Toronto was –15°C, Miami was wet, The Bahamas was torrential rain, followed by some of the busiest roads and hot humid heat in Haiti.
Before you read any further, you can check out all the latest photos in two ways
1 – Look at them on Flickr here https://www.flickr.com/photos/141431451@N05/albums/72157686010428614
2 – Look at them on my photography gallery here https://nickbutter.myportfolio.com/adventures-culture
So Week 1 is complete and I feel like I’ve not stopped… probably because I haven’t. Tomorrow I leave Haiti for the Dominican Republic and will run my fifth marathon in 5 countries in 10 days. I can’t quite believe that it’s 10 days gone already.
I think this photo below is advertising rain for sale. No? just me. They were closed. Never found out.
Toronto was cold, very cold. Four layers and a jacket with hand warmers cold. Despite the chilly start, the warmth of the people I met in Toronto was fantastic.
And so on to Miami. Ticking off my first of many visits to the United States – for those of you who don’t know, there are six big marathon races in the world that are part of the so-called ‘marathon majors’, and I’m completing all of them. I would feel a little silly going around the world and not ticking those off too – as if things weren’t hard enough…
So I stopped by Miami as my second country of the 196, and the second marathon of the trip. I was expecting surf and partying… No, not really, but I was expecting more than a nice, steady, five-hour downpour of rain and cloud, but in hindsight, the cloud was a godsend.
My accommodation was in a small messy hostel, which turned out to have some of the friendliest folk, albeit folk who liked to come back into the dorm at 04:00. No bother, though, as this was the time I was naturally awake due to the five-hour time difference. These Argentinians (as they turned out to be) were super-friendly and interested in my journey.
The Miami marathon was pretty pleasant actually. I was alone and without support, and I did make the slight mistake of leaving early without looking at my calendar. This meant that 3 miles into my run along the then sunny Miami Beach I had a text from my sponsors, Rehband. Rehband supply me with injury prevention compression – some of the best compression I’ve ever worn, actually. Erica and Harriet were over in Miami from Stockholm on a business trip with Rehband, and I was supposed to meet them for a quick interview and to see how I was doing. Needless to say, I doubled back and met them back at the hostel about 6 miles into the run. I grabbed a quick bagel and cream cheese (who doesn’t love a bagel with cream cheese), a yoghurt, and some more water. This was, coincidently, always my plan because I had left too early for breakfast. After a 15-minute chat at a fast walk so I could still make progress, Erica and Harriet had a quick photo and said goodbye.
The next 20 miles were wet, with gorgeous views of ugly tower blocks and hotels along Miami Beach. Gorgeous, but ugly. It’s hard to explain… Big bulky buildings, but with white beaches and gently crashing waves on one side and buildings on the other, it somehow made the run pretty great. I was sore and worried about blisters in the rain, but a few hours later I was done. Marathon 2 complete. I saw a pelican, a huge iguana, and even had my photo taken with a Miami cop (that’s ‘police officer’ to me). He even very kindly gave me a stitch-on SWAT badge and a sports bag with a water bottle. At the time I was thinking about where I could ditch it, simply because I don’t usually run with ‘things’… but the water bottle came in handy, and I still have the SWAT badge. Mum, please can you sew this on for me one day?!
So Miami was a big tick in the box – I had a great chat with an Austrian girl called Karin who was a runner back home and travelling to meet some friends for a training week. A quick pint… of orange juice (80% ice) and off to pack my bag and get an early night.
Then a 04:00 Uber to the airport to catch my next flight to The Bahamas. Once again not knowing what to expect, or if I was going to be stopped going through security because my bag was about the size of a house. All went well though, and I arrived in The Bahamas at about 09:00, where I jumped in an over-priced cab to my next hotel. A hotel that is, not a hostel. A couple of nights before, I’d had a bit of a panic about staying in hostels. I was constantly trying to keep track of all my stuff, while also not getting a wink of sleep due to the over-loud (unnecessarily so) deep bass coming from the bar. I’d also like to add that this bar was completely empty – everyone had gone somewhere else, I can only presume to somewhere where they could have a conversation. Anyway… enough rambling.
My hotel in The Bahamas was great, about 100 metres to the beach over a main road, which wasn’t very ‘main’ at all. Because I wanted to have a full day of rest without travelling, I decided to run straight away. I had said to myself that if I was able to get to the hotel before 11:00 I would head out for another 5 or 6 hours. I was met, shown my room, handed a bottle of water, had a quick change and off I went.
This turned out to be one of the wettest runs I’ve ever been on. I could very easily have been back home in rural Dorset – with the huge puddles across the road, I was splashed by a huge lorry, and even my waterproof shoes were full of water. I had made the decision to switch from my Adidas Ultra Boost to my Scarpa waterproof hiking and running shoes before arriving. My reasoning wasn’t to do with the weather, but more to keep my feet stable. These shoes have a hard walking boot-style sole and I wanted to keep my previously broken foot at bay. It worked, but towards the end of the run I had to pour the water out of both my shoes… So much rain. But still, just like Miami, I didn’t care, because unlike the rural Dorset roads, I had a beautiful view, and it was warm, if a little too warm sometimes.
Job done… Marathon 3 complete, and the day immediately after Miami, so I had a whole day of rest. Rest which included stretching, eating, hydrating and doing lots of admin – admin is already becoming a pain in the ass. Backing up photos, charging watches, re-packing my bag, washing clothes. Basically a scaled-down version of housework. Anyway, job done, and a kind guy from the hotel even bought me a gallon of milk and a pack of Twix from the local shop. Little things like this really help.
Another early start was around the corner. Getting into bed on the 12th January, I was nervous for my next country, Haiti. Haiti is one of the countries I had been told was high in crime, has dangerous roads, and there are often random attacks and muggings. Naturally I didn’t sleep too well that night. I was also up at 03:00 to get to the airport for my flight.
The plane was small, with just 80 seats, and passengers who looked like they’d never flown before – some reading the safety card, nervously tightening their seatbelts. The air hostess of this propeller plane also happened to announce the destination incorrectly. I hadn’t noticed, I was busy getting on with some sleep, but was awoken to the sounds of general confusion.
Landing in Haiti, some very unofficial-looking officials escorted me off the plane, to personally see me through passport control, at one point taking my passport from my hand and walking away… I promptly followed and asked for it back, explaining that I was waiting for someone from the hotel. A lesson learned. My hand and my passport will not be parted that easily. This time it was probably innocent, but it won’t be so innocent everywhere.
The night I was in The Bahamas I had got on to my team to arrange a driver to collect me from the airport in Haiti and to take me to the hotel and then follow me on my run. This was another day when I’d wake up in one place and run in a completely different country, just hours later. Talk about tired… Thanks to Tom, a contact of mine from home who had given me some fantastic local details, and trusted taxi numbers to the team back home. My PA Carla got on the case, and sure enough I was greeted by a super-friendly looking chap called Benjamin. And Benjamin also turned out to be an absolute saint. After driving me from the airport, helping me check in at the hotel, waiting for me to change and pick up plenty of water… he then drove me to somewhere less busy to start my run. When I say less busy, the roads are a little chaotic – look out for the videos to come. Rubbish lined the streets, with people everywhere, cars, motorbikes and truck horns all signalling to each other, street traders in brightly coloured clothing, and also just lots and lots of strange looks.
Benjamin stuck with me for the entire marathon, following me in a car – 13.1 miles up the main road, out of the hustle and bustle of Port-au-Prince and towards the sea and the countryside. Still busy, and some rather close calls, even with Benjamin right behind me.
This marathon was hard, hot and hectic. I had 15 bottles of water in the car, and every so often I’d raise my hand in the air and Benjamin would pull up along side me and pass me water. I ate some nuts, some snacks, one of the now-melted Twix bars from the night before and drank some Coca Cola. I needed sugar at the end as I was flagging big time. It was so hot, and I could feel that I was burning, even with my factor 50 on. After some photos with some locals and some high fives with random kids on the side of the road, and struggling not to be sick from the smell of some of the areas I was running through… I had done it. Marathon 4 complete.
I hopped back into the car for the short journey back to the very snazzy, gated hotel. I couldn’t thank Benjamin enough, I really couldn’t have done it without him. I found myself reflecting on how lucky I am, and how very privileged we are to live in the western rich world – rich in every sense – 75% of the 11 million people in Haiti live on less than US$2 a day.
When I got back to the hotel, I thanked Benjamin and got his details. I said a quick hello to a couple who were in the pool, in this very lovely and brightly coloured small boutique-style hotel, in the middle of a metropolis of rubbish and poverty, which was surreal. I headed to bed that night with a strange, uneasy feeling that just a few metres away there were millions of people sleeping rough, hardly getting by, and here I was, with my air con, hot water, a shower, and I could hear the sounds of the pool. It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t know what to do.
Typing this now, it’s 14th January on Day 9. I am sitting by that pool, after getting to know the couple I met yesterday afternoon. We had dinner together last night, and they explained that they were from the US and involved in setting up a mission, a church, a school and a small orphanage. Just a few hours ago I came back from visiting the church they are helping to build and run. I met some kids from the school where over 300 pupils are taught, some of whom are supported by private overseas sponsors and supporters. I chatted to a group of about 10 on the way to the church where I sat amongst kids who had been orphaned during the earthquake in 2010. An unbelievable, indescribable feeling.
So now, after some lunch, I’m off to repeat my ritual of stretch, pack, re-pack, charge watches and rest before a six-hour bus journey to the Dominican Republic tomorrow. As yet I have no idea where the bus stop is, where to get a ticket, or if I’m going to be on top of the bus or in it.
Haiti Thank you.
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