Sunday, 17 June 2018

Day 11

The day got underway at 0630 today. I managed to get a lot of sleep thanks to being able to use John’s settee for the night.  As I left Pecica with Chappie, a car pulled up ahead of me and what was playing can only be described as Benny Hill music. At 0630! Very loudly! 

I used a bike track out of Pecica and then it was on to a busy road. I was surprised at how much traffic there was despite it being early on a Sunday morning. I found another bike track off the main road on the outskirts of Arad. As I left Arad a car pulled up and a man got out and handed me a bottle of water. He shook my hand and said “respect”. I think he was German. 

After 7 miles I stopped to make some breakfast. I had 2 portions of all day breakfast. I had to force the food down yet again. I’m finding it really difficult to eat. When I got going again I felt full of energy. The food had done the trick. After 12 miles of running eastwards I took a left hand turn onto the very busy E671. There were thunderstorms headed my way and I knew it wouldn’t be long before they were above me. 

The first thunderstorm hit at the 14 mile point. I found a perfect spot to pull over and climb inside Chappie.

I waited 2 hours for the storm to subside before continuing. I reached Zimandcuz after 17 miles and the next thunderstorm started. I put my waterproof on and it was another mile before I found a safe spot to stay. The “safe spot” wasn’t ideal because it was a muddy field. I emptied the 2 boxes out of Chappie, placed the cover over them and quickly climbed in head first. I managed to take my trainers off and put them under Chappie. By this point it was absolutely lashing down. I somehow managed to turn around in Chappie so that my head was at the hatch end as it should be. 

Chappie’s hatch door was covered in mud and I had to wipe a lot off to be able to close the door. I was exhausted and soaking wet but it was to get worse. Water was pouring into Chappie through the cooking chimney near my head. Thankfully. I was able to place a bag in such as way that the water would be caught. 

It continued to rain for another few hours. With not much daylight left I decided that the muddy field would be be camp for the night. There’s no chance of eating as all supplies are outside undercover. I now face a damp night’s sleep in Chappie. I’m not looking forward to a muddy exit out of Chappie in the morning. 

As I write this, I can see the Mosquitos outside through my window. The hatch is staying firmly shut tonight! The good news is that I’m on target to reach Satu Mare as planned next Sunday. I’ll probably make it to Oradea by Wednesday on this busy E671 then it’s 4 days of quieter roads. 

Today has been very challenging. I think tomorrow may be similar before better weather comes my way on Tuesday. I haven’t been able to treat my feet today despite working hard to get the miles done. 

It appears to be slow progress when you think that I was running 35-41 miles on the last stage of the run Around The World. There are still 1150 miles to the finish line in Moscow. 

Thanks to those kind people who sponsored me today. If you’d like to do so then please visit

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Day 10

I had a decent shallow sleep in Chappie and I was awoken at 0530 by two lorry drivers who were trying to figure out the coffee machine outside the garage. It had been reasonably quiet during the night in Periam but I always seemed to hear every little noise. Sometimes it’s quite nervy sleeping in Chappie. I felt pretty secure last night however. 

I got going at 0615 surrounded by fog. Breakfast was a fruit puree thing, a sesame bar and some nuts.    I was handed some money by an elderly gentleman on a bike in Satu Mare (not the one I’m running to in the north). I got this paid into my Virgin Money Giving page straight away. He spoke no English so he’s simply known as “Man on a bike”. 

The villages of Secusigiu and Munar were next. I decided to cook a ration pack of chicken sausages and beans in Munar. Chappie attracted a bit of attention and people asked me if they could “Make photo?”. The hot food tasted good and I was soon on my way again. 

I turned off the main road at Sânpetru German where another elderly gentlemen told me to “Achtung Thieves”. I had a good 45 minute break in a bus shelter and did my best not to nod off. I was so tired. 

As I set off again, I was accompanied by a man who spoke some good English but inserted Romanian words where he didn’t know what the English equivalent was. The result was a half decent conversation where I told him about my journey and he said that his son was a designer in London. His daughter worked 200 km north of London. By the time I’d had a guess at all of the potential places it was time to say goodbye. He asked if I wanted a drink in the local cafe. I had to politely decline as I’d only just rested. 

The road from Sânpetru German to the river Mures seemed to go on forever. There were lots of commuters on bikes and some families being chauffeured around by horse and cart. There was also the biggest swarm of dragonflies that I’d ever seen. I crossed the river and eventually found my way into Pecica. I stopped for an ice cream on the Main Street. The thunderstorm started soon after and I waited for an hour until it stopped. My schedule dictated that I should reach Pecica by the evering. I was there way ahead of time due to the additional mileage done yesterday.

I made my way out of Pecica and decided to setup camp. The spot wasn’t ideal but I was shattered. 

Just as I’d finished setting up, a man called John drove past and asked me if I’d like some food and a bed for the night. I politely said yes! I parked Chappie at John’s parent’s house and we drove back into town to his house. I met his wife and children before being fed delicious home made soup. Then followed some meat and cheese. John insisted that I have a cognac so, again, I politely said yes. 

I was able to have a shower and my 2 days worth of stinking running kit got a wash. 

The food offerings kept coming and I accepted just a couple of cherries. I’ve really struggled to eat since I set off from Belgrade last week. The downside to today is the state of my feet. I’ve never seen them in such poor condition since the run across Australia. I’m doing my my best to treat them but they are literally falling apart. 

I’m on target to arrive in Satu Mare next Sunday as planned. There’s 8 more days and 161 miles to go. It was 160 but John told me that the road surface on my current route is poor in parts. We replanned on better roads and I’m looking forward to continuing the journey in the morning after a night’s sleep on a settee. Luxury!

Friday, 15 June 2018

Day 9 (Day 5 of running)

I was very pleased to get stage 5 underway again this morning. I felt in really good condition and more importantly so did my feet with all signs of the infection gone. 

Today’s aim was to run 20 miles which would leave enough time to eat and soak my feet. 

Lucian, the friendly Romanian man that I met at the border crossing last week was at the hotel to see me off. His help during my time in Jimbolia has been invaluable. 

I soon made it out of Jimbolia and onto a long straight road towards Grabat. A lady on a bike passed me and warned me that the road was dangerous. She also warned me about the dangerous dogs ahead. I didn’t find the road dangerous at all or see any dogs. 

A man called Nicu offered to make me a cup of coffee on the road to Gottlob. I politely declined saying that I had a mileage target to meet.  

Soon after, I had a rest in Gottlob and coincidentally it turned out to be on a bench outside Nicu’s house. Nicu got to make me that cuppa after all. 

Nicu is a teacher and pastor in the town. It’s the school holidays now so he grows and sells watermelons during this time. 

After Gottlob, I passed through Lovrin and Pesac. During this time I was handed 2 huge tomatoes, 4 bottles of water and 3 sandwiches. The sandwiches were in exchange for a selfie with a pleasant couple who spoke little English. Their little lad was canny and I handed him a leaflet. 

My final destination was supposed to be Pesac but all of the good sleeping spots were occupied by stray dogs. 

I asked a man in the street if there was anywhere safe to stay and he suggested a nearby garage. 

The garage took me to 25.5 miles for the day. Way more than I’d planned to do. 

I asked permission from the garage staff in my best really bad Romanian combined with patronising sign language. They phoned for their English speaking daughter. She arrived and I explained to her what I was doing and that I was simply looking for a safe place to stay. 

She was very helpful indeed and the camping spot for the night is a garage forecourt with some local Romanian scrap collectors camped nearby. They’ve been eyeing up Chappie. Don’t be surprised if I get zero sleep. At least the stray dogs appear to be friendly. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

A new end point for stage 5

After looking at potential exit points from stage five of the run around the world I have decided to finish in Moscow. Other options such as Samara and Saratov in Russia were deemed to end too close to my visa running out. I'm not comfortable with that scenario at all. 

I'm scheduled to finish in Moscow on Saturday 1st September which will make stage five 86 days and 1300 miles long. Once I've found a suitable finish line in Moscow I'll update this site. 

The finish in Moscow will serve to setup future stage six to complete the Road To Astana.

Donna will be contacting the British Embassy in Moscow to help try and avoid the type of customs issues that we faced in Belgrade with Chappie.

By my rough calculations, the half way point of my run around the world (10,000 miles) will be hit as I pass through the border checkpoint from Ukraine into Russia. I'll get the exact location nearer the time.  

I'm relieved now, to have a clear vision of where stage five of the run around the world is going to take me. The journey resumes on Friday 15th June. It's going to continue to be incredibly difficult.

These are the key dates:

Belgrade, Serbia to Jimbolia, Romania
4 days. 84 miles. 07/06/18 - 10/06/18

Jimbolia, Romania to Satu Mare, Romania
10 days. 196 Miles. 15/06/18 - 24/06/18

Satu Mare, Romania to Kalush, Ukraine
8 days. 149 miles.  27/06/18 - 04/07/18

Kalush, Ukraine to Zhytomyr, Ukraine
13 days. 247 miles. 07/07/18 - 19/07/18

Zhytomyr, Ukraine to Kyiv, Ukraine
4 days. 85 miles.  21/07/18 - 24/07/18

Kyiv, Ukraine to Krolevets, Ukraine
9 days. 163 miles.  01/08/18 - 09/08/18 

Krolevets, Ukraine to Moscow, Russia
21 days. 369 miles. 12/08/18 - 01/09/18

A new plan needed for stage 5 (part 2)

This is the immediate change of plan for stage 5 of the run around the world. This new schedule covers the first 64 days. I am currently working on the plan for days 65 - 100 and will write about that as soon as possible. Click on each map to see the approximate route.

Belgrade, Serbia to Jimbolia, Romania
4 days. 84 miles. 07/06/18 - 10/06/18

Jimbolia, Romania to Satu Mare, Romania
10 days. 196 Miles. 15/06/18 - 24/06/18

Satu Mare, Romania to Kalush, Ukraine
149 miles. 8 days. 27/06/18 - 04/07/18

Kalush, Ukraine to Zhytomyr, Ukraine
247 miles. 13 days. 07/07/18 - 19/07/18 

Zhytomyr, Ukraine to Kyiv, Ukraine
85 miles. 4 days. 21/07/18 - 24/07/18 

Kyiv, Ukraine to Krolevets, Ukraine
163 miles. 9 days. 01/08/18 - 09/08/18 

A new plan needed for stage 5 (part 1)

I have found myself on many learning curves so far on the run around the world. The current one in Serbia and Romania has proved to be the steepest.

I've always tried to give each stage the best possible chance of success by building slowly, learning lessons and applying what I have learned to future endeavours. In 1993, I ran "around the block". That was successful so I built on that to do the Great North Run. Within 4 years that led to the London Marathon. The New York Marathon followed in 1999 and 2001. I then learned to run 20-30 miles per day for a week and then for 6 weeks with only 1 day of rest. That final effort saw stage 1 of what was to become the run around the world occur from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007.

With 14 years of running experience it took another 4 years to learn how to increase the repetitive daily mileage to 31 miles. Those 4 years were also spent learning how to put together a running event overseas and also how to improve on fundraising and engagement via social media. Using all of that experience, in 2011, I successfully ran 3100 miles across the USA from California to New York. It was the toughest thing that I'd ever done and I learned so much during the 100 days it took to do it. This was the run when I learned a great deal about how a support team works.

In 2013, my plan was to run up to 41 miles per day across Australia. It was a huge leap in distance and I underestimated how harsh the Australian summer could be to a human being travelling across the country on foot. It was the hottest Australian summer on record and despite facing many issues (including flies and badly injured feet) I arrived on the east coast of Australia only 12 days later than I had originally planned. I really had no right to finish that 2384 mile run but somehow managed to find a way.

It took another 2 years to plan and prepare to run stage 4 of the run around the world. This was originally a 2600 mile route from Lisbon, Portugal to Istanbul, Turkey. For 52 days I was bang on target with the mileage. It was a unprecedented effort which involved a lot of climbing through the Pyrenees and the Alps. 

However, losing to finish line in Istanbul due to a military coup and various support team issues meant that a change of plan was needed. It was decided that the finish line would be in Belgrade which was where stage 5 would start in 2018.

So that's a brief history of my running. Slowly building experience, learning the lessons and putting everything into practice on future events. Since the run across the USA, the continued success of the run around the world has only been possible with support from the likes of SOS Group, Chapman Ventilation, Fresh Freight Group, D-Line, Brooks, Virgin Money and Northumberland Tea.

Back to the present day and here I am on day 7 of stage 5 of the run around the world. What has become obvious to me is that my initial plan to run from Belgrade to Astana in 100 days pulling a buggy while possible, doesn't give me any time to safely look after my feet and nutrition needs. My safety is the primary concern. There is of course, a bigger picture of ensuring that the entire run around the world is a huge success for me, the sponsors and ultimately St Benedict's Hospice.

Having taken delivery of Chappie last September, there simply hasn't been enough time to gain the amount of experience that I've previously needed to ensure success. I knew that I would be straight in at the deep end with this run. I was in even deeper due to the customs issues that saw me only have a couple of hours of preparation with Chappie before setting off during the middle of a day to meet the 72 hour deadline to leave Serbia. It simply wasn't enough time. Imagine, taking off on a long haul flight without doing all of the pre flight checks. That's the situation I was faced with. 

Of course, I was relieved to leave Serbia last Sunday roughly within the timescales imposed on me. The price I paid for that were badly damaged and infected feet. There wasn't any time on any of the three nights that I spent in Serbia to soak and treat my feet. I ran as long as I could each day before either darkness or evening thunderstorms called a halt to proceedings. 

On Sunday evening, in Jimbolia, experience gained from the trans Australia run suggested to me that I should stop running for a few days and give my feet the treatment they need. A combination of antiseptic and tea tree oil soaks have so far worked wonders here in Jimbolia, Romania and I'll be ready to start running again on Friday 15th June after 4 "recovery days".

I've used the recovery days to carry out the necessary preparation of Chappie and also to replan the route ahead. I have factored in enough time to be able to eat and treat my feet properly. There is some contingency in there also and I'm now happy that I have a workable plan to be able to safely continue this journey.

As I said at the start of this blog post, this current stage of the run around the world has without doubt seen one of the steepest learning curves that I've ever faced. So much to learn, endure and experience in such a short space of time. 

Thankfully, I've always been able to "find a way" to succeed. I've seen plan Bs, Cs and Ds put into action to ensure that my journey around the world continues in the right direction.

The next blog post (due in the next 2 hours) will detail the changes that I'll be putting in place for stage five. I just wanted to explain for now the issues I've been faced with and the need for change.

One thing that is certain, is that this 100 day event will continue to be challenging, difficult but ultimately beneficial for St Benedict's Hospice. There will be tougher times ahead and many more stories to tell. It's not going to be easy. When is it ever easy?

I think it's appropriate that I finish off with words from Mark Rowntree, one of the followers on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page. This sums up the situation very well:

"It seems like you are emerging out of a very difficult transitional beginning period, coming to terms with the fact that what you do is extremely difficult. Documenting your psychological journey throughout this time is a great benefit to others, showing the mental discipline, the trust in others, and the moments of doubt, that are all ultimately necessary components in the doing of a hard thing, a very human thing. Thank you and.......Jog on!".

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Meeting the mayor of Jimbolia

It was a great honour for me to be invited to meet the Mayor of Jimbolia (Darius Adrian Postelnicu) today. I talked to him about my journey so far and the reasons behind it. I was honoured to receive a flag of Jimbolia which I'll hang somewhere inside my buggy.

I also gave a short interview to the local media in the Town Hall.