Today is marathon 75: an epic milestone for the #RunningDry campaign. And also the day my doctors gave me the news I was hoping never to hear: I ran so hard I broke my leg.
What a week of runs it’s been… Not for me - I’ve been doing intensive rehab every day, checking in with doctors and taking care of myself as I fly from Cape Town to Sydney. But the #RunningDry movement has been going from strength to strength.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter, you’ll know that Marathon 62 was momentous. It ended with tears thanks to the multiple stress fractures in my right femur. I was told that if I continued running (or walking) on my leg, I would never run again. That if I didn’t take a break, I would break.
This week we’ve been running through Jordan and it has been… epic. A dry desert country with surprising fruit groves, a combination of heartbreaking and inspiring stories all intertwined. I am still so deeply and profoundly exhausted, but this week has reminded me why I’m doing this.
Day 41 today - which means marathon 41, which means I have officially broken my own record. 41 marathons in 41 days. I wouldn’t have thought this was possible last year, the day after I ran 40 marathons in 40 days. And yet: here I am.
It’s been a beautiful, exhausting, illuminating week in India - and now we’re off to Hong Kong and China. Still running a marathon a day, now over a third of the way through my 100 marathons in 100 days… Phew.
We’ve spent the last week in India and what an extraordinary week it’s been… From Delhi to Bawal, Achrol, Nayagaon-Kisangadh and Raila, through Chittorgarh, Banswara, Dahod and Halol, meeting so many people along the way and hearing their water stories first-hand.
What would I do without my support team? I certainly wouldn’t be running 100 marathons - and I wouldn’t have made it to marathon 25 (today!) So I thought it was time to introduce you to my wonderful team.
I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think about what drives me - what people call grit. The thing that’s got me running through Uzbekistan and the Middle East and all these places around the world. The thing that drives me to push myself beyond what I thought was possible.
Wow, what a week it’s been! France and Italy, some deep exhaustion and some equally deep appreciation for this crazy journey we’re taking together.
Running along the River Thames and it’s marathon number 3. Today was very special because I was joined by Dr. Liz Goodwin of the WRI. She ran 12.3km with me to represent SDG 12.3 which is, of course, sustainable consumption and production patterns.
So I’m back in my hotel after running my first marathon of 100: the New York City Marathon. I’m just doing my stretching, and reflecting on this super crazy, amazing, long day. One marathon down, 99 to go! Here’s what it was like…
In the middle of the cappuccino colored sands of the Atacama Desert, with miles of dusty rock strewn ground stretching to the horizon, I sat beside the trail. I was exhausted. Physically, mentally and emotionally. I had given everything I had to my effort to run across 7 Deserts on 7 Continents in just 7 Weeks. It was a ridiculously ambitious goal for someone who was a self-confessed non-runner, and the reality of the whole thing was setting in with a vengeance.
People often express jealousy at the amount of travel I do. Between travelling to see potential and existing sponsors, talk to people and organisations about water, and give speeches, I’m often on and off planes. I’ve just arrived in New York City now, ready to begin my most epic challenge yet - in 5 days.
I was in the USA recently on a far-too-brief trip to do some publicity for one of my sponsors. That sounds so fancy now I’m writing it! Had you asked me even a year ago if I’d write a blog that says that, I’d just have laughed at you. But anyway – the daily disbelief of what I’m doing is the subject of other blogs.
I’m a bad eater. The docs think one of the (many) reasons I had a stress fracture last Christmas was because I had this thing called “REDs” which is Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome in Sport. It’s a fancy term for something that seems to me to be pretty simple. I didn’t eat enough. Not that I didn’t eat the right things – I was religious about getting in my whole grains, veggies, beans and other protein sources. The problem was that I wasn’t eating enough.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see my new massage therapist. He’s a man called Garry Miridis and, amongst other things, he used to look after Cathy Freeman. Yes – the Cathy Freeman.
It took me a long time to get up the courage to see him. He is, after all, a complete guru in the athletic world, with a reputation for putting athletes back together. I’m learning that the world of professional or elite sport involves lots of walking a fine tightrope between health and injury.
A few days ago I had a long discussion with my brilliant Melbourne-based physio Ali Low and my new athlete manager Tim Cole. We were talking about an injury that has literally stopped me in my running tracks – over the past 10 days or so, I have been forced into the pool and stressing on a daily basis about the fact that I’m well….not running.
Their view was that whilst there may indeed be something causing aggravation in my hip, the sense of pain is being over interpreted by my brain. This is causing me to sense incredible pain, and in response, my brain shuts down the muscles around that area.
Let’s be clear: all the MRI scans I’ve had of the area are negative. Negative for stress fracture, negative for any major injury. Negative for everything other than some minor wear and tear expected of someone “my age” (yup that’s what 47 years on the planet does for you!).
Ali has done all the clinical tests, bending my hip every which way, poking and prodding my back and testing everything she can think of. Everything shows up negative.
There is literally no clinical explanation for the pain I’m feeling.
Picture this. It’s just turned 6am. It’s pitch black and outside it’s 4 degrees, but feels closer to zero. Wind careens across the ground, and rain is in the forecast.
I’m at the outdoor pool. The lights cast a dim yellow glow across the water. The heat from the water evaporates and condenses into a mist that hangs close to the surface. It’s so thick that you can’t see past the first set of flags hung across the pool. Today the flags blow in the wind. They’re my litmus test of the temperature and conditions, and they’re telling me that today it’s going to be bad.
I have a secret: I’m actually okay with not running. It’s nice to sleep in on a wintry morning and not have to go out into the cold trussed up like a chicken with water in my backpack that feels like it’s been in the deep freeze.
It’s fun to be able to go to brunch with my friends. To organise dinner and stay up beyond 9 pm. I have time in my day to get things done. And I’m not always fighting the mental and physical demons of exhaustion.
Yup. This not running thing is actually okay.
But here’s the deal. I believe in something far bigger than me. It’s this pesky thing that lurks around in the back of my mind. It’s my passion.