(Wednesday 1st January) - Happy New Year!
On New Year's Eve Mark and I discussed the option of delaying our flight, by one day, back to the UK. This would give Mark a few more hours running as a contingency should he be faced with any difficulties over the next few days (going on past experience anything could happen!). We called our airline only to be told that the next available flight would be 8th January. Not good. We had already taken so much time off from our 'normal day jobs' and the budget was tight for extending our hotel.
In recent weeks the office for the British Consulate General, here in Australia, had emailed Mark. They offered very kind words of support and encouragement and suggested that we contact them should we need any assistance in Australia. What do to – it's New Year's Eve and the Communciations Officer that I had been dealing with was now, like most of the world, on annual leave! The British Consulate General himself, Nick McInnes, had also been very kind enough to stay in regular contact checking on Mark's welfare and progress. Not being entirely sure of the outcome I emailed Nick and explained the predicament asking if he had any suggestions for alternative routes back to the UK. Nick was very prompt with his response and said to leave it with him. Fingers crossed!
We celebrated the New Year and made a toast (with lime and soda) to 2014. The atmosphere in Sydney was electric and the firework display simply out of this world. Mark and I headed back to the hotel shortly after midnight and quickly packed some essential supplies for the few days that lay ahead.
Day 78 was soon upon us and we made an early start driving back to the finish line of day 73. We stopped at the service station in Yass to refuel (ourselves and the car!) before arriving just after 3pm local time.
After an hour of running Mark tweeted:
“A strong start. Feeling very good. Long may this continue. Desperate to finish this off in style. Attacking climbs and enjoying it.”
I passed Mark running and it certainly looked as if the rest had been a success. He was looking very comfortable and had good pace. After approximately 10 miles Mark made it to the Hume Highway. As you will have read on day 73, this road is notoriously dangerous. Every ounce of concentration was required for this stretch of the run, the riskiest part by far.
"I've made it to the #humehighway. Just need to get to the other side of the road safely."
Aside from the challenges that Mark faced of oncoming traffic, finding a safe place to pull over for me was proving difficult. Imagine this road as the M1 in the UK, it's certainly not somewhere that you can just pull over for a few hours and wait patiently. I had to chance where I could stop which would also allow Mark to reach safely. Fortunately the Australian's are extremely road conscious. This means that there are designated rest areas at various places. That said, these also needed to coincide with Mark's running distances ensuring that they were not too far ahead to add risk of him running out of water. Luck was on our side for day 78 and we were able to make safe stops and water exchanges.
More good fortune found us with a reply from the British Consulate General. Our flights had been amended and we were now booked to fly back to the UK on 5th January, a day later than previously planned. Incredible! This was a huge relief for Mark and took off a little of the pressure for finishing the run across Australia (and not risking missing the flight home!).
Just after 7pm Mark finished running for the day. The evening started to draw in quickly which meant that running conditions were no longer safe. This reconfirmed Mark's decision on day 73 that running in the dark would have been a disaster and quite likely an accident waiting to happen.
The day ended on 16 miles with 128 remaining.
Having returned the RV on 23rd December, we no longer had anywhere 'comfortable' to sleep. Being in the middle of the motorway, and in between towns, there was nowhere to offer any alternative to sleeping in the car. As it happened, we were very close to a rest area which offered a little distance between us and the noisy highway so we parked there for the evening.
"No expense spared for tonight's digs. This is the view. #noroomservice"