Day 247 – Vatican City, Italy, finally, a rest day
I couldn’t run in Vatican City today due to the Pope speaking in the square, so my time is tomorrow.
Which meant today was a day of admin, emails, interviews and sleep. Every now and then I should do some work, I suppose.
For those of you who don’t know, there are numerous bits and pieces going on behind the scenes. Not only is my fab team propping up all the logistics and generally keeping me sane, but I also have some other irons in the fire: the book, the closing event and The 196 Foundation.
The book: I am writing a book about this world record, the prep, the build-up, the highs, the lows – you name it. I am really enjoying writing it, but I’ve been a bit slack… I managed to put hand to keyboard and bash out a few more words today. It’s so great to write in chunks, but I’m always writing about six months behind. With the help of an old-school Dictaphone and my notes app on my phone, I have all the details I need, not to mention photos.
The closing event: You may or may not know but in March 2020 I am opening the doors to everyone to attend a knees-up event to celebrate the success of the trip. I just hope I get there – fingers crossed. Where there’s a will, there’s a way… It will be a sit-down dinner, followed by an auction, a preview of the documentary, my book will be on sale (we hope), and there’ll be loads of music. Oh, and obviously a talk from me – all the juicy bits not shared online.
The 196 Foundation: Very close to launching. Thanks to all of you who have expressed an interest in supporting it. Please tag and share as far and as wide as you can. The Foundation will act as a legacy for this journey and I hope that in years to come it will thrive. I need your help. The concept is simple. Donate £1.96 a month or £24 a year and you will help one big project around the world each year. You vote on who we help: it could be an organisation or even just a small group or community that needs help. A small donation, lots of like-minded people, and big change – want to help?
Another full and more productive day, but no running. Vatican City tomorrow.
Day 248 – Vatican City, Marathon 72
Nearly arrested and two new friends in the form of two lush nuns. What a day…
Vatican City is the smallest official country in the world. There was virtually no knowing if I’d be allowed to run, where I’d run, or if the tourists or police would make it impossible for me.
6am alarm: Dani and I went prepared for anything. Most of the Vatican can only be visited through proper entrance fees and bag drops through security scanners etc… And these were all places I was guaranteed not to be able to run.
A few people have run a marathon around the perimeter of Vatican City on the outside of the wall, but this is technically not in the country. The Guinness World Record guidelines are strict, so today was a make or break marathon.
My route was to be 80ish laps of St Peter’s Square. This is tourist central, and even 30 minutes in, more and more people had swarmed in.
5 miles and 15 laps in and I was starting to believe that the police wouldn’t be a problem. 8 miles in, I was wrong. Two police called me over, and very politely asked what I was doing. They promptly informed me that I must have permission to run. They said that if I continued to run they had the authority to detain me for up to 12 hours. I was starting to feel all was lost – 8 wasted miles.
After a conversation with a nice chap called Daniel (a police officer who spoke good English), things still weren’t looking promising. Dani was told not to film, and we agreed the only way forward was for me to walk the entire marathon. I was worried this wouldn’t count for the official record, and frankly I didn’t like the prospect of walking 18 miles in circles, in 30°C heat.
The permissions we needed we did not have – the Vatican must approve everything in a specific and unique way. After some further conversation and showing the police the website and explaining the cause… finally Daniel agreed that he (the Italian police, acting on behalf of the Vatican) would overrule the usual protocol and let me run. The conditions: I had to be careful of people, not throw rubbish, and not film. This was a result, to say the least.
60 more laps later and I was done – Vatican City completed.
Day 249 – Rome, Italy, Rest and reward
Looking ahead, relief after Vatican City, and some well-earned sleep.
However much planning or effort you put in, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. I do find, though, that the more effort you put in, the more ‘luck’ you seem to get. I had to really persevere yesterday. Facing the possibility of not being able to compete my 72nd marathon due to the police and unauthorised access issues, it was ultimately down to some polite conversation in English. The wonders of language, eh.
A few thank you’s to all those who helped in Italy and the Vatican. First of all, to the police, and especially to Daniel. A big shout out to Quido at Hearth Hotel for organising free accommodation and generally being a great bloke, to both brilliant receptionists, to Sarah for some encouragement on the side lines, along with my new nun friends, and all those who applauded as I repeatedly ran past them.
Dani and I rewarded our efforts with a great meal hosted by a lovely Italian family over the road from the hotel! The photo below features the overly extrovert and quintessentially Italian chef. Thank you. Obviously we all know by now that Dani is taking advantage of his time in Europe and drinking anything he comes across.
Let’s talk about donations. We need more, basically! Please. If I’m to reach my £250,000 target by the end of 2019, I need your help. Just text NRTW89 £10 to 70070 to donate.
Tomorrow we travel from Rome to Bologna and then on to Rimini, our seventh and eighth train trip in Europe. The easiest way to reach San Marino, one of the smallest countries in the world, is by bus, so tomorrow night we stay in Rimini and just bus in to San Marino for the day.
Day 250 – Rome to Rimini, Italy, Travel day
Stupidly long hair! I’m sooo tempted to get rid of it.
Another four hours on a train, a sleepy seaside town and on top of everything, I lost a bet to Dani. Never trust a drunk! (Dani would like everyone to know that he is not a drunk, but that’s what all drunks say, right?)
Today we made the four-hour journey to Rimini from Rome, which was the easiest option to run marathon 73 in San Marino tomorrow.
The plan tomorrow morning is to get up early and grab an 8am bus through the mountains to the small, hilly country of San Marino, the fifth smallest country in the world, and I’ve heard it’s beyond hilly. I have tired legs, so it’s going to be a tough one.
We arrived about five hours ago, and it’s not what I was expecting – no disrespect to Rimini, but it’s basically the same as many coastal resorts – a bit run-down, pretty empty, and full of arcade stands and drab-looking hotels.
Once again, though, thanks to my team and the hospitality of the Hotel Estate for putting us up. Small, quaint and super-friendly staff. We certainly lucked out.
I lost a bet to Dani playing table tennis – the first to three games won, and I didn’t even make it to one. I paid for dinner, and blamed the loss on the wind.
We made friends with some locals, had a few drinks in a huge outdoor bar on the beach and listened to some quirky but chilled music. Time for bed.
Needless to say I will sleep like a baby tonight, though I’m a little apprehensive for tomorrow. Fingers crossed it’s not too hilly for my tired body – I’m still full of cold. Right, I’m all showered, some stretching done, belly full, and now it’s time for sleep. Ahhh, sleep.
Anyone running Berlin soon?
Day 251 – Marathon 73, San Marino
Wow, today was pretty cool! I’ve never travelled to a country, run a marathon and left, all within six hours. Back in time for lunch, basically.
What an amazing place! Approaching San Marino from the east coast of Italy, this place looked like the set from Game of Thrones, with castles high in the sky, mist lingering in the valley, and an amazing climb through the winding roads to reach the top.
I was lacking sugar and energy today and still not feeling like my legs would turn over, but after a little pep talk I was ready. I packed a bag with all my running essentials, changed at the top of the city and spent the first 6 miles running down. And I mean, seriously down. Imagine tight hairpin bends with vertical drops one side and the other a large, never-ending wall of rocks. I could hear the air brakes of the buses all the way down.
Once again I found myself checking the map constantly to make sure I wasn’t leaving the country by accident. I turned around at the 10km point and began the climb back up and around the mountainous landscape – busy roads, lush green fields full of crops, and all to the backdrop of three beautiful castles at the top of the city.
After a mile of climbing, my heart was beating hard, but my legs felt surprisingly fine. To my amazement, the few hours running flew by, and I ran up and down 2.5 times. I even made friends with the bus drivers ferrying people to and from the city. They had noticed my repeated attempts climbing up and down the hill.
Dani was waiting for me in a cafe after taking in the sights. We filmed some bits for the documentary and then headed back to the bus. I was sweaty, lacking water and knackered, but once again, another marathon done.
It’s now 8pm and I’ve scoffed down a pizza and emptied the mini bar of all non-booze items, and now I’m ready to sleep. What a day – a beautiful country, lovely people and lots of hills. Perfect for a testing run before Berlin marathon in two days’ time.
Day 252 – Italy to Austria to Germany
New friends, brilliant chats, many trains, currywurst, and lots of time scratching my head wondering if I’m in the right place.
This morning we left Rimini on our ninth train of the month to Berlin, and 14 hours and 15 minutes later, we arrived… and then bumbled around Berlin train station trying to find the exit. Sleepy brains. Here’s how our day had gone:
04:30 – Alarm
05:00 – Pack bag
05:30 – Breakfast
05:45 – Wait for taxi
06:00 – Realise taxi isn’t coming
06:15 – Call for new taxi
06:30 – Arrive at train station
06:45 – Realise we left GoPro in taxi
06:46 – Panic
07:00 – Call taxi company
07:05 – Taxi returns with GoPro
07:06 – Run for train
07:10 – Train leaves for Bologna
08:00 – Sleep
08:10 – Funny photos of Dani sleeping
08:14 – Arrive in Bologna
08:15 – Find platform for next train
08:40 – Drink hot chocolate
08:45 – Board train to Bolzano
09:00 – Edit footage for video update
11:17 – Arrive in Bolzano
11:30 – Lunch in nearby McDonalds
12:00 – Nap on platform with nice view
12:15 – Push-ups on platform (weird looks)
12:34 – Board train to Munich
13:00 – Fall asleep
14:00 – Remain completely asleep
16:00 – Meet Johanna, a train friend
16:25 – Arrive in Munich
17:00 – Currywurst with Johanna
17:45 – Go for a wee
17:54 – Board final train to Berlin
18:00 – Very busy train, standing
18:45 – Chat to Johanna
20:00 – Still chatting
21:00 – Still chatting, very sleepy
21:30 – Meet new bunch of friends
22:29 – Arrive in Berlin
23:00 – Still not escaped huge station
23:15 – Taxi to hotel
23:45 – Arrive at hotel
24:00 – Get into bed
00:15 – Need more food
01:00 – Finally sleep
So that’s that. Thanks to Johanna and everyone we met on the various trains. It’s quite a day when you go through three countries, sleep in multiple places without meaning to, and generally not really know where you are. Finally in bed and ready to turn off the light. Tomorrow I pick up my bib for the official Berlin Marathon.
Day 253 – Berlin, Germany, Bib collection
Any running expo is fascinating. Here’s my top 10 of ‘What to expect at a running expo’. There’s always:
- Oversized blow-up objects not related to running (beer, cars, footballs).
- Poorly organised everything, especially queues.
- A huge selection of different nationalities, shapes and sizes. Fab!
- A whole array of different personalities (you know what I’m talking about – the boasters, the newbies etc).
- Strange people who wear their running kit to the expo (no offence, but come on guys, why do you do that?).
- Everyone wearing fluorescent clothing.
- Over-complicated one-way systems.
- About 20% of the toilet facilities required for the clean sanitary use of thousands of people.
- Everyone queuing for things they wouldn’t usually want, let alone queue for.
- And obviously the most important thing – everyone must leave the expo with lots of flyers for races they have no intention of attending.
I had a lie-in today. After yesterday’s long journey and going to bed without really washing or brushing my teeth, I treated myself to some body admin – a long shower, some decent breakfast, a double mouth wash and teeth brush combo, and then a stroll to the official Berlin Marathon expo. Woohoo…
It’s so nice to be in a city full of runners. The bling of runner drips off them like sparkly gold. Some try to disguise their natural runner look, and some simply don’t bother. I love it – whether it’s people wearing causal outfits with obviously new trainers, or the oversized running watches latched on to small runners’ arms.
The running community is great. Walking around the expo for a few hours I collected my bib, perused the stands full of more gear and gadgets I most definitely don’t need, and walked away with a big Berlin poster, lots of safety pins (for Dani), and several selfies of people who recognised me and wanted to chat about the trip. So nice! Thanks guys.
I’m really grateful for the support from everyone online and in person. Please keep sharing the journey; it’s going to get tougher. Tomorrow is Marathon 74, Germany! Another major. Woohoo!
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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