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GETTING TO THE START LINE IN SOUTH AMERICA!

My flight touched down in Medellin airport and my first shock was Alexander my support driver for at least Colombia was not there despite him confirming with me the day before he would meet me. After a while I called him only to be told he had transmission trouble and his car was in a garage. This was not good news. I was not impressed to say the least and very worried about his vehicle as he had other problems with this vehicle when he crewed for my friend Jesper on his run through Colombia recently.
What to do! I was assured it would be sorted by 11am the next day. I agreed to wait 24 hours but not an hour more. I also decided to sleep in the airport as it was much easier than leaving and then returning what with the expense and the hassle as now I have a heavy bag with all the luxuries I could now take with a support vehicle.
Eleven O´clock came and went and no Alexander. I phoned him and was told he would be there by 1pm. He told me he was at home in Periera about 220km away and he have the car fixed and be with me by 1pm. The day was getting on and it was the weekend. True to my word I told him not to bother, but thanks anyway. It would not be possible to make it in the timeframe he mentioned and I was not prepared to be ´strung along ´as I need to get running. I told Alexander I would ´go it alone ´Not a pleasant choice but I had mad my mind up.
Time to put plan B or C into action. Plan B was to hire a car for a couple of days and drive the route dropping off water bottles and snacks in the remote areas at various km markers (but out of view) I would of course document this in great detail. What I was to learn after hiring a car was that this was not practical as the roads in Colombia are so bad that it takes about 12 hours to travel 400km in a bus. I had targeted the area between Medellin and Pasto to the south near the Ecuadorian border. I have a contact there, a local man called Alex, I would also leave my heavy bag with Alex. This so called plan B would work well in somewhere that had good fast roads like the States or Australia, etc but I will now have to be careful about executing it somewhere like here. I hired a car for 2 days and was amazed at how slow moving the traffic was. The roads were mountainous, in bad condition. The drivers were appalling, especially the bus drivers. Many trucks just crawled along the hills. Clearly this was not the way to go. That was Friday the 13th. On Saturday the 14th I gave up having just driven 80km out of Medellin, and that was really raising stuff. It seemed that my drop bottle plan would not be as simple as it sounded because the roads were so crowded it was difficult to stop and make a drop and record it, it was just too dangerous to stop. Besides, increasingly I was finding that there were plenty of houses and roadside shops and small villages, so was it really necessary to have caches here?
I decided to revert to plan C ( which I should have done immediately)
Plan C is to source contacts in the border areas. As mentioned I made a good contact with Alex who lives in Pasto about 70km away from the Ecuadorian border. I also have an American contact called Norman who lives a similar distance away from the Ecuador/Peru border. So this plan was to run the country having mailed my 20kilo bag of kit about a month ahead. I would then be able to take out a fresh supply of Drymax socks and another pair of shoes for the next country. In all I have 6 pairs of shoes in this package. Four pairs of Asics GT-2160 compliments of John Buckley Sports back in Ireland. A warm sleeping bag if needed in the future for the mountains. This plan involved physically carrying the bag over the next border after I had run the preceding country. I would then mail it on again to the far end of the new country, The plan is that mail is more reliable within a countries borders as opposed to sending it international and dealing with the headache of customs like I had in Mexico. There is also the risk of excise tax, which would not arise within the country.
That weekend I was running around like a ´headless chicken! ´
That’s what I should have done in the first place instead of messing around with a car for two days, I should have went straight downtown in Medellin, checked into the backpackers hostel , sorted my bags and went straight to a post office. Instead I only got about 80km out of the city, checked into a hospedaje and next morning gave up and mailed the bag from La Pintada. My goodness, that went so smooth in the end. I got a large box, tape and and mailed it from an internet cafe that acts as a freight agency. All packed up and mailed in an hour and a half at a cost of 37 dollars with a 3 day delivery. If this works out I will certainly be using Plan C more often! Right now I am working very hard trying to find two contacts for Peru. One for just a shoe drop in Lima,Peru and the other for the bag to the Peru/Bolivian border.
Having done my u-turn now it was time to return the car to the airport. On the way I got lost in a surburb of Medellin, a place with the most unlikely name I have ever come across and I really don’t believe Barry Manilow had this Copacabana in mind when he penned his big hit!!
It was a nightmare as cars, busses,trucks, motor cycles and bicycles were coming at me in all directions in rush hour, Roads that were barely wide enough for one way were chock-a-block with horn-blasting angry motorists as I stalled time and time again, many times rolling back towards the vehicles behind as I made one of several hill-starts trying to find my way around the city maze of streets, and up hills so steep I thought I was in San Francisco.
Eventually after persistent asking of directions I found my way out of that Hell and onto the autopista, many thanks to a very nice taxi driver.
Once I saw that sign for the airport, I felt my nightmare weekend was just about over. I pulled up to a 24 hour gas station, got friendly with the attendant who piled me with coffee and said I could sleep in the car in a secure garage around the back.
Even getting rid of the car in the airport was not easy. The car hire desk was closed. There were no signs for rental returns, nobody knew where. I had to wait two hours for a rival company to take it from me, they work as a team helping each other it seems.
I made my way to the northern bus terminal for my bus to my departure location in South America, a place called Necocli. That journey took almost 11 hours for the 400km.
On the way in Santa Fe and somewhere else we were stopped and had to get out of the bus at police roadblocks. It was really a bizarre scenario as bored looking officers randomly just picked on whoever happened to be staring at the officers. If you went over to the bushes for a pee you were ignored, like me. Bags were searched but only the ones you took off. They never checked the bags left on the buses.
At 1 am I arrived and followed a hotel manager to his hotel. Cost $8 a night.
Alone again, naturally!

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5 Responses to “GETTING TO THE START LINE IN SOUTH AMERICA!”

  1. Ann Says:

    That was a really difficult start for you and it was like Murphys Law, (“If anything can go wrong, it will”) Glad you overcame the odds and it was great to see you back running yesterday in Colombia. Hopefully things get easier from here. Take care and keep on running :)

  2. kevin scanlon Says:

    tony what a start to south america. your perseverence and strength are fantastic. its great to watch the spot tracker ticking along. keep it going.

  3. Larry Doherty Says:

    Keep it going Tony. Mind yourself and keep making good decisions.

  4. Greg Havely Says:

    Hey Tony—-glad you are finally up and running–Sorry the car didn’t work out–but plan “C” will—knowing your perseverance!!!-Good running–and am sending you another e-mail regarding the camera etc (to your e-mail address)—greg

  5. theworldjog Says:

    Hi All. Very tough going but coping! 50km today, 45 yesterday, tues 33, Monday, 35. Just got a few mins here. Waiting for bus commute at 8.30pm, takes 2 hours on bad roads. I am starting to wonder, do I need any baggage on the road! Pecause of the bit I got, still too heavy to run with, I may go as I have before, with just a light change of clothes, and tooth brush in my pocket!
    As explained in blog. I can mail stuff about 1,000km ahead for replacements and small stock up.
    Thanks for support.. These people are wonderful :) Lots of small villages and people are helping me so much, no real problems, except its tough, couldn’t have run 51k today!Tony

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About Tony

I have always considered myself to be an average runner. In school, I was even bullied for I was a sports wimp. Through hard work, dedication, perseverance, self-belief and a strong mind I succeeded in not only running around the world but breaking four ultra running world records during my competitive career. Having previously cycled around the world I didn't start running until I was almost 30. Then I had a dream of running around the world. For many reasons, I waited for over 20 years. One reason was to establish my pedigree as an endurance athlete. I started and finished my world run as the current World Record-Holder for 48 Hours Indoor Track 426 kilometres (265 miles), a record I have held since 2007. I also broke and still hold the World Record for 48 hours on a Treadmill 405 kilometres (251 miles) in 2008. When I retired from competition, more pleasing than any of my world, European or Irish records I had the respect of my fellow athletes from all over the world - in my opinion, sports greatest reward - an achievement I am most proud of. Then I finally put myself out to pasture, to live my ultimate dream to run around the world! This blog was written on the road while I struggled to find places to sleep and to recover from running an average of 43.3 kilometres or 27 miles per day for 1,165 road days. There were many nights I typed this blog on a smart phone, so fatigued my eyes closed. Many journalists and endurance athletes have referred to my world run as the most difficult endurance challenge ever attempted. During my expedition I rarely had any support vehicles, running mostly with a backpack. In the more desolate areas I pushed my gear, food and water in a cart which I called Nirvana, then I sent her on ahead to run with my backpack once again over altitudes of almost 5,000 metres in the Andes. I stayed in remote villages where many people had never seen a white person before. I literally met the most wonderful people of this world in their own backyard and share many of those amazing experiences in this blog. My run around the world took 4 years. There were no short cuts, I ran every single metre on the road while seeking out the most comprehensive route across 41 countries, 5 continents, I used 50 pair of running shoes and my final footstep of the run was exactly 50,000 kilometres, (almost 31,000 miles) I eventually finished this tongue in cheek named world jog where I started, at the finish line of my city marathon. I started my global run with the Dublin Marathon on October 25th 2010 and finished with the Dublin Marathon on October 27th 2014 at 3 05pm! Thank you for your support, I hope you can share my unique way of seeing the world, the ultimate endurance challenge! Read more...

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