Sunday, 15 July 2018

Day 39

I woke up after a very good and much needed sleep in the accommodation above Yuri and Victoria’s auto workshop. Having only had one hour of sleep the night before I couldn’t help but thinking how fortunate I’d been to unexpectedly recharge my batteries. Also, there was a hearty breakfast on offer and the calories were also very much needed. 

Breakfast consisted of salad, eggs, bread and sausages. Afterwards, there was a delicious homemade blueberry pie. In my world that bit is known as “breakfast pudding”. Victoria told me that her Mam and Aunty has made it late last night especially for breakfast! I turned down the offer of a second piece. I was so full. It was definitely an athlete’s breakfast full of protein and carbs. Smachno!

We finished off with a coffee from the workshop retail section. Victoria’s Dad asked if I needed any supplies for Chappie such as a pump or puncture patches. I told him that I had all that I needed and thanked him for his kindness. I joked with him via Yuri and Victoria’s translation that he was the best smelling man that I’d met in Ukraine. He was clean shaven and I think I must have seen him last night and this morning after he’d just had a shower. 

I packed up Chappie and Victoria handed me a packed lunch consisting of bread, meat, eggs, veg and cheese. I was also given two bottles of water. I now had enough to last me until Starokostyantyniv.

I said goodbye to Yuri, Victoria and her Dad with handshakes and hugs. What lovely lovely people. 

It took me half an hour to get through Lanivtsi. I spoke to Donna via WhatsApp and had to end the call due to the loud horns of the passing lorries. I think that they were part of a wedding procession.

A drunken cyclist then insisted on getting too close. I had to stop in my tracks to avoid any collision. He seemed to be frustrated that I wasn’t talking back to him in Ukrainian but I may have been mistaken. He stopped at a bar/cafe and I continued on my way. 

A mile down the road the cyclist returned. I think he must have had a “top up” in the bar. He wasn’t cycling very straight at all. He muttered a few angry words in my direction and tried to grab my arm. I politely threatened him and that was the last I saw of him. 

I’m sure that the small amount of drunken men that I’ve met this week mean me no harm but I have found them very annoying. 

At the five mile point I saw Yuri again with his father. They were on the way back from their lake where they’d caught a fish! It was 8kg. 

One for the geeks now - I’ve played a lot of Far Cry 5 on the Xbox this year and that involves fishing. I’m sure it’s a Carp. 

I said another goodbye to Yuri and his father in law. I was immediately inspired to write the following on my Facebook page. 

“It is difficult to find the words to express my gratitude to the wonderful people that I have met in Ukraine. 
They “get me” and I “get them”. 
They open their homes to me. 
They feed me. They give me water. 
We laugh. We shake hands and we hug. 
We show each other pictures of our families. 
We share jokes (usually based on our difficulties in communicating).
There is something very special about this country and it’s people. 
I have found that love, respect and kindness are a common language. 
If we all communicated using those three things then the world would be a much better place I think.”  

The potholes and usual traffic problems returned after 8 miles. The road surface was very poor after this for the rest of the day. At least the roads were very flat with only two climbs to do all day. 

It was nice to receive an enthusiastic wave from some nearby farm workers. They were one of many people during the day to wave or ask for a photo. Many of the people who’d asked for a photo had seen the recent appearance of Chappie and me on TV. 

During the course of the day I was for forced to wear my waterproof and poncho. They are the perfect way of keeping dry and with the land being so flat I could see the rain approaching from a distance. 

In Teofipol I had a conversation with a man who spoke very good English. I told him about my journey but sadly had to turn down his kind offer of accommodation for the night. I still had another 12 miles to do. 

I stopped for a quick coffee and a croissant around the corner and a group of people asked for photos. They had also seen me on TV. I think one lady asked if there was room enough for two people in Chappie. Her mime included pointing inside Chappie and making a smooching motion with her lips! Oh how I laughed. 

As I set off one of the ladies presented me with some mini croissants and a bottle of Coca Cola. I thanked them all and headed up a large hill filled with potholes. 

The road straightened out and became flat again. This route was a good choice with very little traffic making for a very safe day. 

Once again Desert Island Discs helped pass the time. What doesn’t help my mental state however, is me thinking of the finish line. Not only that but thinking that there is only one Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday left before I reach the finish line in Kyiv.

Thinking about the end of any stage of the run Around The World too soon has always been an issue for me. When I was close to the end of the run across the USA in terms of time but not in distance things almost unravelled for me. I was running around the clock during the final two weeks. I consumed a huge amount of caffeine to get me through the days considerable mileage. During the final week I was subject to a lot of anxiety, worry and panic. With three days to go, the mileage deficit was cut to 57 miles with 150 miles to go to the finish line. 

Somehow, I managed to cut that deficit to 29 miles on the final day. That meant I had to run 60 miles on day 100 of the run across the USA. They were very nervy times and I still have the feeling of huge relief that I managed to run 3100 miles on 100 days from California to New York. It wasn’t easy especially in those final days. 

The same thing happened near the end of the run across Australia. I wanted the end of that run to happen so badly. I’d spent 70 days in considerable pain during the hottest Australian summer on record surrounded by flies every day. It felt to me that the 2384 mile run from Perth to Shellharbour would never end. I almost lost my mind thinking about the finish line. It was also difficult seeing Donna suffering in squalid conditions with me in the RV. A regular overnight temperature of 35-38 Celsius made for a horrendous situation. 

I quit the run across Australia with less than 200 miles to go. Mentally, I couldn’t make one more step. The following morning, in a Sydney hotel, I made the decision to continue. I needed 4 normal days off before coming back to run the final miles. 

The run across Europe in 2016 was very tough mentally and physically. The mileage was considerable and for 52 days I was on schedule. Once Donna and I made the decision to end the run in Belgrade due to the military coup attempt in Istanbul I lost focus. The damage that the RV took in Italy didn’t help matters. Neither did having an alcoholic on the team. 

I decided to quit the run across Europe as I ran up the Stelvio Pass. Donna told me to think about it. It took a phone call from personal trainer David Fairlamb to keep me running and I spoke to him every day until I reached the finish line in Belgrade. Having Steve Harrison on the team brought some huge enjoyment to the final stages of the run across Europe. The final weeks with Richard and Donna on the team and all of the positivity that was on the team really helped. There were still dark moments for me in Croatia and Serbia but somehow I reached the finish line at the Victor statue. 

So the point I’m trying to make is that I’m now in a very vulnerable phase of a multi month ultra run. I don’t have a recognised support team but what I do have is the incredible kindness being shown on an almost daily basis here in Ukraine. I’ve also got daily telephone support from Donna. She has talked me through some pretty low times since I left Belgrade on June 7th. There have been times where I couldn’t see me finishing this run, particularly when I was in Romania with puncture after puncture happening. It’s all worked out so far though. 

I’m now focusing on getting to the hotel in Starokostyantyniv tomorrow. Then it’ll be 3 big days of running to get to Zhytomyr by Thursday. I’m looking forward to meeting members of an English speaking group there on my first rest day since I left Kalush. 

It will then take 3.5 days (or less) to run 88 miles to the finish line in Kyiv. I can’t let myself think about that too much until I set off from Zhytomyr on Saturday.

As my watch clicked onto 29 miles for today I found myself alongside a bus shelter. There were no other obvious options to setup camp so I lifted Chappie inside. Let’s hope I get more than 1 hours sleep tonight which was what happened 2 nights ago the last time I slept in a bus shelter.

I hope that you're enjoying following my journey. It’s not the stage around the world that I thought it would be but there have been so many positives so far. 

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