Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Day 48 - The Final Day

As far as I was concerned, the 48th and final day of stage five of the Run Around The World was a cause for celebration. It would only take 3.5 miles to reach the finish line and from a physical and mental point of view that represented no problems at all. I was aware of a little bit of climbing to be done but after all I had been through in the Carpathian Mountains and the Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil oblasts in particular, I knew that it would be a formality. Donna and I stopped for a quick coffee on the way to pick Chappie up. 

We arrived at the London School of English located within the National Technical University of Ukraine at 1045. Chappie has been stored there overnight. I quickly strapped myself to Chappie and we were on our way through the busy streets of Kyiv.

Donna walked on the path and I mostly stayed on the road. The traffic wasn’t too bad but I wasn’t too pleased at being reunited with the constant loud noise of cars and lorries. It was something that I’d been subjected to for the previous three days. My third and final pair of earphones packed up on me two days ago so I just had to put up with the constant noise.

Donna and I made quick progress through Kyiv. It was nice to have some company for a change. Stage five was the most time that I’d spent running alone around the world so far.

Traffic noise aside, it was a very pleasant morning. The pressure and anxiety that I’d felt since leaving Zhytomyr had completely gone. Of course, that was a feeling that I’d experienced during the runs across the USA, Australia and Europe and was totally expected. I felt as if a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. That’s an ironic statement given that I was towing Chappie through Kyiv weighing in at 100kg approximately.

We took a left hand turn at The National Circus of Ukraine up Olesia Honchara Street just before the two mile point.

A right hand turn was made up Bohdana Khmelnytskoho Street where there was one final steep climb to go up. It wasn’t too problematic. I found the cobble stones more of an issue. I was in quite a lot of pain with my feet. This street continued on for a mile.

We turned left onto Khreshchatyk Street where I knew the finish line lay about half a mile away. The final stretch was a bit of a blur. I remember manoeuvring Chappie through small concrete dome shaped blocks. I assume that they were to keep traffic off the pavement. My phone rang at 1216. It was the female journalist from the day before wondering where I was. I previously told her that I’d planned to arrive at the finish line at noon. I was literally two minutes away.

With the Independence Monument in full view, I found a place to stop to take photos. There was a small welcoming committee including Artur and his team from UATV. My Kyiv contact and Geordie expat, Michael Hudson, was waiting in a Newcastle shirt. It was great to meet him after all of the text messages and emails containing all kinds of advice and local facts that he’d sent while I was in Ukraine. Michael was also instrumental in setting up my contacts in Kalush, Turnopil, Starokostyantyniv and Zhytomyr. To call him a “game changer” in terms of this stage is an understatement.

I was very relieved that Chappie had made it to the finish line in one piece. Life with Chappie for 48 days hadn't been easy but it had played a huge part in getting to Kyiv within a decent timescale. Despite being claustrophobic, I always felt safe and secure while sleeping inside Chappie.

I decided to venture over the road nearer to the Independence Monument. After I crossed to the other side, Chappie’s starboard wheel buckled. There was no moving him safely so I quickly changed the wheel. With a crowd of onlookers, I had the wheel changed in about forty seconds. This was stark contrast to the time spent on mechanical issues during the early days of this stage. 

I gave a quick interview to the female journalist as did Donna. Then I gave a final interview to Artur from UATV.

It was then time for a few photos at the official finish line for stage five of the Run Around The World. Firstly, myself and Michael had a photo taken with my “Geordie Pride” flag.

Donna and I then posed with the Independence Monument in the background.

I then put on my Blyth RC vest for some photos. Shortly after that I got talking to some people from Sydney, Australia. They were kind enough to make a donation to the Hospice which I paid in straight away via my Virgin Money Giving page.

News of the successful completion of stage five soon reached NUFC.com. As had been the case at various points over the last 18 years, I was very proud to see a photo and story on the site. I shudder to think how much less money would have been raised without the support of NUFC.com and its readers.

I said a farewell to Independence Square and we loaded Chappie into the back of a van for transport back to the University. Thank you to Aliona (pictured below right with Donna and Michael) who was present at the finish line for arranging the van.

The University is where Chappie will remain until it was time for him to be picked up later in the week. Thankfully, Donna had managed to sort out the freight arrangements back to the UK.

The progress graphic was loaded onto Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The total mileage for stage five was 808 miles meaning that 9,799 miles had been ran around the world.

Stage five hadn’t turned out as I expected. It was supposed to be a 2,900 mile trip to Astana in Kazakhstan. What I didn’t anticipate were the logistical issues and red tape associated with sending Chappie to / from foreign countries. More importantly, I never anticipated the level of interest from the people in the towns, cities and villages that I ran through. That will go down as a massive positive as far as I'm concerned.

I think stage five turned out to be a real “proof of concept”. It hasn’t been like any of the four previous stages which were all about running massive distances and battling physical and mental exhaustion. I took the opportunity in stage five to talk to schools, universities, community groups, army veterans and English speaking clubs. When people see Chappie they want to know the who, where, why, what and when.

There's no doubt that the story so far is a very rich and inspirational one. I’ve been very happy and proud to be able to share it with so many people in so many different countries. I think stage five was the one where I managed to tell a good story, not only face to face, but via my blog and the other social media channels. The feedback so far for this has been excellent and the stats are as good as they were in during the run across the USA.

Back to day 48 and we finished the day, not by celebrating the end of the run (and Donna’s birthday), but waiting in for KLM to deliver Donna’s delayed luggage. My fresh clothes were in there so I was pleased when the case was delivered at 9pm! The immediate aftermath of any stage of the run around the world has never been glorious. Stage five was no exception.

If you have enjoyed following stage five then please consider making a donation to St Benedict's Hospice via this link. Thank you!