Usually I’m excited to head into mountains, I find the terrain so inspiring that I usually run stronger in spite of the added effort required to tackle both the ascents and descents (unlike cycling there’s no coasting on the way down, often downhills can be tougher to run than uphills!).
Although the Blue Mountains (the name of the mountains in this stretch of the dividing range) are beautiful, the road crossing them is a major arterial road connecting Sydney with the fastest roads west, including all the freight carried by road trains.
Unfortunately, building roads in mountains isn’t a straightforward task. It’s expensive and difficult and consequently the roads are very narrow, twisty, steep and worst of all, there is little to no shoulder.
It’s no exaggeration to state that to run on this road with my stroller would have been courting death. There are fifty tonne road trains coming down narrow steep roads, they take up every inch of the lane, driving around blind corners with no attempt to reduce speed. If something, or someone, is the other side of the blind bend, they will simply be flattened, especially if (as it was when I ran) it is a wet, greasy road due to heavy rainfall.
Fortunately I was rescued from this predicament by World runner Tom Denniss.
Tom, an Australian who lives in Sydney, completed his run around the world on 13th September 2013. 26,232KM around the world in just 622 days.
Tom had helped me with advice via both email and phone and I had hoped I would get to meet him and his wife Carmel as they live in Sydney. Tom contacted me and kindly came to meet me for four whole days before I finished the Australian leg of my run. Basically, he wasn’t going to let me risk my life pushing the stroller over the mountains – not in his back yard! He knew it was too risky.
Tom met me on the Saturday, took the stroller off me and then drove and ran with me the final four days into Sydney, past the opera house and finally finishing when I touched the ocean at Clovelly beach, just 2 km from Tom and Carmel’s house.
Tom would drive 7-10 km ahead, wait a while, run back down the road to find me a couple km from the car, and then run with me back to where he had parked. Here I would have a drink, grab a snack and repeat, all day – literally dawn till dusk!
Over only two days Tom ran a Marathon in this fashion, providing me a real boost in morale and helping the large 65-70km days pass by.
It was so cool to chat about elements of the run with Tom in a matter of fact way! For once talking to someone who fully understands the enormity of the task, but doesn’t think I’m crazy for doing it!
It was definitely one of the highlights of the whole run so far! Tom and Carmel also put me up at their home, washed ALL my stinking kit, fed me wonderful homemade meals and shared tales and advice from the road, which less than a handful of people in the world could possibly share!
I couldn’t stop smiling the evening before I finished the Australian leg of the run. I had run all day and finished just 25 km from the beach (15 km if not for a detour for the opera house and harbour bridge but I really wanted to run there en route!) there was little point finishing in the dark, so we had dinner and then returned the next day to run the final stretch.
Running across a whole continent as large as Australia is an unforgettable challenge and experience and having to run the last part in record pace was a tough ask, but I made it.
Getting to meet Tom and Carmel for the final days was the icing on the cake!