Monday 4 June 2018

Looking for divine intervention

Today is day one of stage five of the run around the world. The clock has started ticking and there are 100 days left before I need to reach the finish line 2,900 miles (4700 km) away in Astana, Kazakhstan. 

I'm very disappointed to report that there is no running being done and this run will be in deficit right from day one. The problem is that Chappie, my buggy (pictured below), is still in a customs warehouse somewhere in Belgrade where he will remain until the customs issues I am faced with can be resolved.

A new working week begun here in Belgrade this morning meaning that I was able to start speaking to the relevant people in an attempt to resolve this problem. I was at the British Embassy for 0745 to talk to some key people there who in turn would be able to continue talking to the agent here in Belgrade who is representing the UK based freight company that I used.

As things stand, it's currently 1500 (1400 BST) and I have yet to hear if any solution has been reached. I am literally waiting for an email or phone call of any positive or negative nature. I am also playing out all of the plan Bs, Cs, Ds, Es to Zs in my mind from my hotel room where I am writing this blog post from. Speaking of which, I was supposed to check out of the hotel this morning but I have thankfully been able to extend that by a day. Thank you to the Hotel Royal Inn for being so helpful.

The plans I am thinking about range from abandoning all hope and returning to the UK. I quit my job to do this run so I will look for work as soon as I get home. With that, I have emailed the freight company, Whittle Eastern Europe Logistics, asking what happens next if we can't find a solution. Do we "return to sender"? Do my goods get seized or disposed of? What are the costs? etc etc. That is a drastic plan of action but I'm asking the questions now rather than later.

Another drastic plan is to simply set off running from Belgrade later this week unsupported,  unassisted and without Chappie. Probably with just a backpack and passport. It's a scenario not too dissimilar from running from Edinburgh to Newcastle, like I have done many times in training. The problem this time is that I'd need to run the equivalent of that distance 29 times in 100 days. As you can see from the map above, it's a long way from Belgrade to Astana.

I'm not saying that I'm going to do anything drastic. It's just to give you an idea of the fact that I'm trying to think of any and all solutions to start the run to Astana that are in my control and in the event of not having a buggy for support. There are also a number of solutions in between the two described above that I've considered.

For the next 24 hours, all that I can do is wait to hear news about the release of my buggy.

Back to the British Embassy this morning and I got unexpectidly ushered into a room with all of the other staff shortly after 9 am. Soon after, the British Ambassador, Denis Keefe, introduced none other than Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury to everyone in attendance.

If I didn't feel like an imposter already, a staff member called Dusan took the liberty of explaining to all in the room that there were a "couple of stranded Geordies" in attendance. I saw this as my opportunity to take the floor and explain all about my run around the world and my efforts for St Benedict's Hospice. After all, the hospice previously came under his Grace's jurisdiction during his time as Bishop of Durham. 

I also talked to His Grace about my customs issues and that I was currently running almost an hour behind schedule with the run scheduled to start at 0830 today! He wished me good luck and hopefully he will have a word with his "boss" for help.

I should really apologise to the Embassy staff for taking up so much of the Archbishop's time but it's not every day that you get to talk to such a prominent figure about the run around the world and the reasons for doing it.

So that was my start to the week. As soon as I hear any news or have a plan of action in place I will update this page as well as the Run Geordie Run Facebook and Twitter pages (links above).

Given that so much money has been raised so far this run must and will go ahead. How that will actually be done is out of my hands at present.