Then I pumped my arms and fly through the air
Total distance run as of April 20th is 29,528km for 682road days. The 30,000th km will be run about 30km before Tenents Creek.
10km to Alice Springs. Darwin will be the end of Oceania, my third continent, next up will be Asia
I ran into Alice Springs Saturday at lunchtime. It was a wonderful experience after some 1,250km from Port Augusta. Long stretches of boring desolation in which the landscape was only marginally more interesting than Patagonia which I conquered last December after a three month battle there with the Argentine winds. Here in the Australian Outback it’s flies, hundreds of them in your face, sandwiches and pasta.
To eat I have to pull up my fly net lower head while constantly waving flies away with my hand.
Many years ago I read a book by Steven Newman called World Walk. I am still in contact with Steven who reads this blog from time to time. He inspired me to take this great pioneer route through the very center of Australia. Normally Steven walked with a backpack but for this segment he pushed his water, food and equipment in a golf cart named ‘ Roo ‘ Yes for me this is the way Australia has to be run!
As mentioned before this was only possible for me due to the kindness of my support driver Michael Gillan, a decent and caring person. I guess I could have pushed Nirvana my own Chariot cart through the very heart of the Outback but instead I had been planning on the wimpy much longer southern and eastern beach route, that was till Michael emailed me his support. Michael has been giving me recovery treatment using his revolutionary techniques. Please check out his websites www.aching-legs-relief.com and also www.aching-legs-relief.org
Michael provides support with his fly net
I can’t put an exact date on it but I am pretty sure I got this dream to run around the world in 1989 was about 24 years ago, how does that song go? ‘ 24 years living next door to Alice. ‘
I also toyed with the idea of running into Alice for my April 20th birthday present of sorts 24 days ago when I was back in Clare. I took out the calculator it was an average run of 61.4km required per day every day. It seemed like a tall order as I was already on the road on the mainland for over 2 weeks in which the minimum distance I had run, ( except for a lazy 32km first day out of Queenscliff, Melbourne) was 50km, with no rest days.
Skeleton of a baby kangaroo
I was wishing I had a couple more days to decrease this average required. So I thought about it for a day, a 50km day, so now the average required was even higher!
That day I got stopped by a cop called Mark Hill who asked me why I wasn’t running the trails, because of the snakes, longer route and Michael behind me I told him. Mark has a cleverly named side business, as a driving instructor he calls his business ‘ Hill Start ‘ So Mark gave us a place to stay that night, Michael following ever so careful as our host was not only a cop,all be it a running cop but a driving instructor.
I met up with Mark after he escorted the suspect to the courthouse
In his house he talks about the peacefulness of the area in which serious crime is unheard of. How long are you on the run he asks me! I tease him about a ‘ things to do list ‘ his wife has left him before she went off camping for the weekend. The windows are spotless but he assures us he has not cleaned them yet.
Next morning we are having breakfast and he has to rush out as there is a report that a man has stabbed his wife to death in a nearby village, peaceful area that is till we arrive.
Good Friday was good day, all 60km of it. On the run today I spotted several wallabies. Later I stop under a shady tree for a break and tell Michael. He assures me they were not kangaroos as kangaroos are over 7 foot high and if I saw one I would know all about it.
” They jump very high, ” Michael says.
I ask just like a child,
” Can a kangaroo jump as high as that branch there? ”
” Yes about 20 foot ” says Michael.
That afternoon a nun, sister Sandra stops Michael on the highway and arranges with sister Shelly for us to stay in a convent of sorts. Good Friday spent in a convent with two nuns, Michael told me he enjoyed the female company. Before we leave I am put on my first Australian prayer list during a rapid Easter Saturday mass.
Michael enjoying the female company with Sisters Shelly and Sandra.
On I run and stop at a ‘ driver reviver ‘ as its called where the local Lions club set up locations to offer drivers free coffee on holiday weekends.
They tease me and say they don’t do runner reviver, but yes they do and about three cups of it for me! 57km, some of it in the rain, the weather has been bearable so far here in Oz. We camp in a campsite where the caretaker, a little worse for wear after a few beers with some German campers gives us free camping
Michael has a ‘ pop up tent ‘ It’s great it only takes 3 seconds to pitch, before I even have my tent out of it’s stuff bag! It takes a lengthy 20 seconds for him to fold up his pop up tent in the morning. Camping purists may turn their noses up at pop ups but I think they are great when the weather is good and you have a vehicle to carry a more rugged tent.
Easter Sunday was the first day in which I made a serious attack on the Alice dream. I ran a great 62km finishing strongly in Port Augusta. We stay with local runner Kimberly and her husband Mitch and 4 children. I eat some of their Easter eggs to recover
Then it’s April Fools Day as we head off for the start of the Outback, not much between here and Alice, 1,226km away. As I run out of town,
Just like in the wild west movies I keep getting run out of town!
or rather am run out yet again by another running club I send Michael off to a supermarket for food for a few weeks, he returns with barely enough for a week! Luckily we are still eating the huge statch I got in Murray Bridge. We were to get some more on the way and Outback prices were not as bad as I expected. It was a hot day and we have a serious amount of water in the car, about 150 litres. I only counted my water intake one day and it was 10 litres.
60km followed by 71 and 59. The days are really heating up now but I just mulluck my way through the hot spells which last an hour or two at the hottest time of the day. Sometimes I take lots of short breaks.
That day I had my first road house experience Spud’s Road House in Pimba. A road house is usually a restaurant with a petrol station attached, beacons of refuge in the great Outback.
Spud's Roadhouse in Pimba
I had pictured visions of pool shooting tough looking tattooed Aussies drinking pitchers of Fosters beer while that great pool bar classic Guns n Roses ‘ Livin’ on a Prayer ‘ or was that by Bon Jovi? Well it could have been the other pool room classic Sweet Child of Mine pumped from the juke box.
Perhaps I have been watching too many Crocodile Dundee movies, over the years this vision had been formed in my minds eye that I would stagger from the great heat of the Outback into one of these places, the music would stop…
I would be offered a pitcher of beer and a vegemite sandwich.
” Sorry matey I don’t drink! ”
” Well what kinda Sheilas have you got over in Ireland! ”
Instead there was an indifferent staff, no pool shooters, a German couple stood at the bar asking me questions. And yes, just like it wanted to be played Guns n’ Roses timeless greatest hits cd stood up in the juke box waiting for track 1 to be played, I resisted for a motor biker seemed to be engrossed in a super bra info mercial on the flat screen television. We had tea and an Aussie fry up, almost as good as home.
Then a 68 followed by a 53km and two more 66 days had me well on target for Alice. Not much to report running along these roads.
People continue to stop and offer me fruit or water. A government worker for the fisheries department gave me a pear and water. After he left I wondered where the fish are in this area for every river bed has long since dried up.
There are plenty of shady trees for Michael to park under and for me to get some brief respite. I ask him to let me run on for about 30 minutes, 20 if its really hot and just park a little further up the road to offer me water and snacks.
There are also many picnic sites anything from 30 to 70km apart. I try to make it to these picnic sites for they are great camping spots, and free too. Sometimes they have toilets but mostly have picnic benches and tables. Many ‘ experts ‘ will tell you there is no shelter in the outback, but that’s not my experience. Older retired couples traveling around in motor homes are our nightly neighbors. Michael calls them ‘ Grey Nomads. ‘ They can survive comfortably on their pensions and travel the country for long road trips if they don’t drink or smoke. The picnic areas are basically free camping sites as the government are trying to promote frequent rest stops for travelers, so I guess they have to be free. A wonderful place to travel and camp. We also met a few Europeans who bought a camper van in a backpackers hostel, typically for $5,000. These campers have been bought and sold many times. One French man told me his monthly insurance is only $20 a month here, The best bargain in all of Australia as the average coffee is about $5. We rarely buy coffee, instead we often boil up water and fill my thermos and drink our tea or coffee later, which is always tastier than the road house stuff anyway.
In one of these picnic sites a couple invites us into their caravan for dinner one night. They tell us they know some construction workers that are going to a very remote location in the Outback to help rebuild an aboriginal village which was wrecked after a fight. I am sorry to report that all I hear from people and read in the papers is ‘ grog fueled ‘ or drunken fights by the aborigines . These workers will be sleeping in the police station while they are working there. I am also hearing about aboriginal people living on Government handouts with little interest in anything in life other than drinking grog or sniffing petrol, one of the reasons petrol is so expensive here is because it has an additive to stop this sad habit. I see burnt out cars along the highway all the time and am told this is because when they run out of petrol people just bizarrely set them on fire as it’s their culture not to share and don’t want anyone else to get their vehicle as they have no more money for petrol. I have been told by many people that many Aboriginal people live in the present with little or no concept for the future. As one person put it if you gave them $100 to last for four days they would spend it all in one day more than likely on grog. Unfortunately I have not been able to get the view of the other side. I asked about staying in an Aboriginal village and people thought I was joking. I have never known a culture to be as downtrodden as them. It seems nobody has a good word to say about them and I have asked a lot of people.
Many Aussies will tell you there is no shade or respite in the Outback. Not true we pass a couple of these picnic sites which are basically free camping sites also.
Then 62km with my fly escort all the way. I wear my fly net drinking through it but eating is a bit more tricky as I got to pull the net up and push my food under so the net often ends up being a fly catcher. The temperature usually rockets by an instant 5 degrees, close to 40 at the hottest time of the day.
Running with my crumb catcher!
Michael usually cooks extra oatmeal for breakfast so I have a bowl of this on the road around 11am and same with pasta from dinner the night before, I eat the left overs in the afternoon. Michael brings it out to me and I eat it on the go leaving my empty bowl at the side of the road for him to pick up.
That day as I was looking out of my fly net running along without a care in the world I came to a kangaroos on the road warning sign just as a three trailer ‘ road train ‘ flashed by. Yes I am living the dream now, running through the great Australian outback like never before.
Someone told me a driver needs 30 years experience before they are allowed to drive a road train. They are more of a danger to cyclists than the pedestrian running towards the traffic, I just step off the road but most times they move well over for me – besides the traffic is so light, so not a big deal, in fact the draft they create is very refreshing.
That day I finished about 29km short of a small town called Coober Pedy so we commuted there and got overcharged in the backpackers hostel. In the morning Michael returned me to my route while I dropped off water bottles as I wanted to give Michael the day off. I ran into town for lunch, a burger treat from Michael. In the afternoon after a 1 hour internet stop in the towns tourist info office (the only realistic internet connection in all of this Outback route so far as all others charged about $10 an hour) I ran on my own with water and snacks in my small daykpack. Later Michael picked me up on the road telling me he didn’t enjoy his rest day too much as he missed the road! We checked out of the rip off backpackers hostel and into the camp site for our second night in Coober Pedy where the owner gave us a free night and came over for a chat about running for he is a runner himself.
A late finish for a 65km slogger then a 62 next day took me to Cadney Homestead where Melissa the friendly hostess at this resort phoned Mark her boss to arrange a free dinner and camping for us. Also included was free breakfast but I didn’t stay for I was off at 4.30am.
A 65km day followed by 68 and 67km. I am strong and really up for the challenge now.
A 58km day ended in a road house in Marla where a man called George or Grumpy as he prefers to be called gave us $100 for petrol and a meal.
I run over the border to the northern Territory and notice the roads are in better shape, and there are no burnt out cars at the side of the road as in South Australia state.
Crossing into the Northern Territory state
April 16th I felt terrible in the morning but persevered and hammered out a 75km for a long, long days run to finish at another road house in Kulgera. A construction worker called Red who works for the flagging company Ace sponsored our burgers that night, only the restaurant was closed by the time I got there, Michael made a big pot of pasta instead. On the way there was a wonderful sunset.
What can I say!
A 74km followed. Once again I was tired starting, Michael says my hamstrings are very tight in the mornings and need to loosen up. I pick up the pace later and finish the day with a real ‘ ropey ‘ spell. Not much traffic on this road, perhaps the least of the whole run, if not the world. So I run on and on almost as slow as I have ever run in my life. My eyes are almost closed as I run on and on as I have many times during the nights in 48 hour races, just quieten the mind, I am listening to the gentle soothing sound of Handel’s Allegro on my ipods external speaker, I am at peace with myself. My body will navigate, I am well aware of my surroundings as I ‘ follow the white line ‘ of the shoulder on and on. I can see vehicles about three or four kilometres away front and rear and as they approach from the front I just cross over to the other side all the time looking behind for traffic coming up behind, but its quiet.
Following the white line as I have been for two and a half years now!
I am fearless of snakes as I have been told they come out onto the warm tarmac before they go hunting at night time. Snakes cannot hear for they have no ears, they go by vibrations, so strange they come out to warm up on the road. I have yet to see one in Australia.
This month will be just a little short of 1,900km, more than I have ever run in my life or will ever again. I will also be back on schedule for the run. After Darwin which will be 31 months and 31,000 km it will be a little over 1,000km a month through Asia and Europe to the finish in Dublin in October 2014 for a total at last count 48,500km. So more or less bang on schedule and I know I will get ahead of this with my natural pace.
The really hard work is now done for my run into Alice Springs so I can churn out a 55km recovery day followed by a 52km. I manage to get a message through to our host in Alice, John Bermingham the president of the running club there. We have had no phone signals in over a week now and just one short internet session in almost 3 weeks now. I got the message through by asking a Dutch man who was on his way there to phone him. The Alice Springs Running and Walking club have a 6km handicap race on Saturday morning. So after Fridays run we commuted to the city, staying in John’s and I ran the 6km handicap race in a terrible 46 minutes to finish second! At the race the organizers took out a birthday cake with candles and a 56 on it.
No I was not tempted to run that amount of kilometres today, I left the last day with just a handy 17 which I returned after the race to run.
On the way into town I got interviewed by ABC radio. The researcher said to Michael.
” We don’t want to put Tony on the spot but just to prepare him please tell him we intend to ask him why he is running around the world!! ”
Imagine that, people still think they can ask questions like this and assume they are the first to think of it!!
Then I met a woman called Nicky Gallas who had just set out that very morning from Alice Springs to walk the 1,500km to Adelaide. She seemed very focused and determined. She wont mind me saying so I am sure for she was seriously overweight and has a wonderful attitude with her ‘ No Excuses ” logo on her shirt. She is doing the walk for mental health awareness. I gave her a big hug then ran into town while she walked towards the route I had just run.
Nicky sets out at the start of her great walk as I arrive on the outskirts of Alice
For me it’s been 24 days and 24 years living the dream to Alice.
I plan a 2 day break here and on Tuesday start the 1,500km run through the Northern Outback from Alice Springs to Darwin. I am thinking about 30 x 50km days, let’s see what happens, the days will seem a lot easier and a marathon will seem like ‘ goofing off! ‘ After Darwin it will be East Timor and Asia, my 4th continent!