Ultra-marathon man: From Eastern Europe to Western Australia
Whilst constantly on high alert for packs of wild dogs and dangerous drivers in Romania, the kindness of the locals more than made up for it. I found the people to be the most open and inquisitive of all the countries I’d run through so far. In fact, Romania was the first country where I’d been welcomed by a whole village – it felt like being back on Dartmoor; a real farmer’s welcome! And coming on the tail of a non-existent Christmas and New Year’s Eve spent alone in a hostel, this was especially appreciated!
Completing the Romanian leg of the run on the shores of the River Danube, it took just a ten minute ferry crossing to reach Bulgaria. Bulgaria was short and sweet, with the smoothest and fastest running so far. I even managed to clock over 230 miles in seven days for the first time during the trip! Not to say the running here was easy, far from it. The terrain was mountainous, with hours at a time of constant uphill running. The truth is I find mountainous terrain the most inspiring, even though it’s physically much more taxing, I can’t help but grin and run faster!
Crossing the mountains of Bulgaria into Turkey I realised I had experienced a huge range in temperatures in just three weeks; from -10 degrees in the Ukraine to 18 degrees in Turkey. I also took my 2.5 millionth step in Turkey – a huge milestone. Although I was thousands of miles from home, the landscape was reminiscent of parts of Dartmoor…and the Turkish tea was delicious! I traveled through remote mountain villages and farms toward one of the world’s largest cities, Istanbul. On my approach to the city I slept out under a full moon to one side of camp and with the orange glow of 14 million people on the other. My first night in the only city to straddle both Europe and Asia was spent in a hostel just a few hundred metres from the imposing façade of the Blue Mosque.
With Istanbul marking the end of my European run, I then had the small task of crossing India on foot; just a mere 750 miles from Mumbai to Chennai. After arriving in Mumbai I quickly realised that the city had some serious traffic. At one point I was running into traffic 23 vehicles wide! I witnessed a cyclist being knocked clean off his bike, and I even got clipped by a bumper myself. It actually made my leg move a bit faster than normal so I hope that’s not counted as cheating!
Running through traffic like that is incredibly stressful and tiring and takes a lot of concentration so I was really looking forward to leaving the city and heading into the countryside. But the countryside presented its own challenges. By the third day of running I had been bitten by what felt like hundreds of mosquitos, so breakfasts were laced with of a cocktail of anti-malaria and antihistamine tablets to stop the itching.
Aside from the mosquitoes I also had a tough time acclimatising: 30-plus degree heat isn’t nice for us ginger folk. For the first time on the trip I suffered very bad heat exhaustion as temperatures rose between 38 and 43 degrees. It took three hours of soaking sheets in cold water and lying under a fan to drop my temperature enough to stop feeling dizzy, sick and confused. After a week of acclimatising, I was finally able to run my usual 30-plus miles per day but I eventually resorted to running during the night and sleeping during the day to avoid the intense and blistering heat.
Once back on track, I was able to truly enjoy India. What an amazing country. I was featured on the national news which aired to millions of people and I was welcomed by hundreds of kind locals and school children along my route. I even made new friends who invited me to sleep inside a temple! There’s no place like India. It was fantastic but very tough to run as fast as I had across Europe. At times I wasn’t sure if India would finish me before I finished her! I was incredibly happy when I finally made it to Chennai on India’s east coast, five weeks and 1,250 kilometres later.
So what’s next? From Chennai I flew to Perth. Australia had a ginger sun dodger on the way who thinks it’s a good idea to run through the desert…alone. I’ll tell you all about it in my next blog.istanbul, running, ultra marathon
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