Sunday, 2 November 2014

Your questions answered

I've been asked a lot of questions on my Twitter and Facebook feeds this week. I've tried to answer as many as I can in this blog post.

Kathryn Clark - When your body starts to tell you to rest when you can't, what keeps you going?

This is an excellent question and I found myself in this position so many times in the UK, USA and, moreso, in Australia.  It would take a long time over a series of blog posts to answer fully. I'll keep it as short as possible. Suffice to say, that I have many things in my armoury to help keep me going. 

The support and encouragement on social media is a huge help and, if used sparingly and well timed, can become the proverbial "twelfth man". Due to the lack mobile signal in the outback, I didn't always have direct access to this. During the run across Australia, my wife Donna did a great job, summarising tweets and sending them in a text message to my satellite phone. 

The tried and tested method "to keep me going" is to remind myself of exactly why I am running and the charities that benefit from the efforts. Like social media, this method is to be used sparingly. Too much dwelling on thoughts of lost loved ones can often lead to very dark moments though. This caused all kinds of mental problems during the latter stages in Australia. I'm slowly learning that a balance needs to be found. 

I've found that sending the support team 20 - 30 miles ahead, for example, to meet me for fresh supplies helps to keep going. With this method, I've literally got no choice but to keep going!

Having someone turn up unexpectedly on the route (such as Dave and Lesley Greaves pictured with me below in Colorado, USA) or a fundraising landmark being met often produces the best results. Any pain that I've experienced through running can often be masked or  extra energy found in this situation. I remember when the fund hit £50,000 in both the run across the USA and Australia. The effect that it had on my, both physically and mentally, was astounding.

Finally, the most basic method of keeping going is one used when mentally and physically it would appear that I have nothing left to give. Aiming for the next tree, road sign or white line on the road helps. Once that small target is achieved then another one is chosen. Before you know it you have managed another mile. Start all over again and the miles soon start racking up and the focus on concentrating on taking these small steps soon overrides the focus that was previously being used on the pain or lack of energy. 

Andrew Duffy - Which country are you most looking forward to running through? Which country do you currently feel will pose the greatest challenge? 

These are excellent questions that, again, would take a long time to answer fully.

Each of the 24 countries on the Around The World route present their own individual challenges. I think wherever the greatest physical, mental and logistical challenge lies, that is where I'm most looking forward to running. 

I chose a difficult route through across the USA but really enjoyed running through the Mojave Desert and up to 11,300 ft in the Rocky Mountains. I think, therefore, that the climbs through the mountains in Spain, France, Andorra, Italy (Stelvio Pass pictured below), Switzerland, Austria, Bulgaria and Serbia are going to make the European segment of the run Around The World pretty special.

With all of that said, it is going into the unknown where it is seemingly impossible to run and support that appeals to me. I think those ingredients are going to make for a fascinating journey that people are going to enjoy following. Therefore, to answer your question, China is the country I'm most looking forward to running through.

Andrew Duffy - If you could have anyone living/fictional/dead running alongside you, who would it be? In fact, one of each please! 

I'm going to answer this now and give it some further thought when I resume the run Around The World. For now, though, the living person I'd like to run with is the Scottish around the world record breaking cyclist and adventurer Mark Beaumont. I've been lucky enough to meet Mark on a couple of occasions and have always found his endeavours hugely inspirational. What a perfect running partner!

In terms of a fictional runner, it has to be Rocky Balboa. I grew up with those movies and the soundtrack on my iPod has got me through some tough times. I can see myself running through the mountains in Georgia.

A person who is sadly no longer with us who I'd like to run alongside me is my Dad. He died when I was just 17. He taught me a lot of important life lessons and I'm sure he would be inspirational by my side running around the world. 

Stephen Matthewson - What would your epitaph be? 

This is another question I'm going to think about during the run Around The World. In the meantime, I'd take a line from Forrest Gump and say "That's all I have to say about that".

Melanie Moore - Your feet/blisters were really pretty horrific going across Australia. Is there a way of being able to prevent or lessen the seemingly inevitable in advance by toughening your feet somehow? Will there be a change of choice in socks/footwear for this next run? Or will Carlton be honing his delicate hand washing skills in preparation for daily soft socks, rather than the crusty ones you had to endure in Oz? 

Blisters will be inevitable at various stages during the rest of the run Around The World. I'm going to be working with Alison Meldrum at the Cradlewell Clinic on this. We will be looking at what preventative measure can be taken. Alison is also going to train the support team so that they can apply simple treatment at various stages of injury to my feet.

I'm going to try out various brands of dual layer socks before the run Around The World resumes. I didn't have enough pairs of socks in Australia and washing used pairs was difficult without the necessary facilities. That's another lesson to be learned.

I will be wearing Brooks Glycerin running shoes again (pictured below with me in the USA) as they are perfect for my running style and very comfortable.

I hope that all of the above sees fewer blisters and less pain all around in future.

Fiona Stanley - When you ran across the Nullarbor I was worried about how incredibly strenuous it must be mentally. The physical pain must affect how you cope. How will you cope with it this time round. 

I must draw upon those difficult times in Australia and use that to my advantage somehow. I think having a bigger support team will help. Being on the team is a tough job and more people will make for a slicker operation all round.

I'm sure that seeing less flies than in Australia will be a massive help too. Having to wear a fly net for 10 - 12 hours a day for 82 days really got me down.

Seeing the same trees and bushes, like those pictured below, for 2000+ miles and not getting the feeling of making progress was tough. I think the rest of the route Around The World will give me plenty to occupy my mind; changes of scenery, new languages to use and all of the logistical issues that the support team and I will be faced with.

If I can lessen the pain in my feet (see the previous answer) then that will obviously help.

Experience tells me that I will grow physically stronger as the run progresses. As well as that, I'm confident of starting the next segment of the run Around The World lighter and leaner than any previous segment. I'm working with personal trainer on David Fairlamb on this. In the first 8 weeks of training I have lost 23.5 pounds of fat! That weight loss, together with a new way of eating, is unprecedented for me.

Put all of those things above together and you can start to see how I stand a much better chance of succeeding on the remainder of the route Around The World.

Kirstie Cunliffe - Are you going to have any down time between each leg or will you start training for the next run as soon as you've finished the previous one? 

As with previous segments, it would be foolish to stop training altogether upon completion. I think a "wind down/recovery phase" followed by a "maintenance phase" then a "ramp up phase" just in time for the next segment will be used.

Michael Gallon - Are you using an RV for accommodation again - if so are places readily available to stop - deal with water and drainage etc? Are roads suitable for RV? 

I think that will be the case in some or all of Europe. There is a chance that the route through Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan and most of China will be unsupported. 

Mark Richardson - Is the plan to have some sort of support team that can speak the language at different legs? If not, how do you overcome the language barrier or are you assuming everyone speaks Geordie?

This is something that I've just started to think about. I don't anticipate that the support team or myself will be blessed with anything other than the basic hello/goodbye etc. We will have a list of standard phrases in 20 of the languages that will encounter on the run Around The World. "I am running around the world", "Where is the nearest toilet?" and "Where can we buy water?" are 3 phrases that immediately spring to mind.

In terms of trying to explain to, say, a police officer who may stop me or the team on the route, then if they don't speak English I will have a leaflet in various languages explaining what I'm doing and why. Pictured below is Senior Police Constable Mick with one of my leaflets on day 64 on the run across Australia.

Hopefully, a combination of best attempts at speaking the language, a list of standard phrases and the multi-lingual version of the information leaflets will be sufficient. If, however, I manage to recruit a 5 language speaking expert cooker of porridge who can drive an RV then that will be a bonus.