Finally, a blog that’s not about motorcycling…Yep, with just a week to go until my first marathon, I thought I’d better write something about running — or lack of. I’m sitting in a Malaysian roadside cafe, shaded from the stifling high 30s temperatures and 90% humidity, and there’s no way I can head out for any training. It’s just too damn hot…
Things get confusing in this heat, too: the ice coffee I ordered has just arrived but when I take a sip I discover that I’ve been served warm chocolate milk with ice cubes added. WTF!? I drink it anyway, once it’s cooled down, and when I finally do get a coffee, it’s so thick and sweet that I can’t stomach it. It’s so hot here that even the lizards are scuttling off into the bushes in search of some shade. You drink water constantly all day, but don’t pee until late in the afternoon and even then it’s a sorry excuse for a pee. I now know the meaning of the phrase ‘sweating buckets’, and understand why people in this part of the world sit still most of the time and watch the rest of us fools going about our business uncomfortably.
That said, I did manage to stride out for a few kilometres early yesterday morning along a shady, tree-lined road but to try to run now would be asking for trouble. Running in the evening is cooler, but then you’re under constant attack by mosquitos, and with malaria and Dingue fever ever present, it kind of takes the fun away. And that’s how it’s been for the last six weeks really. It all seemed so straightforward when I was planning this journey — ride the bike in the daytime, get to wherever my destination was, put on the ‘sneakers’ and head out into the hills for a training run. Keep the legs oiled, the lungs working and the fitness levels high. Simple.
But in the nine weeks since I left the UK, I can count the number of runs I’ve had on both hands, with one thumb to spare. Yep, a grand total of nine, and nothing further than 10 kilometres either. I’ve run on the streets of Germany, Bulgaria, Bhutan, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia and nearly crippled myself on a broken running machine inside a dodgy Indian hotel. Despite my best efforts, running outside in India was impossible — every time I switched off the bike’s engine, crowds would appear from nowhere and I’d be surrounded in seconds. Crazy roads and drivers, no pavements, people, animals and filth everywhere just added to the wonderful chaos of the place.
The truth is that I’ve seriously underestimated how energy-sapping riding a motorcycle can be day-after-day in fierce heat, mad traffic and harsh environments. Not knowing where you are going to sleep every night can be a challenge; each border crossing can take several hours (there have been many) and you can lose several days — or more if you are unlucky — with shipping, air-freight and especially customs clearances.
Riding 20,000 kilometres to run 42 kilometres — what was I thinking of? And this is the first one of six… But I’ve done what I initially set out to do and I’ll be there on that start line in Kuala Lumpur on 21 May. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. I’ve got too much respect for the race distance to go for a ‘time’, so right now I’d settle for (and be delighted with) a finish! I’ll certainly be doing my best, so please wish me luck. I’ll need it!