Friday, 12 August 2011

Day 100 - Job done

This was it. This was the big day. Get through today in 1 piece and it was a case of job done. If only it was as simple as all that. I had only managed 4 hours sleep the night before and there were approximately 60 miles to be run to Coney Island.

The RV was parked overnight in a car park in Morristown. It seemed well lit and safe. Unfortunately, a street cleaning vechile swept all around the RV at 2 in the morning and woke me up. You couldn’t make it up!

It just seemed like five minutes from the time I closed my eyes at 1 am until I got up at 04:30 am. I felt so tired. So very very tired. I hadn’t had a shower in 3 days because the RV had ran out of propane gas. Even if we had of had the time to find gas, getting in and out of the shower would have been a very difficult task. My feet were very badly swollen. I had several nasty blisters which had gotten out of control. I just hadn’t had the energy to give them any attention over the previous couple of days. Put simply, my feet were failing on me. I just had to finish this run on day 100. Running an extra day was not an option. I don’t think my feet could have coped. Moreover, I had said right at the outset that this run was to be done in 100 days. I would regard this run as a failure if I had to take an extra day to run it. I wrote on the blog that, for me, taking over 100 days would feel like finishing outside a medal position. I wanted the gold medal. Nothing else would do.

I set with great urgency. Mentally, I felt very very good. The anxiety and worry that I’d been suffering over the previous 4 days had gone. Other than my swollen feet, I was in very good shape physically. That was no consolation, though, as every step that I took was painful. Particularly, those steps on uneven, broken road.

I managed to run 8 miles before meeting Carlton in the RV. He was waiting at McDonalds (with it’s wi-fi) which gave me time to update the blog and inform people about the day ahead. One bowl or porridge later and I was on my way again. I ate toast while running. There wasn’t enough time to stay in the RV and eat it.

The route east of Morristown was very tricky with lots of turns. Carlton did a fantastic job with directions and driving the RV just far enough to make sure I was on the right route. There were lots of climbs to negotiate too. At the top of one particular hill, the subsequent section of road had been ripped up and was in the process of being replaced. It was so painful to run on. I winced with every stride despite taking painkillers. There was only one thing on my mind at this point; keep moving forward, keep making progress, keep ticking the miles off.

I had a massive scare at the 15 mile point. My left foot planted on a bit of uneven, broken path. I winced with pain. I was immediately overcome with the same feeling of terror that I’d experienced when I broke my ankle last year. I felt very afraid. The pain in my knee left me limping very badly. Fortunately, the RV was very nearby and I took a 10 minute break and got some ice on it. I had been going great until this point and was about a mile ahead of schedule for the day.

Once I got underway again, the knee pain had almost gone. That said, I remained very wary of it and I could feel a distant ache in my knee. I was convinced that it was going to cost me a finish within 100 days. How could this happen. It felt so unfair after all of the effort that had been put in. I decided to take the pace right off the run. I’d been pushing forward very hard all morning. It was time to go into self preservation mode for a while.

Carlton’s directions continued to serve me well through the latter stages of New Jersey. I spoke to my old friend Martin on the phone at one point which gave me a boost. Soon after, I was giving an interview to the 3 Legends on Real Radio, the afternoon show followed by Total Sport on BBC Radio Newcastle.
I was taking on lots of fluids during the morning session and into the afternoon. I never felt that my thirst was quenched at any point. At the same time, I was sick and tired of drinking fluids. “Please! No more!” I thought. The same could be said of food. I was eating as many energy bars, bananas and gels as I could. After 100 days it had all become a little to much.

Things started to horribly wrong 8 miles east of the George Washington Bridge. The knee pain and it’s possible crual consequences continued to prey on my mind. Before I knew it, the panic and anxiety had returned. My confidence had completely gone. I was a wreck! I spoke to Dave Fairlamb and Mark Fleming within the space of an hour. This helped a bit. I knew that the only real cure to the panic would be to get to Manhattan where members of the NYC Toon Army were waiting to run with me for the last 13 miles.

The road to the George Washington Bridge was extremely busy. The hard shoulder disappeared and I had to leave the road and run through some very uneven ground littered with rubbish. This went on for a few miles. I remember thinking that it was like Frodo in Lord of The Rings trying to get to Mount Doom to destroy the ring.

With a lot of help from Carlton, I eventually found my way onto the George Washington Bridge. What a sight for sore eyes. Carlton ran with me to the other side of the bridge and into Manhattan. All of a sudden the anxiety disappeared. What a relief to make it that far. What a relief to have made it out of New Jersey and into The Big Apple.

I said goodbye to Carlton on the bridge at the 38 mile point. The plan was for him to take the RV to Coney Island and I would run the remaining 22 or so miles unsupported.

I entered Manhattan and was immediately overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of Harlem. I hadn’t seen that many people for quite some time. I found the whole thing very exciting. I met the producer from Real Radio, Dave, further into Manhattan. His job was to interview me at various points and report back to the studio with my progress. He did a lot of complaining about how sore his feet were which, strangely enough, took my mind off the considerable pain that I was in.

There was so much to see all the way down Broadway and I met the folk from the Toon Army NYC branch on 33rd Street. They gave me a very warm welcome and it was great to see a few familiar faces. I say “familiar”. I’d met a few of them for the first time at the Columbus match a few weeks earlier. It was nice to see some of them sobre this time! From that point on I felt very safe and secure. There was no way these guys were not going to see me to the finish line safely. They were fully aware of the responsibility they had been given.

As we made our way out of Manhattan and into Brooklyn I started to feel very strange. I had ran 50 miles by this point and was into unchartered territory. I felt that I wasn’t in full control of my legs. I honestly felt that they could give way at any point. In didn’t feel weak, particularly, but it was a feeling that I’d never experienced before.

The miles to the finish line with the NYC Toon Army were something that I’ll never forget. We had such a good laugh. There were even laughs on some of the very long stretches of roads. These last few miles seemed to go on and on and on. Our spirit never waivered though. The guys stopped off at various grocery stores to get me energy drinks. They had even brought gels too.

Thinking back to the last few miles, I now realise that I wouldn’t have preferred to have any other group of people run with me for the final 13 miles. There was a great togetherness and team spirit present. It was obvious that they would do anything they could to help keep me motivated, hydrated and comfortable. Running with them will be something that I will never forget. All of a sudden the run across the USA was producing a perfect finish. I could not have wished for a better finish.

Dave from Real Radio had to duck out with 6 miles to go. His feet were aching really badly. He jumped into a taxi and made his way to the finish line in Coney Island. He now has the nickname “Taxi Dave” amongst this particular group of people.

We eventually reached Coney Island at 02:10 am. With various time differences in the USA taken into account I had reached the finish line in 100 days with just 50 minutes to spare.

The approach to the peir at Coney Island was my cue to start sprinting. I could hear Taxi Dave on the phone to the studio back in the UK. “I can’t catch him” he said down the phone. At this point I felt no pain. I felt to tiredness. I felt that my legs were as fresh as they were on day 1 of the run across the USA. While giving a video interview to my iPhone, I sprinted all the way to the end of the peir to clock up 60 miles for the day. I’d made it. I could run no further. I had started on a peir 100 days earlier in Huntington Beach, California. I was now standing as far as I could get on a pier in Coney Island, New York. At the start, I was surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. I was now surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. I had managed to run coast to coast across the USA in 100 days.

As I turned back to meet the Toon Army I could hear them shouting “Run Geordie Run”, “Run Geordie Run”, “Run Geordie Run” over and over. What a perfect end to the most physically and mentally challenging run that I had ever undertaken.

I know for a fact that my parents would have been so proud of this achievement. They would have been so pleased with the amount raised for the 2 charities too. By the time I reached the finish line, £6!,000 had been raised. I had not only been successful on the running front but I’d also passed the £50,000 target that I’d set for the run. As I wrote earlier, I could not have scripted the finish to this run any better. Or so I thought. Moments after the end of the run I spoke to Gary and Lisa on the Real Radio Breakfast show. Jack was on the other end of the line and it was absolutely fantastic to share the moment with him.

I was very keen to get my photo taken with the Toon Army guys I’d ran with and some other members of the group had been waiting for me at the finish line. I can’t thank them enough for taking good care of me during the final stages of the run. Memories of the laughs we had will be something I’ll cherish forever.

After the photos, the Toon Army guys got the tube back to Manhattan. Some of them were due into work within a matter of hours. I immediately updated Twitter and Facebook with news of a succesful end to the run. The number of Tweets that I received was staggering. It became clear that many people in the UK had stayed up or set their alarms to check to see if I’d finished safely. I’ve since heard that quite a few people did this. That in itself is an amazing thing for me personally. Through this blog, I have been able to take people on the journey along with me. It is obvious that this has worked a treat and people have felt very much part of this run. The fact that many people have done a run, joined a gym or just got off their backsides “inspired by Run Geordie Run” is an added bonus too. I’ve heard of that kind of thing happening quite a bit over the course of this run.

What a great day! What a great end to the run across the USA! What unbelievable support! What generousity! What a tired Geordie! But what a happy, proud and very relieved Geordie!

We Geordies are made of very stern stuff you know. We can do anything if we put our minds to it. We can achieve great things that may seem impossible at the time. We can inspire. We can be inovative. We can support and help others. And boy can we run. Run Geordie Run!