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Brno Revisited!

July 24th, 2014

World Indoor Ratification Certificate Issued By The International Association of Ultrarunners.This Record Still Stands!

 

This morning my host Tomas Rusek, former race director of the Brno 48 hour indoor race here in the Czech Rep drove me to the village of Rajhrad where I finished running yesterday.

Tomas and Vasek

 I could have shaved off 15km by running from there towards Germany and bypassing the city.

 But why would I have done that! Brno has always been a special place for me since I broke the world 48hour record in 2007. A message from my former Irish team mate Eddie Gallen told me it was still listed on the IAU current world records list last January. Please read next blog posting below for that race report.

With Tomas Rusek on the way to the place we both know and love so much

Tomas had his bicycle attached to his car so as he could cycle crew me to the Brno Trade Fair Pavilion Z.

Vasek, his friend drove his car and helped me enormously too, Thanks to everyone concerned.

So on I ran, it was a very nice day, a bit overcast, but that’s ok by me.

We even stopped for a non- alcohol beer near a park picnic area.

Carbo Loading!

Svata, a local runner joined me for about 6km. For some reason I was hurting badly, very tired.

Svata tries to give me the 'tour.'

I have been focused on Brno these last six or seven weeks now since leaving Istanbul and have noticed in the past when I reach a much focused destination which has required a big effort, that the tiredness often hits me like a bolt of lightening.

Brno Trade Fair Pavilion Z was the only landmark which interested me that day!

Svata was a great help here but I refused ‘ the tour ‘ Often people point out universities, libraries, the vet they bring their dog to and for some strange reason usually the courthouse. Why do they always tell me that!

In the grounds of the pavilion we meet David who works for the company. I was told last week it was locked up in between trade shows but pleaded with Daniel Oralek, my friend from my competitive days to beg a few laps for me and other runners to run.

Ah Yes! I can still feel the excitement from the two most memorable days of my life.

 Daniel thankfully managed this, he was to join us in the afternoon. The deal was sound, the Pavilion wanted David to take some photos for their Facebook page, so everyone was happy :)

Which direction do you want to run could have been my biggest decision of the day... Well both directions, don't want to be greedy!

With Tomas and Svata we ran some laps. I could almost hear the noise from my fellow runners seven years ago , the spectators, the chanting for they knew something I didn’t.

 The last time Tomas ran a lap with me was to mark the  final spot where my foot landed right on the 48 hour hooter for a world record I was oblivious to!

It was with a tear in my eye I left the arena. We met Daniel and then ran towards Tomas and Vera’s house about 20 kilometres away. Yes Daniel is a genuine ultra running man. He told me he gets a four hour lunch, for many business do a four hour siesta here. No Daniel doesn’t sleep. Jokingly I asked him if he ran for the four hours every day. 

Daniel Oralek a fierce competitor from my competitive days joins us.

” No ONLY for two or three hours a day! ” Daniel runs 60 races a year but ONLY 20 ultra marathons, easing down only one day before and is back running the next day! 8,000km a year he runs, enough to run around the world. 

 

So we ran for about 12km through some nice parks and cycle ways, he has to go back to work running back to his office on the other side of Brno. He is an IT specialist. I had brought my computer over to him to see if he could sort out the problem I was having as mentioned in my last blog posting.

Daniel the IT expert soon figures out the problem with my laptop, thanks Daniel!

Then realized we had no internet. So I explained the problem to him, he suggested I change browser, and hey presto when we got home it worked! Thanks Daniel.

Briefly another friend of Tomas a cyclist called Pavel joined us.

With Daniel and Pavel

Then it was just down to Tomas and this slugger hacking my way through another of Brno’s wonderful trail parks.

Half an hour later we got to the house. The toughest and happiest 35 kilometre days in many a long year. Ah Yes, I remember when it all seemed so easy!

Tomorrow Friday, a rest day :)

Please read my ” Uno in Brno ” race report in blog post below.

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The end of road day 1,066 with 46,605 kilometres under my feet.

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Sweet Caroline!

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Uno In Brno

July 24th, 2014
I just had to take in Brno on the world run. Brno 48 hour indoor race
 March 16/18 2007 was the highlight of my running career!
Sorry for the rough text and photos. My photos are back home,
these ones I just had on emails. Here is the race report I wrote after
 the race.
 Ah! it all seemed so easy then!
Uno in Brno!
By: Tony Mangan.

The world indoor record still stands.426.178km about 266 miles!

I felt the Japanese runners eyes burning holes through my back.We were in 
the latter hours of the Brno 48 hour indoor international endurance race in 
the Czech Republic. He was probably wondering who was this upstart.I had 
googled him last week and knew he was a member of their gold medal-winning 
team from the world 24 hour championships in Taiwan.He had finished 7th 
there.I was 16th.

I moved to the left he moved to left.He was waiting for me to go. Cat and 
mouse.I was in no hurry, as I had a nice lead of about 10km.
I slowed to let Kenjai pass me on a lap. He grunted and charged off.
This was his 3rd attack of the 4 he had mounted on me.Knowing he was
nearing his limit this time I went with him just to show him I was feeling
very strong.
It was a short attack.Just one lap of the 250 meter concrete track of the
indoor arena. Eyeballs- out-stuff, we ran it in about 70 seconds but it
seemed sub 60. Most of my other laps were in the 1:30 to 1:40 region.
 At the end of this lap his hand went up in the air,almost as a sign of
 submission. I had managed to fend off his 2 previous attacks,
lapping him a few times when he faded.
We jogged on for a couple of hours, towards the never-ending 
finish.Refreshed with about 2 hours to go we spoke for the very first time
 in the race.
He told me not to worry that he wanted to go through 400km in style.
 Still,I had to take this seriously as anything could happen to me giving
 him an outside chance of victory.He lifted his pace gradually,
adrenalin filled, running through the pain barrier.I was watching him
carefully from the opposite side of the indoor track matching his pace.
He was running clad in his white Japanese singlet and blue shorts with a
 forward leaning style which was easy to pick out among the other runners.
I started this race wearing my Dublin clubs Metro St.Brigid's singlet for 
the first 14 hours.
As as it was St.Patrick's day at midnight on the first 
day I changed into my Irish national singlet.This was first time in 20 years 
as a member of my club I didn't wear my clubs colours for a non-championship 
race.It was my plan to change back at midnight,but I decided I didn't want to
 change the luck of the Irish.
After 2 hours I was in 26th place of the 51 runners.
As the hours ticked slowly by I was gradually moving up the standings,
passing other runners,one by one.I felt like a grand prix driver moving up
through the grid. By the 24 hour mark I was 3rd place, later getting a
presentation for that competition within a competition;
223km run, almost identical to the distance I covered 
in the Verona European championships 6 months earlier,finishing 9th.
For once the weather could be guaranteed for a race.The arena which
is usually used for expos had been heated to 17degrees C.

Here in Brno, I took the lead with 10 hours to go. I was running like
a man possessed. No way did I want to finish second again in a big race.
Passion,ambition and a hunger to win were the fuel that drove me on through
that second long night.
This Japanese runner, Kenjai Okiyama, is some competitor,
Courageous full of running, never-say-die attitude.
We had an incredible tussle!
 On each of those 4 attacks I managed to hold him off by raising
my pace steadily so he found it hard to keep his attacks going.
I took a half hour nap after 20 hours and another half-hour
 at 32 hours.
Upon returning to the track I got sick and wasted another
 15-20 minutes.
The only time I walked was for 3 laps immediately before my
first nap.

Peta a young science student was assigned to look after me,
giving me my carbohydrate drinks gels and electrolytes.
Also, Alan Young a UK athletics official was very generous
with his assistance,
Alan was there to crew for William Sichel who broke the
 Scottish 48 hour record and finished 6th.
These helpers were instrumental to my success.
 I owe them a huge debt of service.
After the race my feet were in surprisingly decent shape.
In fact my feet hardly had a blemish!
The official aid stations were well stocked and included beer!
As a non-drinker I chose the alcohol-free one, occasionally.
They were of course not pint glasses but shot glass size!
Sometimes runners finds it hard to stomach regular drinks
and as beer is rich in carbohydrates - it's a welcome
refreshment for some ultra runners!
Towards the end of the race I was escorted by the race referee
to my exact finishing spot to put down a marker to mark what
I thought to be a course record.

In the last stages of Brno 2007. Race referee and race director Tomas Rusek right prepare to mark exact spot for the world record I was oblivious to!

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Jaroslav Kocourek,a Czech runner was the first to shake my
 hand and congratulate me on breaking his indoor
world 48 hour record!
 I asked him what he meant:
"Was it not a course record?"
"Yes it's a course record but the course record is
the world record!"
 That was a pleasant shock to me!
I looked for Kenjai and gave him a massive hug.
 We exchanged our national flags.

Exchanging flags with Kenji

Then we were photographed holding each others flag.
Third place Vlastimil Dvoracek from a Czech runner came over.
We exchanged race stories.

With Kenji left and Vlastimil Dvoracek right.

I fell into a chair and gave two television interviews
and numerous photos as the arena scoreboard sign flashed....
 " World 48 hour indoor record Tony Mangan Ireland
 426.178km " (264.81miles) "
Kenjai's second place total was 412.9km.
Third was the Czech runner 
Vlastimil Dvoracek in 374.9km.
Irina Koval frrom Russia won the womens race
running  353.4km.
Nina Mytrofanova from the Ukraine was second,334.4km.
Michaela Dimitriadu, Czech Rep. 322.3km, third.
My 24 hour splits were 223km and 203km.

We got onto the podium sharing with the 3 women's winners.
We were all so tired, almost falling off and hanging
onto each other as the presentations continued with
individual awards for each finisher.
Eventually they allowed us to sit down on the podium
while the ceremony continued.
I went back to the hotel,showered and slept for
about 4 hours and went out 
to dinner with the other runners.I sat with Kenjai.
He told me about life as a runner in Japan.
His wife is a 10 day runner.
It was very expensive for him and his handler to come here.
I felt sorry for him.
I was wearing my traditional race night tee-shirt which reads:
 "Battered,shattered,plastered and twisted!"
 I was happy and this made up for so many heartbreaking
second place finishes during my ultrarunning career.
My club club mate Michael Farrell deserves a lot of credit
for his great work getting me ready for races.
 Many times I have doubted if I could get
 over some of my injuries but Michael always seems to pull me
through.
In 5 years years working on me the masochist has never
 failed me!

Race director,Tomas Rusek did a wonderful job putting on
this incredible race which went like a well-oiled machine
without a hitch.
The trophy I was presented with was so big,
 I didn't know how to get it home!
Tomas the race director called to my room the next morning
to give me a large sports bag which the trophy barely
fitted into.
I went to the airport put the 48 hour shoes into the
x-ray machine and pitied the operator,
 how those shoes must have stank!
As I put them on I heard some Irish weekend revelers 
asking.
"Did you Run?" Thinking they were talking to me
I turned to answer...
Just as the other was man was replying,
"Are you crazy? I couldn't run across the street!"
I had a little chuckle and walked very slowly
through the terminal.
I was happy.

Tony Mangan. March 2007.

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Near Brno!

July 23rd, 2014

 

I have had a busy week running from Hungary to Slovakia, two days in Austria and now the Czech Republic!

Today, Wednesday was a short day. Thnks to Tomas Rusek, my friend and race director from Brno 48 hour race who came out to crew for me.

Even time for a non alcohol beer!

It rained heavily so I finished early, a half day at 22km.

Tomas met me on the road to Brno

Tonight I am guest of Tomas and his partner Vera.

Thanks also to Vera. I always have to borrow clothes when people kindly do my laundry! Thanks Tomas.

It is about 15km to Brno. We will return on Thursday morning to Rajhrad village where I finished running today. The plan is to run to the arena in Brno where I set the record.
We have been asked to be there around 11.30am to meet other local runners and hopefully ran a lap or two of the 250 metre circuit.
And then run another 20km to Vera’s house which is on my route west towards Germany.

Then it rained!

 I will take a rest day here on Friday.
46,556 kilometres for 1,065 road days.

Singing in the rain...

Tomas took lots of good shots which I am having trouble downloading. Will sleep on it and hopefully tomorrow God will have fixed the problem!

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Hotel Tatra in Bratislava, Slovakia is the place to stay!

July 19th, 2014

Many thanks to Hotel Tatra in Bratislava, Slovakia for sponsoring my two night stay her in downtown Bratislava. The hotel is conveniently located beside all the nightlife and medieval township tourist attractions, also the Presidential palace just to name a few attractions. An hotel with a tradition, offers its services since 1930. Hotel Tatra boasts over 80-years history.

Bratislava is a must stopover I was told by a friend last week. So I did – I took a rest day.

I met the Hotel sales manager Michal Ruzovic this morning and was able to thank him personally for his immediate offer when the Irish ambassador Anne-Marie Callan just happened to mention in conversation that I was running through the city on my world run.

With Irish Ambassador Anne-Marie Callan and Michal Ruzovil the sales manager for Hotel Tatra

Just in case I didn’t get enough heat the hotel has a sauna. Also a gymnasium for running on a treadmill!
And a huge buffet restaurant, coffee shop and bar.
It is very affordable and a most memorable stay can be guaranteed.
Please visit the Hotel Tatra website www.hoteltatra.sk
Thank you so much, Tony Mangan www.theworldjog.com/blog

With my friend Josef the brother of my ultra running host in Tasmania, Vlastislav Skvaril who escaped from former Czechoslovakia

A friend from my racing days Edit Berces from Lake Balaton, Hungary came back to Bratislava especially to see me as we missed each other when I ran through Hungary last week. Edit holds the women’s world 24 hour treadmill record 247 plus kilometres set in Budapest in 2004. Edit is the first woman to have run over 250km on a track in Verona, Italy in 2002.

Edit Berces

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Iran In Pictures

July 18th, 2014

July 18th update: In Bratislava, Slovakia my 32nd country. Was met on the road half way through my easy 28km day by local contact Josef who took Nirvana so as I could run between the very heavy rain showers without pushing her! Total 46,418km for 1,061 road days.

1,370 kilometres to Calais, the end of mainland Europe. I plan running this in a little over five weeks. The date I got in mind for crossing from Calais to Dover, England is Aug 25th. Then another 540km to Dublin! :)

Am meeting the Irish ambassador to Slovakia H.E. Anne-Marie Callan at 9am Saturday morning. She is coming around to the hotel at 9am on her day off, so this is very much appreciated. Also appreciated is her contacting the Hotel Tatra who have kindly sponsored my two night stay here in their wonderful downtown hotel.

Two nights as I will be taking only my third rest day in 3,850kilometres which was run in 92 road days, all the way from the Iranian desert.

I will give a proper mention to all concerned tomorrow with the hotel website and pictures with Ambassador Callan.

So you know how I think, I got to be up early for the buffet breakfast :)

I also hope to meet Fergus Desmond a Shamrock Rovers supporter at the hotel before I start running on Sunday morning. Fergus who happens to read this blog! sent me an email saying he will be here by coincidence flying in on Sunday morning and will come straight from the airport to Hotel Tatra to buy me a steak lunch! I tell you I am mixing with royalty these days :)

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Now to my catchup Iran picture blog.

 

Another breakfast picnic invite after this family gave me a bed for the night.

I know if I go back and picture to blogs the readers probably wont go back and check them, so for now the best way to catch up is with a picture blog.

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After shot glass sized portions of tea in India it was great to be able to drink as much as I wanted in Iran. Most shops and restaurants provided a burco of hot water for travelers to fill their thermos flasks with or for world runners to fill their beakers with. One man called my bowl a dog dish!

 The Iranian desert. My sixth and final desert of the run.

An Iranian weather forecaster.

With Mr. Alireza the Irish Honary consul to Iran and his wife.

 

I just loved reading this on his desk!

Mr. Alireza kindly treated me to a delicious meal in a very posh restaurant. We had a most interesting conversation talking about world affairs.

 

I use my smart phone to find my way and check routes on Google maps. I was not a great believer in them at the start of the run. But then when it saved me time taking more direct routes I became a believer! Here I photographed my route and could check my camera if needed.

To be honest I really don’t know how I would have survived the last six months without it especially when applying for my Iran visa I needed to send about a dozen emails including obtaining  the invitation letter.

There was a story there too. If anyone knows Richard Donovan and wants a good laugh, Just ask Richard who ‘ Mr. Porsche ‘ is!

There have been too few internet cafes on my route and many readers will remember I often spent half a day in them when I did come across one in places like Indonesia.

This man is called Mohammed, an English teacher. He stopped me on the road the afternoon before my birthday and kindly invited me to spend the night in his family home when I ran into his town.

Always time for tea in Iran!

Another place to stay

Settling down to sleep in a mosque, this time with permission!

You can seen the women section in the back.

Readers may remember I often snuck in there as womens prayer section was rarely checked before locking up. Men often rested in the womens area as it was quieter but never women in the men’s location.

The women were not always shy to talk.

A beautiful country

And beautiful people

The Iranians know how to picnic that is for sure. I got an invite to lunch from this three family party celebrating Friday, the holy day.

Another tea break in western Iran. I discover Turkish and Azerbaijani are the main languages in this region.

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I stopped to ask was there a cafe or shop in this village and was invited to eat with the family.

 

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In six weeks running through Iran the woman in the background was the only woman I saw without a head covering.

This was the amazing breakfast that family served me that morning. I have never heard a traveler say a bad word about the Iranian people after a visit to this wonderful country. believe me this is only a small part of the story.Iran along with the USA my joint favourite country of the run.

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My last two nights in Iran were with the Iranian Red Crescent as they prefer to call the Red Cross, Here in Marganlar and then in Maku. Hot showers, dinner, bed, breakfast and endless tea, what else!

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Not going hungry in Hungary!

July 12th, 2014

July 11th 2014 46,129km run for 1,054 road days.

Many thanks to Kenneth Corcoran and Robert Lux for kindly sponsoring my next few days on the road  :)

In Hungary now. Just a brief thank you to my kind host Gyula Erdesz and Maria his mother for a wonderful time and delicious Hungarian goulash!

I crossed the border from Serbia this morning having mooched coffee from the border guards. It closed at 6pm last night so I camped just 100 metres from Hungary.
I had run  about 24km when Gyula drove out and crewed me the next 16km into Baja town. He brought along a huge selection of food and drinks, just about everything from tomato juice to non-alcohol beer and from chocolate, bread, to raisins!
It rained very heavily and he had a well stocked car of snacks!
He is the co-ordinator for the Hungarian 6 day race.
 

The name of his race: EMU 6 Day World Trophy
Not a man to be around if you have an ego!!
One one occasion I said to him I must look like one of his runners in the final hours of a 6 day race, Yes he said but worse :(  
I asked him what he meant when he said he saw a snail on the road. 
” Oh!  it was dead, a car ran over it! “
Yes we had a laugh, Thanks so much Gyula and family for a great time :)

A great crew job Gyula!

 

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Many thanks to the North Pole Marathon and Richard Donovan for ongoing support

July 12th, 2014

Many thanks to the North Pole Marathon and my great friend Richard Donovan for ongoing support of the run. Richard’s North Pole Marathon www.npmarathon.com is known as the ‘world’s coolest marathon’. He also organises the Antarctic Ice Marathon & 100k www.icemarathon.com at the other end of the planet, which was Lonely Planet’s top marathon pick for adventure travel in 2014. Richard’s Volcano Marathon www.volcanomarathon.com in the Atacama Desert is one of the highest marathons in the world and was recently listed by British Airways as the second most scenic marathon in the world, one place behind the North Pole Marathon!

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Burger In Becej

July 9th, 2014

Hi Again. Spot not updating this morning. I am in Becej about 80km from Hungarian border. i hope to cross on Thursday. I will be heading for Baja where I got an invite from well known Hungarian race director Gyula Erdesz
I expect to arrive Friday, Thanks Gyuala :) I look forward to the goulash you and your mom have promised me and also the shower!!
I hope Hungarian ultra runners can come out and run. I will not be running into Budapest, sorry heading for Bratislava. Where I got another invite from Josef who is Vlastik’s brother. Some may remember Vlastik from Burnie, Tasmania, he is an ultra runner also. He made a daring escape from former Czechoslovakia. I blogged it then if interested in archives around end of Feb 2013. It will be interesting to hear from his brother.
Oh almost forgot 46,000km yesterday, I am taking these things far too much for granted. I tell you that thousand was amongst the toughest, pushing Nirvana on the very narrow roads with no shoulder. I remember estimating pushing her is about an extra 20% effort and obviously I am a lot more tired now. Fergus Owens will be sad to hear that me and Nirvana are having ‘ relationship problems ‘ at the moment, for she is like an unwanted child to me now, I wish I could escape her!!
Thanks to the man who stopped on the way into Becej and stopped his car on a narrow bridge to hand me a burger. I have to be honest I was thinking to myself East Europe has many nice people but people seem so afraid to help as mentioned before… I am afraid to say cold is the word that comes to mind There was  cyclist called Yugoslav who gave me an invite in his house but I would have had to go back 3km and was a bit too much pushing Nirvana. However I agreed if we could get someone to mind Nirvana overnight, in a barn and there were many. We asked at about six houses, I am not authorized seems to be a favourite saying here also in Bulgaria and Turkey. A man did but I would have had to return before 5am before he left for work. I didn’t accept the invitation, I just ran another 5km and camped in a field. I was not asking for much, just to park Nirvana, so this was still playing on my mind but this man handing me the burger put a smile back on my face and it tasted so good! Thank you mister :)

I am also in touch with tough female Hungarian ultra runner Edit Berces. Edit needs no introduction to ultra runners  as she is the holder of the female 24 and 48 hour world treadmill records among many other records. She seems to be very busy and moving around a lot but I hope we can meet up on the road somewhere near Bratislava.

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BULGARIA UPDATE > The Road To Hell.

July 4th, 2014

happy Independence Day to all my American readers and friends!

Am doing well in Serbia now.

July 4th 48km

Total 45,848km.

Please watch out for a picture blog of Iran coming soon, about 30 photos.

I hope to do same for Turkey in a week or two.

I thought it would be wise to wait a few days in Serbia before posting this just in case Bulgarian border patrol are reading! :)

Thanks so much to Barry Drennan for sponsoring my two night stay in Zoran’s hostel as mentioned in last blog.

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First night in Bulgaria I got rained out. Let’s just say I didn’t put my tent up properly, I learnt a big lesson as I spent the whole morning trying to dry my down summer sleeping bag out. I decided to run with it on Nirvana in the afternoon.
I run as far as the outskirts of Svilengrad town. Just been thinking to myself that I ran Iran and Turkey and did not see a single church. That is not to say these countries are intolerant as Iran has a sizable Jewish community living unhindered in Tehran.
In Istanbul one man told that churches are there its just they prefer to be discrete. I was especially surprised in Turkey.
I stop at a cafe to take a photo of a statue of a border guard and his dog which is just across the road.

“Communist? “
I ask a man called Dimitri. He tells me no.
The inscription says 1972 so I don’t know
As I  drinking my tea a Bulgarian Orthodox Catholic priest called Father George comes in and gives me some chocolate with my tea.

That's Father George in the middle.

I am just about to go when the proprietor puts a knife and fork down on my table.
I am told to sit down and eat a huge Bulgarian salad compliments of Father George  This gives my gear an extra half hour to dry outside on Nirvana.

That afternoon I was lacking energy. At a corner store rest stop I bought a box of 20 liquors to munch with my coffee.
When I got going again I was full of energy running very hard pushing Nirvana ahead as I ran.
Unfortunately she does not roll straight always heading for the ditch due to the road camber. I have to make a correcting slight lift and push to the right every 20 metres or so as I mostly run towards the traffic. This maneuver can be pretty tiring and sore on my wrists.
At times like this I long to keep going when I got the energy buzz. Often other factors like thunder and lightning with imminent rain call the shots.
So I finished just before a downpour at a village TIR restaurant. Some restaurants provide parking for truck drivers in large compounds. I got talking to the security guard who said I could sleep on a bench in a sheltered area.
36km that day. I have started  easing down my daily distances since the big push to Istanbul as I am getting back on schedule and want to try and get some recovery going through Europe.

Next day 32km to finish at another TIR restaurant in the village of Byalo Pole. It was another sluggish day running along the quiet roads in the Bulgarian countryside. I ran over short rolling hills past wheat fields where quizzical farmers stopped to see what I was up to. People always address me in their language expecting me to be fluent in every language under the sun from Thai to Myanmar, Hindi, Farsi, Turkish and now Bulgarian. They surprisingly almost always seem surprised when I can’t answer!

A woman seemed to be asking me how long I was travelling so I showed her my forearm tattoo with my starting date. Embarrassed she backed away, I guess a case of me being Vulgar in Bulgar!

People may have been wondering what I was looking forward to as I was running towards Europe and may be surprised to know one of my desires was to be able to have a good shop in Lidl supermarkets :)   Ah yes, wine gums, American hard gums, oatmeal, good chocolate and more. Well that’s what I bought in Harmanli’s Lidl.

More power to the sheep :)

 

Also another box of liqueurs which I didn’t get to eat on the road. Think I am becoming a right old Sheila as my Aussie friends would say! I need the calories is my excuse.  I hope I can stop eating when this is all over!

In the TIR restaurant in Byalo Pole that night I watched the world cup match between Iran and Nigeria. Two Islamic nations.  My support obviously was for the Iranians after my wonderful time in their country. Surprisingly Nigeria is sponsored by alcohol giants Guinness. In the crowd I noticed many Iranian women with tattooed green white and red faces  without head coverings.
No doubt affluent supporters probably living outside Iran
I say this as an Iranian actress was recent in trouble after he recent Cannes Film Festival for not refusing a peck on the cheek kiss at the awards ceremony. The talk in Iran is she may be whipped. Apparently scholars still argue whether Mohammad meant all women should wear a head covering or just his own wives.

It’s a complicated world we live in. We want to respect all cultures and traditions, there is room for everyone of every belief in this world. I find it hard to understand why a government wants to interfere with a citizens  beliefs and harmless actions even when they are abroad. Yes we call this harmless, others do not.

When I was leaving this particular restaurant I felt I was being steeply overcharged as the proprietor was quoting euro and when I inquired why euro when we are in Bulgaria which has two Bulgarian levs to the Euro. He was speaking in Turkish to Turkish truck drivers and when I left I noticed the place was called ” Istanbul Pub” even when they leave some Turks  can’t break old habits. I camped at the side of his property.
That was the only time I felt ripped off in Bulgaria. The people are so friendly. However I am told there is a lot of crime and perhaps for that reason many petrol stations won’t let me camp there. They usually quote the boss wouldn’t like it and seem to be uncomfortable asking him. The forests and grassland are like jungles for nothing seems to be maintained.


This makes camping very difficult for me, finding a safe place where there is no guardrail to climb over as I am now pushing Nirvana is so difficult.
Grass and shrubbery growing out onto the road, the worst hard shoulders on my whole run, that is when there is a shoulder as the roads are very narrow and dangerous.


The Bulgarian drivers just like the Iranians and Turks are very courteous.

I ran through Badeshte, no that was the name of the place.


Stopped for a snack where a very nice man was trying to get his cafe business off the ground after opening about four months ago. He struggles as he has no electricity in his roadside cabin which must be cold in the winter. He gave me a couple of pieces of chicken and told me he speaks decent English as he regularly visits his sister  who is married in Malta, an English speaking country.
That day I saw a coiled up snake on the side of the grass as I ran by. There are a lot of dead snakes on the roads of Bulgaria but I am sure this one was alive as was another I saw a week later near Roman.

Some days I took back roads for there was less traffic and it is always a joy, even when tough going as was my running through the Tara Planina mountain range. A lot of drizzle had me running from village to village sheltering wherever I could which was usually petrol stations or cafes.

Another wonderful day with 41km as a bonus took me to a scruffy town called Gabrovo. On the way out I broke Nirvana’s front axle, probably because some weight shifted to the front and I tried to mount a pavement too fast. Luckily I have two spares. I may be well equipped in spares but I pay the price pushing it.
I ended up sleeping behind a ditch beside a river just four kilometres north of town, another petrol station camping refusal.

I am getting the best food now since Myanmar and Bulgaria is very cheep. I can get a huge meal, pork steak, fries, salad,soup, bread, coffee etc for about five euro.

Turkish food was just like Iranian food, just less of it and more difficult to get as many cooks just seemed to prefer serving easy stuff like bread cheese, tomatoes and olives. When I got meat there it was almost always chicken or lamb kebab, a bit MUTTONous!

I am told Bulgarians don’t find it cheap living here. A couple of people told me they earn about 200 euro a month. In Iran a head master told me he earns 500 euro a month while a petrol pump attendant earns the same in Turkey.

 

That day I ran 37km on the glorious back roads through some nice villages called Dushevo, Gtadnitsa and Berievo.

Many elderly people stopped me and like babies trying to communicate without a language I always know what they are asking… Where are you going Where are you from and what are you doing…
I swear all that changes is just that order!
Sometimes I stop and take their photo but always wave and smile.

Ladies on the road to Hell!

That night in Berievo I went into a restaurant and stayed late for there were a lot of people watching world cup football. A man and his cousin said I could stay in his cousins house that night. We communicated in Spanish as this man lived in Spain and many Latin American countries for twelve years. His and his cousins  names I never wrote down, shame on me!

Mr. Road to Hell!

Like most people here they drink too much alcohol unfortunately. The shops are used as bars which sell 2.4 litres of beer for about 1.25 euro.
He told me the cousin earns 120 euro a month when working but there is not much work.
He also tries to dissuade me from taking the road I am taking for it is like a Chris Rea  song he says… The road to Hell! Because of the Gypsies and bandits and the ticks in the forests which can transmit Lyme disease.

Yes the latter is the one that concerns me most but I did think he was too much of an alarmist especially when he told me my map was wrong, a new edition I add and the roads were closed. His advice was to go via Sofia over 100kilometres longer, so that would take me over the 50,000 exact figure I want for the finish.

I was invited to stay in his cousins house that night and we mended a puncture in the morning.

I continued on my way without any major problems.

However on the road to Hell on the way from Vratsa towards Montana many hookers plied their trade some wearing lingerie which could be sexy night dresses as they stood on the side of the road or sat on small fold up chairs. They had bags of food and a couple of litres of water to keep them going while waiting for the frequent cars and trucks to stop. I was told they were gypsies.

Once I took a photo which enraged the girl. I ran faster for a while!

Some more days, some good distances and I feel I am really on the road to Heaven and not Hell!

Ah Yes we are a long way from Iran... The road to Hell for sure! I couldn't help thinking of Chris Rea's other hit... I don't know what it is but I like it!

There is very little traffic on the back roads but the roads are in poor condition. It seems truckers use the main road from Vidan near the border with Romania so as not to pay for a ferry. Most trucks are from Poland and Hungary. I would have thought the European Union would have updated. Perhaps they did, perhaps the funds have been embezzled.

Thats what happens in this part of the world. I remember about ten years ago when Romania and Bulgaria were preparing their EU bid the payment they got for their preparation fund was ripped off!

I very well remember hearing on George Hooks radio show on Newstalk 106 an astonished George and am sure  most Irish readers can hear his charismatic tones in their minds ear…

” But hold on minister, Hold your horses….Are you seriously trying to tell me the EU knew that the hard earned tax money me and my listeners work hard for has disappeared into thin air….. Down the Swanney said George.

(Well maybe the Danube George!)

” And, And we got to pay this preparation fund to them again?? Is that what you are seriously saying to me for crying out loud? ” Continues George.

So the minister or whoever he was replies.

” Yes George. We Know they are corrupt but how do we sort them out. We have decided we will get them into the EU family and then straighten out their corruption from inside the European Union ”

There is little or no shoulder on the narrow roads but I don’t need it here as there is so little traffic on the back roads but I wonder about bandits, perhaps lonely roads are better for them.

Grass and shrubs grow out onto the road. It is like a jungle, Bulgaria does not seem to maintain the hedge ways either. It is difficult finding camping as I got to wade through this jungle when I finish for the day. Most garages refuse me to pitch a tent, only the odd one but I got to ask many. It seems people are scared and I am not sure if this is because of crime or still in their mindset from communist times. There was a night when I asked a man who stopped me in the village of Slavotin. He was standing in his doorway and I stopped to talk as I was angling for a safe camp spot in his spacious backyard. He had been conversing with me and surely could see I was harmless. He flatly refused. End of conversation, sorry no more road show!

I have been told the winter temperatures drops to around -30 C in these parts. I remember the USA and how people housed, fed me and looked after me on the road during the only real winter of my run. How people came up to me and asked me what I was going to do when the storm blew in,

My mind is very tired now, just as tired as my body. I write a blog and hope I am communicating well and indeed if I am correct in calling this man ‘ mean spirited. ‘ Do I have any expectation, No I guess I shouldn’t have, that’s his decision. Perhaps I just impose myself too much on people.

All the time I am worried about the ticks in the forest, the Lyme transmitting ticks. I don;t see any but have been warned, I know of two or three athletes that read this blog, they are from the New England area of the USA who have had terrible illness from reoccurring infections.That is why I prefer safe camping locations in towns and villages. There are very few hotels available. Usually too early in the day I spot them.

Another night after a 45 km run I put my pop up mosquito tent in a field. I am carrying a regular tent also but absolutely hate putting it up. I cant determine if I am too lazy or too tired. So that particular night it was a starry night and within two hours it was raining, It rained hard after some unexpected thunder and lightening. that was the only time in my life and I examine the sky most nights that I remember rain during the night with a starry clear sky. So I just pulled my tent flysheet over the mosquito pop up, I want to get a proper pop up when I see one, but haven’t seen any yet.

No more messing with pegs and fly sheets and all the rolling up in the morning. Yes Michael Gillan in the Aussie Outback won me over on that one.

I am getting renewed energy now and running well and strong, well strong for me anyway. I can sense the end of Europe now, the month after next I will be running the UK. But I wish and long for a rest day in a nice suitable place but can’t find anywhere. At least I don’t stick around to ask. Some days my legs feel like wobbly jelly, perhaps like footballers cramp, I never experienced that in my life. I am taking plenty of electrolytes and water.

I meet a security guard manning a factory entrance. He is a security guard with a difference for he is a runner. When I ran by he was doing hill loops back and forth about 100 metres each side of the factory entrance! He is getting paid while he trains for his next marathon! I wish we could have communicated better!

So I run on towards Dimovo, I am getting close to Serbia now. I am not running Romania as I would have had to have taken a ferry and here is an alternate route, all be it an alternate country.

There is a Red Cross centre there. I ask if I can lay my sleeping bag down in a corner. I am told no that it was not a hotel, fair enough. So I ask the question again why am I pissed off with them, do they really have a duty to look after me. Surely it’s my duty and nobody elses to look after me?

I go into a bar and drink a couple of energy drinks there. The people are nice, though don’t talk to me at all. one of the workers takes me into the kitchen. There are six large sacks of large mushrooms and he really wants to give me some for the road! No sorry to disappoint, not sure if they are magic mushrooms and I wouldn’t be able to cook them.

Everyone confuses the Irish flag I fly from Nirvana to be Italian. Even an Italian trucker waved his green white and red tri-colour out his truck window. Bon Journo and Ciao I get all the time and Italia, Italia.

I have already picked out my location for that night. Directly outside the bar on the pavement there is a really good shelter from the roofing which extends all the way across the path. I will just pitch my mosquito pop-up and sleep beside Nirvana where she is parked outside the bar window and hope I wont be asked to leave. I really wanted a hotel that night but this town has none. Ah Yes The Road To Hell, Gypsies and bandits or am I being irresponsible.

Luckily the owner just wished me a good night when he was locking up, Half an hour later it rained so hard, almost sounded like hailstones on the metal roofing, It lasted most of the night. A dog and a cat slept under a car, for I frightened the life out of them when they came towards me!

It took me about half dozen coffees to get going next morning, not much as the coffees are almost like shot glasses of Guinness!

Some more beautiful running through small picturesque villages with monuments dating back to the First World War and even the late nineteen century. Some gypsies continue to ride their horse and carts. Yes I was warned about the gypsies but they gave me no harm only the biggest smiles. Jesper Olsen my great friend said the same about the Romanian gypsies when he ran through there on his world run, a much maligned people.

Here in Bulgaria 20% of the work force earn the minimum pay of just one euro an hour.

It has to be said in all fairness that too many Bulgarians drink far too much alcohol. Every village I run through no matter what time there are people out drinking outside their houses, shops and cafe bars.

Next night my last night in Bulgaria I am about eight kilometres from the Serbian border. I had run a good 36 that day and decided to stop in a village called Kireevo. I went into a grocery store where an exceptionally friendly, a motherly figure of a woman greeted me. I bought some snacks and coffee noticing there was a community room of sorts next door. The door was ajar and I could see there were posters of the village dead posted on the walls, This is what Bulgarians do, It’s a bit morbid as one man said it seems there are more people dead than alive here.

There was a table and two benches inside so I asked the woman if I could sleep there. No problem she said. So I popped my pop up mosquito net tent on the table!

The community room with the dead posters. Hoping when the Bulgarian police read this blog I wont see my poster here!

No sooner had I settled down when three officers of the border patrol stopped by. There were some city workers in brand new high-viz vests drinking beer as they sat on a park bench just across from where I was. I am certain they called, just like old communist times, And one of the police officers that spoke English to me stank of beer. Just like old communist times also, no I don’t mean speaking English.

So they ask me where I have been and going, take a look at my passport and get back into their jeep and drive away.

Tomorrow in Serbia will be the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1. I will be crossing tomorrow,

Trouble follows me everywhere!

In Turkey there was a mining disaster when 301 miners were killed when I was there. Here in the east of Bulgaria 12 people were  drowned in flooding in Varna and another village.

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UPDATED TEXT… In Serbia!

June 28th, 2014

PS 29/6/ Taking opportunity of a rest day :)

 

June 28th I crossed into Serbia, my 30th country of the run. I wonder what I will be doing this time four months, not having to lace up my shoes will seem so strange!

Think I need a haircut and a new pair of legs!

Serbia a country of just over 7 million with a low population density is one of the former Yugoslav Republics.  It has been an independent state since 2006 when Montenegro dumped them after a referendum.

In 1989, Slobodan Milošević rose to power in Serbia. Milošević promised reduction of powers for the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, where his allies subsequently overtook the power, during the Anti-bureaucratic revolution. This ignited tensions with the communist leadership of the other republics, and awoke nationalism across the country, that eventually resulted in the Breakup of Yugoslavia, with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia declaring independence.

Serbia and Montenegro remained together as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

Milošević  faced up to much opposition and demonstrations before finally resigning his post.  The subsequent Yugoslav authorities tried him on suspected  fraud and embezzlement. When the charges did not stand up they extradited him instead to the International courts in the Hague charged for war crimes  including genocide  and crimes against humanity in connection to the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

Milošević elected to represent himself and you know what they say… A person who represents himself in court often has a fool for a client. However he died in his prison cell in the Hague in March 2006.

Serbia, a landlocked country located at the crossroads between Central and Southern Europe, in the Balkan peninsula.

I am told the reason Serbia didn’t get EU membership with the last enlargement was because of this bitter war the country was involved in.

In 1992 war torn, ragged Yugoslavia qualified for the European soccer championships hosted by Sweden.  They were not allowed  to participate due their to the countries instability and at the time alleged war crimes including a policy of ethnic cleansing. Denmark who did not qualify for that tournament was selected to replace them. The Danish football association recalled players who were holidaying on beaches around the world and famously went on to win the tournament beating a first time all reunited German team 2-0 in the final.

Serbia is now an EU candidate country and negotiations are ongoing at this time for their entry.

A fairly modern country yet I am told it is surprisingly cheaper here than in Bulgaria whose people come here to shop. Serbia has one of Europe’s lowest per capita incomes at less than $6,000. In my short time here some people have told me that life was much better and easier under the old system in Yugoslavia. Now people do not have as much state safeguard and have to work harder to survive in the capitalistic world.

 

My arrival day was the 100th anniversary of the start of World war 1 when the assassination on 28 June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Young Bosnia organization, led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia.In defense of its ally Serbia, Russia mobilized its troops, which resulted in Austria-Hungary’s ally Germany declaring war on Russia. The retaliation by Austria-Hungary against Serbia activated a series of military alliances that set off a chain reaction of war declarations across the continent, leading to the outbreak of World War I within a month.

I was stuck with the equivalent of 70 euro in Bulgarian Levs which I am told nobody wants Bulgarian money in Serbia. It would have been too time-consuming to return as there was no nearby town and besides too difficult as I am now pushing Nirvana.

Just then I met two very nice Serbian cyclists called Viktor and Zoran.

Victor called his friend to help me change my Bulgarian Levs. Zoran on the right.

They were out for a spin on their bikes around the border area. They made a phone call to a business  friend who changed for me!

It just happens that Zoran runs a small hostel for students who attend the local medical and technical school here in Zajecar. The students are on holidays now so I was able to take a bed, a rest and a half day today. The lads also helped me with a few chores I needed done. Thanks lads!

Back at Zoran's house with Victor.

I have packed away my logbook and too tired to get it out again, but from memory the latest distance is around 45,675km for 1,042 road days.

Press HERE to see my planned route for the rest of mainland Europe

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about tony

Anything is possible! I didn't start running till I was almost 30. Then I dreamed of running around the World. I got delayed for over 20 years for many reasons. One reason was to establish my pedigree. I am the former WORLD RECORD-HOLDER for 48 HOURS INDOOR TRACK 426km/265 mile. I previously held the WORLD RECORD FOR 48 hours on a Treadmill 405km/ 251miles. Now I am retired from competition I can finally live my dream. I hope you will travel around the World with me. This World Run will take 4 years and over 50,000km. I started with the Dublin Marathon on October 25th and am on schedule to finish with the Dublin Marathon on October 28th 2014 at 2pm! Read more...

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