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Day 240 – Andorra, Marathon 68

Up and out… today was FULL, just how I like it – 18km uphill, a bitterly cold morning and a fantastic support crew.

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5am alarm, followed by a barrage of ‘hit snoozes’ before squeezing my new and very tight socks over my sore feet and up and over my calf muscles. Any runner will know that attempting to put compression socks on while tired and half-asleep is virtually impossible. I also have a rather large and incredibly attractive bunion on my left foot, which is always an extra challenge.

Out of breath already, I sat on the edge of the bed while Dani made a cup of coffee. You’ll realise throughout these coming weeks that Dani is a fond coffee drinker, and is rarely seen without one.

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Angel met us all in reception at 7am. The hotel had kindly prepared individual breakfasts for both Angel and I, plus for the two much-needed support team members, Ro and Dani. The white paper bags full of food weighed as much as my head – thick, stodgy tortilla, bread, juice… you name it. Big thanks to the Centric Hotel.

If you weren’t already aware, Ro opened up her home to Dani and I in Barcelona, and is now still supporting by driving us all the way to Nice in a couple of days. Aren’t we lucky!

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Today’s run was in two halves. The first 18km was uphill along cobbles, trail and small tracks. Angel led the way as we hugged the river, travelling upstream towards the north. When my hands became numb as the sweat had seeped through every layer of clothing, and I was well and truly cold, Dani kindly donated his socks to me to use as gloves.

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Once we reached the top, and after several cups of hot chocolate and snacks provided by the leap-frogging support car, we turned around and headed back down into the valley, with the city ahead of us. Large, tree-covered mountains engulfed us from either side.

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My foot had been rather sore on the way up, some bruising and a likely strained muscle; to avoid further damage, or at least to dodge further pain, we opted for the road route back. This last downhill section before finishing in the stadium was a complete contrast – the sun came out, the roads were empty and our spirits were high.

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Day 241 – Andorra to Nice, France

A 650km road trip through the mountains to country number 69, France.

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Oh I love the Western world – we are so lucky. With Africa at the back of my mind, we woke up in our lovely hotel, spent about an hour grazing on a huge breakfast selection and then jumped into Ro’s pristine Range Rover and began the eight-hour journey north east to Nice.

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About 20 minutes ago Dani and I had one last selfie with Ro and said our goodbyes. It was sad to see her leave. Most people in this world are helpful, honest and kind, some not so, but it’s certainly very rare to find such a lovely lady. Ro, if you’re reading this, thank you! We’ve all bonded and you’ve certainly made the first few days of Phase 5 amazing.

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Earlier this morning after breakfast we took it in turns to drive through the mountains. Ro had the first stint and later swapped to me after three hours. I managed another three, and Dani covered the last few as we dropped down along the coast into Nice.

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Service stations in France will forever remind me of the long journeys to the Alps for frequent ski trips as a boy. Today we stopped five times, just because we could. Ice creams for me, and several large strong coffees to feed Dani’s coffee addiction.

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The mountains of the Pyrenees in all seasons are stunning – we stopped for a few shots of the road winding down the grassy hills. About five hours into the journey we passed a nasty accident, which had only just happened. There was a horrific site of bodies lying limp, with blood, glass and metal scattered everywhere. This was once again a reminder of how our days are valuable, and we should all try harder to appreciate what we have. I try really hard to not sit back and just assume tomorrow will happen. It’s hard when you plan a two-year trip, but I certainly am living the way I want to. Maybe take a look at what you’ve done today… would you change anything if it was your last day?

Lastly I want to thank Jean-Christophe for not only sponsoring the marathon here in Nice, which I’ll be running tomorrow, but also for contacting his friends here, Philippe and Jean-Michel, who have a B&B, in which I’m currently sitting. Thank you guys.

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Day 242 – Nice, France, Marathon 69

 

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13 flat miles one way, and then another 13 flat miles back, plus the little extra. Perfect. Some marathons feel like a lifetime, some are painful, some are slow, but today, it flew by. The Nice coastline is made for training. I must have seen about 1,000 runners or cyclists en route.

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Before I go on, I should mention breakfast. The B&B here that Philippe and Jean-Michel run is fantastic; the breakfast featured fluffy, fresh white baguettes, all the usual toppings, fresh juice and pastries – all to the backdrop of the city waking up. Distant mopeds in the street, a few cats and dogs making their usual sounds, and, of course, the light of the sun breaking on to the building tops. I had forgotten how beautiful French buildings are. We should all have shutters and iron balconies with flowerpots and over-spilling window boxes.

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A little after 9am I ran out of Nice to the fort on the hill, stopped for an ice cream, about 2 litres of water, and before I knew it I was done. Who said marathon running is hard. Ha… if only they were all like this.

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Using ‘Find my friends’ I managed to finish just 20 metres from Dani along the coast. A quick drink and debrief plus a beachside shower and we were done. It’s hot-ish today – at least 33°C in the sun. Everything is relative now – Africa is hot; everywhere else is not! So far…

Some live music from a great jazz/swing band by the beach and we went back to change, eat and then back out for my first night on the town for eight months. Dani got through a hefty 5 coffees, 11 beers and 4 shots, while I drank myself silly – I must have had at least 14 glasses of water. I know, right, I am such a party boy. Met a great group of people in various bars, the night was warm and breezy, and we eventually made it to bed by 4am. Who says you can’t have fun without alcohol…

Jean-Christophe, if you’re reading this, thank you so much. You sponsored, and you’ve been a constant supporter of the cause and the journey. France is complete. See you in Luxembourg.

Day 243 – Nice, France, Rest day

Interrail, a night out, and I think I’m getting a cold.

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All this burning the candle at both ends is catching up with me. I may have to stop… or at least get some sleep. Fortunately I have learnt to function on less sleep recently. The African leg of my journey was something I’ll never forget. I still have another 25 countries to complete there, having only run 28 so far. While Africa is massive and eye-opening, I feel like I can relax into Europe knowing it’s not Africa. Maybe that’s a mistake. We’ll see.

I thought I’d talk about the logistics of this journey. Tomorrow we make our way to Monaco. Only a 20-minute train ride away, but still something that has to be planned. The next 25 days of the trip consists of over 40 trains with various connections and lay-overs. Thanks to Ro we had a lift for the first few countries in Europe, and now it’s down to us to get on the right trains.

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I decided long ago that Interrail was the way forward – about £700 for a month of travel. This is obviously substantially cheaper than flights to 15 countries, plus less hassle with planes and border crossings. As it happens, lots of the small countries and principalities simply don’t have commercial airports, just like Monaco tomorrow.

Today was a great day, which seemed so much longer because we ended up having some drinks and staying out a little too late again. I also had a few interviews. We went for a dip in the sea, said goodbye to our fantastic hosts and eventually got back from meeting a great bunch of people at about 5am (10 minutes ago). Our train to Monaco is at 7.30am, so we are currently rushing to get stuff packed, and will then dash to the station.

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Dani spent the morning catching up on some admin for his health business, Foxo Health. This is genuinely fascinating stuff… very in-depth scientific vlogs weekly plus his first physical product has recently launched. If you have a moment, check out his YouTube channel.

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Day 244 – Nice, France to Monte Carlo, Monaco, plus Marathon 70! Travel and run day!

Monaco, oh Monaco! 20 hours to leave France, get to the accommodation in Monte Carlo, run a marathon, have dinner, and then dance the night away. I think I’m gonna feel exhausted in the morning. Oh, it is the morning.

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So today was different. It’s been a while since I’ve travelled and run in the same day. Despite our late night we both made it to the station on time and jumped on the correct train – a miracle in itself.

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I’m just crawling into bed now, and it’s about 3am. This has to stop (for a while at least). I blame Dani. It’s great to be a little less sensible occasionally, even if I still don’t drink, smoke or anything similar for that matter. Give me some sugar and I feel like the Duracell Bunny.

Today has been brilliant, but long, and it all started 20 hours ago.

7.30am – We caught the train from Nice to Monte Carlo Central.

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9.30am – We checked into Lorenzo’s flat (legend mate, thanks).

12pm – Let the running begin. We only had one night here, so it was now or never.

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3pm – I had basically run up, down, sideways and along every street in the country. I’ve been here before but wow, it’s so small and hilly – two miles long and about 500m wide.

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4pm – Change, shower, unnecessary faffing and out to dinner.

7pm – Dinner complete, amazing steak in a pricey restaurant on the marina, but worth it for some great food.

9pm – Dani was 5 pints down and I am now only awake due to the injection of sugar in the form of Red Bull. I felt fine all night, actually.

10pm – Live band, more dancing, more drinks.

3am – Eventually climb the mountain of stairs from the water’s edge back to the apartment and here I am, knackered and ready to sleep. We have a 7am train to catch to Rome, in four hours’ time.

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Monaco is rich, one of a kind, and remarkable. Not my cuppa tea, really, but you can’t help but be intrigued. Triple-decker super-yachts, expensive cars and outrageously rubbish dress sense all round. Night, Monaco.

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Day 245 – Monaco to Rome, Italy

In the grip of a cold, 14 hours on four long trains, two wrong seats, a dizzying migraine, and a new country.

This leg of the journey is whizzing by – I have my mate and cameraman, Dani, with me, but the time in each country is very short. Finally arriving in Rome we now at least have four days where we stay in one place. Phew.

In these four days, though, I have two marathons to run – one in Italy and the other in the smallest country in the world, Vatican City. I’ve been looking forward to this one, if a little apprehensive.

Last night Dani partied a little too hard, the evidence being he awoke from his not good sleep curled up on a small slab of concrete in the cold with 15 mosquito bites… I was sound asleep… and he had been too drunk to even ring the doorbell. The friends I keep, eh. Someone has to do the drinking for both of us.

Once Dani made it inside, we gathered our Osprey packs and attempted to find the right train. Bye, Monaco.

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The journey today took 14 hours to reach Rome, and it wasn’t straightforward. Anyone considering using an Interrail pass, be warned – it’s not as easy as it appears. Apparently there’s lots of trains you can’t travel on; we found out the hard way after being escorted off our first train about 20 minutes into the journey.

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Once back on the correct train and after spending two hours at a random station in the north of Italy, we were back on track. Shout out to Summer who we met at a nearby cafe in our state of extreme tiredness.

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We had little information about our tickets for the day, and so made the mistake of sitting in the wrong seats twice. Some grumpy Italian folk virtually pushed us out of our seats, Dani, a staggering mess and me, up to my eyes with a head cold.

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Luckily we’d paid the little extra (about £40 for the month) to be upgraded to first class seats – slightly more room and the assumption we’d have some peace and quiet. Needless to say, 14 hours on four trains with a cold and feeling exhausted isn’t ever peaceful. (I know, it’s my own fault.)

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At 6pm we made it to the Hearth Hotel in Rome, with a migraine, feeling dizzy, blurry-eyed, and a coughing fit of a mess. Hello, Rome.

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Day 246, Rome, Italy, Marathon 71

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I love Rome. It’s so, well, Rome. Vespers, loud, overly gesticulated conversations, and plenty of tourist-filled cobbled streets. Oh, and pizza and pasta.

Sun’s out, Nick’s out. Despite the horrible cold, I seem to be fine today. Amazing what some good pills can do. For info, I take 11 tablets a day, featuring Juice Plus, Probiotics, extra Omega 3, loads of vitamins… all natural stuff, basically.

My body is constantly living on the edge… and that’s the way I like it. I’d much rather feel a bit rough sometimes if it means squeezing every last minute out of the day. Like I always say – don’t count the day, make the days count. Recently I’ve certainly been using the 24 hours in each day pretty fully.

Today’s run was peaceful, hot and gentle, and I bloody loved it. My first few miles were through small streets; I meandered around the classic sightseeing locations within the first hour, taking in the Colosseum, various bridges, statues and monuments.

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I still had the majority of a marathon to run, so I dropped down to the river’s edge and ran along the cycle path out of Rome to the south, and then doubled back and ran out of Rome again to the north. Trees covered me for shade, I had the noise of the river in the background and I even saw a tortoise having some lunch.

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I popped my earphones in towards the last 10km – I think I was even singing out loud. I was in my element – I had run off my cold and was flying along. Amazing what a trained body can do. Thank you legs.

I’m getting into bed now after another lovely meal, a wander round the city and a quick trip to an Irish pub and an overly fancy, in your face, kinda club. We were sensible and called it a night at about 12am, I think. Shout out to Sarah. Nice to meet you! Hope you and your dad enjoy the sights.

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Tomorrow I may try and run the next marathon in the Vatican. It all depends if being a Sunday has an impact. I’m a little nervous about getting locked up for disturbing the peace, or something.

Nick Butter

British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer

Contact Details: 07754328355 | nick@nickbutter.co.uk | http://www.nickbutter.com

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