A wildlife tour of Costa Rica, visiting cancer patients in Panama, world champion speed walkers in Colombia and money problems in Venezuela – what a week…
Day 50 – Costa Rica, rest day
Walking through the forests of Costa Rica, 6,000 feet above sea level, with the chatter of exotic birds and the sun peeping through the canopy, I spent my 50th day being spoilt by wildlife – toucans, sloths, frogs, pumas, bobcats and gorgeous butterflies. Day 50 was an accidental treat day. Every now and then I have more than 48 hours in each country, and I can’t always keep up with where I’m supposed to be and when. So today was a lie-in and a chance to swap my running trainers for my hiking boots and to go explore.
ANNOUNCEMENT: I am planning a two-week road trip from San Francisco to the Grand Canyon. In these two weeks I’ll visit cancer societies and charities, and patients, and speak to loads of schools along the way. This is my big push for awareness in the US, and a chance to really delve deeper into the needs of these organisations. The climax of this trip is a huge gathering of like-minded folk at the Grand Canyon – runners, supporters, anyone who wants to help beat prostate cancer. On roughly the 20th October I invite you all to come and run a marathon through the Grand Canyon (very slowly), have a BBQ and lots of great chat, and to camp close by. More details to follow. If you are interested, comment and tag below. I also need help with organising and support. Keep an eye on the website and please reach out to me and the team at www.runningtheworld196.comor drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I heard the sad news about Stephen Fry’s prostate cancer diagnosis. I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank him for sharing his health with the world. It will more than likely save other people’s lives. I just hope that everyone reading this will chat to their friends, family and even complete strangers. Sometimes there aren’t obvious symptoms, and the tests aren’t always as invasive as you may think. Be bold, talk about it, and you might just save a life. Anyone over 40 who hasn’t been checked, go to the doctor now. Tag someone you know!
Tomorrow I move on to a country I’m really looking forward to – Panama.
Day 51 – Costa Rica to Panama
Up and out early. A huge buffet breakfast awaited before leaving for my 23rd country in just 51 days. My tiredness rating was through the roof, but the view overlooking the mountains of Costa Rica was so peaceful as I reflected on yet another great country.
Panama is a country I am excited to explore. The Panama Canal and the history of such a great feat of engineering is special, but I really had no idea what to expect.
The flight was simple, and I was able to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring. Just as the sun was setting I wandered round the strange mix of contrasting high-rise towers with shantytown multi-coloured buildings side by side; all of this with beautiful colours reflecting off the buildings as the sun finally dipped below the horizon, and all set to the backdrop of the industrial trade of the famous canal. I had time to pop the drone up to have a little explore of the sky.
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Day 52 – Panama, Marathon 23
It’s been a while since I cried during a marathon, but today, it happened. Setting an alarm anything earlier than 4am when I was already sleep-deprived and starting to get grumpy wasn’t ideal. Regardless, the alarm sounded and the Panama City streets were calling. Everyone at the Cutarra Runners club, along with huge support from the British Embassy, made today so much fun, and very moving. Thank you. Actually, I can’t thank you enough.
So why did I cry? Well, at mile 14 we stopped off to meet some patients at the Oncology Unit. I can’t articulate the immense sense of conflicting emotions as I walked into the chemo room – about 25 patients hooked up to their drip, sat in small, green, leather armchairs. I will never forget the look on their faces as the nurses and doctors circulated in their blue gowns. I was fortunate enough to speak to some of these brave and wonderful people, and I told them about Kev, and why I was there. To my surprise they were happy for photos, and many left me with the parting words of ‘god bless you’. The fear and hopelessness in their faces coupled with their unwavering positivity was nothing like I have ever experienced. Their stories and bravery moved me to tears. This is why I am doing this. We must stop people dying from cancer. We must. Please help.
Kev was in my thoughts more than ever, along with Annabelle who runs the centre. Her mum sadly died just 10 days earlier, and I was the only reason she was in the building. She gave me some wise words, which reflect Kev’s attitude: ‘Use your time wisely and never forget to be grateful for today.’ I just hope everyone reading this realises that we have just one life, which is ours to capture and grab with both hands, whatever that may mean. To me, it’s about running around the world and shouting out about prostate cancer. Help me shout about it please. Let’s beat this.
At the finish line of another 26.2 hot and humid miles with a bunch of super-lovely and kind people, I was met by about 400 cheering kids from King’s College. Thank you everyone! Not enough space to say everything.
Day 53 – Panama to Colombia
Cancelled flight! Now this wasn’t as straightforward as I had planned. Leaving what had been an emotional stay in Panama, I would have liked an extra few days – mostly to sleep. I managed to squeeze in a little time to visit the Hard Rock Hotel Panama roof bar before leaving for country 24. Arriving in the airport the desk insisted on proof of onward travel out of Colombia in printed form. I’ve generally managed to talk my way round most of these requests, up until now… Although I had the electronic details, I obviously don’t carry printed copies – I’d need a filing cabinet.
At the same time as this faffing was going on, I had a scheduled call with Bratton Fleming Primary School in the UK. The wonderful kids and teachers at this school have decided to do an 18-month project on me, and on the expedition, learning about geography, health, fitness, motivation, resilience, cancer, and much more. I’m honoured. I spoke with the kids on WhatsApp video call. They had some great questions before I had to dash to my gate for the flight. Thanks, everyone, at Bratton Fleming.
But my dash to the gate was in vain. After an hour wait, and no announcements from Avianca, I managed to find out that the flight had been cancelled due to a bird damaging the wing on the previous flight into the airport. I went back through immigration, customs and security, collected my bag, and went back to the check-in desk to arrange an alternative flight. The queue for the desk was over three hours. I was a little concerned that I would arrive in Colombia so late that I wouldn’t have time to run. A long delay later and hilariously awful service and I was on a Copa Airlines flight and on my way. The silver lining of this hick-up was extra sleep and a pretty cool time lapse of a plane landing, taxiing to a gate, passengers disembarking, refuelling, bags off, and then fresh passengers boarding, bags on, and then the plane finally leaving. Tomorrow I run. At 8,500 feet I have no idea what to expect, where to run or anyone to run with. Day 54 awaits.
Day 54 – Colombia, Marathon 24
Injured, tired, burnt and exhausted. So today was different. All part of the journey, I suppose. It was actually a very significant day. First of all, it’s my dad’s birthday – happy birthday dad! It’s also my first time running at 8,500 feet, and my first new pair of trainers of the expedition. The last pair ‘ran’ out! Every 600 miles I have a new pair of Adidas Ultra Boost sent to me. Thanks to Pro Direct Runningand our partnership with Adidasfor supporting. I didn’t just receive new shoes, though. Every month or so I have a box of goodies arrive to wherever I’m staying. My very patient team send me everything I need to keep me topped up. More Pulsinbars, more Juice Plustablets and fresh clothes, underwear from Runderwear, compression from Rehband and tops from Do Running. Oh, and I also have some treats like chocolate and some admin essentials like new hard drives to back everything up on. I then fill that box with all the old stuff plus souvenirs and gifts from the amazing people I’ve met. These will all be found at the closing exhibition of the trip along with thousands of photos. If you didn’t already know, we have a month-long gallery exhibition along with lots of unseen videos and stories from the trip. Watch this space. Thank you everyone.
So what happened with the run today? First of all, I forgot to put sun cream on, mostly because I was keen to get the run done and get back to bed. Once I was running I felt pretty good, I even met a bunch of speed walkers, one of whom happened to be the world champion. We chatted, and they even supported me with water on my lapped course around a park. Lovely people once again. Nice to meet you guys. By mile 20, I was hungry (I forgot breakfast too), and was also feeling the affects of running at 8,500 feet. On top of this, the combination of new shoes, socks, lack of sleep etc etc, and the little running devil started to stab me in my left knee – 6 miles later I was done, but very sore. I iced my legs from my hips to my feet in a very cold combination of ice bags, and wrapped towels around my legs super tight. Anyway, this is what I signed up to.
Day 55 – Colombia to Venezuela
ANNOUNCEMENT: Grand Canyon Marathon. Between the 10th and 25th of October 2018 I’ll be spending some time during the expedition visiting cancer societies, research centres and prostate cancer sufferers on the west coast of the US. Along with a film crew I’ll be travelling from San Francisco to the Grand Canyon to shout about prostate cancer as much as possible. When we reach the Grand Canyon after eight days of media and various visits, we are hosting a marathon distance-run through the canyon for everyone and anyone to get involved with. Not a race – just a gentle, enjoyable run. Post-run we are holding a party, with music, a BBQ, and the possibility of camping under the stars for a couple of nights. No tickets – everything will be free; all you have to do is tell the story to all of your friends and raise awareness. If you just want to come for the party bit, feel free. More information will be online shortly at www.runningtheworld196.com– PLEASE REGISTER YOUR INTEREST NOW! Comment and tag below. Cheers.
Day 56 – Marathon 25 Venezuela
500 lizards, 150 pelicans and 100 vultures – I certainly wasn’t expecting that. The ocean here is blooming marvellous – huge barrel waves and empty beaches. But as Venezuela has the highest kidnap rate in the world, I was a little worried. I had no support from the Embassy, and no one to run with, so I took a deep breath and went for it… slowly. Despite my concern, there was no sign of any kidnappers, but it did feel pretty unsafe at times. And today’s run was hard – 30°C in the shade and no cloud cover; it must have been 40°C+ in the sun.
The biggest problem was water, though. When planning this trip I hadn’t expected water to be so hard. Here, in Caracas, they have no cash machines that work, and they don’t accept card payments anywhere – something to do with a currency crisis. So this was my primary hurdle, to find water. One kind shopkeeper gave me some water after some virtually mute conversations – which involves strange gesturing, pointing, looking confused, and then me begging. After that I ended up doubling back to the hotel about five times to use their facilities. This was the only way. The Marriott was very helpful with water, food and support. In reality, if they hadn’t donated the food and water, I don’t know what I would have done. Note to self: do more research on currency situation in future.
My knee pain didn’t bother me, possibly because I was running so slowly or otherwise so preoccupied with my safety that I didn’t notice. I even stopped off, towelled down all the sweat and reapplied thick layers of factor 45 sun cream – I finished my fourth bottle today. I’m still burnt… if you saw me naked you’d need sunglasses for my bright white bottom – imagine an inverted Japanese flag. I finally finished after six gruelling hours of dehydration and worry.
The ocean kept me smiling. If I had another day here, I’d risk kidnap for a day sitting, watching the waves. The contrast of peaceful sea noises to the backdrop of danger was rather peculiar, and yet, I was transfixed. Tomorrow, Guyana.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventure
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