost it I think.
I just hated it from the start. The evil camber of the road made me run lob sided and the rocks strewn into the road, the smashed up sections and truck after truck after truck just made it unbearable. Well for me anyway, I was right at the back already and thought I’d been running ok till then. My promise of staying positive was broken on this road.
I was thinking of things to be pissed off at and could not really come up with anything. These drivers are only doing their jobs. The organisation of the race is phenomenal, last night Emily drove back to the previous motel to retrieve my phone that I left there, a 2 hour trip. Seriously how many race organisations would do that? My injuries are minimal. Somehow I managed to overlook all this and stay grumpy.
An Ice-cream with about 10 miles to go lifted me a little and then seeing Bando and Koshita ahead made me feel like I was not going as slow as I had thought. Bando made me laugh earlier by finding 2 enormous sticks to help propel him up the hills. It seemed to work, he just flew off and this was the first time I had seen him for 20 miles.
The last few miles were even worse but I had run out of energy to be grumpy by then. There was a lot of walking on roads that were not made for walking. I saw a sidewalk on the other side and waited several minutes to cross and then ran down it till it ended 50 meters later and I had to cross back. Dunno why I was so frustrated today, I should be enjoying every moment. Hopefully I wont sleep at all tonight and wake up tomorrow feeling like shit. Then the day might turn out good. That’s how it usually works.
I finished and Berangere took me to McDonalds on the drive to the motel. I had a little surprise when I got back. My friend Drew Sheffield (currently in Colorado with Tim Adams and James Elson for the Leadville 100) called me to chat and then put Marshall Ulrich on the phone. Marshall ran across the US 2 years ago in a very quick time of 56 days and wrote a fantastic book about it (I recommend reading it while you wait for me to write mine : ) )
Anyway, one of the things that struck me from the book when I was reading back in the UK was how little time he had to do anything. It’s all run, eat, sleep, run, eat, sleep. Marsh was covering more miles a day than I am and so for him it would have been worse. It was great to speak to someone who knows what this is like but he said that running into New York is the most amazing thing. I am so close. Pennsylvania is just a big rectangle right next to New York. 9 more days.
Tomorrow is a tough day, I think the hilllest yet. I just hope there are no roads like the one we just ran on but I suspect they will be more frequent now.
Day 59 – Zanesville to Morristown – 55 miles
Italo woke up this morning looking more confused that usual and then broke the silence by saying “oh no, I dreamt that I had run 40 kilometers of today already and now I have to run them again”. Welcome to my world my friend, I have been doing that all race. If I could bag the miles I have run in my sleep then I would have got to New York ages ago and be half way back to LA by now.
Today was supposed to be the longest stage of the race, 58.5 miles but it was cut down to 55 and tomorrows increased by 3.5 as Laure was worried about the amount of turnings we would have to make in the latter stages. A few people have gone wrong and I think now we are not on endless straight roads anymore Laure is worried about someone ending up in Toronto.
I was my usual self, not able to eat as much in the 20 minutes I gave myself to try and wolf down as many bagels as possible. Eating enough, finding clean(ish) pants, remembering my running number all seem like too much in the morning. Only 5 days left till Gemma can help me out with some of those.
There was a surprise at breakfast (provided by the motel today, normally we have to fend for ourselves), David was back. I interrupted his conversation with Serge to give him a hug. It was great seeing him again.
The miles in the dark felt like harder work than normal and just for me for some reason. Everyone flew off leaving Alex and I at the back. Alex has been suffering with a bad shin splint for a few days and has been coming in at the back. In my and most others experience injuries have a life expectancy of about 4 days before they go away or just stop complaining, I hoped this was the case with Alex.
It was an incline which I was running and feeling OK but it would appear that everyone was wearing new shoes today because they were all in the distance. It’s impossible to see other runners from behind in the dark from more than about 50 meters so you never really know where people are.
The sunrise was the best I remember, the glowing sun sat at the end of a beautiful corridor of trees making it look like they were on fire. I have stopped taking pictures now (the humidity killed my camera phone) but that would have been a brilliant one and today generally was gorgeous.
Emily and Berangere were crewing me at the start and I no longer know what I want to drink when I get there. I just ask Emily “what do I want to drink” and she has some ideas, usually iced tea. My food box contained pringles today which I bought from a gas station the previous night. 900 calories in a little tube of easy to eat snack. That should get me through 20% of the day at least.
My energy today was generally good, only one wobble around 35 miles. I was eating small amounts constantly with the sandwiches and pringles and the occasional gel. I think the hills and scenery helped with that. I was going slower, I think the new shoes effect might have worn off though it was hilly so perhaps my pace was just as good. I just looked around and thought “I could easily cope with 12 hours of this every day for the next 12 days”.
I guy stopped to ask me for directions to Egypt Valley road, I said I had no idea about the area and he seemed a little grumpy at my response and drove off. Oh well, I used that as prompt to get my route card out of my bag and look for the next turning, half a mile, left on Egypt Valley road. I swear I’ve heard that street mentioned before.
I did pass Koshita and Ishiara though Bando was running very well and finished ahead of me. He must have got new shoes and new legs. It really is great to see him running well, I hoped to catch him to chat but he was way ahead.
Most of today was in fairly warm sunlight with trees all over and quiet roads. There was some trail too or rather gravel path. I found myself running quite well on it and thinking yet again of where this reminds me of home.
The finish was by a small motel that only Italo, myself, Jenni and Anneke were booked into as there were difficulties booking enough rooms nearby (and this was part of the reason why the distance was changed). All of the supported runners had to drive a little distance to their motels. I was relieved at just being able to stay in the place we finished and I enjoyed a prolonged stay out on the grass of the finish area just chatting and waiting for the others to arrive. We were then treated to a brilliant meal put on by the motel owners of noodle soup and pasta, really really good and I regret again not having enough time to eat it. It is hard straight after a long run, your body is screaming for food but your digestive system has gone to sleep.
Day 60 – Morristown to Washington – 50.3 miles
I had a dream last night that I had missed one of the stages and got thrown out of the race. I was trying to convince Laure that I could just catch up and run two of the stages on the same day but she was not having it. For some reason this conversation took place in Leicester. Anyway, I woke up a little relieved to find that I was still in the race and now on day 60.
In the morning Peter said that after today there are 10 stages, but the last one does not count and the 26.2 mile stage (67) does not count either so really it’s only 8 days left. Wow, 8 days left sounds much better, that’s only a week. I’m not counting my McNuggets yet but that seems really close.
Bando had a screamer yesterday. I said to him in the morning to slow down but he said “No, today I go faster, yesterday was the first day since day one with no pain”. Alex told me that Bando had been praying to every God that exists (sic) for just one day without any pain and he seemed to get that yesterday. I think he got that today too as he flew off with Rainer at the start.
We were a bit concerned about Alex who was not at the start today. He had an alarm malfunction and ended up coming 30 minutes late.
Today was an exciting one, 3 states. The milestones were 20 miles – West Virginia, 26 miles – McDonalds and 35 miles – Pennsylvania. I was expecting more of the same as yesterday which profile wise was the case but scenery wise was not. The hills were still there but instead of being off the beating track we were passing through town after town.
There was an incredible fog as the sun came up, reducing visibility to around 30 meters. It felt quite nice just to run through some towns where people were getting up to go to work in the foggy morning like I could have been running to work myself.
The miles were slow going but with the hills and intersections I was not too worried. It would be nice to get this finished under 12 to have a bit of time at the end. I ran together with Koshita for the first half and he slowed to take lots of pictures of everything. A game I like to play sometimes is “what would Koshita take a photo of?” While I am running I imagine I have a camera and that I am Koshita taking millions of photos. I don’t know how he is going to make cut-offs now we are seeing much more stuff.
West Virginia looked interesting from the start, a town called Wheeling and some huge bridges over a river. It all looked very industrial age with steel bridges. It looked really cool. Soon after there was a McDonalds (Big mac and smoothie) and then we started a long long slog uphill.
It was not that steep but anything that increases the effort you need is frustrating, particularly when all out effort still results in you going very slow. I ran most of it, getting more knackered and thirsty and just frustrated with how slowly everything was going. There were some busy sections of road where I’d get annoyed by a lorry breaking my rhythm and making me go to the side (not their fault, the road was narrow).
I saw my first live snake , quite a big black one that made me jump and he went the other way and slithered pretty quickly up an embankment. I was amazed at it’s speed and wondered whether I could have out run it if it decided to go for me. This occupied my mind for a while after.
Near the top of the long incline was the state line into Pennsylvania and with almost every mile now comes a historical marker sign describing some fort or house or refuge that helped protect the settlers from the Indians.
The last few miles were just up and down and up and down, too steep to really do anything with either. I felt my relaxation time at the end slip away as I slogged up a significant slope and then limped down the other side. This is what the next week is going to look like. I finished in 12.40, south of my “4mph” slowest ideal pace but at no point did I really hurt or suffer, it was just frustration really.
But then again, there is only a week left : )
Buoyed by yesterday’s great run I was looking forward to today. I was still my usual grumpy self at 4am, rueing the fact that I “have” to get up and today run two marathons in the name of “personal challenge” or whatever it is. I managed to keep a lid on it as I started the usual slog through Reynoldsville in the night and onto a highway where I now get the feeling the cars do not want us.
My pace had improved on yesterday yet again, I was not quite believing the numbers as it felt quite easy. I had to stop a fair bit to eat and assumed that I would lose a lot of time but it wasn’t the case. My optimistic expectation for a 52 mile day nowadays is 13 hours.
Serge ran past me around 10 miles in to say that today we pass the 100 marathon point, at 43 miles. That got me thinking that we were not too far from the 99th marathon at 17 miles and as soon as I got there I thought about running the 100th marathon of the race.
Shortly before that though I had my first sobbing moment for quite some time. I have been getting a few supportive emails from Bob Brown (winner of the trans USA 2004 race) and I had to ask him “Does the feeling of achieving this ever wear off?” He replied that it never wears off and that confirmed what I always thought but still gave an emotional response. I am going to feel pretty good about all this for a long time after, makes those 4am starts worth it.
I am also touched by the messages and comments that I get on my blog, facebook, email and text. I’ve read so many nice messages and have forgotten who has sent what but when I am done (possibly after doing some sleeping) I am going to go through all of them and thank everyone who has left kind things. I read them every morning and they really do help.
Around half way Luca and his wife D’lyn (Got the name and the apostrophe : ) ) came to join me and I had the company of Luca while I ran again. It was really nice just chatting about anything and everything while enjoying some really beautiful rolling hills of Ohio.
While chatting we both nearly shat ourselves when a bee came out from a bush and made a funny grunting sound at us. It was really weird how we both just jumped into the air because of a bee. At least it wasn’t just me.
There was a 5 minute heavy rain downpour just before the 100 marathon point and as if it were designed by a genius race director there was a McDonalds exactly at that point. What a way to celebrate?
Today just seemed to slip by without much effort at all, the new shoes, lack of injuries, Luca and D’lyn and cooler weather all helped with that. It got quite hilly towards the end and I walked some but finished in a very pleasing time of under 12 hours, over an hour quicker than I usually give myself.
The end was the usual set up of chairs outside a motel with the organisers, some runners and crew just assembled outside. Luca gave me a Columbus IPA which was a treat, really nice beer. Markus was there and later Phillipe and Koshita. We all chatted about the stage and the race generally while drinking beer (as I ordered McDonalds room service). Anneke came out as she always does to give her really warm and enthusiastically Dutch sounding “CONGRATULATIONS”. That is such a wonderful sound to hear at the end of each day, the moment that is the furthest point possible from having to do any running again. I only have 12 of these moments left (and I suspect the last one might be different). I am going to miss these moments. I might not want this to end.
Day 55 – 53.6 miles
3.30am to drive to the start of a 54 mile day which I now know will be at least 13.30 hours on my feet. I try not to let it bother me when I am awake but it bothers me when I try to sleep. Every day I think about all of the nothing that I am going to do the day after I finish this.
But the day started as most do, gentle plodding to wake up the achy parts of my body and to assess what remains after a few miles. It was the groin again today but not as bad as it has been of late. I was hopeful that I could just plough along as normal, Normal now being running like a penguin.
Today there were going to be a few treats for me, Luca was going to meet up with me at some stage as he lives in Columbus Ohio and keep me company for a while. He had also brought along some new shoes for me which were going to be very useful, I have been hammering the same 2 pairs since Oklahoma and I think my feet might be coming through the bottom of them.
Half way came easy enough and at this point I could still see Alex just ahead and Koshita and Ishiara were close by, 26.2 mile though was a significant distance today, it’s where the McDonalds was. I had a cheeseburger (not a big mac, I have to try to fit into a medium Serpie vest in 2 weeks time) and a smoothies as always and soon after in the town of Richmond I saw Luca. I had only met him once before in Badwater where he was crewing Tim Welsh but it was really great to have some company.
Luca would park the car, run out to me and jog for a couple of miles and then repeat. It was great to have someone to run with as I have been alone in the past few weeks. While running through Richmond I got my first “RUN FORREST RUN” of the race so far. 55 days in. I am astonished that it took that long. I guess it’s better that “FLAP PINGU FLAP”.
The appearance of Luca did confuse some people, Rene thought I just met a guy in McDonalds who just decided to follow me. The last 15 miles were on a long straight road where Laure said to us “I don’t know how your minds will deal with this” in the morning. It was not that bad and having Luca to talk to was great. I was doing good time too though I bonked a bit at the end, slowing quite a lot with a big energy crash. Koshita and Ishiara at this point came bounding past me with little effort at all.
Shortly before the end we passed the 4 megametre mark. It was a surprise to me as I did not think we would hit this today but was very pleased to see it. It does not feel like long since we were at the 3 megametre mark. Hopefully it won’t seem like too long that another 1000k will be knocked off.
I was quite pleased with the time and manor of the day, just over 13.30 with not too much pain. Better still Luca had a Subway and a Guinness for me at the end, much needed Iron replacement.
So, 2 weeks to go exactly (the last day does not count, like the last mile in a marathon that’s a given).
Day 56 – 48.6 miles
I had the new shoes feeling today. I joked at the start that I would win because of them but then Rainer pointed out that he too was wearing new shoes. Dammit.
But they seemed to just pull me along today. I did not hurt much really and by putting in the same effort as I have been doing the past few weeks I seemed to be going a bit faster. You might even see it and call it running.
There was a McDonalds at 6.5 miles, a little early but I had 2 McMuffins and a hash brown. No smoothie this time as they don’t melt as fast as they used to and take up too much time to drink. You have to think about these things when you are a super elite fast runner like me.
It was very cloudy to start with and it started to rain quite lightly. It was already quite cool and then I was hit by a heavy shower. A few seconds later after leaping to defend my breakfast I realised that I had just wandered into a sprinkler.
After these few miles in a town I forget we crossed a huge bridge and into “Taylorsville” park which is build around a dam and really beautiful. It was the first time for a while where we ran in trees that were not trying to kill us with their humidity. It was a wonderful few miles that I ran close to Bando who seemed to be having a new shoes effect too.
Today we were going through yet another Springfield. Not sure why so many places have that name. Most places like this involve some hideous interstate going in then a busy city then more interstate leaving. The interstate parts were the normal ugly noise but the town itself was nice. For some reason it reminded me of Leicester. Not sure why.
At half way I enquired as to where Alex is as he would usually have passed me long before. I was told that he went into a gas station early on, came out and went north instead of east and did so for quite some time. At that point he was 5 miles behind the next last runner Koshita.
The heat got to me today a little, long a nice long street cutting through many small towns I felt the sun more than I have done for some time. It was only in the low 30s. An ice lolly at around 32 miles helped this.
Near the end along a hilly high way a chap stopped me and asked If I was Alex. I said no and that Alex was a little way behind me and probably not in a great mood. Then another guy stopped me and asked if I was James. It was Scott, a friend of Debbra from my support team and he lives in Columbus and came out to give his support. At the end he provided the nest cookies I have ever seen which the whole lot of us went crazy for. Thanks Scott : )
Day 57 – New Venice to Outside Columbus – 42.6 miles
I did not sleep great, it was the last time we would have to sleep on the floor of somewhere and I think my sleeping mat is leaking. There was an explanation at the beginning of the day that the route was slightly longer (about 400m) that advertised as some of the GPS people pointed out. What is 400m out of 3000 miles? And then it was funny watching Italo not start running till his watch has a signal. I think Garmins have done to running what Simon Cowell has done to music.
But the say started really well again, the new shoes effect still strong. My pains had mostly gone (the hamstring was very sore at first) but overall everything was ok. The miles evaporated slowly as I thought about just how close I am. I get told a lot about how close it all is but it’s still over 600 miles, still a bloody long way, I have not seen any signs pointing to New York yet.
Today we were to pass through Columbus, the biggest city we pass between LA and NY and Luca was here again to guide me through his home town along with his wife (who’s name I didn’t get – even though I spoke to her loads in the evening). It was nice to have the company again and Columbus is a nice city to run in.
After the usual grim highway part there was the downtown area with the tall buildings and then we passed through some run down areas that looked like the parts of east London you pass on the Marathon route. We then headed out of the main city and finished at a motel on the highway. As soon as I had finished the heavens opened and gave us an almighty downpour which I enjoyed looking at from inside the lorry as I drank another Guinness.
Todays pace was a little faster than yesterday again. If I keep this up I might win : )
These blogs are going to become less frequent and more tired. I want to keep it going so i can remember afterwards.
Day 52 Tuscola to Rockville – 56.8 miles
Well I honestly cant remember a great deal about day 52 which is odd as it was on my mind a lot beforehand. 57 miles and on a day where we would lose an hour due to the clocks going forward for the last time. The day was going to be followed by another 52 the next day. There was actually a vote on whether to hold off on changing the clocks for another day but I voted to do it as soon as possible so that it was not on my mind anymore. Plus from then on we’d be on New York time. That felt like a step closer to the finish.
I took one of my “in emergency break glass” things today. I wore my MP3 player for the majority of the run. I spoke to Jenni who said that her feet were ok and her body is ok but her mind is not ok. Does not sound like an injury but it has such massive consequences when your head is not “ok” and mine was not this morning and I hoped that deafening myself with The Killers and Led Zeppellin might help.
I still have one more emergency glass to break, the pain killers. I really don’t want to use them and in running they are almost always a bad idea. I actually took a couple of anti-inflammatorys early on when I have the shin splints but since then I have not taken anything. I have started carrying some in my bag however, just knowing they are there might help. I don’t think it will come to that.
Today I crossed into Indiana, nailing Illinois in 4 days. Laure said to expect a change of scenery as we went in, it’s hard to describe what it is but there is definitely a change. Maybe more trees. I was speaking to Gemma at this point but had to cut the call short as I was struggling to breath and talk at the same time.
Overall I was doing my target pace of 4mph and would have done this till the end but a mile from the end there was a Burger King so I stopped there, stocked up and walked to the finish so I could just crawl into bed and eat. I could barely eat though. I had a burger and milkshake but did not touch the fries. I had a chicken salad to put in the fridge for breakfast tomorrow.
I really can’t remember much about this day. Except I remember at the finishing line asking whether anyone wanted to go clubbing. And also talking to Laure a lot about why I wanted to do this race.
Day 53 – Rockville to Indianapolis
The alarm went off at 4am as usual but this 4am felt like 3am. I wanted the hour back as soon as it went off. When I finish this race (ooohhhhhh check out the confident language there) I am changing that alarm tone so I never am reminded again about how hard it can be to get out of bed some mornings.
And it got worse, my chicken salad that I had planned for seemed to be missing the chicken, so rather than have some lettuce for breakfast I scrabbled around to find some biscuits and a banana. Never going to Burger King again. Let that be a lessen kids, when running across America take no chances with your nutrition, stick to Big Macs.
With the clocks going forward we had another hour of darkness to run in the morning which would normally be great but today it was on a windy narrow road where cars were still driving.
I felt pretty rotten for much of the first part, the darkness made me grumpy as well as the lack of food. I was struggling to keep any sort of pace up and for the first time since I was ill I was right at the back. I was really pleased to see Bando survive yesterday and he seemed to be having a good one today.
In fact Jenni, Phillipe, Tanaka and Girard were all behind me but they dropped out early due to the efforts of yesterday. I should not really complain that my legs would not get going, I had run 57 miles yesterday and had been deprived of a further hour of recovery. Those precious hours of lying down while something magic happens in my legs to give them a chance of making it through tomorrow are at a premium now. This is my life for the next 2 and a bit weeks.
But it got better. I settled back into the pace I want to run and the groin and other parts started to allow me to move my legs again. By about half way I was bang on for a 4mph average (listen to me talking like a triathlete, a very slow triathlete). At 38 miles there was a McDonalds where I made up for yesterdays mistake with a burger and a smoothie and soon after I caught up with Bando and chatted to him.
Bando owns a publishing company in Japan. He started it as a one man band and now it employs 50 people. He told me (in much better English that I first gave him credit for) that he thinks about New York all the time and it often brings tears to his eyes. I think about New York all the time too and it too brings tears to my eyes.
It was really nice to hear that (for the first time) from someone and I can imagine why he does. He finishes last pretty much every day after running on his own. His legs are a mess, he said he takes his mind off it also by singing. He was doing amazingly well today as at this pace we’d beat the cut-off by nearly 2 hours.
10 miles from the end we went onto an interstate that led to Indianapolis. I was still running at this point but Bando was now walking, not something he usually does. A mile up a hill I saw another McDonalds and I bounded up the hill (remember all words here are relative) to get in there and by me and Bando a smoothie before he caught up. He seemed surprised when I waited and handed him a smoothie on the interstate but enjoyed it a lot. We walked together for about another mile and chatted some more. It’s great to see he is well and truly in this race still. And me too.
I ran on, no longer really worried about how fast or when I will arrive. On the interstate there as a lady and a guy whose car had stopped and they were pushing it. I asked it they wanted a hand and then started to push the car up the interstate with them. I assumed they were going to pull into the next corner which was only a few meters away but they said they are going to the gas station which was ages away. Shit, how do I get out of this? Saying that I am running across America just seemed like a lame excuse. I just said “I gotta go” and went.
Day 54 – Indianapolis to Somewhere – 45.6 miles
45.6 miles has become a “short” day now. If I spend less than half the day on my feet then I am spending more time recovering than destroying. Not sure what the conversion rate on that is though.
But today started slow, stayed slow then got a bit slower at the end, the first miles into Indianapolis and out again were quite cool, like we were running into New York. Not quite. Leicester maybe.
This was the first proper big city we have run in since LA and soon we will have Columbus which is even bigger. At 6am there is still a lot going on, joggers out, drunk people and those with very early starts. More than any other place so far there are actually people walking around in the streets.
The traffic lights make it slower and although my legs were not complaining pain wise they just would not go. My stride length has been reduced to that of a duck. I was reminded of Alex’s comment early on in the run “James you are from London you should run like a Penguin yet you run like a Kenyan”. I am sure I have never ever run like a Kenyan and that possibility is as far away from me as possible right now. A penguin is more closer to the mark now.
McDonalds at 13 miles (to the reader I need to include every McDonalds visit for a bet that is been run on how many times I stop there, otherwise I’d just say something like “stopped for a healthy running snack”)
Today I was running near to Tanaka who I try to run in front of if possible because of his obscenely tight shorts. Sometimes I stop at the car to pick up a sandwich, he overtakes and then I have to joy of munching the sandwich while watching the rhythmic wobbling of his 60 year old left buttock. Tasty.
The runners here seem to have gone 2 ways, some are getting faster in this new temperate climate whereas others are getting slower as their bodies fall apart. I am in the latter group with Bando. I predict my legs will fall off on August 28th. That’s fine, I am giving up running to concentrate on becoming really average at golf instead.
Sorry this is going to be short again, there is loads of stuff I have missed but I am in a chinese buffet place trying to write and stuff my face but by body feels full now and I need sleep. We have to get up at 3.30 tomorrow to drive half an hour to the start. I never thought that I’d not have time to blog about running because I am doing so much running. Note for next time, get one of those dictablogging machines (assuming they exists).
Did I really just say next time? No way.
More boring ones
Day 50 – New Berlin to Decatour – 54.4 miles
Well, today started in an odd and disappointing fashion. In the nice little chalet in New Berlin (not as good as the old Berlin) we had the race briefing for the long day of 54 miles. There were the results of a couple of things, firstly on whether we need to carry water anymore (vote was in favour of not carrying) and whether the start time should remain at 5 (it will for the rest of the race, except stage 70).
Then there was a vote as to whether Serge should be disqualified from the race after 2 runners complained. He admitted to not carrying water in his bag for a number of days and then ran one day without a pack completely (he was given a 30 minute penalty for this). The vote was for him not to be disqualified. It was an unhappy start and I could see Laure was feeling the stress of not being able to please everyone all the time.
And so the long day started under a cloud, and a bit late which did not help. A few turns in and out of New Berlin and we were out of some nice roads again. I thought about the events of this morning. I really don’t care what other runners do, my focus is on getting to New York. I don’t care whether I come first or last or whether people carry enough water. Serge can get a motorbike and ride the rest for all I care, I just came here to see whether I am capable of running from Los Angeles to New York. This is by far the hardest thing I have done. I am more tired, grumpy, despairing than I have ever been and I can’t afford to waste what little I have left stressing about whether others are following the rules.
And I think Laure is doing so well in an incredibly hard job. It’s interesting to see that people are beginning to crack, all of a sudden I feel like I am not on my own in feeling the strain. Laure has an impossible job of trying to please 14 tired, hungry and frustrated runners with everything. It’s not possible but I think that this has been the best race ever organised. They have been so good to me, what other race organisers would get me Guinness at the finish line because they thought I missed home? I stopped to tell Laure that I think she is doing an amazing job. She and her team really are. She seemed pleased when I said this. I was determined to remain cheerful all day.
And the day went well overall. My backside still hurts but stretching helps it. Early on we ran through Springfield (a different one from last time obviously) and actually saw joggers out there jogging. I have come to recognise everyone from their running style, Alex runs like the terminator, Serge looks like he is swimming, Italo bobs up and down like a duck, Phillipe runs like a waving clown, Koshita stops every 5 minutes to take a photo. I looked behind me to see an alien running style, going quite fast and wondered who on earth it could be. It was of course a normal person out on a run. It was quite nice to see the runners out there, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a non-spherical American.
Of course there was a McDonalds today and I made it in time for breakfast and bought 2 (1 for later) and enjoyed. Then after the city there were more quiet roads which were lovely, the temperature had dropped but there were no clouds in the sky so it still felt quite warm. There was at least a little breeze at times which was amazing when flanked both sides by the corn fields as the noise sounded like the sea.
For some reason today I was obsessing about pace, I wanted to arrive averaging 4 miles an hour but without a watch the only way was to get the phone out and I seemed to do this too much and wasting time in doing so. Oh the ironicalness.
I promised myself I would not do this but I could not help myself. My pace was fine, I was going steady at that pace all the way and I am really pleased despite the niggles that I can canter at that pace (including drink stops, stretch stops, facebooking, animal watching, pulling faces and Phillippe) from start till finish.
And so without too much ado I finished 54.4 miles in a shade over 13.30. Perfect. 24 inches of Subway again and pretty much time for bed. Oh, please can an American explain this air conditioning thing to me, “low cool” and “high cool”, which one is cooler?
Day 51 – Decatour to Tuscala – 41.8 miles
I was woken up a couple of times in the night by the aching of my legs. Funny how they did not hurt massively during the stage yesterday but just feeling them when lying there was a concern. The first few steps out of bed felt like the usual hobble but it did not seem to get much better.
Better start today, no fighting or arguing. My legs were in bits though, I could not seem to move them along but then I know this is usually the case and I just need to pull through it. It took longer than usual to ease up and I was running right at the back with Bando and Koshita. Bando looked his usual chirpy but crocked self and he said something really sad to me. He said “I think tomorrow will be my last day”. I am not sure how much he meant it but it worried me. I look at Bando as the person who is suffering more than all of us and it brings us all hope that he makes it every day to the finish line. I am still scared that I might not make it to New York and I really need Bando to stay in the race to ease this fear. I really hope tomorrow goes well for him.
The legs did ease and half way seemed to come in no time but after that I just could not be arsed running anymore. I don’t know what was wrong really, my legs were better, I had enough energy and sleep, I just didn’t fell like putting in the effort. At 26 miles there was an aid station put on by the Decatour running club who were keen to meet us all. I chatted to them for a bit, mentioning the weather through the central states and how horrid it was. Just after that it rained briefly but then the sun came out and made it humid again.
So there was not a huge amount more to say about today. Sorry it’s a bit dull.
Also there will not be a huge amount of blogging by me in the next 2 weeks. Tomorrow is 57 miles, the next day 52, and all the days are long now. We also have to drive to places too.
Oh and someone just told me something about the “Appalachians”.
I thought today was going to be another long one, well at 47.3 miles it was a little more than average but in my head I had over 50. It’s not really much relief when you hear that a stage is shorter because you know you still have the miles to do. The big days are coming.
Today we were going to say goodbye to Missouri. It tried it’s best to kill us with its humidity but failed and then gave up in the last 2 days. This morning we had only 1 mile left of it before crossing the mighty Mississippi and into Illinois. It’s a shame we had to do this bit in the dark but the size of it was impressive and the bridge was long. As soon as we entered the state it started to rain.
It was drizzle and grey sky for the first few hours as we plodded up a gentle incline. I was being frustrated by my shin and groin again, it seems now to be the same four things (the others being hamstring and arse) just taking turns to torment me. I felt like I was putting in the effort and doing a reasonable pace but it just was not happening. It was annoying and I thought about how long the day was going to be.
The rain turned into a monsoon, it came down heavily for an hour and the roads turned to rivers. Those gutters at the side of the roads that we sometimes have to jump in to avoid traffic were now streams gushing with water. I think I might like Illinois.
I was cold and wet and loving it. I wondered whether I could get hypothermia as I had no waterproof clothes to put on. I explained to the crew that my skin is waterproof and so should be fine in just my tshirt and shorts. Most people hate the rain because it can cause blisters, though this danger was no less for me it didn’t really bother me. My biggest concern was that if that $20 note in my bag gets too soggy I will not be able to buy a McDonalds at 37 miles.
I stopped and the cloud remained to prevent us from suffering from the hideous humidity that it would have caused. In fact it was not too hot at all today, in the low 30s. I had a close encounter with a car, I stepped onto the grass and as she passed me she seemed to get faster and swerve towards me. I threw my arms up in the air to voice my dissatisfaction and she turned around to apologise and said it was because her visor was down and she could not see me. Illinois – It’s the airhead drivers that’ll kill yer.
Today I was running close to Philippe who does not speak much English but likes to pull silly faces at me as he passes me. I returned the gesture at some stage by mooning at him. It helps pass the time. The time did once again pass quickly though the leg was still sore. If I can keep it moving me forward then I am winning.
Mcdonalds was ok, I had a quarter pounder this time with fries and a smoothie. I am becoming very aware of just how much I stink when stood in a queue of people. I sat down on a wall near the place and ate the burger and watched Phillippe and Ishiara pass. I never really thought the McDonalds would become a routine thing but it is hard to pack in enough calories in such a small time at the end of the day. If I can stuff 1000+ into me in 15 minutes during the stage then I am going to take it.
The last few miles my leg eased up a bit, seems that I am fine when it gets over 40 miles, good job most of the remaining stages are just that. We stopped just short of the Illinois river in a place called New Florence (probably not as nice as Florence) near a house. We were supposed to stay in Pittsfield today but there were no places so instead we ran through and ended up staying in Waynesville (there was a nearby place called Beardstown that I would have fitted in nicely to). Waynesville had a lot going on and I went to buy Italo’s height in Subway for dinner and breakfast. Tomorrow was going to be a 3.30 wake up with the drive back.
3.30 and the alarm goes off. I don’t know what 30 minutes less sleep really does to you but having to get up earlier made me paranoid to even fall asleep. I was pretty grumpy, even though I did have an Italian BMT subway for breakfast.
My shin felt sore as I hobbled down the stairs but after doing so I looked at Bando do the same. That man is in bits. To look at him walking or running you would be hard pressed to find any part of his legs that are operating normally. Yet Bando finishes each day in great spirits with a little jig at the end of each day and a smile on his face and a joke to tell (though often I can’t understand). He probably doesn’t whinge about everything on a blog (I guess he would not have time). Even if his legs fall off he will find some way to get to New York by sheer bloody mindedness. I like to think I am mentally tough but that man is in another league.
There was a bit of a debate this morning about potential rule changes. Some runners feel they now do not need to carry the 1.5l of water that the race rules require. Serge was recently given a penalty for not carrying anything on a stage and there is mixed feeling about it. I would say keep the rule as it is (I have no choice but to carry water anyway) as that is what we all signed up for. I think perhaps some people have bad chaffing from their packs. It seems to have divided the runners and some feel frustrated about some of the other rules. I really hope it does not poison the group, we have all come so far.
When it was still dark we were treated to an awesome light show. IN the distance there were some menacing looking storms and lighting forking out of the sky every 2 seconds. Sometimes it would go sideways, I have never seen it do that before. I could barely hear the thunder which means it must be a long way away and it never shifted over to us.
But the day started fine, it was drizzly and cool, my legs did not hurt too much yet I was still a grumpy bastard. Remembering the new rule of thumb that if you are grumpy then eat something (thanks Russell) after a few miles I sat down with a can of coke and a load of cookies given to me last night. It really does work, I felt much better. Rik Waller must be the happiest man alive.
The road for the first 15 miles was lovely, no traffic, lots of up and down and a nice spray of rain to keep us cool. I was surprised by how quickly it seemed to go by before we were on a traffic road again. It was not busy but with no shoulder you have to look out a lot.
It stayed cool for most of the morning, Claus (Markus’ support person) told me about a sign he saw saying “The Devil called and he wants his weather back”. Well it looks like he has got his wish.
20 miles in we passed through Jacksonville and I knew there was a McDonalds there (After I finish this blog I will have to do one of those “word cloud” things. I suspect, McDonalds, Shin, Humidity and Shits to appear high). It was quite a way in and I was disappointed to miss breakfast (it was 11.20 I assume breakfast ends at 11?) so I went for a cheeseburger with a smoothie. As I tried to pay a woman who had been listening to me talk about what I am doing jumped in and paid for my food. That was really kind of her. Illinois – more than just bad drivers.
I was close to Alex at this stage which pleased me because he disappeared early in the previous 2 days as I slowly plodded. However I lost him when I went in to get my food. There was a long uphill section out of Waynesville before crossing an interstate and then onto another lovely quiet road. This one was hell however.
I thought there was something wrong with me, it was barely 30 degrees, duffle coat weather yet I was exploding all over the place. I walked more than I had done all day and when the support car came I had to lie down and drink a coke while Emily sprayed me with water (I think she likes doing that). This continued till the end and I knew it was the humidity but did not think it should be this bad. At the finish I heard that everyone choked on those 10 miles which made me feel better. Not that I feel good about others suffering generally I was just worried something was wrong with me.
So all in all a successful day for me capped of beautifully when Laure said she had a surprise for me and then handed me a Guinness. She had obviously heard about the iron deficiencies in the group.
SO that’s week 7 done. 3 weeks to go and according to my calculations less than 1000 miles…
Well, lets start from the evening of day 45. After a short day and a run into the old German colony of Hermann we went to what I thought was an Irish place but was in fact a regular pub of German influence called “The Concert Hall”. Most of the runners went, the French, German, Italian and myself as well as the crew. It as the first time I recall where we were all in the same place at the end of a run enjoying food and drink. I may have enjoyed a little too much drink.
There were a lot of Americans in there including Connie who was previously married to Dan who was supporting Markus for the first 3 weeks. It was really great sitting with them and telling them some of the stories so far. A lady (whose name I cannot remember sorry) was telling us that in her 58 years (she said that number quite a lot so I don’t feel bad for saying it) that Missouri has never been this hot or humid for such a long period of time.
Day 46 – Hermann to Bowling Green – 54.9 miles
Day 46 was going to be tough, 55 miles after a couple of days of finishing by lunchtime. It was hard to get my head around having to do the same as yesterday and then run another marathon. And all that with this increasingly irritating hamstring and glute problem.
It was sore from the start as usual and I hoped to run it off in a few miles but this looked like it was here to stay. The first thing we did was cross the Missouri river and I managed to lead the Japanses runners and Alex down the wrong path and all of a sudden we were underneath the bridge we were supposed to be running on. Doh.
It was a shame to cross the river in the dark, I would have liked to have seen it. Shortly after that though there was an unexpected milestone, 2000 miles. Now it really feels like we are well into this.
I was told about a McDonalds at 16 miles and I had that marked for breakfast. When I got there just after crossing an interstate it did look a bit of a trek from the route but I was really looking forward to it so I went. This is the point where I lost Alex and as I was queuing I saw Phillipe and Bando pass meaning I was at the back. Rene and Karin would normally be looking for me wondering where I had disappeared to but on seeing the arches they knew and waited outside. I had a bacon and egg McMuffin and smoothie by the way.
That all went down a treat and my injury seemed to be improving. The biggest challenge for me is the curvy roads. I can go up and down fine I just can’t go round corners. I am like an American car. Oh how I miss the long straight boring roads of Oklahoma. Did I really just say that?
Today the weather was great, when I asked what the temperature was I was told 33c and later 35c, practically jumper weather. There were clouds in the sky and the occasional breeze which meant it did not really get stifling at all. There were a few moments of saturation but nothing too bad. That meant a steady pace and quicker pace than the previous week could be maintained.
Generally I am getting slower and falling further behind the others. I am not worried about this as long as I keep inside the cut offs and make it to New York. I think I may be crawling by the time I get to New Jersey, weeks 8 and 9 are heavy on the miles, 50 a day on average. I am still in this though.
I did not see anyone much after about 20 miles where we hit a trail and I left Bando and Phillipe. I felt like I could run quite well and got through the last half quicker than I had anticipated. Not far from the end I caught up with Jenni and said to Anneke “wow her legs look swollen again”. I was told not to mention this to her.
The finish line was right next to a McDonalds and Subway. I vowed to eat the big mac first then go for a Subway but on getting into bed after 13.30 hours on my feet I just could not be bothered to get up again and so just stayed and slept. I would regret not eating tomorrow.
Day 47 – Bowling Green to Hannibal – 44.7 miles
Good news and bad news. The hamstring and arse did not hurt as much as at the start of previous days. Yay. Bad news is that the bloody shin splint came back, and the ankle niggling. Grrrrr. I like to think that even the pain cannot keep up with this heavy schedule of running and so has to work shifts to annoy me.
So that made me a little grumpy in the morning though my hunger may have contributed to that. Russell told me a couple of weeks ago that feeling grumpy when you run is a sign that you need food. I remember that well and food usually is the answer.
So the day started as usual, a slow plod punctuated by walking any tight curves and stopping to stretch my body out. It was Mr Koshita’s birthday today (60 I think) and he got some gifts at the start including some genuine Japanese Saki (Brewed in the USA).
At half way I found a place to get an ice lolly just before we had a 7 mile section of interstate. It got quite warm in the morning, cancelling out any expectation that our last day in Missouri would be nice, the interstate for me was particularly hot.
After the interstate we went through a small town (or rather city, any place with more than 4 buildings in the US is called a city), called New London. It was not as good as the old London. They seemed to have got New York spot on but have some work to do here. What kind of place has 5 different churches and no place to buy ice cream?
After that we were on the lovely twisty hilly roads again and my shin and ankle were starting to behave themselves. However I just had a crash on energy and could not run for a while. It was because I did not eat enough after the 55 miles yesterday for sure. It’s so hard when you finish at say 7, want to be in bed by 8 to try and cram in 5000 calories worth of food. I failed this last night.
ON seeing the support car I sat down and tried to stuff as much into me as possible, counting the calories as I did. 180 cal yogurt drink, 150 cal coke, 250 cal sweets and more sweets from a jar. I figured I have just taken about 700 calories of mostly sugar that should give me a kick up the arse to get going again.
It did and with about 10 miles to go I felt fine. It has cooled down a lot, the clouds had swooped in to rescue us for today. I can’t really describe it, I think I just couldn’t be arsed running much more.
The scenery was spectacular, rolling hills, trees and little houses. If the houses were not made of wood then I could imagine I was in the Cotswolds. I miss England. Today and yesterday there seemed to be so many more people out just doing stuff. Mowing the lawn, playing in the garden, wandering the streets. For as long as I have been here people have been sat indoors afraid to come outside. It’s nice to see people when out on run.
I am not the world’s best at focussing at the best of times but for a few hours today I was just somewhere else, wandering up and down some hills with no real purpose. It felt strange and not particularly helpful either, I was keen to get the run finished so I could eat a horse.
I finally finished the 45 miles in about 11.15, walking down a load of steps and into an armoury building that we are staying in tonight. I felt quite good at the end despite my wandering mind and rumbling stomach. I put that right with the glorious food spread provided to us here. I had about 3 meals and some ice cream.
I am not sure where Mark Twain was born or lived but there are a lot of places here named after him. I have no internet to check right now and will forget by the time I upload this. He must have been born nearby as there is a lot of mention of him here.
One of the quotes I carry around with me is his and was particularly useful during the days where it all felt a bit too big.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, NOT absence of fear”
The fear is still deep inside, but I am getting on top of it.
Today was another “easy” day of just short of 30 miles. I had a lot of food last night and more time off my feet than usual and the massage I think really helped.
I still had another white line dream though, at 2am I was up thinking I could get another 2 hours sleep if only I could get the road out of my head. I couldn’t and the remainder of the night I was just lying there. I don’t think lack of sleep will stop me in this race but it’s nice to sleep all the way through. I am told a good way to try to fall asleep is to imagine that you are flying low over some roads or trail with which you are familiar. I don’t think that one will ever work for me again.
The hamstring and right arse were sore again from the start but it occurred to me that if I ran it hurt no more than walking and so I resolved to run as much as I could, even the hills.
The road was the same again and it was cooler than yesterday (not that I used that to predict that it will stay cooler, I know better by now). It was actually really pleasant running in the morning. We are on a country road (don’t know what the US equivalent is) but there is not much around other than really nice houses set back a long way from the road. I could be in Surrey.
I thought about the fact that I consider 30 miles an “easy” day. Seems ridiculous. I can still remember when I would line up at the start of a marathon terrified of dying. That actually was the case in my first marathon in 2000 in London, I spent months worrying about how on earth someone can run for 26 miles without collapsing and at the start line I had a stress nose bleed. A half a mile in I had to go to the toilet to sort it out and on emerging I was behind the rubbish trucks, I was last in the London Marathon. That was terrifying.
Quite often I think back to times when what I am doing would sound impossible. When I ran my 6th marathon (Paris 2006) I think I had just about stopped panicking about the distance, I mean I’ve done this 5 times before and it they seemed to go well before so there is no reason why this one shouldn’t. I did not do as well in Paris as I would have liked (I think I got 3.39 when aiming for 3.30), however probably more importantly than time targets I think that’s when the blogging started.
Well actually blogs didn’t really exist back then (imagine that?) but I would write up my races on a word document and send them to the 3.7 people who might be interested in reading them. I made a spreadsheet of the Paris Marathon called “Probably the best marathon album in the world – ever”. I quite enjoyed putting that together.
And from then on my running and writing became one and the same thing. I wrote up my first ultra marathon on a word document too and that ended up in our club magazine and at the time I did not really know many people at the club, all of a sudden people would refer to me as the crazy ultra runner.
And so I continued because I loved the writing so much and the attention that comes from it (I am a big attention seeker I know that). My first Grand Union Canal run, the time the Spartathlon tried to kill me, my 4 year quest to Badwater, it’s all there, a massive collection of text detailing everything about my running life for the last 5 years, all in the public domain.
And I am really pleased with what I have done so far both running and writing and have loved to hear that people like reading it, especially now that I often go through dark times. I have tried my hardest (sometimes foregoing more important things like rest) to keep this thing alive as I really want to hold on to every detail. If I make it to New York this collection would be worth more to me than any medal, trophy, ranking or record could ever be.
I am sure I had a point when I started this tangent, what was it? Ahh yes. I sometimes think (and it’s terrible I know) that there are risks in living this race so publicly. What if I fuck it up? What would this blog become after that? I know people who never dare tell anyone what they are doing for similar reasons. Most of the runners here have a blog or website and are updating it every day. It seems this race does attract the attention seekers like me. I know the benefits of having so many people commenting and supporting me through this outweigh a hundred times any drawbacks of public failure. It still enters my mind sometimes though.
I guess when this is all over I want to point to this blog and say “this is what running across America does to someone”.
Blimey, back to the running. I saw a tortoise on the road : ) Actually Phillipe had to stop me standing on it. It was not very big, perhaps a little bigger than a big mac. It seemed out of place on the side of the road like that but it would not be shooed away, it just growled. Later on we saw a tortoise minus it’s head, should have got off the road.
The day went really fast, I passed “Second Creek” which is ten miles in and thought “no way, not ten miles already” but yes it was. The other miles seemed to drift by quickly too and the soreness abated too. There were flashes of high humidity but rarely was I reduced to a walk. Towards the end a lady stopped to say “you should have picked another day to do this run, it’s too hot”. Well we don’t really get the choice and she seemed staggered to hear that we had been doing this for 45 days.
I finished the day before noon, under 7 hours, 1 mile further and 30 minutes quicker than yesterday. I was really pleased because in retrospect I was a little concerned that I was only 45 minutes inside the cut off yesterday, today I was 1.30 hours.
We are now in a old German colony called Hermann, which hopefully means they have good beer. Since finishing the humidity has skyrocketed and our rooms are horrible and moist. I am off to an Irish pub soon, a lot of us are deficient in iron and I have alerted the runners to the fact that Guinness has lots of it.
Tomorrow is the same again, plus a marathon.
29 miles, seriously what is that? Should I even get out of bed for it? Well I suppose I should as I need to stay in the race.
We all decided to start at 5am still, mostly to get away from the heat a little. I think now we are in a routine of getting up at 4am each day to do this, a routine I am looking forward to getting out of soon.
Today is the 1st August. We will be going to New York this month. I have never been to New York before and as soon as I get there it becomes a holiday. I am counting down to it as if It were a holiday, I just have another 26 days of ball-aching work to do before that.
I immediately felt massive tightness in my hamstring and right arse today as I started to run and it did not go away after a few miles, it seemed to get worse. It was a little frustrating and today though the roads were again lovely and quiet the twists and turns compounded the problem.
Nowadays I run much nearer the back of the field. Usually near Alex and in front of Phillipe, Bando and Koshita though today Koshita ran out fast and finished way ahead of me. I am not taking any risks now. My body is hurting and slowing but it can still do the job. When something hurts I ease up a bit which means that I am perpetually easing up.
I stopped to stretch a few times and all of a sudden I was in last place. I’ve been here before when I was ill but started to wonder whether I am sailing close to the cut off times. IN actual fact I am comfortably inside them and have little to worry about in that respect but I still like to worry. Maybe it will stop in about 20 days.
We joked that Rainer would finish this stage before the people in the motel had left the rooms from the previous night, in the end he spanked it in 4.20. I took about 7.30 and suffering the worst humidity I have yet had. My clothes were soaked, I remembered to put my route sheet in a bag so that it would not dissolve like it has done in previous days. My phone is knackered from the humidity too, the 8 and clear keys do not work now which makes it fun trying to send Gemma a text that does not use a t, u or v and one where I can not delete any mistakes.
Still, it was only 29 miles and I knew in my head it will be over soon and there will be plenty of time to catch up on the things like sleep and eating. I’ve lost a couple of kg since Gemma left, down to 73 now which means I have lost 11kg since the start. Shit I just converted that and it’s 1 ¾ stone. I better warn Ealing Kebab when I get back.
I finished in around 7.30, pretty slow but with the undualtions and the aches I am pleased, still well over an hour under cut-off. I have plenty of room.
It’s funny at the end now that Laure makes her highest priority getting me to a McDonalds. As I lay down under a nice shady tree Berand drove to get my order of a big mac and fries and a smoothie. Laure has also bought some nice beers (Boston something, can’t remember but they are infinitely better than Budweiser). If Budweiser are the King of Beers then I am the King of organic fruit.
There is a new addition to the show now, Ludwig has been crewing Serge for the past couple of days and offered massages to the runners at the end of the stage today. Oddly I was the only one who took advantage of this and had a nice 20 minutes of relaxing massage on my legs. I think it will do some good and I can get the same tomorrow though. I told him about my usual massage person, Roberto the Butcher of Pimlico. How he likes to hurt me every time I see him. If this race does not kill me I think he may do first time I see him back in London.
Day 42 - Conway to St Robert - 51.7 miles
The day started as usual except this time I was a little more worried to start running. Yesterday ended a bit disappointingly with a tweak to my ankle that seemed to get worse after the finish. Each day starts with a walk, I think everyone wants to space out a bit before they start running. Sometimes I am not convinced I actually am capable of running until I finally start shuffling my feet. There you go, you can still run. Game on.
But today there was a lot more apprehension about taking those first steps, like checking a bank balance. I know I need to look at it but I am scared of what it will say. Perhaps if I just don’t look then it will just go away. After about a mile I started to run. And it was absolutely fine.
This morning it was my right knee and hamstring that seemed to be sore but as long as the injuries moved around my body I am happy that no serious damage is being done. I had an early confrontation with a skunk, it was just wandering across the road in the dark and so I moved to the other side so to not disturb it, it looked at me and arched it’s back like a cat ready to pounce. I moved further away and it continues alongside me and did the arching thing again. Yeah come on sunshine, I can probably out-stink you right now.
Around 7am I passed some Jehovahs Witness building and was tempted to go banging on their door at this unjehovahly hour and tell them to come out running with me. It looked like too much of a trek though.
It’s too easy to think (and say) things like “ooooh, it’s not as warm as it was at this time yesterday” but it really is pointless as the weather here can turn on a sixpence. It did feel a little cooler at 8am and it’s tempting to think that the whole day will be cooler. However it depends on so many things, how many clouds there are, how high, how many trees, wind etc. At 8am I was looking forward to a cooler day, by 9am I was suffocating again.
We are starting to go through some bigger towns and cities now which is great for people who like to fuel of random crap they can buy from shops and fast food places on the way. Around 16 miles in we entered a place called Lebanon which was quite a big place compared to where we have been and I was hopeful of a place to have a breakfast sandwich. On being disappointed that the McDonalds we’d pass was on the other side of the interstate and so I could not get to it. I staggered in the heat through Lebanon looking for a place but everything was closed. Eventually I found a “Casey’s” store and bought 2 egg and sausage biscuits (which are kind of muffin things here). Phew.
The temperature soared again as I exited the town (towns feel so much hotter) and tried to get an ice cream from a gas station but they had nothing, the lady in there seemed really interested in the race and so I bought a couple of drinks in there.
After Lebanon there was a hilly section of quiet road alongside the I-44. There are not many cars at all but as it’s hilly and twisty you have to be careful. It’s hard to be careful when you are choking on humidity though. The camber of the road makes it look like you are running drunk, a slight change in gradient and you wobble off to one side. On the plus side it looks really nice.
And there was a little lift today in the form of a milestone, or kilometerstone. 3000 kilometres, or rather to but it more succinctly 3 megametres. Only about 2 megametres to go.
After several hours of the usual choking there was hope, the sky started to fill with clouds, grey clouds. There had been thunderstorm warnings in the state and I really hoped we’d get to run in one. The clouds started to rumble and the sky flashed, we were going to get it. I yelled at the sky as I passed the Italian support car to come down on us hard. And it did.
This was proper rain, coming in sideways and heavy. The noise was deafening, you could hear it crack to the left and then roll round right behind us like we were in a theatre. Alex said “you need to moderate your powers” as if it really was me that called the rain. I said “come on Alex, let’s do some British running” and we ran through the storm.
It lasted about an hour, we were all drenched. I even started to feel cold. That’s a sensation I have not felt for a while, certainly not when running. All feet were soaked which meant many were worried by blisters but I just loved the rain.
It stopped, not suddenly it drizzled for a while. There was about 12 miles left and we feared what was coming next. As Simone said the last time it happened “yes the rain was good but now you must pay”. The Sun would start it’s evil work, sucking back the water and saturating the air. I looked at the ground, willing it to take in all the water before the Sun could claim it back.
But it never came out again, today the clouds finally won. It stayed overcast and cool for the remainder of the day. It was wonderful. There was lots of climbing to be done at the end and our final stop in St Robert was quite high. The last few miles my feet ached more than they have done so far, probably softened up by the rain. 13.40 is probably the longest day yet for me as I passed through the finish line with Alex.
I lay down in the grass and drank the American Water and contemplated nothing more than eating and sleeping. I ordered a delivery to my room from a great Greek restaurant, getting a chicken souvlaki and a pizza. The pizza was mostly for breakfast and the next day.
Day 43 – St Robert to St James – 41.4 miles
Italo told me last night that today was going to be 77k. I was disappointed as I thought it was shorter and this played on my mind a little. In fact I had my first white line dream for a couple of weeks. I thought I was passed worrying about how many miles each day brings. Clearly not.
However it was not 77 but 67, or 41.5 miles just as I thought. The next 3 days were going to add up to less than 100 miles which would feel like a holiday. I signed in on the sheet today, a new sheet to denote that it is now week 7. I have been running now every day for 6 weeks and only have 4 left.
We were along the road next to the I-44 for the first few miles and then down a more isolated one (I don’t even know whether it is R66 or not). I spoke to Serge early on about his next run, crossing 5 continents in 18 months, covering 40000Km (or 40Mm). He mentioned that he used to be a trader and started running to get some stress relief. He also said that he believes everyone still in the race will make it to New York and that it’s the first 10 days that sorts everyone out.
I said I feel physically weaker but mentally stronger since starting this race. I ache lots and I am slowing down and faffing at stops and in shops much more but I worry less and let less things get to me. That’s what is going to get me to New York. If I can finish the day inside the cut off and not dying then I have done my job.
I felt pretty good and the scenery was great, trees everywhere though it was very foggy at day break. I had not seen fog in a while too, I could be back in England again.
The roads were quiet and surrounded by trees so closely that you sometimes got shade from them. If only all of Missouri were like this.
I watched the weather channel last night, just because it’s the default on the TV. The place we were running through today was forecast 100F with 99% humidity and 97 dewpoints. I don’t really know what dewpoints are (nor really what 99% humidity means, is it the maximum amount of water the air can hold at a given temperature?). Anyhoo it’s bloody hard work with all of the above and while I have spent a long time “hoping” it will ease off it did occur to me that I’ve done 43 days of this now and there is no reason I can’t do the other 27. At least it can’t get any worse.
I didn’t just write that out loud did I?
And so the humidity kicked in again and I responded in the usual way, to find an ice cream shop. I went into a gas station and they had none (note to self, Phillips 66 stations do not sell ice lollies). I then went into a large supermarket, wandered around in their lovely cool aisles and found that they only sell ice cream in buckets. Doh. A mile further I founds a “Casey’s” again and in their freezer were ice poles : ) I bought 2 again and spent a while just wondering down the very undulating road of the town of Rolla chomping on chemically coloured ice (this time I had purple and red).
There were quite a lot of us running near each other today. Myself, Koshita (who has now taken over 6000 photos), Markus, Ishiara, Alex and Bando. Alex has been suffering a bit recently, feeling a lack of energy. He mentioned yesterday his crew think it might be an iron deficiency. The next 2 days of less than 50k are really going to help us all recover and rest. Having time to have 2 meals in a day rather than trying to stuff as many calories down us at the end of each day will be nice.
Today I ate mostly left over pizza. The crew are quite cool in pretending to be Gemma and frowning at me if I eat crap. Berangere likes to wag her finger at me if I don’t eat right and say “Gemma” at me. Emily just likes to take photos of me eating crap, like yesterday when I stopped in the shop to buy pringles.
Laure sent a special message to me during the stage to say that the finish motel had a pool and a McDonalds opposite. I don’t know how I got this reputation for fast food.
There were a few miles on trails towards the end and then another undulating road (this will be a theme for the rest of the race I think). Then into St James’ and as soon as I saw the golden arches I knew I had finished. I didn’t hang about at the finish, I ran straight in and had one of those lovely smoothies.
So, another day done, nothing dropped off. Good day.
A couple of boring ones.
Day 40 – Carthage to Springfield – 52.7 miles
For the past few days I have stopped stressing about time. I can’t control it so there is no point worrying about it. By the end of today, although it was more than 13 hours it did not feel like much time had passed at all. In fact it does not feel like much time has passed since yesterday. It feels like an age since I was in LA, buckling under the weight of this thing. Now the days just seem to be falling off, and the job is getting smaller.
Today could have started with a downer though, I was given an “official warning” for not running safely on the road. It’s a fair cop I think I was facebooking on a windy road without paying much attention, I think the organisers are keen to enforce rules more now given that Missouri has a higher proportion of knob-head drivers than the other states we have passed through.
I was in a really good place mentally, clearly. Once I started running I stopped being annoyed completely with the warning, I was even trying to get angry about but it all just bounced off. Makes a difference from when I burst into tears about forgetting sunglasses.
After yesterdays McDonalds fest it was slim pickings today, just a gas station at 26 miles where I hoped to at least get an ice lolly.
The roads in Missouri really are nicer than Oklahoma though the price we pay is that with all the twists and turns and undulations cars can not see that far ahead and hence can’t give you a lot of space as the roads are narrower. I am not sure what I prefer.
Why is it that tell any American what state you are running through and they’ll reply “yes it’s the XXXXXX that’ll kill yer”? Missouri “It’s the humidity that’ll kill yer”, Arizona “It’s the altitude that’ll kill yer”, California “It’s the heat that’ll kill yer”, Oklahoma “It’s the winds that’ll kill yer”, New Mexico “It’s left over beef steaks that’ll kill yer”. Why does every state want to kill us? You don’t get that in the UK. If someone says they are running through Leicester I don’t reply “It’s the knitting machines that’ll kill yer”.
The day went the same as usual. I set out at a reasonable pace, Alex catches up around 15 miles, we swap places every couple of miles while we get our support stops or I go into a shop to buy a lolly, I’d catch up with Markus around 25 miles in and chat and the 3 of us would finish near to each other.
I was not eating as much solid food as in previous days and today for the first time in a while went back to energy gels and cans of monster. I have not had a monster for about 3 weeks now, since the illness (was that really that long ago?) and the taste brought back the memories of the early days of this race. It feels big when I look back, not so much forward.
And so today went without too much fuss and I felt as strong in the last 5 miles of today as I had done in any of the finished so far, even though I could not run too much because of the traffic. On arrival at the motel I was driven to McDonalds (there were not a lot of places nearby) where I spent more money in there than I think I ever have, $23 on 2 large big-mac meals, each with smoothies and 20 chicken nuggets (breakfast).
A really tough day but a good one
Day 41 – Springfield to Conway – 44.4 miles
I know better than now to call any day less than 45 an “easy” day which is just as well because this was not one of those days. The first 10 miles were through the city of Springfield (I saw no Moe’s, no Kwik-e-mart but did see a driver who looked like mole man). There were 3 McDonalds within the first 10 miles but I went in none of them.
The first 10 felt quite comfortable, especially as we were in a city as often in the morning that are very hot. This is the biggest city we have been in since LA. As soon as we got out of it though the humidity hit me, I was suffocating and I think Alex and Markus were too, it was stifling. This state really is trying to kill us.
My clothes were wet all over but I was not cooling down, there was no wind or cloud just stifling wet air. I wonder who it was who first discovered humidity, there is no evidence of it other than slow suffocating.
This carried on for about 15 miles where we had to make a turning at a gas station, I went in to buy an ice lolly and saw a blast from the past, ice-poles. I don’t think I have had one of those since school. I used to buy them for 10p on my way home from school while enduring some of the 25C summer holidays. I bought the two that remained ($3.50, prices seem to have gone up a bit in 20 years), I put one down my top to store and tore into the other.
I walked chomping on these things for a couple of miles trying to think about the things I used to think about when I was about 11. It was probably about which ninja turtle was the best and whether Melanie Wainwright would ever go out with me. I always thought Donatello was the best and I don’t believe Melanie ever wanted to go out with me, I think she said it clearly enough. Maybe it’s because I cheated at the sponsored walk?
Well, 20 years later I don’t think I have too much more to worry about, the second ice pop (green flavour, it even tasted just like the green I remember 20 years ago) went down quickly and I was resigned to having to run again, but this time with a lot of ice on my head and in my body it felt much better.
And then I heard thunder and the temperature drop again, oh yes we were going to get another one. It took much longer to arrive this time but so long as the pressure dropped the temperature did too and then we got 20 minutes of beautiful rain. Well, I say “we”, Alex who was just ahead of me got it, Markus who was just behind got none at all. Soon after the rain stopped the evaporation started to choke again but I was close enough to the end for that not to bother me too much except that my ankle felt twisted, probably as a result of having to run so close to the edge of the road where the camber is quite severe. I hope it’s a bit better tomorrow.
So 44.5 miles done this time in 11.23, quite slow really but it still felt quicker. Tomorrow we pass 3000k. That's pretty big.