Monday, 12 February 2018

The Road to Astana begins on....

It has been a busy first 6 weeks in 2018 and the following are my random thoughts about what's going on in the build up to stage five of the Run Around The World. I can definitely feel a real sense of momentum building as the start of stage five fast approaches.

The main task recently has been to start the visa application process for Russia. I must say that the Russian Tourist Office have been very helpful and provided me with advice on what type of visa to apply for and the process to follow. I have to wait 90 days before entering Russia before beginning the visa application process so that will start on March 1st where they will send me a letter of invitation. That's the important document that I'll take to the Russian Embassy in Edinburgh and formally apply for a visa. 

Once the visa application is successful, I'll be able to confirm the start date in Belgrade as the 4th of June 2018. It's a Monday meaning that I'll be scheduled to finish the 2,900 mile run from Belgrade to Astana on Tuesday the 11th of September 2018. The start date is one month later than I had originally planned and the reason for this is so that I can see the new Star Wars movie at the end of May. I'm a huge fan of Star Wars and couldn't face missing the new film, Solo, in the cinema. Sad but true.

After I get my visa in March, I'll be booking my flight to Belgrade and the return flight from Astana. That's going to be straightforward. What isn't so, is to figure out how I can transport Chappie (pictured with me below) safely to Serbia and then safely home from Kazakhstan. At this moment in time, it seems to me like the most complicated logistical aspect of any stage so far of the Run Around The World. It's not like I can nip down to the post office for a box to post it in. It's a tricky one for sure. 

There are a whole host of other questions starting to be asked. One such one is what do I do once I land in Belgrade. Do I sleep in Chappie straight away? Do I book a hotel with safe storage for Chappie for a few days before the run starts? I'll need a couple of days to prepare for the run and grab a few supplies. The whole issue of transporting Chappie is something that I'm giving serious thought to. Watch this space when I have the answers.

Another ongoing task is to study the route in greater detail on Google Maps. I'm making notes as to what shops/bakeries/garages etc are available to me each day. If all goes to plan, for example, I'll be stocking up at the garage below in Ukraine on July 4th. 

Google Maps has rarely let me down and has been instrumental in my planning to run across the USA, Australia and Europe. With the addition of Street View it's possible to get a really good feel of the types of roads I'll be running on.

I also need to think about purchasing the final crucial items for the trip. There aren't many things left to get but the Garmin InReach tracking device is top of the list. This needs to be purchased soon as I want to trial it on a 3 day training exercise with Chappie in Northumberland at the end of March. I need a couple of lights to attach to the rear of chappie and also one for my harness. I also need to start thinking about the kit I'll be running in and get the sponsors logos applied.

Also on my list are a few Team Run Geordie Run related tasks and it looks like we will have a slightly larger team (close to 30) than last year at this year's Great North Run. Thirteen of the team have come from Primal Fitness and Performance where I've been training four times a week recently. The picture below is of me pushing my new favourite piece of kit, The Prowler. Me and it have a love/hate relationship!

I'm really enjoying my training at Primal. The consistency that I've found to get out of bed early to attend four morning sessions four times a week is unprecedented. It's been very hard work but I feel far more mechanically sound than ever before and the mild pain that I've experienced in my knees for years has completely gone. I should add that this pain usually disappears during the big trans continental campaigns but is always apparent in normal day to day life. I'll leave it to the experts to analyse that one.

Back to Chappie, and thanks to my main sponsor, SOS Group who are providing me with use of their large van from March, I'll be able to transport him(?) to various locations to train with. This will give me more options than always running with Chappie from my home in Bedlington. 

In other news, I'm pleased to confirm that the Around The World Ball will be held on October 13th 2018 at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle. Tickets will be on sale at the end of February and are likely to be priced at £45 each or £400 for a table of 10. Fingers crossed that we sell out our fourth consecutive ball. 

There are so many other things I could talk about including the great start to fundraising that has been made for St Benedict's Hospice. At the time of writing the first £1000 has almost been raised. The  amount raised for this fundraising campaign is £26,529.26 and I'm confident of breaking the £300,000 barrier for the overall amount raised around the world before I start running in June. 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to that total. Thanks also to the sponsors shown above for their continued support.

Finally, for this blog post, I'll close with the simple image below which illustrates the countries ran through of the four completed stages and those that I still have left to do. A whopping 8,991 miles have been ran through 13 countries too far. All that remains are the remaining 11,009 miles through 7 countries. 

If you would like to sponsor my efforts in aid of St Benedict's Hospice then any amount would be gratefully received at