Saturday, 28 December 2013

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…