Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The final days! Day 81

(Saturday 4th January)

Day 81 needed to be a healthy slog of miles to ensure that Mark reached Warilla Beach at a reasonable hour on the final day.  Aside from the pressures of getting the run finished on day 82, our flight was also scheduled for later that day. No room for error!

We were fortunate enough to be treated to a motel room by one of Mark's sponsors, Chapman Ventilation.  This meant that Mark was able to get a reasonable nights sleep and prepare his body for the miles ahead.  

The day started once again on the Hume Highway, fortunately this would only be for a short period of time and Mark would soon reach the Illawarra Highway.  That said, the risks of the busy highway remained.  After 17 miles Mark had ran out of water and we struggled to find a safe meeting point.  Being on a busy highway with Mark on the opposite carriageway was proving difficult.  Thankfully an entrance to a quarry presented itself and we were able to park safely and Mark had a quick lunch break.

Mark made it onto the Illawarra Highway early afternoon but was once again greeted with the bitumen road surface and a small hard shoulder.  More negatives but an absolute positive was 39 miles remaining until Mark met with the Pacific Ocean.  

I drove past Mark on a couple of occasions towards the next meeting point.  To say that he was running well was an understatement.  The adrenalin had clearly kicked in and the run across Australia was almost complete!

"33 miles done. Feet in a lot of pain. Feel sick. Very tired. Otherwise all is great."

"I've stopped looking at my GPS watch. Not sure how far left. I think I've ran about 37 miles. Maybe more."

"I'm on my last legs now. Everything is beginning to ache. My right foot is in agony but I'm well overdue painkillers."

"I'm battling this one out to the bitter end. The #Pacific isn't too far away."

My current position. 26 miles left. The impossible dream is becoming reality.

The pace was incredible, I had to whizz ahead as dusk approached and pass Mark the high vis vest and head torch. After 13.5 hours he was still running.  This was a man on a mission.

At almost 9pm Mark reluctantly called it a day on 42 miles.  This left 23 miles to the Pacific Ocean.  As he clearly wasn't ready to give in we pulled into the roadside and discussed how Mark could safely run through the night to get to the finish line at Shellharbour.  The top and bottom of it was that this would not be safe.  Amongst the tactical discussion I took a call from Dani,  a resident of Shellharbour.  From the powers of social media we were put in touch with Dani who was to help map out the most efficient route to get to the Pacific Ocean and finally complete the run across Australia (to add to the coincidence, her Dad is originally from Gateshead!).

Foolishly Mark and I thought that the pending Macquarie Pass would be an uphill followed by a twisty descent.  How wrong could we be?! Dani politely informed us that our current position was the highest point, we were all downhill from here.  Mark's mind was clearly still racing, was it possible to get down this now while he was still in his stride? Dani advised that the evening mist had set in and that it would be a dangerous move to tackle the pass in darkness. There was no way that this could be achieved in these conditions, it would have to be an early start and the run would come to an end late morning on day 82.

Dani suggested that we drive to a picnic spot not far from where we were parked.  We sensibly took her advice and drove ahead a few miles.  Here we were greeted by some policemen on a late shift conducting random breath tests.  I escaped the interrogation this time as Mark spent time asking advice as to whether approaching the pass in the dark would be advisable.  It obviously wasn't. Fortunately there was a motel right next to where we had parked so we took the opportunity to check in (for all of 5 hours!).  The final day of the run across Australia was only a blink of an eye away….