It's been 9 months since the run across Australia finished and you could say that this blog post is long overdue. I've used this time to unwind from the trauma of Australia and try to make sense of it all. What went wrong and why? What went right and why? Where do I go from here? These are questions that I ask and get asked on an almost daily basis.
I think I'm finally coming to terms with the trauma associated with the run across Australia. When I put myself through something as difficult as that run, I found that my weaknesses were exposed and I was on the brink mentally. I think that that those long hot Summer days down under were as close as I'll ever come to having a nervous breakdown. You just don't run across somewhere as inhospitable and desolate as Australia and get through it mentally or physically unscathed.
I'm very lucky to have an amazing support network and this proved to be the difference, in the end, between success and failure. My Australia support team (Graham, Melanie, John, Jason, Carlton, Dave, Ian and Donna) played a blinder out there in very difficult circumstances. The support didn't end there with thousands of followers and well wishers on Twitter and Facebook also playing their part. I could go on and mention Real Radio, nufc.com, BBC and ITV and The Journal as well as my sponsors. I'd be here all night if I was to mention everyone who'd played a part in the success of the run across Australia.
The run across Australia like all other events that went before it can be judged on 3 things. Did I make it from the start on the west coast of Australia to the finish on the east coast of Australia? YES! Did I manage to engage the general public and (virtually) take them on the journey with me? YES! Finally, and most importantly, were the general public generous enough to hit the fundraising target for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation? YES!
The feelings and memories associated with those questions grow stronger every day. What is diminishing, I'm glad to say, is the overall trauma, feeling of paranoia and panic and the horrible remembrance of the pain I had to endure every day. It has diminished to a point where I can genuinely say that I miss the day to day challenge that running 40 odd miles a day during the Australian Summer brings. Or the American Summer for that matter!
I often find my mind drifting to certain sections and situations of the run across the USA and Australia. I see the many places, people, mountains, trees, lakes, deserts but mainly roads vividly and my thoughts and dreams are filled with these most incredible moments from the previous runs.
A common interview question over the last few years is "Are you obsessed with running?". The answer I've always given is along the lines of "No. If it wasn't for the fundraising aspect I wouldn't do any running". This is now only partly true. In a bizarre twist of fate, I have found that I have become very obsessed with the very thing that has caused me so much physical and mental pain and exhaustion. I'm not kidding when I say that I would like nothing more than to be able to get on a plane tomorrow to the USA or OZ and start running again from Huntington Beach, California or Cottesloe Beach, Perth. I think that I've acquired the same mindset that Forrest Gump had when, for no apparent reason, he just set off running. Of course, I have 2 very good reasons for running in the form of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.
I make no apologies for writing what some may think is absolute nonsense. The desire to run extreme distances is very much there and, like I said in an interview in The Journal in January, "I'm only half way there".
I've been fundraising for 21 years and with a lot of luck and good health I'll be able to do the same for the next 21 years (or more). I had a dream back in January about the future of my fundraising and running. All of a sudden the direction of my future events became very clear.
I'll be revealing details of my next run, scheduled for 2016, sometime during the week commencing 13th October. Knowing how running top to bottom of the UK and across the USA and Australia captured the public's imagination, I'm very excited to talk about the 2016 run and beyond.
I'm meeting with The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation on the 22nd September to get their "sign off" on my plans. As per usual, there will be a high degree of difficulty and risk associated with the 2016 run. I don't for one minute want to put the charities in a position they don't want to be in so this is a very important step to be taken before any actual ones are. It's the first major milestone for 2016 and despite what I'll be telling them, I'm confident of having their acceptance.
The next step on the journey to 2016 is to start training. I'm looking forward to getting into David Fairlamb's gym tomorrow. Dave was very quick to offer to train me again. Unfortunately, I've spent the last 9 months eating bacon sandwiches, chocolate and drinking the odd beer here and there. Dave and I have got our work cut out once again!
For reasons that will become clear after October's announcment, it is imperative that I go into the 2016 run at a much lower weight than previous events. For once, I'm confident that I'll be able to achieve this.
It's not all about weight though. Unlike the build up to the run across Australia, I feel like I have my mental "edge" back. The experience gained in the USA and Australia are going to stand me in good stead. I have approximately 600 days before the 2016 event. I'm up for the challenge. Let the long battle for fitness commence tomorrow!