I'm Sorry I'm Away So Much...

Hi guys. I am. Really sorry. I've been neglecting you, my avid blog readers, but it's not because I don't love you any more. I haven't found something better to do with my time - I've just been getting used to being on my own. It's been hard. I miss Jenny. I miss Bubba and Harambe. I miss having food made for me, having somewhere guaranteed warm to sleep and food on the table. Most of all, I miss Lieutenant Nad. She's my bestest best good friend and I wish she was here. It's also been harder work, even though I have a new best good friend in Pramsolo. I was also sad because I lost a shoe, though that's another story entirely. The main reason I haven't posted anything is because I physically can't from my phone, for some reason and I couldn't update my map either, hence maybe some of you thinking i was having a right whale of a time in Jackson, TN. I have however been making my way across the country. I've been meeting lots of lovely people. Everything got very exciting in Tennessee after I was on the news twice after my pal Mason called all the stations and lots of folks would stop for photos and to help me out. People are so friendly here, I can't even start to list what they did for me, or explain how much it meant. I ran through Nashville where I made a record and got some special new socks from a new pal and Knoxville, where I met another new brewery pal who was VERY excited about the run and crossed into Virginia where I had my scariest night and also a wonderful experience at the Afton Bike House (Thank you, posthumously, Cookie Lady). I went to Washington though I didn't see the new President, just a very big old one, who didn't say much. Philadelphia was sunny, though there seemed to be a lot of commotion around some steps that meant I had to stay at the bottom with Mr Balboa (I saw him in a movie once. He was very brave.). New York was big and shiny and I said hello to an old friend of mine from Liverpool, who though I never met him, means a lot to me. He's got a special place in the park there. A new friend drove me all the way to Boston where 40,000 people let me join their party on the road, with ten times more partying harder either side of us. Two super good runners met me in a pub after to say hello and share stories, with some of my oldest pals. Boston was so good I went back there and did it all again and saw even more old friends, with one of them deciding to join me and ride his bike all the way to the ocean with me. It's rained all day, through three states and now I'm in a nice hotel, waiting for dinner to arrive (A nice lady we met paid for it and some other friendly people may have paid for a couple more meals today!). So I'm currently sat here at a computer and I can speak to you all again. Don't worry - I'm writing down all my experiences and I will catch up when I can and I'll be sure to let you know when I do. In the meantime, I'll try and keep you updated by those Facebook, Twitter and Instagram things and maybe even post the odd YouTube video. I have some pizza to be eating now, so must dash. 

Thanks for being there for me, even though I know many of you are far away.

Robla.

Walking in Memphis. Bloody hell. Days 132-134

I felt a little stiff getting out of the RV this morning. My left quad was pretty tight, so I started off gently and did a bit of stretching, before easing into the normal routine. I had what I thought was a great idea – entitled the Friday Follow, I decided to start it on a Sunday, because I have so many potentially good ideas (so I think…) that I forget, I didn't want to let this one slip. The crux of this plan was to take a photo every four miles, regardless of where I was to let you follow me on a typical day. This was going to be anything but. My quad started to hurt a lot more during the course of my morning, which was at least provided with some distraction in the form of the Liverpool match, where we played terribly, but got a lucky win. As the tension ratcheted up in the game, so the pain levels did in my leg, to the point where I was needing to walk. How had this happened? I slipped on some mud earlier yesterday, was that it? No pain at the time. I also had to contract my quad pretty strongly whilst awkwardly getting into the RV, to avoid a puddle, rather than asking Nads to pull forward. No pain at the time. No trauma, no nothing. Never had an issue here in my life. I reckon it was the step. I rested up a bit and went out for my pre-lunch run. It lasted two miles before I had to walk. I walked two miles further before that hurt too. All documented in a staccato fashion on Instagram. High drama for the season opener. I'm sure episode 2 will have more cheer. I hope.

Start: Highway 70, 2.5 miles east of Brinkley. Finish: Just after junction of Highway 1 and Highway 70. 20.4 miles. Day 132 Tune of the Day: The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again. Whether it's Nads saying we were doing great on leg 1 to me starting a new feature, getting into our comfort zone publicly seems to lead to disaster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnNJyNBUDhw

I'd run a million scenarios over in my head overnight and bounced some of them off Nads. We decided that I'd start walking and bounce some emails off to Leigh of the Chiro and Physio Clinic in Liverpool and Aimee Lane of Symmetry (my old physio in Melbourne) in the meantime. I probably should have called Whitney at ErgoRehab in Houston too, but I didn't want to be a complete pain!

It was another wet day, all day, so I eschewed traditional running gear and wore my proper walking coat and waterproof trousers and got my head down. First song coming out of the RV: “Rock or Bust” by AC/DC. You couldn't have been more cruel, shuffle. My non-negotiable rule of AC/DC = run was broken for the first time, but only because it was turned off completely. When I felt ready for music again, I exiled shuffle and selected Nick Cave. All day. I watched, through my narrow hood aperture, as the cars on the I-40 sped past as I went past on the roughly parallel 70. It was a metaphor for my current and former states of activity. A couple of people, including a State Trooper stopped to see if I was ok, provoking a smile and a cheery attitude as they don't deserve my current state of mind. This was appreciated though, as once cheery was engaged, it persists for at least a short while. This was prolonged by the support I received from friends and also in the form of the advice that I received, which offered a glimmer of hope for a rapid recovery. After all, it wasn't hurting at all now. I decided to try a little running, only half a mile at first, with a mile of walking, then a mile, then a bit more. At the end of the day I'd logged 27 miles, with 6 of those run. Things were looking up. We drove to our RV Park, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, which I would cross, for the second of hopefully five times tomorrow. We could see the huge tankers glide past from our spot, huge behemoths only visible by the lights on deck. Making progress, reaching their port, turning round and going again. Sounds familiar.

Start: Just after junction of Highway 1 and Highway 70. Finish: Jct of Highway 70 and 79. 27.3 miles. Day 133 Tune of the Day: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Higgs Bosun Blues. There is a line “all the clocks have stopped in Memphis”. I've never wished for anything more. Stop until this leg gets better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GWsdqCYvgw

The nervous wait overnight to see what sort of night my healing process had had ended with the familiar sound of my alarm and then again, of course, ten minutes later. I woke up and it felt a lot better than it had the previous evening and I decided that I was going to adopt a walk one mile, run three, walk one strategy, no big stints, decent rests. This sounded reasonable to me. After all, I was pretty much fixed. The long drive back to the start was made longer by an accident on the interstate but the Highway Patrol got things moving very quickly indeed. This was a bit of a stress as we'd set a time with WREG Channel 3, based conveniently just after I cross the Mississippi for a 1230 meeting. I commenced the exploration of where my vastus medialis' boundaries were. The first 9 miles were a little tense between us and I sensed a degree of upset when I got back into Jenny. I found out 2 miles into the next run that I had overstepped the mark. The golden rule of not running through increasing pain was always there, but it wasn't increasing steadily, it was just painful. 3/10 pain is ok, but where did that lie? Do I have a high pain threshold or not? Is my 6 a 3, or vice-versa? I walked for a bit to mull this over and decided I'd set a limit of “any more painful and that's it”. To be honest it fluctuated, getting easier, then the same, then easier and it seemed to be easier when I ran a little faster. So I tried to keep that easy feeling going. Just before I reached the Big River Crossing, only completed in October 2016, so it wasn't even open when I started my run, I ran into a chap who looked like he was on his lunchtime stroll. Saying hi, I was surprised by the reply. “You're the guy running across the country, right?” It turns out that Richard was a producer for WREG and was writing the news article for the 5 o'Clock News that I was going to be on. He remarked that I looked as though I was running well... I bumped into the rest of the crew actually on the bridge, pretty much on the border. I came clean about the injury in the interview. I was pretty sure I'd torn my medial quad, or vastus medialis and I was trying to see if I could run through it. It was exciting being in Memphis, with its amazing history, Elvis and of course the gateway to Tennessee, though this time would be a flying visit. Twinned with Liverpool, we need to spend some proper time here and it's pencilled in for a future crossing. In the meantime, I decided to run the road less travelled, through the contrasts of rich and poor and...my leg was killing me. 4 miles in to a 12 mile stint to the outskirts of the city, which I'd hoped to punctuate with a lunch break, that was it. Walking. I had just about enough clothing on to prevent the cold making it absolutely miserable, but it wasn't pleasant. Nads would be clad in blankets in Jenny's chilly confines in a car park, somewhere. I love walking, but as with any idea, it's much better when it's YOUR plan and you're either happy with it, or at worst, had time to come to terms with it. This was neither. However, it's not about today, this week, or even the next month. It's about the whole run, whatever that turns out to be and my desire to do the very best I can for Peace Direct and the WWF and me pushing now, or chucking in the towel helps no-one. We found an RV park and drove there in philosophical mood. It was going to be -4C/25f overnight, so we decided to get cosy and play the long game. We would assess the injury tomorrow and hopefully get walking again.

Start: Jct of Highway 70 and 79. Finish: Perimeter Shopping Center. 31.63 miles. Day Tune of the Day 134: Pet Shop Boys – You Were Always On My Mind. I don't feel I've graduated to full Elvis yet, maybe next time. In the mean time, one of the best cover versions of any song ever, with Elvis obviously starting it all off! Should really be Walking in Memphis, but I just can't bring myself to do it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDe60CbIagg

Total: 4429.47 miles

The Calm Before the Storm. Days 129-131

Trotting out of the sanctuary of the lovely KOA onto roads that I'd been assured weren't the greatest and to expect roadworks that could hinder stopping places wasn't ideal, but it was a lovely morning and I soon received a message that Hope had had a good night, was very clean and had eaten well in the morning. That's always going to put a smile on your face. I curtailed my first run as I ran past a nice picnic area that was perfect for Nads to enjoy a bit more peace and quiet that we have on the road usually. I left her taking photos of bees on the flowers, which was pretty perfect for her until a dude with a lawnmower came along and spoilt the party. Charlie had also arrived, but after I'd left. He was off to see Phantom of the Opera in Little Rock – he said he'd look out for me on the road, but I think he went past when I was answering the call of nature at another rest area, so we'll have to wait till I return to Hot Springs for another hello! As I came out of the facilities, I saw a car speed away with a Labrador gain, surely – at least this one had a collar. Had they forgotten their dog? There was a work truck at the end of the car park so I went down to see if it was their dog. The dog was “Beef” he lives over the highway and comes down to the picnic area all the time to try his luck. Classic Lab!

Soon after this I got into the thick of the roadworks, which quite often is fine for me as it will mean a lane of road with no traffic. I got to watch the dismantling of an old girder bridge as I went past and had a number of chats with the road crew who were asking what I was up to. The second “beef” of the day came about as there was nowhere for Nads to stop – our pre-determined meeting point was now occupied by a huge crane and the road was coned off for another 6 miles, meaning a stint just shy of 15 miles, with not that much water and a hungry belly coming up to lunch. Such is life. Again. It worked out ok, though further tests awaited in the shape of interstate running, (though there was no sign saying I couldn't!) and some real cold rain at the end of the day, with a dark finish and requirement for the Iron Man lights. I got some pretty sweet news too. What could that be? My little secret.

Start: KOA Hot Springs. Finish: Highway 70, near Pinedale Walmart. 41.3 miles. Day 129 Tune of the Day: The Dropkick Murphys – Shipping Up To Boston. Nothing like a good bit of punk to get the job done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-64CaD8GXw

I didn't realise just how close we'd got to Little Rock, Arkansas' capital city. The monster Wednesday probably helped! As such it was a bit of a frenzy to try and get some media organised, but Nads has been hiding another talent of hers – she'd be a great press secretary. I got a message to be at the Statehouse Convention Centre for 10:20. I was in a reception black spot but luckily got the message when I was 2 minutes away, to meet Mitch, a cameraman for both Fox and NBC. Interview done, it was over the Arkansas River, that I'd been informed by a chap called Adam had a great trail for running. He's hoped to meet me to do some miles, but couldn't make it that early, which was a shame, but he looked right about the river. Little Rock seemed like a cool city, but there's no time to dwell these days. I was looking after myself this morning to avoid the RV/inner city combo and by the time I caught up with Nads again, incidentally by the L'Oreal Maybelline plant (She's worth it), we were by a mangrove lake, which was really beautiful though still not immune by the blight of litter and large scale dumping at the side of the road. I wonder what's wrong with people sometimes, I really do. Soon we were back in farm country and trying to get back some of the time I'd inexplicably lost during the day. One of those days. I was in . a great mood and found myself singing “Somebody to Love” by Queen when it came on and I thought of my little mate Hope again and thought it was pretty appropriate in part! In the distance I saw a figure moving towards me and soon it dawned that it was someone out for a run. I wondered if I could persuade them to join for a bit? Turned out no persuasion was needed – it was Adam – Biology (Pre-med) student from the University of Central Arkansas and my advocate for the river trail! He'd not been able to get hold of me so had chanced his arm based on my route and he caught me just 1.5 miles before I took a back route! Perfect timing. He was a good runner so we ran a bit quicker than I've been used to, but it was doable and I enjoyed the chance for a bit of in-depth chat, focussing on the actual running part of the...errr...run! He was also a former member of the Spa Pacers and a Hot Springs local! We reached Jenny for a quick break where we fell slightly foul of a local farmer who informed us we were parked on his land. He did at least let us stay there for a few minutes to take a break… Adam came a good six or so miles with me before he had to turn round and head back to his car. I did feel a bit sorry for him as he headed back as it was getting cold, but hey, I was probably holding him back – he could do some speed work! Really glad of the chance to run with you man!

A lack of suitable stopping places and us having no wish for another disgruntled landowner encounter led to us heading to Nick's BBQ, where it looked like there could be some overnight parking. I popped in to ask about the parking to see it was super busy. What's more, the news article had just been on the TV. Hands were shook, photos were taken, questions asked and in a couple of cases, a donation and someone, anonymously took care of our tab, which was pretty incredible. We were so full we couldn't have fitted in a pudding, but the y looked so good, we joked that seeing as it had been taken care of… Dignity and stomach capacity prevented us in equal measure! If you're in the area, I recommend it!

Start: Highway 70, near Pinedale Walmart. Finish: Highway 70, 3 miles shy of Carlisle. 39.9 miles. Day 130 Tune of the Day: Queen – Somebody to Love. Come on...someone give Hope some love! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kijpcUv-b8M

I've only been to Carlisle in the UK once. It seemed a nice enough town, but it was freezing cold, wet and windy. How lovely of Carlisle, AR to ensure I felt right at home as I passed through the town! Well fed from the night before and wrapped up warm I strangely enjoyed it. Remember, there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing! The cedar trees in the mangroves were enjoying the water. There is a lot of water in Arkansas. Some pretty big water course too – after passing through Hazen and De Valls Bluff, a very important town in the civil war, I crossed the White River, which was more chocolate brown if truth be told with a huge amount of debris racing down the river. The recent rains had obviously swollen the river and I was quite glad to be high on a concrete bridge, snapping photos of the old girder bridge, rather than the other way round. It's been a pleasure in the last few days to see the return of the herons that were such a feature of the first half of leg 1 and large numbers had retreated further up the bank than you'd usually see them. Bit rough for fishing, I guess. Most of the day consisted of dodging puddles and trucks, with there being no shoulder to run on for a good part. My sight seeing was curtailed by the front edge of my hood, which spent a good part of the day pulled pretty snug, against the elements. To be fair the day was pretty uneventful (so I thought, though something I thought nothing of at the time was going to rear its head later) until we got to our RV Park, which tonight was linked to the Super 8 hotel in Brinkley. As I was dealing with check in, with a few other people hanging around in reception, I had a fame moment! A Texan family who had been aware of my story for a while had been misdirected by their SatNav and ended up on the road I was running. They were excited then, but not half as much as when they realised we were staying in the same place. They asked very politely if they could have a photo after checking with Nads outside that “it was really Rob!”. Cue everyone in reception thinking “Who is this guy?”. Don't worry – nothing to see here people! Maybe it was that intervention that got us a free room to shower in after there was an issue with the key card to the RV shower block! I'd like to think so.

Start: Highway 70, 3 miles shy of Carlisle. Finish: Highway 70, 2.5 miles east of Brinkley. 41.4 miles. Day 131 Tune of the Day: Weather With You – Crowded House. Carlisle certainly had taken this literally. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, some of my good friends were enjoying lovely sunshine and the writer of said song, Neil Finn, performing at Golden Plains Festival. They win the day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa8DunAJMHs

Total 4350.14 miles