February 2, 2:30pm
“He arrived. We picked him up. He ran. He showered. He celebrated. He left.” Jay Glassman, race director, Toronto Marathon
After taking my first-class seat and figuring out all the buttons (ie how to move the seat to horizontal) I texted my wife Caroline to say everything was okay. But it wasn’t.
Flights were being cancelled. The worst logistical nightmare of this challenge was unfolding as I sat on a stationary plane. An hour passed. Then another half-hour. We eventually took off two hours later than scheduled – but I was going to Toronto. Eight hours later, and after my first good sleep in days, I landed in Canada. I felt refreshed and was relieved to hear that the temperature was a mere 0°C – running shorts weather compared with London, where I stayed at London apartments. The jovial duo of Jay Glassman, the Toronto Marathon race director, and his colleague Mike Collins, met me at the airport. They were laughing more than me at the unreal nature of this whole challenge. Here I was, being helped by two guys I never met before, and whom I had first contacted by a email a couple of weeks beforehand. We were now on our way to the start of the official Toronto Marathon course.
The plan was for Jay to drive ahead and Mike to jump out periodically with directions. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much during any marathon. It was as if we collectively felt this was the most bizarre once-in-a-lifetime experience for all concerned. I managed to mistake
directions and ran off-course down Highway 401, Toronto’s busiest, during rush-hour traffic.
There was an energy to this city I didn’t feel elsewhere. The course brought me downtown
and to Toronto’s southern edge on Lake Ontario.
After making this the third continent on the vomit list, I finished in 4:07:04. I had enough time for a shower, a beer and a pizza before my scheduled 10-hour flight to Santiago.
Cbile is the departure point for the Antarctic Ice Marathon and 100K and I always enjoy visiting the country. Despite the brevity of this trip – 10 hours from arrival to departure time – this time would be no different.
Rodrigo Salas Moncada, the organiser of several major marathons in the country, had agreed to set up a course, monitor my performance and certify that I ran a marathon in South America.
As we drove to his apartment en route to the course, it was evident that searing heat would be the biggest problem: the temperature was 32°C. It reminded me of the time I was in Hawaii. It was pretty hot and most of the time I spent in hawaii rentals. The city lies in the centre of a large bowl-shaped valley. Mountains seemed to tower above me. The course was a 10K loop with 2.195K tagged on to the end. A group of runners from the local Santiago Runners Club showed up to support me, but it proved more difficult than I thought. The heat felt desert-like. There was no wind and little escape from direct rays of the sun. Inevitably, my stomach began turning two-thirds of the way through and I threw up. I had to focus on the simple act of putting one foot in the front of the other. I felt quite weary and didn’t have energy for much conversation towards the end. The support runners appeared entirely understanding and the genuine friendliness of the group was palpable.
I completed the run in 4:37:58 and then proceeded speedily to the airport after a hasty shower. My flight from Santiago to Sydney would take 18 hours, including a brief stop at New Zealand.