Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Day 41

I had a very good sleep in the air conditioned hotel room in Starokostyantyniv. As with dinner the night before, breakfast was brought to my room. Much to my relief so were eight days of my laundry. The staff at the Sluch hotel had done a brilliant job. 

Breakfast consisted of eggs, sausage (with a tasty mustard like filling), toast, cheese and coffee. Smachno. 

I packed up my things, loaded up Chappie and the days running got underway just before 1000. I felt very sluggish and the prospect of running for a ninth consecutive day was difficult to contemplate. 

I reached the outskirts of town only to be pulled over by the police. I told the English speaking male officer about my journey and we took photos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about police in Ukraine (and prior to this in Romania) they love a selfie. 

I received a message from Yuri and Victoria, who I met on Saturday. It said that Yuri would be passing and as well as food and water he would deliver a slice of cheesecake that Victoria had made. 

With the prospect of a food delivery later in the day I all of a sudden began to run much quicker. There were many climbs to run up and I did my best on each of them. 

There was an unannounced downpour at the 14 mile point. It just came out of nowhere. I had my waterproof and poncho on within 20 seconds. They were off again after five minutes as the baking hot sunshine returned. 

Yuri turned up at the 18 mile point with bread, water, cheese, tuna and the slice of cheesecake. I had my first break of the day and we talked for a while. 

I could tell by talking to Yuri and also from the messages I’ve received from both him and Victoria that there is a real concern for my wellbeing. It is a huge comfort to me, knowing that so many people are following the journey and are willing to help. 

Yuri left in his car and all of a sudden I felt very alone. 

As I sat eating bread, I had an awkward conversation with an old lady. I don’t think she could understand that I was a foreigner. She seemed to leave satisfied that we’d had a worthwhile conversation.

It took me another mile to reach the “top road”. This was the road that I could have joined early on Sunday. This was the popular choice of road amongst the people back in Lanivsti. Had I taken that road then I wouldn’t have had a shower and bed last night. The popular route is five miles shorter but that was a sacrifice I was willing to take for some cleanliness. 

The top road was a lot quieter than I thought it would be. I call it the top road as the more southerly road that I’d been on since Sunday morning ran parallel with it. 

The road was long and straight and I could see quite far ahead. I began to wonder with all of the trees to my left and right, whether I’d be able to find a suitable place to setup camp. 

I entered the Zhytomyr Oblast at the 25 mile point for the day. I assumed that the sign below was telling me that. 

As the sun began to dip towards the horizon behind me I continued to look for a suitable place to setup camp. This is always the most difficult part of the day. It’s a task that I often dread.

At the 25.9 mile point a wide entrance to a farmers field appeared to my left. I was 2 miles short of my target for the day but decided to setup camp there. 

There were a lot of small flies hovering around but they didn’t bother me too much. I tried my best to anchor Chappie to the ground. I forgot to mention that two days ago the brake snapped off the bar. This means that securing Chappie is now a lot more difficult. Running downhill is also a challenge without a brake. 

There are now just 60 miles left to the next rest day in Zhytomyr.

Tomorrow is my tenth consecutive day of running. I need at least 30 miles and then the remainder will be done on Thursday. I’m so looking forward to a rest day and also speaking to some people in Zhytomyr at an English speaking group. 

I start the final push (or pull) to Kyiv on Saturday morning. It’s 88 miles to the finish line in Independence Square from Zhytomyr which will see my required average daily mileage reduced to 22. I’ll be ignoring that figure in an attempt to reach the end by 1200 on Tuesday.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Day 40

I had a decent amount of sleep in the bus shelter near Korchivka. It wasn’t until I put my head in the hood of my sleeping bag at 0600 that I really slept well. After this time I dreamt of a Chinese baby in a cart attached to Chappie. I was dragging them both up a mountain side. Work that one out dream analysts! 

I was woken by the sound of footsteps. I peered out of the rear hatch and an old man was glaring at me from half a meter away. I said hello and he moved away to wait for his bus. He came back and I explained about my journey. In astonishment, he put his head in his hands. I knew that the old man and me were good at this point. 

A few other passengers arrived and they boarded the west bound bus at 0715. 

I packed up Chappie and set off at 0800. After enjoying writing last nights blog and the prospect of a much needed shower at the end of today, I felt determined and it showed with some quicker than usual miles. Chappie felt lighter than usual and I think eating more calories the day before also helped. 

I’ve passed a few of the structures in the image below recently. I must try and find out what they are called and their purpose. 

A farmer pulled over in his tractor and I told him about my journey from Belgrade to Kyiv. Cue one more look of astonishment. 

I reached Antoniny just before noon. It looked like a nice place with numerous lakes of various sizes. 

After 11.5 miles, I arrived in the main square at noon and bought a couple of hot dogs. They were very nice and it didn’t take long for me to eat them.

I was asked for a few photos from the locals which I’m always happy to oblige with. I’m still puzzled as to the level of interest in Ukraine but it does help to make the journey a lot more bearable. 

I got talking to a girl called Vira. She’d previously worked in London so her English was excellent. We talked about my journey and also about our respective jobs. 

I set off again at 1300 and felt quite tired in the midday sun. I got stopped for a few photos down the road and exchanged enthusiastic high fives with the children in the picture below. 

A man that I’d previously met in Antoniny stopped to present me with a bottle of Pepsi. I saw him later in the day to receive a bottle of Sprite. 

As the afternoon went on I got slower and slower. My feet were very sore. With 4 miles to go I took my 3rd painkiller of the day. I reached the outskirts of Starokostyantyniv and was greeted by a family with some berries. I ate a handful and we took some photos. Also present was a young lad from the Ukrainian army. He asked me if I needed food or water. I said that I had everything that I needed. I’ve still got a ration pack from the Ukrainian army. 

There was a slight climb into the town centre and by this time I was in a considerable amount of pain. There was only one thing for it - to put my foot down with a bit of AC/DC. 


The next mile was decent. I chose a track by Faithless next - “We come one”. After that, mile 28 was the quickest of the tour so far at 13:00. It would have been quicker but I was concerned that the contents of my basket would drop out. I wound the speed down to the finish line and stopped running after 29.5 miles. 

The finish line was a hotel where the shower that I’d been dreaming about all day was waiting for me.  

A young lad named Tolia was there to greet me and he was able to translate to the hotel that I had a bag of laundry that could do with washing. To my utter joy the hotel were able to take that on. Thank you to the Sluch hotel for that. Thanks also to my contact Lena and her mother who did the booking and sent some lovely food to my room. I ate the lot. 

What a day! I’m pleased to say that things are going to plan. I now have 3 days to run 86 miles to Zhytomyr. I’m so looking forward to a rest day on Friday after what will be 11 consecutive days of running. It seems like months ago since I left Kalush.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Day 39

I woke up after a very good and much needed sleep in the accommodation above Yuri and Victoria’s auto workshop. Having only had one hour of sleep the night before I couldn’t help but thinking how fortunate I’d been to unexpectedly recharge my batteries. Also, there was a hearty breakfast on offer and the calories were also very much needed. 

Breakfast consisted of salad, eggs, bread and sausages. Afterwards, there was a delicious homemade blueberry pie. In my world that bit is known as “breakfast pudding”. Victoria told me that her Mam and Aunty has made it late last night especially for breakfast! I turned down the offer of a second piece. I was so full. It was definitely an athlete’s breakfast full of protein and carbs. Smachno!

We finished off with a coffee from the workshop retail section. Victoria’s Dad asked if I needed any supplies for Chappie such as a pump or puncture patches. I told him that I had all that I needed and thanked him for his kindness. I joked with him via Yuri and Victoria’s translation that he was the best smelling man that I’d met in Ukraine. He was clean shaven and I think I must have seen him last night and this morning after he’d just had a shower. 

I packed up Chappie and Victoria handed me a packed lunch consisting of bread, meat, eggs, veg and cheese. I was also given two bottles of water. I now had enough to last me until Starokostyantyniv.

I said goodbye to Yuri, Victoria and her Dad with handshakes and hugs. What lovely lovely people. 

It took me half an hour to get through Lanivtsi. I spoke to Donna via WhatsApp and had to end the call due to the loud horns of the passing lorries. I think that they were part of a wedding procession.

A drunken cyclist then insisted on getting too close. I had to stop in my tracks to avoid any collision. He seemed to be frustrated that I wasn’t talking back to him in Ukrainian but I may have been mistaken. He stopped at a bar/cafe and I continued on my way. 

A mile down the road the cyclist returned. I think he must have had a “top up” in the bar. He wasn’t cycling very straight at all. He muttered a few angry words in my direction and tried to grab my arm. I politely threatened him and that was the last I saw of him. 

I’m sure that the small amount of drunken men that I’ve met this week mean me no harm but I have found them very annoying. 

At the five mile point I saw Yuri again with his father. They were on the way back from their lake where they’d caught a fish! It was 8kg. 

One for the geeks now - I’ve played a lot of Far Cry 5 on the Xbox this year and that involves fishing. I’m sure it’s a Carp. 

I said another goodbye to Yuri and his father in law. I was immediately inspired to write the following on my Facebook page. 

“It is difficult to find the words to express my gratitude to the wonderful people that I have met in Ukraine. 
They “get me” and I “get them”. 
They open their homes to me. 
They feed me. They give me water. 
We laugh. We shake hands and we hug. 
We show each other pictures of our families. 
We share jokes (usually based on our difficulties in communicating).
There is something very special about this country and it’s people. 
I have found that love, respect and kindness are a common language. 
If we all communicated using those three things then the world would be a much better place I think.”  

The potholes and usual traffic problems returned after 8 miles. The road surface was very poor after this for the rest of the day. At least the roads were very flat with only two climbs to do all day. 

It was nice to receive an enthusiastic wave from some nearby farm workers. They were one of many people during the day to wave or ask for a photo. Many of the people who’d asked for a photo had seen the recent appearance of Chappie and me on TV. 

During the course of the day I was for forced to wear my waterproof and poncho. They are the perfect way of keeping dry and with the land being so flat I could see the rain approaching from a distance. 

In Teofipol I had a conversation with a man who spoke very good English. I told him about my journey but sadly had to turn down his kind offer of accommodation for the night. I still had another 12 miles to do. 

I stopped for a quick coffee and a croissant around the corner and a group of people asked for photos. They had also seen me on TV. I think one lady asked if there was room enough for two people in Chappie. Her mime included pointing inside Chappie and making a smooching motion with her lips! Oh how I laughed. 

As I set off one of the ladies presented me with some mini croissants and a bottle of Coca Cola. I thanked them all and headed up a large hill filled with potholes. 

The road straightened out and became flat again. This route was a good choice with very little traffic making for a very safe day. 

Once again Desert Island Discs helped pass the time. What doesn’t help my mental state however, is me thinking of the finish line. Not only that but thinking that there is only one Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday left before I reach the finish line in Kyiv.

Thinking about the end of any stage of the run Around The World too soon has always been an issue for me. When I was close to the end of the run across the USA in terms of time but not in distance things almost unravelled for me. I was running around the clock during the final two weeks. I consumed a huge amount of caffeine to get me through the days considerable mileage. During the final week I was subject to a lot of anxiety, worry and panic. With three days to go, the mileage deficit was cut to 57 miles with 150 miles to go to the finish line. 

Somehow, I managed to cut that deficit to 29 miles on the final day. That meant I had to run 60 miles on day 100 of the run across the USA. They were very nervy times and I still have the feeling of huge relief that I managed to run 3100 miles on 100 days from California to New York. It wasn’t easy especially in those final days. 

The same thing happened near the end of the run across Australia. I wanted the end of that run to happen so badly. I’d spent 70 days in considerable pain during the hottest Australian summer on record surrounded by flies every day. It felt to me that the 2384 mile run from Perth to Shellharbour would never end. I almost lost my mind thinking about the finish line. It was also difficult seeing Donna suffering in squalid conditions with me in the RV. A regular overnight temperature of 35-38 Celsius made for a horrendous situation. 

I quit the run across Australia with less than 200 miles to go. Mentally, I couldn’t make one more step. The following morning, in a Sydney hotel, I made the decision to continue. I needed 4 normal days off before coming back to run the final miles. 

The run across Europe in 2016 was very tough mentally and physically. The mileage was considerable and for 52 days I was on schedule. Once Donna and I made the decision to end the run in Belgrade due to the military coup attempt in Istanbul I lost focus. The damage that the RV took in Italy didn’t help matters. Neither did having an alcoholic on the team. 

I decided to quit the run across Europe as I ran up the Stelvio Pass. Donna told me to think about it. It took a phone call from personal trainer David Fairlamb to keep me running and I spoke to him every day until I reached the finish line in Belgrade. Having Steve Harrison on the team brought some huge enjoyment to the final stages of the run across Europe. The final weeks with Richard and Donna on the team and all of the positivity that was on the team really helped. There were still dark moments for me in Croatia and Serbia but somehow I reached the finish line at the Victor statue. 

So the point I’m trying to make is that I’m now in a very vulnerable phase of a multi month ultra run. I don’t have a recognised support team but what I do have is the incredible kindness being shown on an almost daily basis here in Ukraine. I’ve also got daily telephone support from Donna. She has talked me through some pretty low times since I left Belgrade on June 7th. There have been times where I couldn’t see me finishing this run, particularly when I was in Romania with puncture after puncture happening. It’s all worked out so far though. 

I’m now focusing on getting to the hotel in Starokostyantyniv tomorrow. Then it’ll be 3 big days of running to get to Zhytomyr by Thursday. I’m looking forward to meeting members of an English speaking group there on my first rest day since I left Kalush. 

It will then take 3.5 days (or less) to run 88 miles to the finish line in Kyiv. I can’t let myself think about that too much until I set off from Zhytomyr on Saturday.

As my watch clicked onto 29 miles for today I found myself alongside a bus shelter. There were no other obvious options to setup camp so I lifted Chappie inside. Let’s hope I get more than 1 hours sleep tonight which was what happened 2 nights ago the last time I slept in a bus shelter.

I hope that you're enjoying following my journey. It’s not the stage around the world that I thought it would be but there have been so many positives so far. 

Please consider making my efforts worthwhile by making a donation to St Benedict’s Hospice. That can be done by visiting http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Day 38

This blog starts shortly after midnight where I was camped inside Chappie under a bus shelter. It was probably the worst place that I’d chosen to sleep on this tour so far. Having only got to sleep at approximately 0100, I was woken up by a bus pulling alongside Chappie. I saw a person get out to take a photo. In the spirit of the occasion I stuck a thumb up for the photo and the bus left. 

I was just drifting off to sleep again when a car with a trailer pulled into the bus stop. I could see the driver sitting smoking but not doing anything else. I assumed he was taking a rest break. Soon after, another car pulled into the bus stop. The passenger and driver got out of the car and I could hear them talking. 

There was no way I was getting any sleep with people nearby in the early hours of the morning. 

A bus arrived and the passenger of the second car got on board and the car drove off. This just left the original car and trailer. A van arrived at 0200 and the man in the car went to collect some large drums of something. He lifted the drums into his trailer. The van left and the man attempted to start his car. No luck! His car would not start. He tried numerous times to start his car over the next few hours and I think I drifted off to sleep at 0400. 

At 0500 I sensed someone nearby Chappie. I looked out of the window and the man was standing right beside us ready to have a closer look. I said hello from inside and he replied with “Sorry” and returned to his vehicle. 

I lay awake until 0800 when some people turned up to fix the man’s car. I packed up camp, lifted all 70kg of Chappie onto the road and loaded my supplies into Chappie. 

I set off running at 0830 and not only felt extremely tired but also very hungry. I hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday’s breakfast. While I was moving, I ate a few snack bars. I followed this up with a painkiller. My right foot was in a lot of pain. Thankfully, the pain that started last Tuesday in my left ankle has improved greatly. 

There were climbs all through today’s route. I’m done complaining about them. It’s better to focus on getting to the summit of each one. 

I found a CO-OP just after the first mile in Nyzhchi Lubianky. The only thing I could see to buy in there was a big bag of crisps and a Coca Cola. That was breakfast. 

As I got stuck into the climbs it started to rain. On went the waterproof and I was gutted when I realised that my rain poncho was deep inside Chappie. The sign below was one of many up/down hill signs that I saw. 

I didn’t look at my watch today so I’m not too sure at what mile I pulled over at a bus shelter to empty Chappie in the loading down rain. It was worth the effort as I retrieved my fleece and rain poncho from inside Chappie. I was quite cold and continued on my way wearing a base layer, fleece, waterproof and rain poncho. 

I listened to more episodes of Desert Island Discs to help get me through the morning miles. I enjoyed the Stephen Hawking, Kylie Minogue, Denise Robertson, Ant and Dec and Charlie Brooker episodes. I think I must have listened to 30 or so others on this tour so far. 

The rain pelted down and I was very snug within my 4 layers. I wish that I’d worn my waterproof socks though. I could feel my right foot disintegrating. 

The rain stopped and started. The climbs came and went. The road surface was once again poor today. There haven’t been many potholes in this Oblast but the roads are buckled. This makes life very difficult for me as I have to suffer on uneven ground or Chappie does. 

I stopped at Vyshhorodok when I saw a shop. I bought a few long life croissants and a coffee. I wolfed them down and started the long steep climb out of the village. That particular climb was the one I’ve circled below. 

Once the coffee and croissants started providing fuel I felt pretty good. Throw in a painkiller and some decent tunes and it was a platform to increase the pace in the afternoon session. 

Miles 14 to 20 were the quickest of the day and I felt that I had a decent total of miles in me today.

I reached Lanivtsi which was where I was due to make a right hand turn towards Starokostyantyniv. A group of people were waiting for me and we took a few pictures. They had seen coverage of my run in the local news. 

I asked them if there was anywhere that I could get a shower in the town. They called the local hotel but no luck. My feet were in desperate need of a good clean as was the rest of me I suppose! 

Another couple (Yuri and Victoria as I later learned) pulled up in their car and said that they could help. They had seen coverage of my run on a Turnopil website. Not only could I have a shower, but they had accommodation above their workshop. I walked the remaining few hundred metres to the “hotel” and was shown to my room. To me, at that moment, it was like seeing the Ritz hotel. I desperately need at least 5 hours sleep and I knew that I stood a good chance of getting it here. 

Victoria asked what time I’d like to eat! “6pm would be great” I replied. I couldn’t believe that I’d have a shower, roof over my head, food and a good chance to treat my feet. I’d been thinking all day that this would probably be the first day when I wouldn’t meet anyone in particular or be shown the type of kindness that I’ve seen so many times in Ukraine on this tour. How wrong I was! I showered and soaked my feet. My right foot was as bad as I thought.

I arrived at the dinner table which was set outside. It was a very short walk away from my room. A lot of Yuri and Victoria’s family were present. We had some good laughs which mainly centred around our language barrier. Yuri and Victoria said what so many other people have said on this tour. They can understand me when I talk in English but sometimes they don’t know the words to speak in English. 

Dinner started with Borscht (soup). It was delicious and is fast becoming one of my favourites. Then the main course was barbecued sausages, potatoes, salad and a home cooked pork. It was all so very tasty and I definitely replaced some of the calories burned over the last two days. 

Dessert was a 16kg melon. It’s approximately the same weight that I’ve lost so far on this tour. Yuri skilfully sliced the watermelon, it was very sweet and a perfect end to a perfect Ukrainian meal. 

We discussed the various route options to Kyiv. My original route is 5 miles longer than the route everyone uses to drive to Kyiv. My route, however, has a hotel booked on Monday night. The quality of the roads on my route aren’t as good and, I suspect, it isn’t as heavily populated. That’s good news for me though with slower and less traffic. I also have the luxury of a shower on Monday night. 

I’m sticking to my original route to Kyiv, via Starokostyantyniv and Zhytomyr. It’s going to take five days of 29 miles to get to those towns on time. I then have a rest day in Zhytomyr before four days of 22 miles to Kyiv. There is a faint light starting to appear at the end of a very long tunnel!

A huge thank you to Yuri and Victoria for turning a stressful, nervy and tiring day into a great day with wonderfully kind Ukrainian hospitality. Breakfast is at 0900 I’ve just been told.

Day 37 (13/07/18)

Chappie was stored in a secure garage overnight and I had to go down from the hotel room at 0800 to move him to the hotel forecourt. I had a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant and I have to say a huge thank you to the owner (below) and the local council for arranging my stay at Hotel Bratislava. Thanks also to my contact Iryna in Ternopil for her assistance too. 

I was in no rush to get started today as the local media weren’t arriving until 1000. We chatted for 45 minutes and I was on my way through the busy streets of Ternopil. I tried to pick the most efficient route and just about got it right. 

I hadn’t gone 100 meters before a man in a passing car handed me a bottle of water. I had 6 bottles on my shopping list so that was definitely a good start. 

As I arrived at the man made lake a man and women pulled over in their car. I described my journey to them in the usual way and the man offered me some accommodation, shower and food. I’d just had all three and tried to get that message across. He wasn’t having any of it. He then looked around for a passing young person on the basis that they would be able to translate. He brought a girl into the conversation and she was able to get my message across. He shook my hand and on I went. When people see me here in Ukraine, they are desperate to help in some way and this was just another shining example of that. 

Ternopil was much bigger than I expected. It’s probably the biggest city that I’ve seen since Belgrade. It’s a pity that I couldn’t have spent more time here. 

The city was busy but I felt very confident on the road and ever since I left Belgrade I’ve had a lot of confidence in the passing traffic. That doesn’t mean that I ever get complacent mind you. 

I had a brief chat with some cyclists in the city centre. They were on the way to Poland I think. I twisted and turned through the streets and alongside the busy traffic until I reached the National Revival Park. 

A man asked me if there was anything he could do to help? He was a doctor and spoke English. After a brief conversation he rushed off to a nearby shop to buy some water. Thanks to his kindness all that was left for me to buy was some Coca Cola. 

I eventually reached the city limits and spotted a gas station. I picked up a few bottles of Coca Cola and the equivalent of Irn Bru. The man picture below insisted on paying and also gave me a donation to St Benedict’s Hospice which I paid in straight away to my Virgin Money Giving page. 

I left Ternopil with all of the supplies that I needed thanks to all of those kind people. I do have a small budget for such things but I appreciate all of this support nonetheless. 

I looked back to the city and got stuck into a few climbs. “It’s got to flatten out soon” I thought. I’ve been thinking that for a few days now. 

Thank you to everyone who made a donation to St. Benedict’s Hospice today in recognition of my birthday. One such person was Jason Stobbs who had been in the support team in Australia and Europe. I took the photo below for him. If we ever saw one of these in the distance during our time in outback of Australia we knew that we stood a good chance of getting a mobile phone signal. It wasn’t always the case sadly. 

After 12 miles, I saw a sign for Kyiv. This was my cue to turn due east and I felt happy to be running in the correct direction after the many twists and turns of the previous five weeks. 

The new road was a lot quieter and had some nice climbs to get stuck in to. A few people pulled over for photos and I was more than happy to oblige. 

As the dark clouds came in I decided to call it a day at the 17 mile point. It was starting to rain and I setup camp at the side of the road. It was a safe distance away from the traffic. It was 1730 when I finished for the day. 

I climbed into Chappie and after an hour of snoozing decided to watch a movie as a birthday treat. The choice was American Assassin. With 10 minutes of the movie left a car pulled up and I had a very confusing conversation with a man and his two sons. 

I thought he was saying that it wasn’t safe here but I could sleep at his house and have food. It was only 1km away. He drove off and I assumed he would be waiting 1km down the road. I packed everything in Chappie and reluctantly made my way down the road in the fading light. 

After half a kilometre another passing car stopped me and I heard “Mark, selfie”. I told them that I had to keep moving and half a kilometre as the darkness would soon be on us. That man and his son stopped at a garage and we took some photos. A kind donation to St Benedict’s Hospice was also made and paid in to my Virgin Money Giving page after they left. 

It was at this point that I realised that the first man was telling me that there was a gas station 1km away and that would be safer to sleep in. Next time this happens I’m going to use Google Translate! 

I kept on running and found a bus stop to sleep in with the final light of the day fading. There was a huge kerb into the bus stop so I had to dead lift all 110 kg of Chappie into it. I let out a huge groan as I lifted. It’s the last thing I needed. 

It’s pitch black outside as I’m writing this blog. I’ve just caught sight of my own reflection, lit up by my phone, in Chappie’s window! I didn’t even flinch. I just assumed that it was just another kind Ukrainian bearing more gifts, good wishes or after a photo. 

Happy birthday to me from a little bus stop in Ukraine.