Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Europe - Day 1

The team and I made our way to the ocean’s edge on Guincho Beach shortly before 7am.  It was already warm, around 17 celsius.  After a couple of photos I got the run across Europe underway.  I dipped my hand in the ocean and off I went over the beach.  It was good to see my Virgin Money colleague, Vik Datta, at the start line.  I really appreciated him turning up to see me off.

Once off the beach I had to tackle a few stairs to the main road.  The next 5 miles were a sheer steep uphill climb to 1230ft.  I was exhaused when I reached the summit of the Sintra-Cascais National Park. Not only was it steep, but the streets in the picturesque village of Malveira Da Serra were also cobbled.  The cobbled streets soon turned to dusty road which in turn turned to cracked dirt path.  As I had suspected, this was the toughest start to any of the segments of the run around the world so far.

The downhill stretch out of the national park proved to be very technical.  It also required a lot of time spent using Google maps for navigation.  That said, I soon made it out of the park and into another picturesque village.  I met the support team briefly at Colres for some fresh water.  It was exhausting in the hot sun with such an undulating route.  

I met the team again at the 17.5 mile point, this time for lunch.  They cooked a nice omlette, it will be interesting to see who makes the best omlettes on this tour.  There is always fierce competition for that title.    I also took this opportunity to put on a fresh pair of socks as recommended by Alison Meldrum at the Cradlewell Clinic.  I was out again into what has turned out to be a very hot day in Portugal.

Back out on the road and disaster nearly struck.  I had to step off the hard shoulder and into the grass verge to avoid being hit by a driver using their mobile phone.  They were totally oblivious to my prescence.  Further down the road I was surprised to see a snake, it took weeks to see my first snake in Australia.  The rest of the afternoon involved climbs, climbs and more climbs.

All of a sudden, I was running on empty at the 26 mile point.  I stopped for an energy bar and when I looked up, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was Jimmy with an ice lolly! I felt like I had won the lottery.  I ate it so quickly that I got an immediate headache, but it was worth it.  

The remainder of the day involved runnining against the backdrop of amazing scenery.  Spectacular beaches, lots of windmills of vatious sizes and many more climbs.  Once climb in particular was so steep that I had to really force my way uphill.  I sat down at the top of the hill surrounded by dogs in nearby properties barking loudly at me.  

Navigation using Google maps was crucial to getting through this very tricky route.  I do not know how I could have managed without this.  All of the hard work that Jimmy and I had put into researching the route certainly paid off on day 1.  Donna joined me for the last 6 miles, this proved to be a tricky section with more climbs through farmland and dirt tracks.  I reached the 37 mile point with zero energy left, I was exhasuted and delerious.  I did not have the energy for a shower and as soon as I had my pasta for supper, listened to the team read out the donations and messages on Virgin Money Giving I was asleep. 

All in all it was a pleasing day, over 4000ft of uphill running meant that it was very tough day.  If we have 99 more days like this then I will get to Istanbul on the 8th August.

Donna’s thoughts for day 1

As with Mark, Google maps was our saviour for the day.  The initial route is planned for a runner therefore we had to ensure that our route was RV friendly.  At times, we were forced to re-route as the roads simply would not have been kind to our home!  

That said, we were able to effectively track Mark and get to the meeting points in good time for pit stops and lunch.  We worked hard yesterday to make sure that Mark was sufficiently hydrated as there were a lot of climbs which were really tough on him.  We knew that this was going to be one of the tougher days so we also had to be mindful of his wellbeing (this also involved in making sure that when we rewarded ourselves for a busy morning with an ice cream that we went in search of Mark to share with him too!). 

As the tour fund is meticulously planned to account for every penny, we have to ensure that we are conscientious every day.  The RV is adequately stocked to accommodate Mark’s needs and means that no unecessary expenses are incurred.  This extends to camping sites.  As we neared the end of the day, Jimmy and I did a quick recce of the last stretch.  This was fairly tricky and left us miles away from an aire (these are essentially car parks for caravans with water and waste facilities). Unfortunately the nearest aire was some distance away from Mark’s end of day and would require a 30 minute journey there and back.  On this basis, we made the call to stay over in a car park close to the end of day 1 and at the foot of a park.  This looked safe enough and quiet enough for us to park up for the evening.

Thankfully as we were able to plan ahead for the last 6 miles, Jimmy was able to go solo in the RV which meant I could spend some time running with Mark.  I didn’t get this opportunity in Australia and often felt guilty for leaving him out on his own.  With the support team that we have for the run across Europe, this should hopefully mean that Mark will always have plenty of company.    

It’s really important that Jimmy and I plan ahead as much as we can, for breaks, water exchanges and most importantly the evening meal. Last nights planning allowed a quick turnaround from Mark finishing his 37 miles to getting some shut eye.  Overall, a great start to the run.