We have overcome a few obstacles along the way over the last 50 days; running just short of 1,200 miles across Europe over July and August is always going to present some stiff challenges! We faced a heat wave in Rome in mid-July and I ran in temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Quadriceps damage and oozing blisters tested us as we crossed Italy and then an ascent of over 2100m pushed my lungs to their limit in the Alps! Camping out during dramatic thunder storms and in cool temperatures made the leg of the journey across Switzerland even tougher and running several hundred miles across France with an intensely painful knee-joint meant it was a battle right until the end!
Yet we would not change our summer for the world and we have enjoyed experiences and met people and seen places that we could never even have imagined… The build-up to the ‘run home from Rome’ began many months before we set off for Italy and the training to even attempt the challenge, in Lanzarote and along Brighton beach, built up over many months. The support we have had from people at home and on the continent has been quite overwhelming. I could not have tackled the marathons without the immense support of my girlfriend Hannah who has been with me every step of the way - it has truly been a team effort. Hannah has driven the support car, plotted the route, helped to keep me hydrated and fed and has been there for me in so, so many ways from start to finish. Just listening to me wittering on about knee ache, blisters and leg pain would have been a challenge for the best of us! She is an absolute star and I am a lucky chap indeed to share my life with someone so special.
Other people have supported us immeasurably too. Hannah’s folks, Lesley and Keith, camped with us for 10 days across Switzerland and helped us hugely. I will never forget the evening when Lesley cooked spaghetti Bolognaise during the most ferocious thunder storm you could imagine. Torrential rain and a flooded campsite couldn’t stop us from tucking into a delicious dinner washed down with a nice glass of red wine! A good friend from Uni days in Bristol, Dave Behar, joined us for a week in France too. Dave sauntered onto our campsite after a 50-mile bike-ride and was great company throughout his stay. He was a super companion during the marathons and also guided us expertly through London to Trafalgar Square on the final day, mostly along canals and through parks. My parents, Roger and Gerry, joined us for some camping here in the UK and took us for a lovely meal before the final run. Their support and love during the challenge has been worth its weight in gold for me.
So many people helped us whilst on-the-road in Italy, Switzerland, France and here in the UK and this made the journey even more memorable. Alessio, an organiser of the Rome marathon, waved us off from the Coliseum and invited us back to the city in March to take part in the Rome marathon. Mario, Khaleb and Leo (who had himself survived cancer during his teens) took us under their wings in northern Italy. With seemingly nowhere to camp or rest-up for the night after the days’ marathon, the guys made sure we were safe and amply fed. Mario’s Prosecco wine was a lovely treat! Marta put us up in her home near Lecco and we enjoyed the amazing Italian hospitality (and food!) offered by her family. Patrice, who bumped into Hannah by chance in France, became a super running companion and his positivity and energy were just remarkable. Even here in the UK we were put up and fed by Phil near Folkestone after a brief chance-encounter during the days’ run and I enjoyed Bobs' great company during our sub-4-hour marathon on the penultimate day (marathon 44). In all, we have been blessed with marvellous support throughout the run and we are humbled by the generosity of spirit that people have shown us.
The feeling of being carried along by a huge wave of support has been palpable during the whole summer. The aches and pains seemed less significant next to the constant messages of support and donations that we received. It has been a challenge all of it’s own to find internet connections to upload our blogs along the way but it has been a privilege to share our adventure with so many people! We cannot thank people enough for their kind words (on the blog or via email, Facebook or text) and the donations to Marie Curie have been unbelievably generous.
We will never forget the elation we felt as we completed the ‘run home from Rome’ in Trafalgar square. The warm welcome from so many family members and friends who made the journey to London was exceptionally special to us. A huge inspiration to take on the challenge came from my friend Rob Gauntlett who died tragically in a climbing accident in 2009 and it was absolutely wonderful to see his mum Nikki and his sister Louise at the finish line. A key reason for raising funds for Marie Curie this summer was the loss of our family friend, Jane Mayoh, to cancer a few years ago and I was thrilled to see Jane’s former husband Glenn and their daughter Rachel at the finish.
Thank you all so much for the messages, the donations and for sharing our adventure this summer.