After leaving friends and family behind, setting off on this expedition has been emotional, and I’m still waiting for ‘it’ to hit me, whatever ‘it’ is.
Waking up in a new city miles from home every two to three days is not strange, not yet – I guess because I haven’t really started. I had hoped that I would have a sense of relief after the first marathon a couple of days ago. Ticking one off was supposed to be the start of me relaxing, but the truth is, I’m not relaxed, not yet. I think I need a few weeks, maybe even a few months, to allow my body and brain to accept that this thing is happening.
After nearly two years of planning and over £150,000 spent on prepping for this huge challenge I feel a slight sense of loss. I guess it’s like when any athlete finally reaches their goal, be it an Olympic gold or otherwise; it’s a sense of bereavement for the project. Even saying this sounds strange, but it might be true.
This project is only just beginning, but at the same time, it has completely stopped. No more driving on the M4, M25, M5, no more meeting after meeting all over the country, no more need to try and think about every tiny detail.
I’ve actually really enjoyed these last couple of days. So let’s look back on Country 1 and run (no pun intended) through the highlights.
A big thank you, first of all, to the people of Toronto.
A few days before leaving the UK I had an Instagram message from a guy called Matt, saying he lived in Toronto and could help out by running with me. He did just that, and then some. We arranged to meet at my hotel, One King West, at 09:00.
I was nervous (a feeling I’ve had more in the last few days than in most of my life), but excited.
I met Matt, along with his friend Marco from Italy. Both amazingly lovely and friendly, who arrived with four hand warmers, a balaclava and gloves. (I don’t think they were planning a robbery…) They certainly lived up to the high ‘international friendly standards’ that Canadians are known for. Thanks guys.
The hotel lobby went from being empty and cold, to full, in just a matter of minutes. I was joined by hotel staff wishing me luck, the waiting staff from the nearby breakfast room, and a random stranger who had overheard me speaking with Marco and Matt about the trip, a guy called Gilbert. Gilbert simply leant over and said… “Great cause, I want to help, here’s my card, let me know how I can donate”… and off he went. It’s short moments of time like this that I will be able to look back on and smile at the awesomeness of humans. While this was going on I had also been approached by a guy called Adam from Canadian Running Magazine and Virgil, a writer for Trek and Run (treckandrun.com). We had pre-arranged these little interviews to kick things off for my first run. A little interview to camera, some standard fact checking like the spelling of my surname, and that was it.
We wrapped up, gathered around the entrance door and then darted out to start Marathon 1. This was short-lived, as we all soon realised that we needed to stop immediately to let our watches find the satellite. (Thanks @Suunto for the watch – I love it!)
GoPro on, Gimbal cameras ready, watches calibrated, and off we went… slowly, very slowly, into the freezing cold. Buffs up to our eyes, four layers, two pairs of socks, and hand warmers in both gloves and next to both watches, to keep them from dying from the cold.
I don’t know why but I was anxious not to over do it (so unlike me), so we kept it to gentle plod for a few miles before we joined Matt’s running club, who we planned to meet up with along the way. Adam had peeled off to get back to his Sunday, but Virgil stuck around and we managed to complete the first half together, along with Marco and Matt, before my newly found running mates needed to ‘do the right thing’ and spend the rest of Sunday with their better halves.
It was great to meet some of the adventurers in that running club. Even though it was –20°C there were still about 20 people out to say hello. Thanks everyone. I met Erin, who had spent the previous three months cycling in Africa on her own, so she gave me some tips. Great to chat, and the miles flew by.
I finished the last 12 or so miles on my own, running gently up the longest street in the world, Yonge Street. Slowly climbing uphill, before reaching the 21ish miles point and turning around again. I stopped a few times to take some photos of some funny-looking shops… like the frontage of a huge sex shop called the Condom Shack. Anyway, I needed to add a few more miles by the time I reached the hotel, so a quick lap of a couple more blocks and I was done. Marathon 1 complete. Legs weren’t sore, but they certainly weren’t fresh.
I undressed in my hotel room to find that the sweat that had seeped through three layers of clothes, including a fleece, was frozen to the outside of my FALKE running jacket.
I met up with Virgil, Matt and his girlfriend for pizza, and was asleep in bed by 20:00. Twelve hours’ sleep (off and on) and I was ready to back up my photos, explore Toronto a little more, send some emails, eat, and then have time to catch up with Carol and Jose, friends who had collected me from the airport. We had a little tour, as they attempted to educate me about the city, then I was ready for bed, but before that, an on-camera interview with Virgil for Track and Run… and then sleep.
That’s the story of Marathon 1. I don’t think they will all go so well. My feet are a little sore, but we’ll see what happens in Miami in the next couple of days.
I’m very conscious that I have one day less in most countries from now on, and so for the next few months I hope I can cope with unpacking, packing, airport transfer, run and repeat. Time will tell. Oh I do hope my body and brain hold out.
I’m staying in a hostel in Miami so maybe I’ll meet some people there. I’m currently on a plane from Toronto to Atlanta, where I connect to Miami. I’ve been given a little upgrade thanks to the frequent flyer programme so I have a little more leg room, something that Laura is happy about. Laura is responsible for keeping my body ticking over, telling me off for not stretching, and giving me programmes for health and nutrition.
Please continue to donate where you can. I hope we can keep up the momentum. Thanks to everyone who has donated, or sent me a message of support so far – it means the world to me.
I’ll keep posting as often as I can. Don’t forget to check out the podcast on iTunes or Podbean Running The World 196 or have a look at the website www.runningtheworld196.com