Runs around the world #21

Tupholme, Lincolnshire, UK

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This is my final Run around the world. No, don’t worry, I’m not giving up running, it’s just the last run I will write about on this blog. So it seems fitting that it’s back in the UK, in the place where I grew up as a child.

Tupholme in Lincolnshire is so small it doesn’t have any place signs. So you really wouldn’t know it was here. Apart from Tupholme Abbey and Tupholme Hall all that’s here is a few houses dotted along the B1190, one of which is where my parents live, and which is one of the places I’m squatting at until I get my own place again. I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather since I’ve been back and there’s been a few glorious mornings so I’ve taken the opportunity to have a little trot out. There’s a nice 5K loop from the house that takes in my old childhood stomping ground. Apart from a little bit of main road, the rest of the route is on country lanes or bridleways, where I spent many hours riding my bike, playing with friends or riding horses. It takes me past the ruins of Tupholme Abbey, of which there’s only one wall left, but in the olden days was a huge monastery. It was also the site of the huge Tupholme Pop festival in 1972 where the Beach Boys and Rod Stewart played.

Being away for a year has made me realise just how beautiful it is around here, and how lucky I was to have grown up in such amazing surroundings, and I’m really pleased I’ve got the time and opportunity to run around here right now. Well, I make as well make the most of the weather and unemployment right?

And yes, it’s been great to get back into a bit more of a running routine, to run more than once a week. It feels AMAZING. I’ve done a lot of my catching up now, and so time for a bit of exercise, fitness, fresh air, good food and no alcohol.

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So, thank you for reading about my runs around the world over the last 18 months or so. Some have been really tough, some have been easy and some have been out of this world. I’ve run by myself, I’ve run with other people and I’ve run with animals. I’ve run in the most amazing scenery. I’ve ran in the dark, in the snow and in the hot, humid heat. I’ve ran up and down hills, and on the flat. In parks, along roads and by rivers. In altitude and in rain.

And you know what? They’ve been incredible. Every. Single. One. In their own way. Whether it’s been tough, hard work or great it’s still been a run. I’ve still got out there, got some fresh air and explored. Most of the time I’ve not known where I’m going, where I was going to end up or whether I’d actually make it round. Yes, I’m not as fit as I was when I went travelling, but I didn’t stop completely. Well, I couldn’t. Running is as much a part of me now as everything else. I’m proud of myself, even though I didn’t do it as much as I thought I would. I didn’t quit, that’s the main thing.

So here’s to many more runs, wherever they might be. And one thing’s for sure, my runners will always be coming on travels with me in the future. It’s still one of the best ways to explore.

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Runs around the world #19

Christchurch, New Zealand

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When I first got to Christchurch at the beginning of March I couldn’t run because of my broken rib. I was staying right next to Hagley Park, the massive bit of green space in the middle of the city which is a runners playground. I was sad. I watched everyone else with envy as they trotted round morning, noon and night. All at a great party that I wasn’t invited to.

But! Fear not! I had to come back to Christchurch, and when I did, I was healed! I could run again! So, first day back and out for a run I went. Well, probably more accurate to call it a jog. I’m not as fast as I once was (temporary glitch, when I can get back into proper training I’ll be back on it like a moth in a light box).

So I managed to do 5 wonderful miles in the early morning autumn sunshine. Easter Monday (yes, Easter in autumn, really quite odd), joining what seemed like half the population of Christchurch all burning off a day of chocolate. My favourite season, especially for running, I missed it in the UK last year so I’m so chuffed to experience it here. And, dare I say it, Autumn in NZ is a lot better than the UK! Amazing colours, lots of sunshine, not a lot of rain and crunchy leaves underfoot – perfect for running!

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I don’t feel fit at all any more. I’ve got a little layer of travelling fat and just not feeling mega healthy, so I actually surprised myself that I could do 5 miles. And it was 5 fairly easy miles really (at just under 10 mins per mile, so not too bad I guess) so I was pretty chuffed with it. Maybe I’m not so unfit after all. I’m pleased I’ve not lost it completely. It was never an option to give up running, I still can’t live without it, but I’m at ease a bit more now about not running so much (compared to the panic I felt in Africa when I thought I wouldn’t be able to run for a month). Maybe because I’d ramped it back up in Australia so I knew I still had passion for it, or maybe it’s because I know I’m not that far off coming home and will be ramping it up again then. But it’s been good to keep at it all year, even if it’s just once every couple of weeks. It’s still a run, and it’s still on my mind when I’m not doing it so much. The fact that I’m still able to run a 10K after all this travel, food, drink and transient lifestyle makes me very bloody happy.

People reading this who don’t run, you probably won’t understand. People reading this who do run (and love it) hopefully will know exactly what I mean.

And it’s amazing how good everything is after a run. How it makes me feel alive and just, well, great. Makes me happy and lifts my spirits. Reminds me that there’s nothing I like better than putting my trainers on and getting out there in the fresh air. I was so perky I nearly started high-fiving the other runners I kept passing, but they all looked a bit serious for that. Just went for a big grin instead.

The air was a little cold, just how I like it. My favourite condition to run in. The kind where you can feel it in your lungs when breathing (or at least to start with). Where you have little goosebumps until you get going but you don’t overheat. Where the air is fresh and when blinking it feels a bit like its cleaning your eyeballs. When the sun’s out but it’s not too hot (although this being NZ and no ozone layer means that it’s stronger than the World’s Strongest Man).

Sometimes when I run, especially after a little while, it’s like resetting myself and the world. Suddenly everything is all right again, even if things weren’t ‘wrong’ to start with. Running is good for me. Fact.

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Runs around the world #18

Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka is a beautiful little place on the edge of Lake Wanaka, not far from Queenstown on the South Island. Surrounded by mountains, there’s a really nice feel here. I’ve heard it referred to as Queenstown’s laid back cousin. It’s true. It’s a lovely place to kick back and relax for a few days, do some walks and have a stroll around the town. There’s a great path around the lake so I decided to go for a little jog.

The lake is massive and it’s miles around it so I just did 2 miles out and turned round and came back. It’s flat and I didn’t want to push myself so it was fairly uninteresting as runs go, but the scenery more than makes up for it. Beautiful New Zealand mountains every way you look, including seeing them reflecting in the lake.

It was a good run, and it felt good to be back out there. Decent temperature, clear skies and no rain. Pretty perfect running conditions. Running at the moment seems less important. I’m doing lots of hikes and walks so I’m keeping active and getting out and about. I know when I get back home and in one place I’ll pick up the running again, and do it bigger, better and stronger. But until now, a few little jogs here and there will do me nicely.

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Runs around the world #17

Arrowtown, New Zealand

OK, I know it’s ages since my last Runs around the world post. The last one was about Melbourne parkrun in January. I have run since then, honest. I ran loads in Australia, up until I got to Sydney. Because that’s when I broke a rib.

Which put paid to running for a bit. Because, let’s face it, when I couldn’t even walk up stairs without being in agony and struggling to breathe, there’s no way I could do any type of running/jogging/anything more than a shuffle. Such a shame when I was in Christchurch as I was staying right next to Hagley Park which is just built for runners.

But, the pain has stopped now. It’s not healed, it won’t be for quite another few weeks yet, but running is OK. the doc said so.

So, in Arrowtown in New Zealand, one chilly morning, I pulled on my runners and headed out to see how it would feel. I planned on doing just as much as I was able but being sensible about it. I thought I’d probably manage a couple of miles at the most. As it happened, I did 5km (just over 3 miles). And oh, was it wonderful. Any runners out there will know that feeling of not running for a bit. I was getting quite twitchy and a little bit grumpy. I missed it like mad. I’d been doing a bit of walking but it’s not the same, not the same at all.

So, this run was great. I went in the morning, which, in autumnal New Zealand, is a little bit chilly. I should have worn gloves. My body warmed up after I’d been running for a bit but my hands were cold; the first time in months that I’d had that. My perfect conditions for running really though, not too hot, not too cold.

My run took me through the woods down by the Arrow River, once a gold mining haven, now a quaint little town, full of preserved buildings from the 1800’s, making the main street look like something out of a wild west film. The town is surrounded by mountains, which I could see when there were breaks in the trees. The scenery is just amazing in New Zealand, and I always have to be careful when running and walking that I keep looking at where I’m going. I don’t want any more accidents now!

I missed autumn in the UK last year as I was in South East Asia, so this is my autumn now. The leaves are changing colour and falling off the trees. It’s my most favourite season, and one of my most favourite times of the year to run, so I ended up after this 5K with a big fat smile on my face.

Running makes me happy. Fact.

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Australia: the story so far.

I’ve been in Melbourne for a month now. A MONTH. How has that happened?!!

I adore it. I’ve not been doing the normal travelling stuff here. I’ve been staying in one place for a start. I’ve not done a lot of sightseeing stuff. Or any tours. I guess you could say I’ve been living here rather than travelling. Which suits me just fine. I was about ready for a break from all the moving about. It’s been like going home without actually going home.

I’ve been staying with some friends who have just been brilliant. Made me feel right at home and have done so much for me; from giving me a place to stay to taking me out and about, to feeding me copious amounts of amazing food, to buying me a Christmas present and lending me a bike and all the gear so I can get around. Amongst other things. Not sure how I will be able to repay them!

I’ve not just been sat on my bum for a month though. Oh no. I’ve actually been quite busy. It’s hard work this travelling lark. What have I been doing? Read on.

I said I’d be back on the fitness stuff when I got to Australia, and OH YES I HAVE. Just check out my Runkeeper stats for the proof!! I’ve been running, walking, biking and running some more. It’s been GREAT. The weather has been much better for it (cooler, no humidity and a bit unpredictable. Just how I realise I like it!) and there’s so much opportunity for it here; it’s not an abnormal thing. I have to be careful to not do too much too soon though, so I’ve been trying to take it a bit easy but I’ve been so excited to get out there and get moving I’ve probably done a bit more than I should. I have to remember I’m probably not quite at the fitness level I was back in May 2013 before I left! My left knee is a bit whingey at the moment, and I need it to be on top form the next few weeks so I need to keep an eye on that. But most days I’ve done some kind of exercise. Whoop! I’ve biked, ran or walked to and around Westerfolds Park (beautiful) and Bundoora Park, along the Yarra River and Darebin creek. There are hundreds of places to explore here, all along bike and walking trails, so no need to go along any roads really. It’s just wonderful.

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So, what else?

I’ve been into Melbourne city a few times. It’s only 20 minutes on the train so not far away at all. I’ve had a good wander around the streets looking at all the buildings, done a bit of window shopping (I have neither the spare funds, space in my backpack or inclination to do anything more than that to be fair), went to the Botanical Gardens, took the City Circle tram and went up to the top of the Eureka Tower. I ate my lunch in the Carlton Gardens, walked down by the river where I watched people eating and drinking on the outside BBQ’s there (BRILLIANT facility) and marvelled at the Melbourne street art. I watched live music in Federation Square, got lost in the laneways, visited the State Library of Victoria and saw the famous Myer Christmas window display with Bob and La.  Melbourne’s great because the CBD is small enough to wander round really easily, and on a grid system so if you do get a bit lost you just keep walking until you come to a main road and you can soon sort yourself out again.

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I’ve ran in the city too. The first run was with the Run Bird Crew, a running group from a running shop in the city not long after I arrived in Melbourne. A nice bunch of people, I ran around 7km with them, at a pretty fast pace. The guy from the shop (who incidentally was a better looking version of David Beckham – yes, I didn’t know there was such a thing either. Phew.) said it was faster than they normally go. Well, my body definitely felt it. Although, it was good to be pushed, and great to be running with other people again. Even if I didn’t actually run with anyone much, and was last to get back to the shop, haha! I also ran around Albert Park doing my very first parkrun – you can read about that here. Still on the list to do is to run around the Tan – a bit of an icon in Melbourne and something I have to do.

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Bob and La had a Christmas BBQ to celebrate with all their friends before they went on holiday, so I got to eat loads of scrummy food, drink beer, chat with lots of interesting people and make new friends. In the sun. In December. Very cool.

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I went cherry picking near Red Hill, south of Melbourne. It’s is a popular thing here (very similar to strawberry picking in the UK), and one of Bob and La’s Christmas traditions. It was great to see the countryside around the city, as well as have a picnic and eat lots of mage cherries straight off the trees. Yum. On the way back we stopped at Frankston beach which reminded me of South Africa – bright blue sea and golden beaches. Stunning.

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Christmas happened. I’ve already written about that though. And of course, New Year follows Christmas. This year, for New Year’s Eve I got invited by a new friend to join them and their neighbours in a 6 course Japanese banquet and after party. Oh my word. So much food. So much good food. So much amazing food. It was a great atmosphere and I love meeting new people. It was wonderful to see this real life, slightly unconventional, community of family, friends and neighbours in a Melbourne suburb. And I met Australian people! Hurrah!

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I went for a walk with a new friend in Warrandyte which was just stunning. All trees and river and lovely scenery. These places that are technically in the city of Melbourne are just cracking and could have you fooled that you’re out in the countryside. Definitely a green city here.

I went hiking up and around Mount Dandenong with some more new friends. Spectacular views and a bit of a challenging walk. More fresh air, good exercise, one of my favourite things to do and good company. Oh, and we finished with tea and scones. Not bad eh?

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I went to Brighton beach on a hot day, again with some new friends. Lovely to get to know people who live here as I can experience Melbourne like a local. Experience life here. How else will I figure out whether it’s for me or not, long term? 😉 On this day it was supposed to get to about 38 degrees, so what better thing to do than hit the beach in a bikini? We had about an hour and a half of hot weather before I got to witness the famous ‘Melbourne cool change’! Where the wind direction and temperature changes, and the air temperature drops significantly within the space of a few minutes. Cue everyone on the beach trying to hold onto their umbrellas and day tents, avoid being blasted in the face with sand while packing everything up. Beach abandoned, we did what anyone would do and decamped to a nearby trendy pub to drink afternoon cider.

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I’ve watched quite a lot of films. I don’t feel like I’ve seen any for months (apart from the odd one on a plane) so it was nice over Christmas to sit down and watch a few. Especially when they were accompanied by some chocolate. Mmm. Chocolate.

When I was in Zambia last year I made a friend who was from Melbourne. Of course we said we’d have to meet up when I got to Australia. Back then, that seemed like ages away. And all of a sudden it’s here. And we met up. Jenny took me to the Sherlock Holmes Inn. Very English. We had fish & chips. Very English. I had two glasses of rose wine. Not quite so English. They were £5 each. For a small glass. Australia is expensive.

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I went to St Kilda for a walk along the beach and a wander round the streets. It’s a quirky little place, with lots of bakeries (yes, I resisted all those lovely cakes as part of my trying-to-give-up-sugar thing I’ve got going on), cafe and little shops. There’s also an amusement park called Luna Park, which reminded me of the fair at Skegness. It even had a theatre right next to it. just like the Embassy Centre. I had a walk to the end of the pier – there’s a cracking view looking back towards the beach with the city in the background. I love the skyscrapers of Melbourne’s CBD. Hopefully I’ll get to go to a rooftop bar or cinema before I leave Australia.

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I saw kangaroos and koalas at Healsville Sanctuary. I’ve not seen any in the wild yet, so this was the next best thing. It’s not a zoo, more a wildlife sanctuary where native Australian animals are taken to be looked after, rehabilitated and breeding programs are carried out to fight extinction for some of the country’s most endangered animals. I loved seeing all the animals, especially a platypus (which is much smaller than I thought, and very cute), kangaroos, koalas, wombats and tasmanian devils. Mainly because I’ve never seen any of them in real life before. And there were so many amazing birds too. Birds over here are really colourful. Healsville is out in the Yarra Valley, which is a pretty nice part of Australia. Quite quaint, lots of countryside and green stuff and very pretty. A popular place for people to visit and live. It also has a place called Badger Creek. I liked this. I’d move there, just to have an address that had Badger Creek in it. Bob drove back round Mount Donna Buang and through the rainforest so I could stop and see it, which was pretty cool. Not quite like a tropical rainforest; this one was a bit chilly under the tree canopy for a start, and all mossy and damp.

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I went out for Afghan food one night with Bob and La on Brunswick Street. Brunswick Street is a famous trendy street in the Fitzroy suburb filled with bars, restaurants and quirky shops. Luckily since I’ve been in Melbourne I’ve bought some ‘normal’ clothes so I didn’t feel too out of place. Although I’m never going to completely fit in somewhere uber trendy. Because I’m just not, well, trendy enough. But the food here was great. Really great. Not had Afghan food before but now I have. Would recommend.

I went to a BBQ at the next door neighbours. Hosted by Kieran, Anthea and their two kids. Oh, and a visit from Anthea’s mum Lorna who lives the other side. As my Film Club buddies pointed out, this was a real life ‘Neighbours’ situation. They were lovely. The food was great. Their house is beautiful; they built it themselves, so it’s all new, shiny and modern. Their kitchen island is to die for. Want. I’ll hopefully see them again when I get back from Tasmania as they are (or more specifically, Kieran is) convinced that this Pom will end up stranded or dead somewhere.

There’s been more. I’ve walked around the suburb of Ivanhoe and pretty much know where everything is now. I know short cuts to the shops and train station, and recognise where I am on the bike trails near the creek. I’ve taken the dog for many walks to Darebin Parklands where there’s a strange egg shaped sculpture near a hill and free dog poop bags. I’ve fallen asleep on the train but never missed my stop, bought a pear as a snack instead of a chocolate bar (progress) and woken up pretty much every day without an alarm. I’ve got to know my friends here more and have enjoyed seeing them in their everyday family life. I’m so pleased I’ve been able to meet their daughter, who is just the most wonderful little person. I’ve been made to feel so at home and welcome, which, after 6 months on the road, was so needed you have no idea.

My next adventure will hopefully start this weekend. I’m going to fly to Launceston in Tasmania with a bike, some clothes and a tent and spend a few weeks cycling down the east coast of the island. I’ve got a vague route planned out, but nothing booked or set in stone; keeping it flexible, baby. I’ll be covering an average of around 50km a day, which is around 30 miles. So not too far. I’ve got my padded shorts ready to go. I’m looking forward to combining some of my favourite things; a bit of fitness with a bit of adventure and travel. Excited? YOU BET. Bring it ON, mofo.

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Runs around the world #5

Mosi-o-Tunya National Park, Zambia

For a while this week I thought I wouldn’t be able to run while I was in Zambia because we’re in the middle of a National Park and as such, we’re not really allowed to walk (and therefore run) around on our own (only on lion walks really). It’s because of the animals. We’re not fenced in, so all kinds of animals are around (elephants, hippos, wilderbeest, zebra, baboons, monkeys, impalas etc.).

I was getting a bit distressed at the thought of not running for 4 weeks. What about my fitness? What about my muscles? I couldn’t bear the thought of it disappearing and having to start from scratch again. Especially as my next place is India (where it’s currently 39 degrees in New Delhi) where again I’m not sure about the possibility of running.

So, I don’t really have to say how bloody HAPPY I am that I’ve managed to run today. OK, so it is only in a lap, running around the White House (the main building here). I think some of the other guys were amused and thinking I was a bit of a weirdo. But still, it’s a run. Woohoo! And that’s all that matters. I only did 2.32 miles, shortest run for probably over a YEAR but it was so hot (it was at about 5pm, which, although it’s starting to cool down, the sun is still out and it’s probably still in the mid 20’s) and some of the lap is loose sand (aka Very Hard Work). I’ll do more. Probably only short runs like that though. But, I’ll try and add some speedwork in. And, it’s at least something. Really energised now. Hurrah for running!

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