Gambling took on a whole new meaning in Guyana, before tiredness caught up with me in Suriname, followed by my delayed bag in Brazil.
Day 57 – Venezuela to Guyana
A double-flight day and a sleepy start. Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago, then on to Guyana four hours later.
A chance to catch up on some more admin in the airport, or so I thought… I forgot how there was almost nothing there. An average tuna sandwich and then all of a sudden, my eyes closed. Good job I woke up in time… a little hick-up at the gate and an hour delay waiting for a pilot. When asking the gate staff what time we would board (because the boarding pass always lies), she said: “Don’t know yet, there’s no one to drive the plane.” I politely said thank you, but my mouth couldn’t help but curl up at the edges.
I arrived in the tiny airport near Georgetown, Guyana, the only airport I’ve been in that has literally everything and everyone in one room – security, luggage belt, all back room staff, all security personnel and immigration. One door in, one out. Very odd. When asking where the toilet was they directed me back through the entire process, no checks, nothing. I walked straight past all the different stages with no questions asked. The same on the way back. Wouldn’t get that in Gatwick.
Anyway, I checked in at the hotel, got my clothes out ready for tomorrow’s early morning run, had a quick chicken pasta dish and my mandatory pre-run brownie and I was off to bed, clothes still damp from the run before. You know that post-run smell, well, I live with that. Glamorous it isn’t.
My dear friend Kev, who is the reason this trip was dreamt up, is about to embark on another crazy mission. Although a dying man he is living every second of his life to the full. Tomorrow he takes on the 6633 ultra race. If you Google this, you’ll see why this man is truly remarkable. I wish more people had Kev’s attitude. Sadly it often takes life-changing moments to prompt this feeling… maybe you could try and do something great without being prompted by something like a cancer diagnosis. Be alive, as opposed to just alive.
Day 58 – Guyana, Marathon 26
Gambling birds, wild pigs, a Sunday meat market and a whole load of rain. You know the smell of rain on fresh dry tarmac? Well, I had lots of that today – big, showery downpours.
Only a mile in and we were not only hit by tropical rain, but we also had the tasty treat of swarms of tiny flies splattering the backs of our throats as we ran. (I learnt to keep my mouth shut.) Peppered with them, the resulting look was that of an over-spotty Dalmatian. Throw a few biting, and flying, ants into the mix and you have an idea.
A 6am start. I was met by a lovely couple, Silas and Vada (far more friendly than the lightsaber-wielding baddy), plus their three-month-old baby girl. Joining them was Jason who would be driving the support car. Very quiet, but a trooper for driving for five hours and not complaining once. The final member of today’s 26th marathon was Cyrleen. Cyrleen defies the ageing process – she’s 51 and doesn’t look older than 35, max.
Now let me tell you how the locals gamble over a month’s wages on finches. Yes, finches. Those in the gambling community here all have their own tiny bird in an equally tiny cage. Gambling man no. 1 would cycle with his cage balanced on the handlebars of his old bicycle to meet gambling man no. 2. The idea is to bet that your bird will sing first. Sometimes they play first to five tweets. Completely bonkers when you consider that for about US$2 you can eat a very filling meal in a restaurant. These folk gamble thousands. We ran past several gambling hot spots where lots of birdcages stood on the end of driveways like US mail boxes…
We spent the entire 26.2 miles on one road, quiet and safeish, but the scenery around us changed all the time – buildings, sheds, lakes, cattle, pigs, donkeys, dogs, horses, and then the last few miles through dense, lush green forest. Beautiful.
Thanks to everyone who supported today. We even stopped off at Vada’s uncle and aunty’s for fresh coconut water, which was as lovely as their welcoming open arms. And I got to hold their gorgeous baby.
Day 59 – Guyana to Suriname via Trinidad
Check this day out:
Step 1: 6.30am alarm, pack and have breakfast.
Step 2: Breakfast done, and an hour taxi ride to the airport – so far so good.
Step 3: An hour-and-a-half hour wait outside the airport due to airport construction work before flying to Trinidad and Tobago.
Step 4: Arrive in Trinidad and Tobago airport and scoff a Subway sandwich.
Step 5: Wait in the airport for another 10 hours before connecting to Suriname. (I did have a recliner sofa.)
Step 6: Chat to a friendly guy, who, after hearing about my long wait, tells me that there are regular buses that take just six hours from Guyana direct to Suriname, as opposed to my 18-hour faff.
Step 7: Get on the plane to Suriname and chat to an incredibly lovely Guyanese lady who informs me she has never been on a plane before. While this is fascinating to witness, it is also rather thought-provoking – she was at least 40 and had never left Guyana. I am lucky beyond belief. I inform her there will be a little bump when we land and help her off the plane. We hug goodbye.
Step 8: Land in Suriname and wait in line for about 40 minutes to reach immigration.
Step 9: Get to the front to be told to join a far longer queue to acquire a tourist card.
Step 10: Hours later, get to the front. Problem. They only take US$ in cash, of which I have none. When asking about cashpoints, the reply is “Broken, if you can’t pay, we’ll have to send you back on the plane to Trinidad. That’s the rules.”
Step 11: Feel angry, tired and upset.
Step 12: My knight in Nikes. A random guy called John hands me US$40, with the words, “I overheard, I’ve been there mate, have this.”
Step 13: Relief, amazement and gratitude. I can’t believe it. Thank you John.
Step 14: Board the hotel shuttle, which has been waiting for me the entire time. The nine other guests aren’t very happy with me.
Step 15: Sleep for an hour on the bus until reaching the hotel at 2am, check in, and prep my wet clothes from the day before.
Step 16: Shut my eyes and seemingly wake up 3 seconds before the alarm goes off… at 6am. I realise it’s time to run a marathon again.
Day 60 – Suriname, Marathon 27
Not only am I now two months down and still alive, but I have also just launched the Running The World 196 Photography Journal on Kickstarter. Here’s me asking you to back the book. I will also be writing a written account of the expedition, but this book is all about the photos – every country in the world, thousands of photos, little stories and anecdotes too. Large-format, coffee table-style hardback. All the fine details are on Kickstarter! It will launch in November 2019 but I need your backing now. Get your copy. Please search Running The World 196 Photography Journal on Kickstarter and you’ll see everything. Please let’s make it happen.
So today’s run was actually very pleasant due to a large sidewalk (pavement) next to the main highway. Simple out-and-back route with some great sights.
I even got to chat to one of the finch gamblers I spoke about in Guyana. Lovely guy.
The words to describe this run are: tired, fatigued, lethargic, exhausted, slow, and tired again. You get the idea. After a long flight and some problems at the airport yesterday, I had very little sleep before running. Only four hours until the alarm went off.
The people here are so friendly. They stopped their cars or motorbikes to say hi and ask what I was doing. I think they thought I was nuts.
I had money to pay for water and I ran the first half faster than usual to get the first leg out of the way. My eyes, though, were so heavy, even while running. A weird feeling, like I’d been drugged or something. Hope I haven’t. Anyway, 26.2 miles later I’d run along the main highway and seen loads of sights. I had coconut water straight from a coconut and I stopped and chatted a few times to locals. The best photo op was a huge ‘Good Year’ tyre.
I was ‘tired’ and so, in my delirious state, I made myself chuckle, but also because the words ‘Good Year’ made me reflect on what an amazing opportunity this is. I just thank Kev, Jeff and everyone I met in the desert for pushing me do what I love. So I am, and I urge you to too.
Day 61 – Suriname to Brazil
Moving to country number 28 of 196, a marathon in every county in the world for @prostatecanceruk.
Alarm goes off at 4.30am and I have 20 hours and five connecting flights. I rub my eyes and splash my face with water, and then on to the hour taxi ride to flight number 1 of the day: 200 miles from Suriname to French Guyana, a quick connection, and then 503 miles to Belém, Brazil (with a quick touchdown in between). My mission for today was to clock as many minutes’ sleep as possible: 45 minutes in the taxi, another 35 on the plane, plus 20 on the runway. My final destination for today was Rio, so this meant a six-hour layover before my first domestic flight of the trip. Sleep here was not as good – only about 40 minutes.
Belém to Belo Horizonte was 1,291 miles away and took another three hours. About 70 minutes sleep. I arrived just 10 minutes before my last connecting flight of the day.
This was 15 hours since I had brushed away the sleep from my eyes in the early hours of this morning, which felt like weeks ago. I ran from plane to plane with 6 minutes to spare when I reached the gate. Win, or so I thought. I finally arrived in Rio at 11.30pm. My bag, however, had other ideas. My bag, you see, doesn’t have legs, and therefore can’t keep up with me. I watched as the luggage belt emptied and then shuddered to a halt, the whirl of the motor powering down with just a few distant sounds of passengers leaving the luggage reclaim hall.
I heard the shrieks of excitement from awaiting family members, welcoming their loved ones into Arrivals. An hour later and after some surprisingly helpful staff, I was promised my bag would be with me at 9am tomorrow, at my hotel. I don’t believe them. Please prove me wrong. I got to bed at 1.15am, after a nearly 21-hour day. My bag, with all my running gear, cameras and my expedition life, is now stranded like a lost Buzz Lightyear. I’m rather attached to my Osprey bag. Please bring him home to me, Azul Brazilian Airlines.
I want to run tomorrow morning and then I want to enjoy three full days of rest. No travel, no running – just sleep, photos and food. My fingers are crossed. It might help if you cross yours too, please.
Day 62 – Brazil, Marathon 28
The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane… apparently. The rain in Rio, however, falls heavily and entirely on my face!
Approaching the end of week 9 of 80, and wow, today was great! Wet, but great. By the 26.2-mile mark my feet were virtually pickled, my trainers were mini-baths, and the beach deserted, everyone scurrying like rats to escape the downpour. Not me, though. The beautiful 4 km stretch of Copacabana ocean front was calling me. Gentle rolling waves and the whole place to myself.
At mile 20 I threw my arms up in the air, my head back, and had a huge child-like grin on my face as I spun round on the spot in the rain. I was loving it. Floating along the coast with bags of energy, my legs awake, happy and springy – the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a gazelle… The warm rain was so oddly enjoyable, so much so that I didn’t want to stop.
I was in a euphoric state of realisation, I think, realising that this amazing mission had come together. I am in it, living my dream, meeting thousands of awesome people, seeing the most beautiful sunsets, raising loads of awareness for Prostate Cancer UK, and ultimately, hopefully, saving the lives of many men. Was this the moment I had relaxed? For the remaining 6 miles my thoughts turned to the people who had got me here, who supported me, believed in me, and pushed me along every step of the way. Too many to mention, but you know who you are. From a mad idea two years ago to now running in the rain under the shadow of Christ the Redeemer, here, in one of the world’s most iconic cities, Rio.
I’ve met some ridiculously lovely people these past two months, and truly experienced the kindest of humanity. People living on less than US$2 giving away water, hundreds of excitable kids welcoming me into their schools, world champions, politicians, ambassadors, radio show hosts, tv presenters, the list goes on…
A big thank you doesn’t cut it, but it’s all the words I have. For everyone who has supported so far, I owe you.
Please keep spreading the word. The more people who know, the more men we can save.
Day 63 – Rio, Brazil, rest day
I had time today to make a little video. Most of my time in the whirlwind of an expedition has so far been spent rushing around, running, getting on planes or generally faffing around with admin bits and pieces like backing up photos and downloading maps for the upcoming country. Yesterday was a rest day without the need to wake up at 4am to go to another country. Bliss.
The view from my hotel @jwmarriottriohere, on the beautiful Copacabana stretch of beach, got me thinking. The coast and the ocean has been such a big part of the trip so far – Caribbean beaches, Toronto’s coastal metropolis, Miami’s high rises, and endless marathons running next to some incredible crashing waves. These waves have kept me company, and in a great way, connected me to home. I grew up near the sea, and spent every birthday for years down on the stunning Fistral beach in Newquay, Cornwall. Thanks to my parents for such a great watery upbringing.
Day after day I’d stare out of the window of our top floor apartment overlooking the sea. I’d watch everything and anything – the gentleness of the windless, sunny days, or the harsh frothy storms of the winter, with dark rolling clouds above.
I can still hear the zips of wetsuits, the feel of the crusty salt water on my skin. I might even love the ocean as much as I love running. After all, I did buy my first home on Bournemouth sea front. I must have cycled up and down that 5-mile stretch so many times. My home will always be the sea. And so this video says thanks to the ocean. Let’s protect it too, please. As for today, I visited a little statue on a rock. Yep, that’s the one. Christ himself. I also went to the loo on a sugar lump. I think people here call it Sugarloaf Mountain. I met a few cool folk from the US and made my way back down for a lazy dinner around the corner from the hotel. Today’s meals were lush – juicy steak with vanilla milkshake.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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