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Day 339 – Vilnius, Lithuania

Cabin in the woods, a frozen lake, icy roads and a crackling fire.

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I’ve always wanted to build a cabin in the woods, sit by a crackling fire and basically do nothing; just sit, think and write after a long run in the snow. No people, no traffic and no noise. Bliss.

I did the running yesterday and today I did the rest.

I’m fortunate to be able to stay in one of three beautiful log cabins with enough space to sleep eight. With the temperature outside able to keep the lake water frozen, I tucked myself into a few blankets and sat back watching the fire with a cuppa tea and my laptop.

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The door wide open, the dry logs crackling and spitting, my clothes draped over the chair at a safe distance to avoid most sparks. What a brilliant day. I ventured out to a local pub in the evening and ate some delicious food. Steak, potatoes and mushrooms with my classic lemon and water. Good service, great atmosphere and tasty food.

I did have to vacate this lovely accommodation, though, due to the water smelling so bad that it made me gag. The taps in both the kitchen and the bathroom were not pleasant. I guess that’s what you get in the middle of nowhere. The drive back through the forests and the winding roads to the main city was dark, long and snowy.

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This is actually my last day of rest before the remaining countries this year. Travel, run, rest will now be travel, run, travel, run. Here’s to the last bit of downtime, and no more book writing for a couple of weeks.

Please remember why I’m doing this trip. I love photography, travel and seeing the world, but I’ve virtually bankrupted myself in the process in order to raise awareness and cash for Prostate Cancer UK. Ideally by the end of the journey I will also have inspired others to live life to the full, with intent and appreciation for each day. The world is a wonderful place, and yet so many people don’t get their full life due to prostate cancer. Please support by donating on JustGiving. Search ‘Nick Butter JustGiving’ and donate a few pennies. Thank you.

Day 340 – Vilnius, Lithuania to Minsk, Belarus

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Being called by name for my 155th flight, but not in a good way – the first time in 155 flights isn’t bad though, is it?

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN DAY – #ilovemountains

Although Minsk doesn’t have mountains, it does have a very long cycle path which we intend to use tomorrow… let’s hope it’s not icy.

Here are my notes from my first day in Minsk:

  • 15km high street, Independence Avenue
  • Everything rebuilt post war
  • Not very imaginative
  • Stalinesque architecture everywhere
  • Big city
  • No cosy city centre
  • Big on casinos

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For most of the day I caught up with friends, slept and ate. Andy and I ventured out early evening to find some food, but with no success. The city is vast and spread out, and so finding a nice place to eat wasn’t easy; after flagging down a taxi we settled on the food of the gods, McDonald’s.

A big thanks to Alexei for picking us up from the airport and driving the 50km to the city. Alexei also knew a great deal about the city’s history, and so we learnt as we drove.

Mundungus, who I met in Copenhagen, and who then set up the race in Lithuania, also has contacts here in Minsk. He contacted Alexei who then posted the details to his friends on Facebook and apparently we have another three runners to meet tomorrow – a great example of the network of lovely people surrounding this trip. The kindness of people will never stop amazing me.

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Day 341 – Minsk, Belarus, Marathon 96

BIG MILESTONE! 100 MARATHONS TO GO!

Another country, another city, another marathon. But today was significant – 196 marathons, each in a different country. I now only have 100 to go. Today was a good day. Can’t believe I’ve got this far. Thanks to all the brilliant and welcoming people who have made every day enjoyable so far.

Have you ever been on a cycle path for 26.2 miles and only seen two cyclists? I have.

I was joined today by Andy, Max, Yuri, Andrei and for the last 10km or so, Alexei. Brilliant folk who were all pulled together through the powers of social media and kindness.

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We ran from the hotel through the very grey and bleak city to a nature reserve. We passed a long and winding cross-country ski track that weaved its way around existing paths and trails. The out-and-back circuit took us 13.2 miles to the end of a cycle path and another 13.2 back. Simple, and necessary. No navigation needed. Despite this cycle path being a cycle path, we only saw two cyclists. It was like having the best running track that weaved around the city. It was icy at points and snowy, but we kept a good pace and before we knew it, we were done.

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It was a fairly quick run considering the conditions. About zero degrees, we stopped a few times for snacks and a special juice drink which Max provided. This drink was incredibly sweet and came with rocket fuel results. We were zooming along. The sugar was remarkable. The fact it was cold and I was craving food might have had an effect.

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So now it’s bedtime and I can go to sleep knowing I will be in triple figures before Christmas. Just a reminder – if you want to get involved in any way, please drop me a message or email me at nick@nickbutter.co.uk

Remember – you can join me for any run between now and the end of the trip in November 2019. Just get in touch if you think you can help. We are also hosting a big closing event in March 2020 where I’ll be releasing the book, sharing the documentary and pulling everyone together for a big thank you. I’ll also be speaking and holding a Q&A session.

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Day 342 – Minsk, Belarus to Kiev, Ukraine

Let me share with you my… Top 10 airport lounge laws:

  1. Food items must be unidentifiable – potentially savoury or sweet, but must not be fresh in any way.
  2. Decorative styling of the lounge must be developed by only those aged 5 and under.
  3. If a coffee machine is available, it must be permanently stuck on the rinse cycle and therefore entirely unusable, while giving the impression it is functional until buttons are pressed.
  4. Those who work in such establishments should attempt to maintain a strong but vacant frown at all times. Furthermore, no staff should in any way appear to be helpful or vaguely interested in anything you say.
  5. Bread, if available, must contain nothing but sugar and be at a minimum three days old. Soft, spongy, fresh bread is not permitted.
  6. Soup must always be provided without flavour, colour or thickness. Bathwater is ideal, if a little too flavoursome.
  7. Seating areas must be cramped, with a clinical feel, yet hold a minimum of three unsavoury stains. No items of furniture should make it possible for anyone to lie down or be comfortable.
  8. The layout of the buffet table should be designed so bottlenecks occur even at the least busy times of day.
  9. Toilets must be dirty and contain a groaning older gentleman or gentlewoman in at least one cubicle at all times.
  10. Wi-Fi must be available but with a very complicated access process, thus only those with extreme persistence, advanced mental dexterity and incredible intelligence should finally gain access – 3 minutes before needing to leave the lounge.

Today was pretty simple. I ate a lot, napped, ate some more and then went to bed.

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The Milk Bar today was a great surprise. We checked into our hotel in snowy Kiev and then went in search of food. It was cold and slushy out, so we stayed in a cosy restaurant called the Milk Bar. Great food, great service, great ambience and great prices. Win.

Day 343 – Kiev, Ukraine, Marathon 97 of 196

Snow + running + silence = peace.

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The sweet sound of crunchy fresh snow under our feet; the huge weightless flakes of white falling from the sky covering our clothes; the unbeatable silence of a still, crisp morning. We were wrapped up warm with nothing but our eyes peeping through the gap between our hat and our buff. No traffic, no animals, no wind and no people – just us and our trainers. We stopped a few times to listen to the deafening nothingness of the eerie wilderness. Occasionally a distant dog would bark and echo through the trees. With our history of dogs, we shared a glance of concern before arming ourselves with snowballs and beginning again.

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Every now and then we would literally stumble upon a patch of sheet ice disguised with a dusty layer of snow. 26.2 miles on road is 26.2 miles, but 26.2 miles on snow and ice certainly used more muscles, more energy and quite literally kept us on our toes, or at least on our flat-footed, tired feet.

Andy and I made the extra effort to find a place to run without traffic and somewhere scenic today. The effort paid off; today was one of the best runs so far – just snow and running. Simple. We frequently had 2 or 3 miles without speaking, and by pushing our hats just above our ears we could hear only the sound of our feet, our laboured breathing and the slosh of the water in my bag. Bliss.

At 8 this morning I had leapt out of bed; okay, so it was more of a slow crawl, but nevertheless I made it to the buffet bar and tucked into croissants, eggs, beans, bread, yogurt and anything else I could get my hands on. Oh, and a cuppa tea, of course. Then I filled the flask with two more cups of tea and pocketed a few pastries for the 55-minute journey to our start line for the day, the Kiev sea – basically a big river covered in ice.

I will never learn – after the run in Minsk I was tired and forgot to dry my clothes. These items haven’t been washed for a good six weeks, and so stink beyond an acceptable level. This morning not only did they stink, but they were also damp, verging on wet. Nice.

But a brilliant run today!

Day 344 – Kiev, Ukraine – Chernobyl to Chișinău, Moldova

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Today I visited the site of the most famous nuclear disaster!

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A place that was once home to 50,000 people has now been reclaimed by nature. The obvious question being, are humans more harmful to the planet than a nuclear explosion? There are naturally so many emotions in play when visiting a place like this – fear, curiosity, sadness – the list goes on.

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Nature in all its forms has clawed back its territory. Where once stood cinemas, busy shopping malls, schools and theatres… now trees, bushes, deer, insects and wolves belong.

What happened at Chernobyl?

On 25th April 1986, unit 4 of 6 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded.

During a late-night safety test the safety systems were intentionally turned off to simulate a station blackout; this is when disaster struck.

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Water flashed into steam which generated a steam explosion and a subsequent open air graphite fire. This fire then blew the radioactive material into the atmosphere. This is what went on to cause cancer, which has since killed more than 3,000 people over the course of 30 years. This number is still rising.

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Before we flew to Moldova this evening we were up early to meet our private tour guide, which we arranged yesterday. So up and out by 7am, we were in Chernobyl by 10. We had six hours meandering around the ruins of the city. The rusty and corroded fun fair, complete with big wheel and bumper cars, were a reminder of how immediate the evacuation had been. School books, toys, clothes and shoes lay littered in classrooms. The post-apocalyptic feeling increased as we saw more and more.

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We held the Geiger counter out in front of us to discover hot spots of radiation. Safe enough for us today, as a short visit, but still alarming to see the vast increase in readings when standing near clothes worn by those who were immediately affected. A thought-provoking day to say the least.

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We also stumbled across eight wild dogs keeping warm on some pipes just inside the ‘no go’ zone. A brilliant photo opportunity.

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Day 345 – Chișinău, Moldova, Marathon 98 – EXACTLY HALF WAY!

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HALF WAY – 98 of 196! Woohoo!

The most interesting part of today’s run was the finish…

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Andy is a very bad influence on me, so much so that we’ve now got into a routine of finishing every marathon near or in a fast food outlet – basically anywhere to immediately put calories back in our bodies. We were cold, shivering, and our feet were soaked from the snow. We stumbled around on the slush with outstretched arms, rather like penguins, tentatively waddling in an attempt to protect our faces should we actually fall. Tripping up on snow-covered pavements and avoiding crazy drivers, we eventually made it to the canteen of the gods, McDonald’s. Okay so yes, I know it’s bad, but it’s also tasty.

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We settled in a corner of the slightly dirty but very full ‘restaurant’. Opposite us sat an elderly gentleman who seemed to have some strange goings on.

At least 70 years old, with a mountain of bags next to him, he had all of his gadgets charging in various sockets dotted all over the place. He wasn’t eating, and we both became rather curious. As we tucked into our 5 star grease-infused meal, we noticed him preparing a cup of tea.

 

From his many bags he pulled out an element for heating water, a single element just fit for one cup of tea. He filled a recycled paper cup with cold water, added a tea bag and plugged the heating element into the wall and clipped it to the edge of the cup. At this point Andy and I both looked at each other with amusement and a sense of ‘that’s a good idea, if a little weird’. Moments later the water had boiled (tremendously quickly, actually)… and then it got weirder; we glanced at some rather unsavoury skin-toned phallic images on his phone, which lay on full display, flat on the table.

Needless to say, our food became less appealing and we decided to shuffle off.

I’ve witnessed some crazy things on this journey, like a family of five on a scooter, with the under 10-year-old carrying a large and very much alive pig as they weaved through traffic in Africa… I could list plenty more. Today’s happenings will be added to that list.

Nick Butter

British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer

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

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