Tuesday, 1 May 2012

USA Day 1 - Revisited (01/05/2011)

Over the next 100 days I'll be telling the story of how I ran across the USA. It's a year ago today since I started the run! Here we go with the story of day 1 of the run.

After 3 years of planning and training, it was finally time to start running across the USA. I felt a small amount of nerves while I was eating my porridge in the RV which was parked up at Huntington Beach. That was nothing, though, compared to the overwhelming feeling of anticipation and relief that, against all odds, I had finally made it to the start line in California. I say against all odds, as I’d been told to “forget all about running across the USA” by a nurse who diagnosed my broken ankle some 11 months earlier. Of course, not one to miss a trick, at the benefit of the 2 charities, the ankle is now known as The Paddy Power Bionic Ankle. On reflection that piece of "advice" was one of the best things I've ever been offered. It made me more determined to make a success of the run and be on the start line as per the original schedule.

It was a boiling hot day in Huntington Beach and I stood at the start line (pictured above) weighing 18 stones 7 pounds. It was the heaviest weight I’d ever been. Hardly the required weight needed to start a run across the USA. Hardly the weight of a man who’d ran thousands of miles in training. Despite all good intentions and advice from various experts I’d failed to eat properly for years. This wasn’t helped by the appetite that running 30 – 40 miles in training seems to bring about. With that starting weight I was not only running the risk of injury but any running in the hot California sun would be extremly difficult. I daren’t even mention the strain being put on my heart. Nevertheless, I was at the start line at Ruby's Cafe on a pier in Huntington Beach with a small group of kind folk present to see me off. Among them was Nick Davison and his family (below). Nick was an exiled Geordie who had let the support team and me hang out and relax at his home the previous day. His hospitality had been most welcome and it really contributed to my relaxed state on day 1. 

Also present at the start line was Alan Millen from The Exiles who was the writer of the 2 special Run Geordie Run songs (available on iTunes). Alan had travelled a long way to see me off. He lives in Switzerland! In total, there were about 15 people to witness the start of the run across the USA.

My support team at this point consisted of Richard Scholfield (Driver), Stu Wheatman (publisher of my book) and Shelli Mayfield (PR Student). Richard's experience and general manner was to prove invaluable in the early days of the run. Most importantly though he can't half do a good job with blisters! That poor lad went above and beyond the call of duty where my feet were concerned. He taught me how to safely lance blisters in a sterile way. I was able to do them myself once he left the support team 2 weeks into the run.

As the publisher of my book, Stu Wheatman (of Tonto books) was present to record daily interviews and to establish a  rapport with me. This would help us write the book, entitled Run For Home, which he had planned to have finished at the end of the run. Sadly, numerous factors meant that we just couldn't get the book off the ground.

I'll talk more about PR girl Shelli's impact on the run at a later date. It's a part of the story that started so well but got worse as the run progressed. She had done some good work in the lead up to the run. Her best effort was to give me a mobile phone with which I could text my family at any time for free. This was crucial if I was to keep morale up! I also used it to update Twitter and receive messages whenever there was a mention of @rungeordierun on Twitter. It was an old phone with few features but at that particular time it was as invaluable a piece of kit as I could wish for.

The run got underway at 09:01 Pacific Time. I ran the length of the pier by myself then I was accompanied for the next 4 miles by Nick Davison. Nick was great company and just what I needed at the start of the run. At the 4 mile point I shook him by the hand and continued on my way past fast food joint after fast food joint along Beach Boulevard. Lots of these had free wi-fi and I stopped a few times to update Twitter, my blog and to check on the donations on my Justgiving page. The fund total was £30,000 when the run started. I was quietly confident that the £50,000 target could be reached within the following 100 days and 3100 miles.

The weather was absolutely scorching and I remember drinking a lot of water during the first day.  Richard and Stu were waiting in the RV at a Wal-Mart near the finish line. The idea was for Richard to have an easy first day to help with jet lag. Shelli was supporting me in her hire car. I'd misjudged one of the meeting points at about 15 miles. I'd long since ran out of water and almost ended up being dehydrated. I had a really good intake of water once I got the chance. This was one of only a handful of times that I ran out of water in 3100 miles and 100 days of running.

I remember stopping for a McDonalds at the 25 mile point. As per usual my body was craving fat and sugar. And there was always the free wifi with which to update Twitter and the blog! Taking people on the journey with me via the blog was very important. I later found out that it became addictive reading for many people. 

By the end of day 1 I had managed to run 32.4 miles from Huntington Beach to Diamond Bar. I was 1.4 miles ahead of schedule! This was to be a very rare occurrence indeed!

The RV resting place for the night was the Wal-Mart in Diamond Bar. This was the first of many stays in Wal-Mart car parks during the run across the USA. After a dose of Cherry Active, an update of my blog and a quick phone call home, I was fast asleep. Running that far in scorching conditions had taken it's toll. I was very tired.

On the plus side, I was now down to double figures left to run. i.e. from 100 days to 99. Foolishly, I'd actually started the day thinking about the considerable time and distance left to run. These kinds of thoughts would not enter my mind until day 95 with near catastrophic consequences.

It was a relief to finally have 1 day over and done with. All the years spent planning, training and preparing had gotten me this far. It was finally a reality and my quest to run across the USA in 100 days and raise £50,000 for St Benedict's Hospice and The Children's Foundation had begun.