Running with wolves, sleeping with bears

I have now entered wolf territory… and the bears are here too but thankfully are sleeping (or so I was informed by the locals yesterday). So it is safe to say that winter is definitely on its way.

This week I said farewell to my Terranova laser photon tent, the lightest twin skin tent in the world. Designed for mountain, marathon and adventure races, it’s only ever meant to be used for 1-2 nights at a time and twice a year, three times at most.  The fact that it stood up to a couple of months back to back use just shows how well this thing is built, and it weighs much less than my water bottle!

Still with the drop in the temperature coming now, condensation is a major issue with all tents in the cold, and the smaller the tent the worse you’ll notice it.

Terranova have very kindly swapped my Laser tent for their Voyager super lite model. This tent is free standing, meaning you can easily pitch it on top of snow, as it doesn’t require pegs being pushed into the frozen ground to give the tent its shape, it’s also much sturdier in heavier winds, rain and snow. There’s also a lot more space – I can now comfortably change my clothing without worrying about touching the sides and springing a leak, and with the cold coming now it’s nice to be able to dress/undress out of the elements.

The laser tent is an amazing piece of design but it’s not for winter. The Voyager, however, copes very well in these conditions – much less condensation and it’s kept further away from you when it does form, meaning you’re less likely to get moisture into your clothing/sleeping bag which makes your kit much heavier to carry and drastically diminishes its insulating properties.

In the last few days I’ve also started wearing warmer clothes. I’ve gone from wearing my shorts and a t-shirt, and occasionally a wind breaker top, to wearing running leggings, two tops, gloves and a thicker shell and then always having my Extremities thermal hat on standby to warm my stinging ears up when I stop running. This was mainly due to a very strong and bitter northerly wind on top of the drop in temperature, but it’s a sign of things to come in Finland so good practice!

It’ll also soon be time to change my regular running shoes the FLite 195 from Inov8 for the Inov8 Oroc shoe which is fully waterproof, much more insulated, and importantly has metal spikes in the sole for gripping snow and ice.

Once you get over the shock of the cold coming so fast and use the correct clothing then it really is beautiful here at the moment, bright blue skies and lakes and then the trees are golden yellow or fiery red in their autumn coats.


A paper trail as long as my run

Completing runs like this requires the collection of a lot of evidence. Each day I log the start and finish of my route, and try to collect at least one signature from a witness who has seen me arriving/leaving/passing through on foot.

There are receipts from almost every purchase to be stored and filed, each one date and time-stamped, to prove I was where I said I was on each day. A paper trail as long as my run!

There’s also the satellite tracker that needs to be kept charged, giving my exact location and speed every 20 minutes for the whole world to see.

To complete the run as fast as possible I need to log every meter covered each day. The overall distance is so huge that failing to do so would cost me extra weeks, if not months. The first few weeks of the run I lost several miles due to this. I logged my route and my tracker logged my whereabouts every 20 minutes, but I didn’t track miles with my GPS watch as the battery life is too poor. It was only once I reached the Netherlands that I finally discovered it could be used whilst in charging mode.

It turns out I was losing about 1km a day. You see, there’s a difference between distance run and distance covered, which you only see accurately when measuring with GPS.

Running from town A to town B which happen to be 50km apart doesn’t mean you’ve run just 50km getting there. This is especially true when following cycle paths alongside the road, as these often swap from one side of the road to the other, they also try to avoid crossing junctions at the widest part, and instead take you 10-20 metres into a quieter road, then cross the same distance again back to the busier road.

Then there are shops, garages, cafes and toilet breaks. Often you’re running on one side of the road and spot a garage with facilities you need on the other side, you may cut straight across the traffic and add 40-50 metres, or you might have to use a string of zebra crossings to reach it safely a couple of hundred metres later.

Even the obligatory dash into the bushes when nature calls requires an average of a 10 metre trip, for modesty’s sake!

Ten here, 15 there, it all seems like such small change compared to 50,000 metres that its almost nit-picking. Does it really matter if you’ve lost a few metres? Well yes, over approximately 600 days it makes a very big difference!

Now I’m logging all my miles very accurately, and soon I’ll have the equipment to begin loading these onto Garmin Connect and they will be available for all to see via Google maps on the website.

I’ve included a picture of a typical crossing alongside a cycle/footpath as you can see its approximately a 7-8 metre diversion each side of the crossing.

Sweden is off to a flying start

Just five days ago, running in Denmark, I had mild heatstroke following a surprise return to the late summer heat of 26 degrees for a couple of days. But it is Autumn here now and muscles are more efficient in the cool.  It’s not that cold yet, but much easier running even so.

I ran over my first ski field two days ago, the biggest hill on my route so far. I was throwing out 10 minute miles up that hill, a bit too fast really but fun none the less. It’s good to feel strong.

Denmark was over in a few short days. Although it’s a small country, I’ve decided it’s the country with the biggest heart! My welcome to Denmark and the friendliness of the people is a post all of its own…to follow.

Sweden is starting very well though. Finally finding my way out of Helsingborg, I ended up reaching Angelsholm on Tuesday evening. Here Peter and Cecelia, who run a B&B, let me pitch my tent. They wouldn’t let me pay, instead giving me use of a kitchen and bathroom on the proviso that I joined them for breakfast so I could tell them about the run.

Following breakfast, and sent away with sandwiches, I ran my fastest day so far – 34.7 miles in just over 6.5 hrs running.

Yesterday I felt a bit tired, having run too fast up the first hill I’ve seen in over a thousand miles. But 30.66 miles isn’t too bad, that’s with a stop for lunch and an interview with a Swedish newspaper.

Kenny, a Liverpudlian residing in Sweden since the 70’s, is a very fit 67 year old trail marathon runner.

Kenny appeared in the rain yesterday morning, jumped out of his car and shouted my name. I was a bit surprised to say the least!

Kenny explained he’d been following me on the tracker for the last 42 days and that he lived about 6 miles further along my route and I that must stop for lunch and a coffee.

An hour later he returned with the press who photographed Kenny and I running the last couple of miles to his home. The guys from the paper were genuinely interested in running themselves and very interested in my run passing though their village.

There were still 20 miles to run so I had to get going but two hours later Kenny and his wife appeared again, this time with a salmon and pasta dinner, and a side salad on picnic plates! I was very grateful.

My first meals on wheels yesterday, and another first…I disturbed a snake sunbathing in the last of the afternoon sun. I’d expected Elk here and snakes in India or Aus?

The best part of yesterday was Kenny telling me he’d never run a multi-day ultra marathon before but my run has inspired him to run coast to coast across all of Sweden next summer – 250km in five days.

The guy is almost 70 and tackling ultra marathons in the mountains – I think he’s the inspiration!

Last night I was lucky enough to be given a cabin just three meters from the lake on a campsite, just for the price of camping. Dipping my feet in the lake was great cold therapy!

World runners – they’re just like buses

In general, running seems far less popular on the continent than back home. Or perhaps it’s simply because cycling is so practical, safe and easy in the flat regions and therefore there are far more cyclists than pedestrians. As for the Netherlands, they have more cycles in the country than people – kind of like cars in the UK.

So far I’ve spoken or run with three runners across France, Belgium and Netherlands. You could say it was a bit of a surprise when in a tiny village last week the first runner I meet in Germany appears in a bright white estate car with the words “run the world” and “40,000km” written on the side!

It just so happens to be Dotknąć Swiata, a Polish runner who set off from home two weeks ago towards Germany, Belgium and France, with the aim of running around the world.

To say I was stunned is putting it lightly. I hadn’t even planned to be in town at that time of night but I needed to repair some kit (that’s another blog post…for now I’ll just say that from experience, “waterpark” in German translates as “Mosquito farm”) and have a proper sleep. I’d found a cheap guesthouse for the night, but had to return to town to use the cash point.

It was there that another person as crazy as I appeared. At first I thought it was someone paying me a surprise visit, having tracked me with my satellite beacon…I mean there couldn’t possibly be another person running around the world whose route just happened to cross with mine, and not just on the same day but within a couple hours of each other, and just as I’m standing here…

But it was!

In fact he’s more crazy than I! He kept his plans secret until three days before he set off, when he then told his village “I’m running around the world – I leave in three days”

Unfortunately he only has funds to last him a few more weeks “I have until Paris to find sponsors, if not I run the distance at home”

He seems pretty serious.  If he can’t find sponsors in the next month he’ll return home but then run loops around his home village each day until he’s logged the 40,000km he wishes to run. It’s ballsy enough trying to take on the world, to do it without backing takes another level of self-belief!

I still can’t believe the coincidence but I made sure I grabbed a photo, so you guys back home know I’m not hallucinating from heat stroke or from eating the wrong wild berries in the woods…

In the smallest of villages, in the dark, two guys trying to run around the whole of the world, in opposite directions, just happened to cross paths!

I wish him the best of luck both with his search for backing and his challenge to run 40,000km in two years.

P.S. “I still can’t believe it…!”

P.P.S. “Really?”

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Thank you for following along and supporting me on this run, it makes a real difference  – Kevin.