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Overview: Marathon 13 went well in Antigua and Barbuda, followed by a spot of hitchhiking, and then on to Dominica, with an unscheduled lie-in owing to a cancelled flight. I saw the devastation caused by hurricanes first-hand in Dominica, and finally got the hang of ‘laid back’ in Barbados, before ending the week in Mexico.

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Day 29 – Antigua and Barbuda, Marathon 13

First hitchhiking of the trip, as I finished today’s run 5 miles short of Ocean Point Resort & Spa. I left this morning knowing that the roads around the island were more or less the right distance for me not to bother with an out-and-back route. Generally I like the out-and-back because I know where I am, I know where I can pick up water, and there aren’t any surprise hills. Today, however, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to loop.

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The run was fab, I felt comfortable, found some real gems of beaches and even had a little chat with a few locals. From mile 20, though, the hills started, the heat increased, the rain stopped, and the island remembered where it was – the Caribbean showed me who’s boss. The hills weren’t so bad, I managed to find water, and boom, job done… but I did finish 5 miles short of the hotel. I could have run on but I had my performance manager’s voice in the back of my head telling me not to do any unnecessary moving. So I clicked my watch, saved the run and stuck my thumb out to #hitchhikethe rest of the rest of the way. About 4 seconds later and a really kind guy called Kelly stopped. He is from Antigua but had spent many years in the UK, so we chatted and he refused to accept any money. Legend. Once again, thank you fantastic human beings.

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Osprey Farpoint 40 and Osprey… (a smaller one) Great bags.

This is a beautiful country – sunrise and sunset to rival most; the people, the food, the colour of the sea – some of the best I’ve experienced.

Tomorrow I venture to Dominica for my next two days’ stop. I will sleep, run and sleep again. For now, it’s time for expedition chores such as backing up photos, charging the laptop, iPad, both watches #suuntoand my phones. Got to keep on top of all this stuff.

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Thanks to #juiceplusfor supporting with my nutrition. Top job and great products – my little comfort blanket knowing I’m taking in good bits and pieces and not just energy.

 

Day 30 – Cancelled flight to Dominica

Today was the first time in a long time that I woke up after the sun came up. I am usually awake and out running before it gets completely light. Thankfully I could stay in bed today because of a later 5.15pm flight to Dominica. Or so I thought. Uh oh, my first ‘all hands on deck, things have changed’ call came in.

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At 10am the team called me and told me that the flight had been cancelled and the only option was to jump on a 12.40pm flight to Sint Maarten with an overnight stop and then an afternoon flight to Dominica the following day; so a mad rush to pack and get to the airport before the check-in closed. Winair was substantially useless – didn’t inform me of the flight cancellation, and then failed to book me on this flight (even after phone calls and confirmations). So I was turned away at the desk. After a number of shuttle runs between the check-in desk at the airport and calls to the UK, I found a flight the next morning which would get me in only 12 hours later than planned and about 12 hours earlier than the first alternative, which Winair had managed to mess up. All in all, a lot of hassle for virtually the same outcome. My PA found another hotel that was happy to put me up for the night – Blue Bay– a lovely, small Bed & Breakfast run by two Italians. Brilliant people. Well run and beautiful – the hotel (and the Italian couple).

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My first time at an airport without getting on a plane for a while – weird to go back outside so soon, but relief that I wouldn’t waste a day of rest or running. I will be up for 3am tomorrow for an early 6am flight. I will then run the Dominica marathon as soon as I get to the hotel. Probably a hot one, but gotta be done. Uh oh…

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Day 31 – Antigua to Dominica, Marathon 14 #Dominica

An early start for me – 3.40am alarm, a lift to the airport by the very kind hosts of the B&B, then on to the plane for 6am. A slightly bigger plane this time – probably nearly 100 seats. Arriving in Dominica felt good. I knew I could run and have some rest the following day.

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An hour’s shuttle through the mountains revealed the extent of damage to the island. I learnt that Hurricane Irma wasn’t the cause; it was, in fact, the second hurricane with a greater force, Hurricane Maria, that had decimated this once lush island. Apparently it will take close to 50 years for the island to be back to where it was pre-2017. GDP was set back by around 260%, and billions of pounds are needed to help the country recover. The mountains that were once deep green have been stripped bare and the bananas are no more – literally can’t find a banana on the island. Until recently the children on the island have been schooled on neighbouring Caribbean islands.

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I checked in to a beautiful little lodge in the mountains on the west coast, and immediately changed and went out for my 14th marathon in 31 days. The rain was heavy but I expected it to stop, as it usually does. Four hours later, and the downpour was getting a little tiresome. Wet through but warm, thankfully. The sun came out in the last hour of the run, which slowed me down, and I found myself wishing for rain again.

 

IMG_8039.JPGThe hills that I had run down at the beginning were hindering me the last few miles on the way back up. Having run out of water (literally), a kind shop owner gave me a bottle for free, with the words ‘Water is life’ printed on it – which I thought was rather special, and made me think for some time after.

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Staying in a place with no Wi-Fi, electricity or substantial food that is easily available was interesting. A generator would power up at particular times of the day so I could shower and charge my devices. Needless to say this post is late due to no Wi-Fi, even when the power was on. This island needs help.

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Day 32 – Dominica, rest day

A marathon in every country in the world for @prostatecanceruk– a new world first and up to eight world records. Check out www.runningtheworld196.com

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A much needed chill day. #Dominicawas so smashed by #hurricane#Marialast October – the island is clearly in need of much more support than they are getting. I had a great interview with some lovely ladies from the national newspaper, The Chronicle.

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They spoke of how their island friends had pulled together when the hurricane hit. It was actually very moving to hear it from those affected. I was due for a TV and radio thing with the government, but #BillClintonwas visiting the island, so they had their hands full. Fair enough. So I took a taxi to the north of the island to a town called Portsmouth. So much nicer than our version of Portsmouth – sorry, but there’s no contest. A gorgeous sunset was my prize for completing Marathon 14.

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Tomorrow morning I head to #Barbadossuper early, where I run my last #marathonof the #Caribbean. I want to say a huge thank you to Stefan and Karin who hosted me at the #MangoIslandLodgesthat was solely run on generators, which meant no charging, no Wi-Fi, and no running water, except at certain times. As strange as this was initially, the peace and quiet of no fridges or air conditioning units humming was pretty special. Thank you to yet another amazing couple for a great hotel.

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My recap is that this island, once green and alive, is now only really alive through its community – so many tales of people getting back on their feet and moving home, although my taxi driver spoke of not returning to the sight of his old house because he knew there would be nothing there. Emotional to say the least. Thanks for the support. Please continue to send me lovely messages, and if you can afford to donate, please do. Your messages spur me on. Next stop Barbados and Marathon 15. My mosquito bites are now up to around 1 million so let’s see if the midges in Barbados fancy a nibble too.

 

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Day 33 – Dominica to Barbados

Arriving in Barbados after an early 4.30am taxi transfer from the quirky little hotel to the airport was really relaxing. Island life has had an impact on me. Maybe it’s just being on the road, but I’m more relaxed than I was at the beginning of the trip. It’s a shame I’m just about to leave the Caribbean – I have become far less intolerant of the lax attitude to everything. Taking it easy has a whole new meaning now, in a really good way. A no-fuss flight and a hotel pick-up in Barbados made the morning pretty great. I was shattered, though, and sleep was needed. An early start tomorrow for Marathon 15.

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The hotel. Now this place deserves a special mention. Cobblers Cove… an elegantly designed and brilliantly run 40-room beach-side luxury complex. Will, the manager, is a really genuine and nice chap.

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The staff are accommodating, friendly and smiley, and the room pristine. This was the prefect place to spend the rest of the day. Anyone wishing to go to the Caribbean, and specifically Barbados – the Caesar salad and/or the beef fillet risotto is amazing. A few naps and a whole lot of tasty food later and it was time for bed before a 4am start to run.

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Day 34 – Barbados, Marathon 15

I woke up to three ‘unknown number’ missed calls at about 3.30am. I was dazed, confused and not really sure where I was. As I was rubbing my eyes and squinting at the phone to see what was going on, I had the same ‘unknown caller’ call again. I answered. It was BBC Radio 2, the producer of the Chris Evans Breakfast show. I knew I was on at 4.45am for a few minutes’ interview at prime driving-to-work time, but 3.30am was a little early. He assured me he was just testing the line and to go back to sleep… An hour or so later and the interview was done, even if they did pronounce my name Nick Butler, it was some good publicity for #ProstateCancerUK

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I dashed out the door to meet Ralph and his wife Lidia who had contacted my team to let them know they could support me. I was then met by a lovely bunch of about eight people including the infamous Bradley from the hotel who runs the water sports store onsite. He was a keen runner, too, but more of a 1500-metres kinda guy. These people were so friendly and keen to run and help. There’s so much to say about them.

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Sue, who I spoke to briefly, had 11 dogs, 100 sheep and about 20 other types of animals. Fascinating. Most of the pack peeled off about half way to go to work. A dark, warm morning with some new friends once again. Thank you guys. It’s amazing how you can get to know quite a lot about someone from running with them. Ralph ran the whole thing with me, with Lidia supporting in their car. Topping up with fresh coconut water every few miles, drinking from the stand pipes in the road. This water was so tasty I took the calculated risk I wouldn’t get an upset stomach, again.

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The sun came out as we finished our 26.2 miles past the Oval, and into Bridgetown. A great route and wonderfully heart-warming people. Next stop, the Barbados Cancer Society, where I met Dorothy (president) and Janet, the island’s High Commissioner, both of whom gave an articulate and generous speech about me and their fight against #prostatecancer. You can see the videos soon. Or listen to the podcast. I even had a few tears when Dorothy spoke – what a brilliant woman.

 

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Day 35 – Barbados to Mexico

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It was hard to say goodbye today, really hard. My days in Barbados have been some of the best few of the journey so far. It’s all about the people… and the lush beaches, plus a not so hot or hilly marathon. Now I was leaving the Caribbean and heading to Central America for another 30ish days followed by another month in South America. Today’s journey was on a ‘proper’ plane, too, with more than a handful of people, and it even had crew on board. I’ll miss those tiny flights. Not for long, I’m sure – my flights in Africa will be interesting…

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American Airlines took me on a 737 from Barbados to Miami (third time), a few hours wait and then on to Cancun, Mexico. I felt like I was cheating a little bit by not going to Mexico City, but simplicity, and safety, dictated. This journey wasn’t without its little issues, though. I was told by the check-in desk at Barbados that they had given me my boarding pass – the staff even told me they had seen it happen. Either way, they didn’t, and I didn’t have a boarding pass. After some unnecessary fuss they finally gave me my boarding pass. When the flight was boarding and I was yet to queue for security, I didn’t panic. I am now hardened to the Caribbean way. Chilled is an understatement – it is actually very relaxing once you get used to it.

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I made use of my first decent airport in a while and bought myself a new bag. It might make my situation easier, or I may just end up over-filling it, like the last one. A pit stop in the Centurion American Express lounge to decant items, a quick hot chocolate and cookies – job done.

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A short transfer to the hotel, which cost probably double what it was worth, but I did have Wi-Fi in the car, which was a first for me. Dream Sands Resortis a big complex for the ‘all-inclusive tourist’. So you get an idea of what it’s like. Seven restaurants and lots of drunk people in a tourist jungle. Really well done, actually, if you like that kind of thing. I will run early before the sun is up. That’s the plan. I am exhausted, though.

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