Wednesday, 13 June 2018

A new plan needed for stage 5 (part 1)

I have found myself on many learning curves so far on the run around the world. The current one in Serbia and Romania has proved to be the steepest.

I've always tried to give each stage the best possible chance of success by building slowly, learning lessons and applying what I have learned to future endeavours. In 1993, I ran "around the block". That was successful so I built on that to do the Great North Run. Within 4 years that led to the London Marathon. The New York Marathon followed in 1999 and 2001. I then learned to run 20-30 miles per day for a week and then for 6 weeks with only 1 day of rest. That final effort saw stage 1 of what was to become the run around the world occur from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007.

With 14 years of running experience it took another 4 years to learn how to increase the repetitive daily mileage to 31 miles. Those 4 years were also spent learning how to put together a running event overseas and also how to improve on fundraising and engagement via social media. Using all of that experience, in 2011, I successfully ran 3100 miles across the USA from California to New York. It was the toughest thing that I'd ever done and I learned so much during the 100 days it took to do it. This was the run when I learned a great deal about how a support team works.

In 2013, my plan was to run up to 41 miles per day across Australia. It was a huge leap in distance and I underestimated how harsh the Australian summer could be to a human being travelling across the country on foot. It was the hottest Australian summer on record and despite facing many issues (including flies and badly injured feet) I arrived on the east coast of Australia only 12 days later than I had originally planned. I really had no right to finish that 2384 mile run but somehow managed to find a way.

It took another 2 years to plan and prepare to run stage 4 of the run around the world. This was originally a 2600 mile route from Lisbon, Portugal to Istanbul, Turkey. For 52 days I was bang on target with the mileage. It was a unprecedented effort which involved a lot of climbing through the Pyrenees and the Alps. 

However, losing to finish line in Istanbul due to a military coup and various support team issues meant that a change of plan was needed. It was decided that the finish line would be in Belgrade which was where stage 5 would start in 2018.

So that's a brief history of my running. Slowly building experience, learning the lessons and putting everything into practice on future events. Since the run across the USA, the continued success of the run around the world has only been possible with support from the likes of SOS Group, Chapman Ventilation, Fresh Freight Group, D-Line, Brooks, Virgin Money and Northumberland Tea.

Back to the present day and here I am on day 7 of stage 5 of the run around the world. What has become obvious to me is that my initial plan to run from Belgrade to Astana in 100 days pulling a buggy while possible, doesn't give me any time to safely look after my feet and nutrition needs. My safety is the primary concern. There is of course, a bigger picture of ensuring that the entire run around the world is a huge success for me, the sponsors and ultimately St Benedict's Hospice.

Having taken delivery of Chappie last September, there simply hasn't been enough time to gain the amount of experience that I've previously needed to ensure success. I knew that I would be straight in at the deep end with this run. I was in even deeper due to the customs issues that saw me only have a couple of hours of preparation with Chappie before setting off during the middle of a day to meet the 72 hour deadline to leave Serbia. It simply wasn't enough time. Imagine, taking off on a long haul flight without doing all of the pre flight checks. That's the situation I was faced with. 

Of course, I was relieved to leave Serbia last Sunday roughly within the timescales imposed on me. The price I paid for that were badly damaged and infected feet. There wasn't any time on any of the three nights that I spent in Serbia to soak and treat my feet. I ran as long as I could each day before either darkness or evening thunderstorms called a halt to proceedings. 

On Sunday evening, in Jimbolia, experience gained from the trans Australia run suggested to me that I should stop running for a few days and give my feet the treatment they need. A combination of antiseptic and tea tree oil soaks have so far worked wonders here in Jimbolia, Romania and I'll be ready to start running again on Friday 15th June after 4 "recovery days".

I've used the recovery days to carry out the necessary preparation of Chappie and also to replan the route ahead. I have factored in enough time to be able to eat and treat my feet properly. There is some contingency in there also and I'm now happy that I have a workable plan to be able to safely continue this journey.

As I said at the start of this blog post, this current stage of the run around the world has without doubt seen one of the steepest learning curves that I've ever faced. So much to learn, endure and experience in such a short space of time. 

Thankfully, I've always been able to "find a way" to succeed. I've seen plan Bs, Cs and Ds put into action to ensure that my journey around the world continues in the right direction.

The next blog post (due in the next 2 hours) will detail the changes that I'll be putting in place for stage five. I just wanted to explain for now the issues I've been faced with and the need for change.

One thing that is certain, is that this 100 day event will continue to be challenging, difficult but ultimately beneficial for St Benedict's Hospice. There will be tougher times ahead and many more stories to tell. It's not going to be easy. When is it ever easy?

I think it's appropriate that I finish off with words from Mark Rowntree, one of the followers on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page. This sums up the situation very well:

"It seems like you are emerging out of a very difficult transitional beginning period, coming to terms with the fact that what you do is extremely difficult. Documenting your psychological journey throughout this time is a great benefit to others, showing the mental discipline, the trust in others, and the moments of doubt, that are all ultimately necessary components in the doing of a hard thing, a very human thing. Thank you and.......Jog on!".