Day 113 – Casablanca, Morocco, final rest day, with toothache and a drunken cat (see photo)
Tooth update – blooming painful!
It was always the plan to build a few extra days into my schedule when I thought my body and mind needed it. Starting a new phase of the journey and a new continent was a safe bet I would need some chill time, and I’m pleased I’ve had a few days to break myself back into the routine. Tomorrow I head to African country number 2 of 54, Mauritania. Apparently it will be a little hotter and a little unsafe in the city, so I hope I’ll be able to find a safe passage.
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I’ve just got in from doing some much overdue sightseeing. The camera and I ventured out to take some shots. I was lucky enough to catch evening prayer at the huge mosque here in Casablanca. A beautiful building, filled with a sense of peace and respect.
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Day 114 – Morocco to Mauritania, #longday
Today started well, and got progressively worse. Inspired by yesterday’s photo day I woke up early enough to catch Morning Prayer. The young and old poured out of a huge mosque – bright colours and pristine dress, it was a brilliant sight.
Yes, this is where the great start to the day ended. It’s now 2.14am the following day. I had a late 9.45pm flight from Casablanca to Nouakchott in Mauritania. I arrived at the airport about an hour later than planned and lined up for immigration for about 40 minutes. Reaching the front I was told I needed a visa. That was fine, I just had to line up in another queue for another 40 minutes, all the time my tooth kicking me in the face from the inside made me a little grumpy, to say the least. I made it to the front of the line and attempted to pay for the visa. They only accepted cash; cash I had, but not in the correct currency. An official then dragged me off to the other end of the airport to find the right cash. The machine didn’t accept my card, so it was over to the exchange centre.
It would be an understatement to say that this airport looked and felt like it hadn’t yet been built. Anyway, after finding cash and waiting in line for another 40 minutes, I had my visa. Some more funny looks as I was passed from one security guard to the next, my bag was inspected and my drone removed. Here we go again, I thought. This is where my patience ran out. The guy who removed the drone didn’t speak English or French, just Arabic. I know, it’s their language and I’m the foreigner. On top of the language issue he was seemingly caught up in an argument with a colleague and really didn’t give a monkeys about me. It was now 1.30am and my tooth pain increased as I became more tired. After much hassle I left the airport with a handwritten scrap of paper with some scribbles in Arabic and was told to call him when I left. His mobile number was attached. Can a mobile number only be 5 digits long? The answer is, no! For all I knew, the scrap of paper said, ‘Are you gutted I have your drone?’ Aaaghhh. So I am now finally at the hotel. I’m tired. Up in five hours to run my 39th marathon.
Day 115 – Nouakchott, Mauritania, Marathon 39, African country number 2 of 54
43°C, one straight road, a few donkeys, and lots of nothing.
I usually write my updates just before falling asleep at the end of the day. I’m writing this just after finishing my run. It’s about 5pm. I’m writing it now because I’ll be asleep in seconds. First call of business is my tooth. Still VERY painful. It’s getting worse. Just popped some more pills.
The saving grace of today was my driver, Roumald. I woke up this morning at about 10am. Although it meant running in the heat of the day, I had at least managed to have a few hours’ sleep. The hotel informed me they had arranged a driver to support me – firstly for safety, but also for water. I was pleased and a little relieved. This chap was fantastic today.
The summary of today’s run is very simple. It was bloody hot, and very, very boring. One straight road where I could see the 13-mile turning for about 1.5 hours. The place is vast and flat. Imagine a Western with a train track through the middle of the desert with nothing else around. This was today, except the train track was a six-lane unfinished highway. The designers of the street lights may have miss-calculated how many lights they needed, though, as they were every 15 metres. Yep, loads of them. Made me lol! All powered by small, slim-line rectangular solar panels facing the sun (obvs), every single panel covered in a thick, orange layer of dust.
Thin, seemingly dying, groups of donkeys staggered along the roadside looking for water and food. They looked how I felt. Sexy, hey! Now I’m back in the comfort of the hotel room, no dust, no lorries, and as much water as I want. Tooth still throbbing away in the belly of my mouth, but it’s time to sleep. First I have the battle of removing my compression socks. Runners, you’ll know that when you’re exhausted, taking tight socks off isn’t fun. I think I should probably shower too. In ten hours’ time I have to be on a plane to country number 40, Algeria.
Despite the hardships of today, I am so very lucky.
Day 116 – Mauritania to Algeria
Less than 12 hours after running my 39th marathon I was up and out, sat on a flight to Algeria, after a 4am alarm. First step was to gobble up some more painkillers to help my throbbing tooth. I woke with a dry, desperately sore mouth. The blisters, sore legs and dodgy ankle where I rolled it at mile 22 yesterday were nothing compared to my tooth. I think it’s time to speak to the team back home and assess what I should do. It’s not getting any better. I really don’t want to have to go home to the dentist, but it may be the only way.
Despite the sore tooth and lack of sleep, I am lucky enough to have my mate Andy join me for Algeria, and then Tunisia. Just a few days, but we’ll run together and I’ll generally be a little more distracted. Always nice to have a familiar face when feeling rough.
It’s the evening now, and we’ve had a little explore after a lovely welcome from our complementary hotel Lamaraz Arts. Time for sleep and a relaxing start at about 9am tomorrow. I hope I can sleep.
A little note on religion before I doze off. Religion has surrounded me for 95% of my trip to date. I am aware of how religion has seemingly caused conflict around the globe for many years, and for that reason I am cautious with my words; that said, it still brings people together in vast numbers. Religion was a huge part of my first phase of the trip in a very Caribbean way, a beautiful way. If I was running on a religious day of the week in the Caribbean, everyone (and I mean virtually everyone) would be in one place celebrating together, smiles, worship, and generally the feeling of community. Even the animals join in. There’s no denying it brings communities together. The reason I mention this is because the more that passes the more I become aware of its power over people – good and bad. Algeria has the tallest minaret in the world – nearly 300 metres – and the mosque here can hold over 120,000 people.
Day 117 – Algiers, Algeria, Marathon 40
Most painful night of my life. Maybe I’m being pathetic, but man, I wanted to pass out last night. My toothache reached new heights, to the point I was ready to jump on a flight last night and get it fixed. The infection has spread throughout my bottom gum and my teeth are delicate and sore. The heart of the infection in my molar was the cause of no sleep. Well, I had about an hour, maybe two. I was squirming around on the bed like a tramp that has been shot. If you’ve seen the film Into the Wild, I looked like ‘Alexandra Supertramp’ in his dying moments.
A text to Andy in the early hours of the morning instructing him to knock on my door as soon as he was awake. We chatted at about 7am and decided the hunt for antibiotics was a must. Andy kindly went on a search and returned quickly with an array of drugs. No breakfast, no food, no sleep, and with what felt like chewing glass, I failed to eat a bite of banana.
I called home and spoke to various team members about options for a dentist in the UK. There were appointments but the infection needed to subside first. I was here, in Algeria, one of the many countries I needed to run in, so, with a little hesitance, we decided to run.
Codeine, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, and lots of salt mouth wash combined with teeth brushing and normal mouth wash, we ventured out. After about 5 miles it had calmed down and the pain reduced from a 10/10 to a 2/10. Remarkable difference, thanks to Western medicine. The feeling lasted for the duration of the run, but soon returned after the pain relief subsided.
Chats with locals, coastal paths, interesting buildings and a nice breeze, the run was pretty great. Was also nice to have Andy along to chat to about virtually everything and anything. We took our time, and snacked as we went. I was pretty hungry so I had to make the most of the time I could eat. A film and pizza, and then sleep. Tomorrow we head to country 41.
Day 118 – Algeria to Tunisia, undercover police, airport security and a very late flight
Here’s today’s overview.
It was due to be an easy day today. Mission one of one: get to Tunisia… An 11.30am flight was delayed by four hours.
For those of you who have had the pleasure of Algiers Houari Boumediene Airport, you will know that security is a big thing. When I say big thing, I actually mean stupid! Seven layers of security just to leave the country. We had our bags scanned three times in the space of about 100 metres, all of which had different rules and we could even take as much liquid as we like. Odd. The world of airport life, eh. We were even questioned by undercover police because we were taking photos and videos in the airport. Fair enough on that one. The rest of the airport was just blooming bizarre.
The airport was covered in information boards for flight information. These, however, did not hold flight information, though there was one tiny CRT monitor for the actual flight information. On top of this the display was out of date and didn’t show today’s flights. There were hundreds of people wandering around without any clue what was going on.
After an entertaining four hours’ delay, we finally reached sunny Tunis and made it to our hosts’ house. Natalie works for the Embassy and was incredibly kind to let us crash at hers. She also, however, had to wait for several hours to collect us at the airport. Saint! Thank you!
Tomorrow we run my 41st marathon of the trip. Only 155 to go. Still unsure what I’ll do with my tooth. Three days of antibiotics and I’m now still no better. Hmm, should I get it seen to or just let it heal on its own?
Day 119 – Tunis, Tunisia, Marathon 41, DOG BITE DAY!
Marathon 41 of 196. Only 155 to go and just another 574 days.
7am – Mark arrived. Mark works with Natalie at the Embassy here in Tunis, and is a fellow marathoner training for Edinburgh in a few weeks; he was here to show us around and grab some last-minute miles.
Mile 13 – Natalie joined us half way and ran for 6 miles. Also a good runner, but sadly a knee injury is grounding her for a while, so 6 miles was a great effort.
11am – Natalie and Mark left us at 19 miles after showing us some great sights. We stopped for a few snacks, visited the Roman ruins and chatted all the way around. Today was a good run. Until…
Mile 22 – Andy and I were in our last few miles and feeling very fresh. We were meandering through some houses, close to a quiet section of beach. We then realised pretty quickly that we were running towards some pretty grumpy dogs – and we were 100% on their turf (actually sand). We slowed, turned around, and did what you’re supposed to do. Walking slowly away we had five very angry street dogs barking loudly and aggressively at our heels. We were both certainly in harm’s way, but this had happened to me a few times in Bolivia and elsewhere, and I assumed they’d get bored and go away. Without warning (other than the barking and snarling), the leader of the pack launched himself at my scrawny left thigh and had a good nibble. Ripping my shorts in the process he got more shorts than meat, but left me bleeding and sore. Just a small bite, really, but nonetheless a trip to the doc for some rabies jabs.
My visit to the doc was over in minutes. The most efficient health centre, and it was free. The receptionist took my name, age (not date of birth) and nationality. He then stood up, went around the corner and called me in. Whipped out two needles and jabbed me once in the right and once in the left, and job done. I just need some follow-ups and I should live.
I will now always carry a baseball bat and a gun! Obviously not really, although I’ll take a bottle of water and maybe a stick, ha ha.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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