Day 268 – UK to Iceland
Travellers, runners, adventurers… don’t you just love that feeling of waking up in your own bed and by the time the day is coming to a close you’re falling asleep in a different bed, in a different country, having filled the day with stuff you love? There’s something about travel that I adore, even if I’m a bit grumpy and over-tired.
Today went a bit like this…
4.30am – I reached over to my eternally annoying alarm clock and snoozed it twice. That gave me 18 minutes to lie in bed half-asleep with my mind going through the mental checklist of everything I had or hadn’t packed. As my brain woke up, my excitement increased. Phase 6 of 13 was beginning. My expedition continues; I’m fit, I’m healthy, my feet are in one piece (well, two pieces I suppose), and I counted my blessings before venturing out into the day.
By 10am I’d arrived at Gatwick, wide-awake – shower complete, passport check complete, and out into the cold morning to ride the National Express coach from Bristol. Four hours later I had managed to nap a little more, get a few emails done and write some more of the book, all to the backdrop of the stench of a broken toilet.
1pm – Time to board the Icelandair flight to Reykjavík, my 79th country this year. I’d caught up with various friends on the phone, including the lovely Rowena, whom Dani and I stayed with in Barcelona. Thanks, Ro. I also had a few lovely messages from folk I’d met on the trip so far. A taxi driver called Omar who had driven me the 15 hours through Senegal also emailed me to wish me continued success in the trip; he even donated.
7pm – By the evening I’d met with Duncan and Jay who have come out to run with me and have sponsored the trip through their business Hydraquip @hydraquip – brilliant people, and fascinating chats. A hire car sorted, some local money extracted from the jaws of a pricey airport cash machine, and I was sitting having dinner overlooking the wonders of the Icelandic skyline. A cold walk back to the cosy and friendly Brim Hotel and I was ready to get some shut eye. Ahhh, another country.
Day 269 – Reykjavík, Iceland
Today is entitled: Mmmmm… sulphur.
A couple of geysers, a not so secret, secret lagoon and plenty of snow. Oh, and I think I’ve got volcanic gravel in my pants.
Day one of four in the bleak and wintery landscape of Iceland. This morning Mike arrived at about 10am from the UK; he brought with him rain, wind and freezing temperatures. Thanks buddy. (Mike and I recently co-founded WonderFULL Magazine @wonderfullmagazine – WonderFULL people doing WonderFULL things – check it out.)
Duncan, Jay and Mike joined me for a trip round the south west of the island. Thanks to Jay we had transport in the form of a little blue VW Polo – 6ft 5, 6ft 3, 6ft 1 and 6ft – needless to say, we looked ridiculous.
The weather has been really grim today. Even now, after jumping into bed after my bedtime sulphur shower, the wind is howling and the rain is pelting the single-pane window of the hotel. Talking of which, a big thanks to Brim Hotel for putting me up for four nights right in the heart of the city. Great hotel.
Today we saw some truly Icelandic sights. A little over an hour into our windscreen wiper-heavy journey we witnessed a huge flock of geese take flight from a cornfield. A working farm dog and a Land Rover sped across the land repeatedly to rid the ground of hungry geese feasting on freshly planted grain. The sound of geese, the wind, the rain and the grey backdrop, although pretty miserable, brought a smile to my face.
On the way back to base we made a little detour to visit some hot springs. We paid over-the-odds prices, got naked, showered, and ran from the warmth of the visitors centre out into the freezing cold of Iceland and as quickly as possible into the warmth of the very hot springs. The rather alarming signs advised us we should avoid the areas reaching 100°C.
After our communal bath the four of us huddled together in a small Portakabin-sized container and tucked into some local fish and chips, chatting to locals.
I’m tucked up in bed now. It’s safe to say we are all hoping for better weather tomorrow.
Day 270 – Reykjavík, Iceland
Today was one of those days that I’ll always remember. No heart-stopping events, but some good old-fashioned exploring, trying to cram as much in as possible.
We will both also remember today as ‘that time we accidentally spent £45 on a bargain bucket at KFC’. Oh Iceland, your prices are cruel, yet tasty.
Duncan and Jay wanted to rest after a long working week, ahead of their first ever marathon tomorrow. They added us to the rental car policy at about 10 this morning; Mike and I then made a hasty and very vague plan and went in search of Icelandic photo opportunities. Thanks, Mike, for driving the entire 500km today while my face was pressed up against my camera lens. We stopped often to take in the beautiful sights.
The weather was amazing. Sleepy-eyed and with hopeful expectation we pulled back the curtains to a glorious blue sky. Boom! Winning already. 18 hours later, now drawing the curtains and getting into bed, the weather is still great.
We’ve just returned from feasting on 2 x 10-piece bargain buckets in the car. Sadly no northern lights, but who needs that when you have fried chicken overlooking gorgeous mountains.
The waterfalls, mountains, barren landscape and the crinkle-cut volcanic world of Iceland were stunning. It felt like the weather gods were being kind today. The wind was calm and so I could pop the drone up to get some shots of the huge waterfalls cascading over the cliffs and crashing down onto onlookers.
Mike and I went to see an abandoned plane crash on a beach. Some locals told us about it yesterday and it turned out to be a great little find. The walk to reach the crash site, though, was long and cold – 4km out and 4km back. Earlier, at one of the waterfalls, I got a little close, so much so that my jeans and virtually all the clothes I had with me were soaked. Ooops.
Frequently today we ooohh’d and ahhh’d at various sights on the journey, jumped out of the car for photos and moved on again.
Day 271 – Reykjavík, Iceland, Marathon 79
Snow, sleet and highs of 4°C. Marathon 79 was a cold one, but a bloody brilliant one.
Today is dedicated to Duncan, Jay and Mike.
Duncan and I got to know each other after he contacted me about 10 months ago. Out of the blue this incredibly generous and kind guy called me and said he wanted to help with the trip. He sponsored the journey, and even helped pledge some more money through a scheme he created with his business. Duncan agreed to donate £5 every time someone within his company ran a park run in the build-up to the expedition. Needless to say, there were several who did.
Both Duncan and his son Jay (who is also integral to their business) have never run a marathon, so to support further they booked a flight and came out to give their first marathon a go, here in Iceland. I gave Duncan a few running tips to help him train and I am now very pleased to say, after six very cold hours in the sleet and snow, Duncan has done it. Sadly Jay had to pull out at mile 19 due to a knee issue, which, in hindsight, was certainly the right decision. Jay, awesome effort.
The unsung hero of the run today was Mike. A good friend from home and a triathlete, Mike plodded around with us, keeping us all in high spirits. Duncan and Jay were really pleased to meet you, mate. Despite the weather, it really could have been worse; we even had blue sky for a while, and the snow only came down in the last 5 miles.
By the time the run was done I had written three pages of notes about which podcasts to listen to, which companies I should look at for future trip support, and brilliant advice on converting a van. This is for another little expedition I’m planning way in the future. Shhh, I’ll tell you more nearer the time.
Today’s marathon was one of the best for group support and Duncan didn’t complain once. Easy-peasy, marathon done. Impressed and honoured guys. Thanks for joining me on my quest.
Writing this, I’m now hanging various running items around my room. Everything is wet from sweat and sleet. Runners, you know the feeling, post-run bliss after a great day out with awesome people.
Day 272 – Iceland to Chicago, USA
The blue lagoon, a lazy breakfast, six hours on a plane, and my 140th flight of the expedition.
Today’s journey was oddly peaceful. I’d forgotten how air travel gives me time to reflect. Do you know what I mean? Six hours of random strangers on a big chunk of mental hurtling through the sky powered by gallons of explosive fuel. It’s crazy to think none of this goes through my mind as I gaze out of the window.
The clouds gently rolling by, the small ice crystals interlace as they grow on the scratched plastic portals. The wings flex in the wind, and it’s as if the world is in slow motion. The hum of the engine, the bing of the announcement system and the gentle chatter of distant conversations several seats in front of me.
Some days, when I have a few hours before a flight, I find a quiet spot and just sit and think, and it’s incredibly enriching and powerful. It’s a chance to internally be grateful, to wonder, and to hope.
Us humans have a huge depth of emotions and spirit. Forgetting religion, faith, belief, any of that for the moment, in very simple terms we are so complex, diverse and utterly fascinating – I’m beginning to understand why travel gives us such enriching experiences.
Travel, running, photography, writing – these are all things I love and I’m doing them. I urge you all to do what you love. Don’t wait for tomorrow.
A few hours ago I arrived in Chicago. I took myself to the roof of the stunning new hotel, Viceroy Chicago @viceroychicago, and looked out into the light of the city. It’s drizzling, but I don’t care. Just 20 minutes of shutting off my mind to the jobs to be done, the trip, the mission, just quietly smiling to myself. Life is big and life is to be had by those who go after it. I feel like I’m doing my time on the planet justice so far.
Day 273 – Chicago to Lake Michigan, Illinois, USA
Windy, rainy, and just how I like it. I’ve never been to Chicago before, but the bad weather is always how I imagined for some reason – the windy city living up to its name.
I ventured out from my gorgeous hotel into the cold city. Some sightseeing had to be done. I visited the Bean, the pier and then attempted to get a great view of the city from the famous Skydeck. The fog and low cloud has been lingering over the city all day, and I’m told it will continue that way. Sadly no photo from the tops of skyscrapers.
What with my pro-athlete lifestyle and aptitude I was hungry and so, as usual, I feasted on the most non-athlete-style meal. To hell with nutrition – a giant American-sized Five Guys @fiveguys burger with all the trimmings will do it. Yum. Needless to say I walked out of the burger heaven with the feeling I had just eaten my body weight in oily fat. Oh the guilt, or not…
Some of you may know that I collect caps. I’ve been buying a cap from every country or city I’ve visited so far – give or take a few due to the lack of, well, anything. I happened to stumble past a Lids store today. If you don’t know, @lids is an American cap shop, and I love it.
You remember my new magazine WonderFULL? @wonderfullmagazine Well, I thought I’d get our logo mocked up on a cap. We’ll branch out into this kinda material one day soon, so it was fitting to give it a try. Came away really happy with the outcome. I’m easily pleased, aren’t I? Also in other news, I’m really pleased to announce that Mike and I have secured a designer for the magazine. She’s brilliant and her name is Carmen. The mag is purely in print form and we hope you’ll all grab a copy when it’s launched next year (January issue 2019). Thanks, Carmen, for some great work.
So that was my day, simple but fun. My legs certainly did a fair few miles walking around the city battling the wind. Oh and I forgot I was supposed to pick up my race bib. I’ll do that tomorrow. The joys of having a bonus day or two in a city.
Day 274 – Chicago, USA, bib collection
Everyone loves a nice runny egg, right? What about a dip in a warm, steamy swimming pool on the roof of a skyscraper?
Today went like this:
5am – Yawn. I’ve made no attempt to fight the jet lag whatsoever – I’ve been nodding off at about 6pm and waking up at 5am. Winning.
7am – Brunch at Yolk, a classic no-frills American diner. Runny eggs, hence the name, huge portions, massive cinnamon roll (not photographed ‘cos it was too tasty to last).
9am – Umbrellas at dawn. I collected a snazzy umbrella from my hotel Viceroy and wandered around the city, attempting to take some arty photos of the skyline. The fog hung below the tops of buildings and the heavy rain made for some great, classically Chicago shots, I hope.
1pm – Packet pick-up. Never known it to be called ‘packet pick-up’ – it was always called a bib, but hey, America, change the name, why don’t you? The Expo wasn’t that big, actually, well organised and I bumped into so many people I knew or that at least knew me. Hello to my sponsors @runderwearofficial. If you’re a runner, try their gear – honestly a great product. Does what it says on the tin.
3pm – Family fans. It was lovely to receive an email from a family that wanted to hang out with me. Lisa and her family have been following the trip from day one – we met briefly and chatted. Thanks guys – reminded me of the good that this trip is doing. I hope you continue to feel inspired. Go grab your dreams.
7pm – Pizza and pool. An awesome pizza place is right next door to the hotel. Lou Malnati’s is famous for their Chicago deep dish. Once again I love some junk food so I may or may not have eaten two full-size cookie pizzas (yes, a pizza, but made of cookie), and then bobbed around in the rooftop pool watching the sun go down. Bliss. I did feel rather bloated though.
Bedtime now. It’s only 7pm – marathon tomorrow, though. My bet is that it rains… 100% of my time here, it’s rained, so fingers crossed for a change in the weather.
Day 275 – Chicago, USA, Chicago Marathon
Apparently the best way to run a sub-3 marathon is to run 79 marathons in 79 different countries within nine months. Perfect training, really. Ha ha.
Well that went better than expected: 2:59:11. Haven’t run a sub-3 this year yet. Although this is only my unofficial watch time, I’m happy. I decided to give today a good go. Loved it.
So this is my 80th marathon this year, but it actually doesn’t count. I don’t need to be here really. My expedition is to run a marathon in every country in the world, and I ran Miami as marathon number 2 back in January. But as you all know, I couldn’t help but sneak in all the World Majors too. So London and Berlin counted as the UK and Germany, but Chicago, Boston and New York are just bonus marathons for me. Yippee.
I always like to start quite far back in the field… two reasons: (1) so I can run past people and feel like I’m Mo Farah, and (2) it’s a good way to spot people I know and chat to them. Starting so far back did mean I had to weave around lots of people today… I ran so much further than I needed to. Never mind, a few extra miles can’t hurt.
I loved today, probably within my top five all-time favourite runs. I haven’t run for time for over a year; I usually just enjoy the spectacle. If I’m honest I expected my legs to turn off after half way, but they were fine.
Here are some Q&As for you:
Q: What do I eat before and during a marathon?
A: Always two bananas and at least 2 litres of water before a race, nothing during.
Q: What did my post-race look like?
A: Hot chocolate, water, Dunkin Donuts, litre of milk, bagel with bacon and cheese, and two massive bags of ice on my legs until they go numb. I ice my knees, lower legs, upper legs (both on top and underneath), and my hips and Achilles. I then scoffed my face with a brilliant chicken and rice dish from Chipotle. Oh, and about 20 minutes of casual stretching.
Thanks Chicago, and well done to all who ran and enjoyed the 26.2 miles in torrential rain.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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