Saturday 28 December 2013

Day 68

(Sunday 22nd December)

Some positive thoughts ended day 67, day 68 was incredibly positive with a cool 24 Celsius at 06:30.  Mark needed to make sure that he made the most of this as the midday heat was forecast to be another scorcher!

The miles today saw Mark reach the Olympic Highway, named as such as it was the path that the Olympic Torch took on its journey to Melbourne for the 1956 Summer Olympics.  The miles for day  68 were dedicated to the memory of Chris Fairlam.  A loving memory donation was made from those closest to him.  

At 09:20 Mark tweeted to say that he was struggling.  The chain of tweets that followed poured out from the heart.  For anyone in any doubt as to the reasons why Mark puts himself through these inhumane conditions, this should explain a little more…

"I'm struggling today. I'll finish this run but understand the toll it takes on me on a daily basis. It's like an eternal nightmare."

"I have demons. I have anger. I'm riddled, like many people, with deep grief for the loss of my parents."

"Had I known how tough this run would have been mentally I would never have started it. It's more than a reasonable man can take most days."

"The illusion that by doing these runs I can see my parents again is a cruel one that I've clung too for years."

"The pain of grief is a real burden. Like this run, I want it to end badly."

"I have put my heart and soul on social media. You have seen the ramblings of a broken man on the brink."

"My strength has gone. When I get to #bondi next week I will have arrived on fumes."

"I have perspective. I know there are many far worse off and many battling cancer."

"I feel cheated. Why didn't I have more years with my parents. Why did they have to smoke when I told them not too."

"The fallout and the aftermath of families who lose lived ones to cancer or any illness for that matter is often underestimated."

"The aftermath for Mark Allison losing his Dad at 17, his brother at 18 and his Mam at 23 is something many can relate to I'm sure."

"The grief has been lessened temporarily by pushing myself to the limit and fundraising for the last 20 years."

"It's not sustainable. I've never asked for conventional help before but I will do so when I get back to the UK."

"I hope everyone appreciates my honesty. I don't always get things right but I'm putting it all out there for you to judge."

"I'm at a critical and very vulnerable point of my life. With your support, kindness and understanding this arduous journey will soon be over."

I'm sure that like myself, if you were reading these at the time (or perhaps even now), there were tears.  To see Mark punish himself with these conditions in attempt to fight the grief that he carries is heartbreaking.  As ever, the messages of support were amazing.  So many people backing the cause, tuning in every day and willing Mark on.  There are no words to describe how fantastic this support is and, of course, how very much appreciated it is.

By 11am Mark had completed the first session of the day with a respectable half marathon.  The local support continued and a young couple had stopped Mark to make a kind gestured donation.  The second session of the day was a 'warm' welcome of hills.  Mark has ran on so many straight flat roads that hills presented a new and enjoyable (?!) challenge.

"Got to the top of a 3 mile sheer uphill stretch with some good attacking running. It's 39 Celsius. I'm soaked now."

"Today has been very warm with lots of climbs which I've enjoyed. It hasn't been that dissimilar to the North Pennines back in the UK."

"32.4 miles closer to Sydney. Relieved."

19:00 - "2222 miles ran so far in total. 222 left to #Bondi."

Mark ended day 68 with a few more questions about the run across Australia, this time confessing to asking the support team for luxury food items that we blatantly don't have.  It served him wrong this time when he asked for hot chunky winter soup - this time he got what he asked for! Heating and eating soup in a hot RV is not enjoyable but that will teach him!

Fortunately the temperature in the RV was a little more bearable at 27 Celsius, this was looking to be a great night's sleep ahead…

Day 67

(Saturday 21st December)

"2 am and the temperature has dropped slightly to 33 Celsius in the RV. Asleep within the hour I reckon."

05:44 - "I think this is the warmest morning of the tour so far. There is absolutely no hiding place from the heat for us."

"Today is simply another day to survive and get as many miles in as possible. At least 40 is the target on this day 67."

"Today's miles are dedicated to the memory of Eric Rosher, who lost a battle with cancer earlier this year."  

"I'll be trying to think of every positive to keep me going today such as this is the last Saturday of the tour."

The relief in Mark on day 66 was remarkable when he announced that the run would be extended.  Every day he analyses the route; how many miles ran, how many miles left, how many days left, how much money has been raised.  This is part of the ongoing mental struggle that I have watched Mark go through day after day. Aside from having to deal with Mark's feet this is quite simply the hardest part of being on the support team.  Mark tries to share all of his feelings through Twitter/Facebook but it only really scratches the surface when you witness this first hand as I'm sure other members of the team will agree.

As ever, the donations continued to pour in.  So many kind people out there contributing to the ever growing charity fund and Beaconhill Primary School in Cramlington were kind enough to donate their dress down day fees.

Mark continued battling through the heatwave, 32 Celsius at 08:30!  Day 66 took us through a town called Marrar where even the locals were complaining about the unseasonable conditions.  

"I can't overstate just how sick this heat is making me feel. It's horrific. I'm sweating buckets out here."

"The good news is that a breeze has started. Bad news is that it's very slight and very warm. Hairdryer warm."

"Just been chased by a massive dog in #oldjunee. It looked like a biter with head dyed blue. I was close to passing out. Shaking now."

"That's a speed I didn't think I'd be reaching today. That was too close."

"3 hours left today then there is the prospect of an RV park where we'll be able to use the air con."

"I've lost concentration a few times on the road today. That's 12 hours of sleep in 4 nights for you."

"That lack of concentration can't happen when I get to the motorway on Monday. Just to have 1 night to catch up on sleep will really help."

"The last 4 nights accommodation is uncertain. It's more than likely going to be the hire car."

"Tiredness has taken its toll (and probably that dog chase!). I made it to #junee after running a marathon today."

"There was no chance of an attack on the miles in the end. It's currently 42 Celsius and has been for many hours."

"There is now a chance to have my first shower in 2 days and get a decent nights sleep."

"I'm so tired after 67 days of running with just 1 rest day. The extreme heat weather warning ceases after tomorrow thankfully."

"I need to get through Monday unsupported on the motorway with the threat of thunderstorms then the conditions improve on the road to Sydney."

"A big attack on miles was originally planned for this weekend. You can't plan such a thing in this country."

"I hope I'm wrong but I sense I'm getting much weaker as the days progress."

"I've lost a lot of lean weight as well as a considerable amount of fat weight of course. I just can't get enough food into me."

"I think 67 days of calorific deficit has taken its toll. I feel weak not strong. Every mile is a battle that has to be fought for."

"My staple diet is porridge of course. Eating it in this climate is a horrendous experience. Poor @Donna__Houghton has to cook it."

"So those are the negatives in this period of unseasonally hot weather. What about the positives."

"I'm desperately trying to get to the motorway as soon as I can. It's the Hume Highway."

"Previous experience of running on busy dual carriageway means that I'll have to fully concentrate all of the time."

"Running in these conditions will give me a lot to focus on and the miles should go a lot quicker."

"I'm desperate to not only finish this run but finish it in some style. I'm hoping that there will be at least 1 day off good attacking left."

"Sleeping in the car once the RV has gone from Monday night could work both ways. I'm hoping it will be a good thing."

"I'm hoping that having a direct road with Sydney at the end of it will also work in my favour providing a clearer incentive."

"The peak temperature for the last 4 days is a "chilly" 28 Celsius. I'll need my top coat."

"The amount of support I have and people "behind me" is incredible. It's unprecedented and very much appreciated."

"Finally, the amount of money that has been donated has been amazing. It's going to be the difference between success and failure."

"That's all for now. I put as much as I can on twitter. I will eventually get round to completing the story next year."

"2 hours until lights out. Time to eat some porridge and it's 40 Celsius. Later…"

Mark then spent time answering questions on the run across Australia so far.  Some very interesting questions were asked around why Australia in the summer, do you wish you had ran a different route, favourite places in Australia so far…

So many positive and encouraging messages as ever through social media to end the day along with the hope of the temperature in the RV reducing to something a little less than 32 Celsius!!

Day 66

(Friday 20th December)

Due to the early finish for the massage with Wendi, day 66 was to be an early start.  At 5am the temperature was already into the early 30's, this was going to be another day battling against the Australian sunshine.

"I have only known today's heat at 5am in pitch black conditions one other time in my life; #deathvalley #california"

Fortunately we were able to stay overnight in a caravan park at Lake Talbot.  This meant that we were able to hook up to the electricity and 'attempt' to lower the temperature inside the RV meaning a little more sleep.

"I managed to grab 4 hours sleep last night which gives a total of 10 hours in the last 3 days. Needless to say, I'm very tired."

We knew that we would he heading out of 'civilisation' as we left the town of Narrandera so comms would be tight.  Thankfully we had the satellite phone onboard in case any emergencies.

As ever Melanie and John, support team from Perth, continued to send well wishes to Mark even though they left him on day 12.  They sent this message of support for day 66.

The miles of day 66 were dedicated to Ken Riddell who sadly passed away the previous week.  His family made very generous donations in his memory.  This kind of support to Mark's cause is very humbling and brings a great deal of perspective each time a message of this sort is received.  The donations received contributed to the new milestone of £32,000.

"Such incredible generousity today and for the last 66 days really is overwhelming to the point where tears often stream down my face."

As usual, I drove ahead to a suitable meeting point for a water exchange.  In these sorts of temperatures this must be no more than 4 miles at a time.  As I was parked up a road train pulled in behind the RV, I was a little weary at first until a friendly face approached asking if I was ok.  The man had pulled over to check that I was ok in the 'unforgiving conditions'.  He'd also seen Mark running yesterday so needed to be sure that everything was ok.  A very thoughtful gesture which was becoming increasingly familiar  along this stretch.  The number of people passing by and stopping to check the welfare of both myself and Mark was very heartening.  

The other good news was that the treatment provided by Wendi on day 65 had been an incredible success.  Mark was running pain free!

While Mark was running I spent some time trying to remove the Australian roads from his shoes.  By no means an easy job - the melted tarmac had acted as glue in the tread.  No wonder he could feel the sharp edges of the stones!

By 2pm Mark had been able to battle through the heat and run 19 miles.  Due to the treatment from Wendi, and the ongoing soaking/dressings in previous days, this was the first day in a long time that Mark hadn't taken any painkillers.  A remarkable improvement. 

The positivity of day 66 continued and we were once again graced with the presence of Fire Chief Andrew.  This time he was delivering mince pies - a festive treat which saw him 70 miles away from his home town.  We really have been spoilt by Andrew!

"Fire chief Andrew has just dropped off some mince pies, the local paper with a story about the run and ice cold water. Happy Christmas mate!"

Just when we thought that we had been through the worst of the heatwave this happened…

The previously repaired shoes were not proving to be a success with Mark's feet so pair 6 and 7 were retired.  Mark packed 7 pairs of running shoes so this meant that he had to revert to previous pairs and hope that there would be enough miles left in each of them to get him to the finish line.  Mark offered pair 7 up for bid - anyone out there interested? Contact for details.

Thanks to the live interview (click here - 10:30 - 11:00) and support from Colin Murray, on Talk Sport, Mark received a flurry of new interest in the run.  With this came new donations!

At 8pm Mark finished running on 31.2 miles.

"The heat was phenomenal (and still is). It's going to be another warm night with not much sleep."

"The lack of sleep (10 hours in the last 3 days) is now having an effect on the mileage."

"The weekend forecast is horrific. I've been advised not to run but that's not happening."

"RV has to be returned to Sydney on Monday so I will be running on the motorway unsupported for 10 hours approx. Thunderstorms are forecast."

"@Donna__Houghton will be returning with a car on Monday night which becomes our accommodation until the end of the run."

It was at this point that Mark made the decision to extend the end date for the run across Australia.  He had faced some harsh conditions in the last 66 days and now was the time to really consider whether the run could be completed in a safe fashion.

"There is now no way I can safely finish on Christmas Eve. I will be running through Christmas Day, Boxing Day and will finish on the 27th."

"If there has ever been a more gruelling event than this (the run across the USA wasn't) then I've never heard about it."

"This is about pure survival now and ensuring that @Donna__Houghton and myself arrive on #bondi safely next week."

"Arriving on #bondi later than the target I had originally set is not something I'll ever regret."

"Thankfully, next week I'll be able to say that I ran across Australia and lived to tell the tale. The end is very near."

"The important point is that I wanted this run to be a step up in difficulty and risk compared to the run across the USA."

"It has presented so many more challenges than the run across the USA. It will be job done on the difficulty scale once I get to #bondi."

"I never ever thought that I'd spend a Christmas Day running on a motorway covered in flies."

"Moreover, I never imagined that I would not get to see my son, Jack, on Christmas Day. I know many other fathers don't for other reasons."

"This run should have been over in the #nullarbor last month. It could have been over last week when I almost lost my mind."

The messages of support that followed Mark's announcement were incredible and very touching.

"The thing that strikes me about this run is that so many people have bought into it emotionally and have almost lived it with me for 66 days"

Another night in the sweltering RV lay ahead...

"The RV temperature is 38 Celsius. There is no breeze. This is going to be another rough night."

Mark was unable to sleep due to the heat and as he lay awake at 1am he received another supportive message.  This time from Lady Elsie and Mark Robson…

Day 65

(Thursday 19th December)

The hot Australia sun was here to stay.  Previous days had seen a sauna hot RV and melting roads, what would day 65 bring?

Mark set off from Narrandera hoping that the cloud cover would remain.  Unfortunately this would not be the case and a state wide alert would confirm this…

As with previous days the Australian sunshine is most intense later in the day.  At 9am it was 30 Celsius, this could only get worse.  Mark remained focused and and set the iPod to play @thatwineshow to see him through the miles (if you happen to tune in beware of a few naughty words!).

I left Mark fully prepared for hydration with the Camel Bak and waist pack.  This meant that he was able to carry 7 litres of water until the next meeting point.  This then allowed me to drive ahead and shop for supplies and sort out the laundry (a change of 2 or 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of shorts and a few base layers each day due to the excessive heat makes a lot of washing!).

Whilst running Mark received a tweet from Colin Murray, host of Talk Sport, who invited Mark onto the show.  A few emails later and this was all organised for a live interview later in the day.  

The heat continued…

"I've now got a breeze in my face like a warm hair dryer. Not refreshing at all!"

"This has got to be the hottest day of the tour so far. There is a smell in the air that you get in a sauna."

"You can inhale the air through your nose with mouth closed and taste the intense flavour of the heat."

"My trusty #iPod Classic has melted. It has survived the #Mojave desert and #deathvalley. This scorching hot Aussie day is 1 too many for it."

"I'm hearing of record temperatures for this time of year in #newsouthwales. Ambulance service says "stay indoors"."

At 18 miles Mark decided that he could take no more.  The heat was becoming extremely dangerous and a serious threat to Mark's welfare adding to the battle with his feet and, of course, the flies.  We decided to return to Narrandera for shade and something to eat.  Whilst here I suggested that we find Mark a masseuse.  The last massage that Mark had was when Jason was on the support team some 4 weeks ago.  After visiting a few shops making some phone calls we spoke to a lady called Wendi who was more than happy to accommodate Mark's needs. Mark explained to Wendi the struggles that he was having in light of the miles ran so far.  Wendi simply couldn't believe that Mark was putting himself through this.  

Some 2 hours and 45 minutes later Mark's treatment with Wendi ended.  She paid special attention to Mark's feet and amazingly applied pressure to the areas which were 'untouchable' due to the sensitivity. This was a much needed session and was actually soothing and relaxing for me too!

Mark left Wendi feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  A great result with great hope for the remaining 5 days.

Mark reflected on the high temperatures that we had been experiencing:

"The temperature hit 41 Celsius today and at 8pm has dipped to 36. Glad that @Donna__Houghton and I are still in 1 piece."

"The weather forecast for the next week is very dangerous for us. We have a continuing plan in place for @Donna__Houghton's and my safety."

"@Donna__Houghton supported me training in #deathvalley last Summer. Everything we learned there is being put into practise here in Australia"

"If we keep on doing what we are doing then the run is not in jeopardy and we are safe as we can be in these temperatures."

"We have been surviving in this latest heat wave for 2 weeks now. There is a week left to do the same and get to #Bondi."

"Lights out time. The RV temperature is down to 32 Celsius. 6 hours sleep in last 48 hours. I'm hoping to get to double figures tonight."

Sunday 22 December 2013

Day 64

(Wednesday 18th December)

Day 64 started after having only 3 hours sleep.  Without being hooked up to power on a campsite there is no air conditioning.  This is not pleasant and makes it very difficult to sleep.  As if that wasn't bad enough but the fridge decided that it couldn't cope in these temperatures either.  

After the usual of 45 minutes to clean and dress Mark's feet he was out on the road. One of the workers who had stopped to give Mark cold water on day 63 tooted as he passed.  Mark commented: 

"I've also noticed how more enthusiastic the #roadtrain drivers are. Perhaps a few of them have driven past a few times over the last 63 days."

Mark passed this sign and reflected on both the distance and experiences so far...

"Australia, bring your heat, your flies and your sharp stoned roads. You have 1 week left to break me and so far you've failed."

"I might grow weary, I might grow weak, I might bend but I will not break. So Australia you need to up the ante. You're running out of time."

Just after 9am Mark stopped for porridge.  By this time the temperature had already reached 30 Celsius.    Mark used his time to have a catch up/tactical conversation with David Fairlamb and look at the miles ahead.

"The next 3 or 4 days should see quieter roads with scorching temperatures of around 40 Celsius."

"Then it's onto the busy M31 which is dual carraigeway all the way to Sydney. Slightly cooler temperatures are forecast."

After leaving Darlington Point Mark met a couple of cyclists from South Korea.  They were travelling also travelling from Perth so Sydney - any translators out there…?

Mark took the time to review the tag line of his headline sponsor, Benfield, Enjoy the journey.

The positivity was soon quashed when a road train driver decided to throw a bottle of wee at Mark on the roadside.

"So Australia, you sense defeat. You're resorting to dirty tactics. That bottle came at me some speed. Is this how it's gotta be?"

"I should point out that #roadtrain drivers are fantastic. That's 1 in tens of thousands who've pulled that kind of stunt."

This gave Mark some fire in his belly and started an attack on the miles…

"Now I'm angry. #ifeeltheneed #theneedforspeed #attack"

Comments had appeared on Mark's Facebook page in his addressing of Australia, he added these comments:

"Some interesting comments on my Facebook page about my nemesis - Australia."

"When I refer to Australia I mean all the challenges it has to throw at me. And followers will know all of them."

"The kind and supportive people of this incredible country have been nothing short of brilliant."

"The one major thing about this run that I'll take away is the support that I've been so lucky to have."

"I'm looking forward to talking to more Aussies in my last few weeks here. It's a unique kind of enthusiastic support."

"In the meantime Australia, let's get this heat cranked up shall we? Oh and bring a few more flies too."

As the day wore on the now familiar rise in temperature approached.  At 4pm Mark tweeted:

"The road is melting. I've got half of Australia's bitumen stuck to my shoes (almost)."

"The darker patches must be avoided. It is literally like running in treacle. #melting #sturthighway"

As Mark was plodding Sturt Highway I had my second encounter with the emergency services.  This time with the police.  Senior Police Constable Mick had passed me an hour earlier as I was pulled in at the side of the road.  He wanted to check that I was ok.  Cue leaflet.  Mick was great to speak to and was amazed at what Mark was doing.  His parting words with me were "good on him, I have trouble running to catch crooks".  A lovely man, he also gave some tips on the roads ahead.

Little did Mark know that all of this was happening, he sent the following tweet:

"I've just been stopped by the police."

"Good on ya mate, I just got a leaflet off your girlfriend. Can't stop, I've gotta catch this car". Shook my hand and went after his target.

Mick then later left a comment on Mark's Facebook page wishing him well for the remainder of his journey.

Just as Mark had commented earlier, there have been so many friendly and support people along the way.  No sooner had Mick left another kind Aussie pulled up alongside!

At around 6pm Mark reported that that his left foot was becoming an issue - the same pain that had stopped him from continuing on day 63.  Mark was adamant that day 64 would not end this way.

Earlier Mark took his, now daily, phone call from Gary and Lisa for a catch up from the previous day.  While he was waiting to speak to them he was listening to Christmas music! It's crazy to think that back home people are frantically shopping for their Christmas Day jumpers and shopping to fill the fridge for a month when the shops are closed for only one day (we've all done it!).

"Very strange to hear Christmas music before I spoke to @garyandlisareal today. I have little concept of time of year these days."

"My life as I knew it is a distant memory. This feels like the bit between death and heaven/hell or even just hell. It's a strange feeling."

"It's almost like I've accepted this to be my eternal fate. I'm ok with it. It feels like there is no end. That's fine."

"I've almost forgotten what my son Jack looks like. I missed his 11th birthday last month. I'll miss him at Christmas."

"Isolation, being in solitude and removal from regular life is a fascinating thing. This no longer feels real."

"Perhaps the flies are people at my bedside. Medical staff prodding needles in or trying to revive me."

"There will be no revival. Just an eternal journey across a land with no cities or people."

"The lesson here is probably not to mix Codeine with a family size bar of Whole Nut at 39 Celsius. #pergatory"

"Imagine running in a mostly desolate wasteland for up to 13 hours a day for 63 days. You'd become a bit paranoid. No?"

"I should mention that the aforementioned codeine has now worn off. Effects last up to 3 hours."

"I can feel multiple pockets of fluid in my feet. This is the kind of pain I had at the end of the run across the USA."

"I'm fine with it. This is what I do now. This is how I'm programmed. #eat #sleep #run #takepainkillers #waveatroadtrain #repeat"

"The doctors will soon stop trying to revive me. I'll then wake up on a beach with clear blue waters and surf as high as a house. #bondi."

"The pain in my feet is getting worse. The RV is just around the corner. Pain is now a normal feeling that I've accepted and I'm used to."

"Australia you are as fascinating as you are beautiful. Going #walkabout gives  time to think and question many things in life."

"What is really important in life becomes very clear on a journey like this. How we treat one another is all that really matters."

"Be kind to people. Say hello. Ask about someone's well being. Respect one another. Perform random acts of kindness."

"That's the end of me preaching. I'm not a religious man but I've had a lot of time to think."

"Despite considerable pain later on day 64 I've really enjoyed it. It's had a bit of everything. Quicker miles were at the start of the day."

"The people of Australia continue to make the days memorable with their kind support."

Day 64 ended with 30.2 miles ran.  This brought the total for 64 days of running to 2108 miles.

Lights out.  Time to do this all over again tomorrow...

Day 63

(Tuesday 17th December)

Today the alarm was set an hour earlier in attempt to get a head start on the mileage before the real high temperatures kicked in.

Mark's feet had continued to heal well which was amazing news, a great start to the day.  The morning was made even better with the most spectacular sunrise. For all of the negatives of flies, heat, melting road this was certainly a highlight (if only for a few moments!).

A spectacular start to the morning was soon to be over.  Mark was becoming increasingly hassled by the flies and the pain had started again in his feet. Mark sent me a message so say how much he was struggling, I knew that this would be a low end to the morning.

As I waited for Mark to approach the RV, I started to prepare for water exchange and a snack.  Just then I heard the blip of a siren. My heart sunk, I was parked perched on the corner of a farmer's track – was I in trouble? I coyly went to the front of the RV to step out and saw a flash of a Newcastle top! This had to be good news! I greeted by a big smile from Andrew, the Zone Commander for the NSW Fire and Rescue. Andrew had previously been in touch on Facebook as he lives in a town not too far from where Mark would be running. Andrew's Dad was originally from North Shields so the family are big supporters of 'the toon'. This was great! In the distance a very dreary Mark was heading towards us, he almost dropped to his knees when he saw the friendly black and white stripes. His pace quickened and he greeted Andrew with a huge bear hug!

Andrew had brought lots of fresh supplies and even an ice cold bottle of champagne (that we will unfortunately have to save for Sydney). Andrew was a great addition to day 62 and as if it couldnt get any better we were offered a 'ride-a-long' in the fire truck – high speed and with sirens. Mark was giddy with excitement as he got to sound the siren himself.

The man who saved day 63. Fire Chief Andrew. #legendary #geordie 

"Break over. Time to get back out there. I'm in the mood to attack again."

The break with Andrew had cost Mark an hour, it was certainly well worth it as he skipped into the next running stretch for the day.

10:00 "Meanwhile, I've found some pace. It's only 10am and very hot. Time to get into these miles."

It's fantastic to hear that so many people have stopped by the roadside over the last 63 days to check that Mark was ok.  Today with the temperatures rising Mark was also handed bottles of cool water to keep him safe in the immense heat.

13:00 - "20 miles done so far on what feels like the hottest day of the tour so far."

At 13:30 Mark stopped for a recharge and a porridge top up.  He remained in high spirits after the visit from Andrew earlier in the day.

It was clear that the temperature was starting to increase. The RV was reading 41 Celsius, in the shade. It was now becomingly increasing diffucilt to withstand the heat, and that's not just for Mark.  I'm sure that the other support team members will fully understand what it's like to be a prisoner in the RV some days.  It's a tough decision as to whether I stay indoors and melt or go outside and go insane being pestered by flies.  What to do? 

Mark was eager to send me forward to the next town in order to seek shade and AC. This was not going to happen. There is absolutely no way that, in this heat, Mark can be left out on the road unsupervised for a prolonged period of time. Unfortunately out here the temperature is constantly high up until approx 5pm when it then peaks to the hottest period of the day.

Day 63 was saved by Andrew but the whole day was dedicated to Stephen Guss's father:

"On 17 th December 2001 my Dad lost his fight against cancer. Please run a step in Wilf's memory on Tuesday" - Stephen Guss

Mark ran through to early evening and was please to see this sign:

"This means 43.5 miles left in the #sturthighway. I'll be off it tomorrow afternoon"

"It's starting to cool a bit. At last. It's forecast to be warmer tomorrow."

At 8pm Mark tweeted the following: 

"I've stopped at 35 miles. A deep rooted pocket of blood on my left foot is causing considerable pain."

"The cause may be the amount of melted Tarmac and small stones trapped in the corresponding part of my running shoe."

"I'm very pleased with the way I attacked today in very very warm conditions. The next 2 days will be warmer. That's the challenge."

"Less than 400 miles to #Bondi."

"2088.45 miles ran in 63 days. #eat #sleep #run #repeat"

"It is like an oven in the RV. Too many insects to open windows. #standard"

We made the decision to park on a (safe) roadside for the evening in Darlington Point.  There was a roadhouse opposite, Gum View Cafe, which gave me the night off from cooking (and melting) inside of the sauna/RV.  When the owner, Judy, found out what Mark was doing she very kindly offered a donation (but was less enthused about having her photo taken!).

"Lights out. It's another bug infested furnace of an RV tonight. It's the hottest I've known it in 63 days. Goodnight!"

Day 62

(Monday 16th December)

Having completed 42 miles on Day 61, Mark was feeling physically and mentally tired but remained in good spirits.  Mark made it to, and through Hay, only stopping for a quick 'second breakfast'.

"Back out into the hot sunshine. The temperature will hit 33 Celsius by 5pm. Forecast for 28 at #sunset. Coolest day this week."

"Random couple waving randomly at me. I give an enthusiastic wave back. They wave even a guy in the car behind me. Doh! #hay"

Onward to #sydney. Goodbye #hay.

"Just had a great chat with a #roadtrain driver who pulled over to see if I was ok. He left #Perth 5 days ago on his way to #Sydney."

"28 miles done and it's getting hotter. Temperature at 35 Celsius now. 3 hours until it starts to cool. I'm melting. As is the road."

There were even sights of potential bush fires on the horizon.  Although, thanks to the power of Twitter and Facebook, it became apparent that these were more than likely what they call 'controlled burn offs' where the farmers dispose of any rubbish etc which were authorised at certain times of the day.
Mark made time to speak to Gary and Lisa from the Real Radio breakfast show, they would now be checking in with Mark on a daily basis.

The day continued and Mark made good progress.  The temperature had dropped to 32 Celsius at 8pm but wasn't showing much sign of dipping any lower.

The sun began to set and Mark continued to run.  Tonight was the first night that Mark had ran into the dark since being in the Nullabor. There were tonnes of insects which unfortunately were eager to stay in the RV too.

#roadtrain at night #hayplains #newsouthwales #rgrdownunder

21:30 - "38.28 miles done. The latest finish of the entire tour. It was very hot today. It's going to get hotter!!"

"The RV is now infested with bugs of various sizes, types, ease of killing method and biting potential. You could not make this up."

"So the mozzie netting on the windows isn't fully proofed for all types of beasts. Windows shut and it's 28 Celsius in the RV."

"Looks like the bugs are getting in through the air con. Time to get under the blanket with the flynet on. There is no escape. Lights out! :("

Day 61

(Sunday 15th December)

Mark woke to some encouraging messages of support about a standing ovation that he received at St James Park, where Newcastle United were hosting Southampton.  Mark has been a season ticket holder here for at least 23 years and this will be the most games that he has missed since the 1987-1988 season.

This video is courtesy of Justin Lockwood: 

"Overwhelmed by support this morning. Huge task ahead and I'm not going to let anyone down. Especially as the fund has just broken 30k."

We kept to the routine of ensuring that Mark's feet were treated and dressed, unfortunately yesterday had presented some new blisters.  Another set back just as the raw parts had started to heal in other places.

Day 61. The long road ahead. #hayshire #newsouthwales #australia 

I passed Mark at the 8 mile point.  He looked like he was running strong, this was great to see after the struggles of previous days.

The support of people passing by continued through to day 61.  Once again the offers of a lift to the next town came flooding in, Eddie (picture below) was kind enough to donate $50 for Mark and his two charities.

Mark was also unexpectedly greeted by some other locals….

Mark continued along this road when Jackie The Album came onto his iPod. This brought back some happy memories for him:

"Back to #Jackie The Album. Reminds me of me Mam cooking Sunday dinner with @bbcnewcastle on in the 70s. #steepypeas"

"I can smell the gravy and the mash potato now. Me Dad will be in from the pub soon and we'll record ourselves talking to each other later."

"He'd get me to sing on tape too. I still have those tapes. That was Soundcloud of the 70s. Happy days."

Mark's signal dropped later that day however he was able to send through a text to update Twitter confirming that the 2000 mile barrier had been broken.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Day 60

(Saturday 14th December)

Mark was wide awake in the early hours of day 60.  At 1am Mark shared his thoughts with Twitter:

"Painkillers have worn off. Both feet are so sore. I'm not sure how I can even walk never mind run."

"Mind very active and it's just after 1 am. Tomorrow is a key day. There are. 11 days left. Whatever mileage I do tomorrow leaves a simple sum for the following day. That is I divide the remaining mileage by 10 (days left) to give the required average needed…."

"There is a huge incentive to get the remaining mileage to as far below 500 as I possibly can tomorrow."

"As it stands there are 523 miles to #bondi. Running 45 miles will leave 10 days of 47.8 to get to #bondi."

"At this stage during the run across the USA I was running into the night. There's no hint of having to do that in Oz and never has been."

"I've worked so much harder on this tour than in the USA. It's all still to do but with huge effort it's looking good for #bondi on time."

"One day next week, possibly Friday or Saturday, I hope to have a go at a huge distance. 70+ miles is the target."

"If conditions are favourable then 70+ miles is a possibility. I should be in the mountains by then. Climbs always bring the best out of me."

"That will leave only a few days before the finish but the back of the home straight will have been broken."

"The forecast for the remaining 11 days of the run isn't favourable. Temperatures of up to 40 Celsius will be very tough to run in."

"That's all for now. Tomorrow's mileage is hugely important. It's going to set the scene for the final 10 days."

"Back to sleep now and to dream of the tactics needed to run 70+ miles after having already ran over 2000 miles."

The alarm, as usual, was set for 5am.  Naturally with his mind in overdrive during the early hours Mark was  feeling tired.  I took the time to assess his feet and the good news was that they were slowly starting to heal.  I added some extra padding underneath the dressing to give some extra support which would hopefully alleviate the pressure around the area of raw skin.  

Around midday Mark returned to the RV looking more exhausted than usual.  He complained of feeling weak and tired so we agreed that it would be better for him to rest and avoid the ever rising temperature.

After 3 hours Mark was ready to face the afternoon:

"Back in the game now. Typically bad day after poor nights sleep and mozzie bites."

"Looking at rescuing day 60 with at least 33 miles. May run into night or may choose rest. Important tactical decision will be made later."

"It's 504 miles to #Bondi. Another 16 miles today means 1.6 miles less to run over each of the last 10 days."

"9 solid days are required after today and 1 spectacular day of 70ish miles. I don't want this one to go to the wire."

"How to approach the remaining days is now constantly on my mind. The weather forecast is unbelievably challenging next week."

"I'm very happy with 30 Celsius. I'm used to it now. The surge to 40 Celsius next week is a concern."

"Tomorrow's 31 Celsius could be the coolest day that I have left. I feel all the old worries and anxieties from the USA run returning."

"I've got to remain as focused and composed as possible. It's going to be no easy task. Nothing I haven't been expecting."

"If anyone is looking forward to seeing Christmas Day more than I am I'd be very surprised."

Mark continued until just after 7pm.  Throughout the course of the afternoon he was stopped by people passing by who very kindly offered a lift to the next town, Hay.

"Friendly couple just stopped and asked "Do you want a lift to Hay?". I explained what I was doing and handed them my leaflet."

"It must be like "Would you like a million pounds?"  "No thanks I don't like money".

"Rightly or wrongly I'm stopping on 28 miles today. There are 495 miles to run in 10 days. It's a huge ask."

"Tomorrow (Day 61) is a 49.6 mile run to #hay. Fail that and I'm in serious trouble."

"Some stats after Day 60: 1973 miles ran. 245,000 calories burned. Average daily distance 33.44 miles. Average time 09:55:52."

"Some stats after Day 60: 34,158ft climbed. Maximum distance 46.1 miles. Total time 585 hours 55 minutes. Approx number of steps 4.5 million."

The end point of day 60 - fairly apt…

Day 59

Every day we reflect on the actions followed to make it from the morning until the evening.  Is there anything we could change? Is there anything that we could do better? Today Mark decided that he would revert back to getting a few miles in the bag before stopping for breakfast.  After 4 miles Mark stopped for some porridge the target after this would be the town of Balranald some 30 miles away.

As ever donations had continued throughout the day.  Mark was elated to see the fund break £29,000.  There have been some incredibly kind people supporting Mark and his two charities; The Children's Foundation and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.  Mark has always said that the donations are what spur him on, you're not kidding on this day.  By 10:30 Mark had smashed a half marathon distance and then this happened…

"Despite being a scorcher #ifeeltheneed #theneedforspeed. Fuelled by #acdc. #rgrdownunder with @drivebenfield #enjoythejourney"

"Thanks to my headline sponsor @drivebenfield for their backing. Without which, there would be no run across Australia."

"Thanks also to @connexion2 @cherryactive @virginmoney @chapmanvent @sportnewcastle."

"Time to attack. #ifeeltheneed #theneedforspeed Laters……"

By 2pm Mark had made it to the next meeting point having ran a marathon.  The running had been going great for the remainder of the afternoon and Mark continued to attack.  The temperature had started to rise and looked like there was no sign of it backing off.  By 5pm though Mark complained that it felt as though the problem with his right foot had flared up again.

"Damn. There's the familiar feeling of my right foot exploding in my sock. The partially healed cut has reopened I think."

Meanwhile I checked into the caravan park in Balranald.  This was kindly organised by Dylan who I met at the caravan park in Mildura.  Balarandald was Dylan's hometown so he was extremely eager to support Mark's cause.  Dylan had called ahead and arranged our overnight stay - thank you! 

While I treated myself to a sneaky ice cream I got chatting to another guest of the caravan park.  I met a guy called Colin who told me that he had been staying on a farm in the Flinders Ranges for the last 6 months.  Colin had been living on a farm and working as a painter. We talked about Mark's run and he was astonished having driven a great deal of the route himself.  Colin also told me that he had  never seen flies as bad at this year, the shearer that lived on the farm where he was staying had said that in his 70 years they had never been this bad - great timing Mark!

"Typical. If something can be an extreme it usually is. That was the case in the USA and it's no different here in Australia. #recordflies"

"That said, I wouldn't want it any other way. #bringontheflies #bringontheheat"

At 18:45 Mark went in for the final attack of the day.  I received a message to say have some water ready and that he would be running on through past the last meeting point...

Sure enough, he whizzed on through shouting something about meeting in an hour…

"Mile 43 in 00:08:57. A new tour best time for a mile. Now winding it down waiting for the RV. #ifeeltheneed #theneedforspeed"

"I attacked when I could today. It was scorching hot all day. It's going to get much hotter next week. I'm ready."

"This dream is still alive and kicking. Every mile in Australia has to be fought for. It's been the case for 59 days."

"There will be 1 or 2 unexpected twists and turns to come. I'm ready."

"@Donna__Houghton is continuing to do just enough with my right foot to give me the platform for days like today. She's not medically trained."

"The flow of money coming into the 2 charities via is giving me such a boost."

"All I need is another 10 days like today. The other day (Friday) is a day where I have something spectacular planned if conditions allow."

"That's all for now. I have the luxury of 2 hours before lights out. Nice food, shower, feet treated and massage awaits."

"Nearly forgot. 44 miles done today. 1945 miles done in total. Tomorrow will see less than 500 miles to #bondi."

Sunday 15 December 2013

Day 58

I'm a few days behind due to a weak internet signal.  Just to keep you right, day 58 was Thursday 12th December.

A typical morning for me starts at 04:55 to make the porridge. This gives Mark a little more time to rest before getting up and preparing for the day ahead. Running usually starts around 06:00 which allows for at least 45 minutes for Mark to receive the necessary treatment to his feet. This morning I needed to ensure that I was extra cautious in handling them. It was very clear that Mark was in considerable pain to the point of it reducing him to tears. There is no 'quick fix' cure for Mark's feet, the only treatment that will help is rest. At this stage of the run this is simply not possible. The best that we can do is to continue to soak them each night, apply medication overnight, strap up in the morning and supply Mark with (a safe amount) of painkillers throughout the day.

Mark was quiet for most of the morning. The mobile signal had become weaker but also this road section was particulary busy with no hard shoulder and required 100% attention. Mark reported that the blister treated on his left foot had been a great success and wasn't causing any issues. Not so good news with the right foot…

"Last night's treatment on my left foot had been a raging success. No pain at all now meaning a better sleep and no issues while running."

"My right foot, however, is a different story. I stopped running after 7 miles of pain this morning. I just couldn't take any more pain."

At 7 miles Mark was ready for a break. The pain in his right foot had become unbearable and he needed to take the weight off it. This time also allowed Mark to have a much needed 2 hour sleep and more padding to be added to his right foot in attempt to alleviate some of the pressure forced by the harsh road conditions.

By 17:30 Mark had managed to reach 24 miles, this would mean at least another 4.5 hours of running to keep on track.

"I resumed running just after noon. I've been treading on pointy stones all afternoon on the roadside. There is nowhere else for me to run."

"I've since managed a further painful 17 miles to reach the 24 mile point. I've got another 4.5 hours to run."

"This day has got to be rescued. It'll be the latest finish of the tour so far. If this was a boxing match, the ref would have stopped it."

"I'll have an hour or so to eat 1200 calories eaten, shower and get my feet cleaned and dressed. That'll leave 5 hours of sleep time."

Just as Mark was reflecting on the stats remaining to get him to Bondi he was stopped by the a farmer at the roadside who asked “are you that runner”. The farmer, Tony, had read Mark's story in the local paper (day 56 interview). Tony was off out on an errand but had promised to return with a bottle of wine. Here is what followed...

"Just been stopped by a farmer asking if I'm. "That runner?". He's off on an errand, returning with a bottle of wine. Happy days!!"

"So a gift is in the way and all of a sudden #ifeeltheneed #theneedforspeed. I don't have enough water left for pace but what the heck."

"Thank you Tony Gorman for the 2 large glasses of champagne. #tipsy"

"Had to turn down the offer of dinner on a houseboat by a local farmer. Gutted! Fascinating chap. Thanks for the fizz Tony."

"I feel a very warm glow all of a sudden. Difficult to run in a straight line. Can't feel the pain in my right foot. #champagneistheanswer"

**Warning - this includes a naughty word**

"Can't stop smiling. I think I might have found the answer to my problems. Can't even focus on that road sign. I think the RV is 22 km away."

"Nope it's 2km. That's a relief. @Donna__Houghton I'll be with you presently pet. Hic! xx"

As you can tell this certainly put a spring in Mark's step, although it was short lived when the searing pain returned to his right foot. Day 58 ended on 32.75 miles, giving a total of 1901 miles ran to date. This means that day 59 would start with 567 miles left until Bondi Beach, Sydney.

Here's an 'accurately measured picture' from @jasonstobbs to demonstrate #stobbsytales :

We applied the usual treatment to Mark's feet, first by soaking them and then applying an overnight dressing. The skin on his right foot was still very raw. Hopefully with a few days of soaking and treating this will start to heal, it certainly needs to be closley monitored.