Early mornings are now par for the course. I heard Richard and Neil pottering around so I joined them and we started packing up. Douglas and Annie made us some breakfast. I had scrambled egg and bacon, the eggs were from their own chickens which was cool. We got ready and said our goodbyes before heading out to the starting point.
Simon and Neil set off running and Richard and I went ahead. The majority of this run was on a highway but we reached a point where the runkeeper route cut a corner through a wood. Undecided as to whether or not the guys would want to take it or not Richard dropped me off so I could give them the option and run in the last 2 miles with them. They opted for the woods. It was too uneven to risk Simon running so we trekked through the woods for about a mile. The scenery was gorgeous and we saw a deer scamper across our path. David and Ali met us in the woods and David took some really nice photos. We rejoined the route out of the woods and ran to meet Richard.
Simon didn’t want to hang around at this stop so a quick refuel and off those guys ran again and I rejoined Richard in the minivan. To make sure that they did not miss a turn at around mile 9 Richard and I stopped on a corner. The guys took a quick refuel and them ran on. Richard and I drove on to mile 5. In the mile between these stops Simon and Neil were advised not to run on the road by a woman. She said it was too dangerous. They informed her what they were doing and she told them she came second in the new York marathon in1981. Stunned the guys spoke to her for a bit and she told them she had also placed in the Boston Marathon. Such a chance encounter the guys had to get a photo with her and she obliged. This amazing woman was Patti Catalano.
The guys carried on running and Richard and I drove on. Another major turn in the route, Richard dropped me off 2 miles from the 15 mile mark. I ran in with them giving them the direction needed and we ran on the further 2 miles to the stop. Icing legs, eating snacks and chugging gatorade. I carried on running and Ali joined us.
Four strong we ran on. Douglas and Annie had told us about “the frog bridge” which we saw on our way. It was pretty impressive and the story behind is cool too and you can read about that here
The next stage of the run had quite the surprise in store. As we ran through the town of Willimantic we saw a group of people up ahead. As we got closer we could hear they were singing. The words became clearer “go Simon go, the Lord loves you” the entire congregation was out on the street. It was really cool, Simon and Neil were totally surprised by it and it gave them the lift they needed. We all continued on to the next stage leaving us with just 5 miles left to go.
We had been chatting with one of our hosts from earlier in the trip. Danele from our second stop of our overall trip. She wanted to meet us with her family to run a stage. They all met us at mile 20 and it was great to see them all again. We also picked up Bill and Sandra two runkeeper users with their Huskie dog Nico. A quick refuel and introductions before heading off for the final stage of day 5. Danele, here husband Chris were trying to keep their three kids together which became difficult. After a short while Chris returned to the car with Lucas. Danele was by herself with her two daughters and was a good way behind the main group so I fell back to help out. Before the end of the stage both Grace and Evie were picked up by cars. It was a bit too much for them but they made a valiant effort and their efforts were more than appreciated by everybody in the group. We continued on but we’re still in two groups. Danele and I at the back and everybody else up front. It was REALLY hilly. We eventually got to the end and we’re clapped in by the rest of the group.
Their were thank you’s and goodbyes before heading to the accommodation for the night. The entire crew were together for this one and luckily it had a pond too. Straight in the pond followed by a quick hot tub then showers. Ali and David made our evening meal and we settled in for the night. Before too long we were all nodding off and beds beckoned. One more down. Only a few more to go.
My day started early when I awoke at 5am. My muscles were a touch stiff from running the previous day but really loosened up quickly. The dip in the pond clearly worked to cool my muscles down effectively. I hadn’t stayed with the guys last night and myself David and Ali were not meeting Simon, Neil and Richard until the 5 mile mark. We did however go for bagels and coffee for our breakfast and got some bagels for Simon and Neil too. We followed the root back to the 5 mile finish point and found Richard and it wasn’t long before the guys came running into sight. A quick stop for a drink and snacks and off they ran again.
We had navigation issues the previous day and determined for this to not happen again Richard had a brain wave. We had been writing things on the road in chalk like start and stop points. Why not put directions on there too. Richard and I started chalking arrows at junctions so they wouldn’t turn the wrong way. This worked really well all the way with the exception of one when a guy with a leaf blower covered the majority of the arrow up. Luckily they saw it at the last minute though.
Richard and I pulled up ready for the next stop. We’d been waiting for a while and sorting the car out, ensuring we had nutrition and fluids ready for Simon and Neil arriving. Then it felt like we had been waiting too long. We tried to track them using our phones but the signal was poor. We panicked a bit, we closed the minivan doors jumped in and drove off to try and find them. Panic over, pretty quick. We saw David the photographer set up, we knew this meant that they were close and then we saw them come into view. We span back round and went back to the Checkpoint
Ali decided to run the next section and started warming up. The guys wolfed down some bagels with cream cheese and gatorade (breakfast of champions) before running off again with Ali for support. Richard and I continued chalking out directions and drove on to the 3rd Checkpoint. We were really getting into the swing of things now in the support vehicle and it was really fun getting stuff ready. Richard was trying to get me to run from this point on but that would have been 15 miles and there was no way I could run that far. The next section included a run through the forest meaning that we would not be able to drive ahead we would have to meet them at the other end of the trail.
Richard and I found where the trail should start… but not the trail. I got out and ran around trying to find it. I saw a small ravine maybe about 10-15 feet deep. It appeared this was an old dried up river which was now a forest trail. The trail was littered with rocks, branches and logs. Richard and I made the decision that this was far to risky for Simon and that the road would be safer. It meant tagging a bit of distance on but it was way safer. I told Richard to go on ahead and I’d meet them and run from this point on. I met Simon, Neil and Ali, told them what we’d decided and they agreed.
The next part of the run was a few miles around the forest. We saw some cyclists, farmhouses and churches. It’s a beautiful area and when running you can really appreciate it rather than wizzing by in a car. We took some pictures and chatted which made the time fly by really quickly. I continued to run with the guys for the remainder of the day. There was a lot of navigation towards the end of this run too. Richard was running low on fuel so had to go on ahead. As a result we ended up taking a wrong turn.
This would normally be a cause for concern however we went less than a mile wrong and it meant we found an awesome covered bridge. David was at hand and took some photos which was really cool. We retraced our steps and ran the correct route until we found where everybody was waiting for us. Neil and Simon wanted to carry on a little to make up for some lost mileage. I was beat so I dropped out and let them continue for another mile or so.
Another day in the books we headed to our new airbnb property. We had seen from pictures on the site that this place had a pool. We asked if we could jump in for the same effect as the pond the previous day for icing down our legs. Douglas and Annie said this was fine so we got in. They asked if we wanted to do the cold, hot, cold, hot Swedish bath thing and turned on the hot tub. After 10 minutes in the pool we switched to the hot tub which was warmer than the pool but not hot yet. Getting back in the cold pool was rough after that but getting in the hot tub the second time was amazing. It was warm and only getting warmer. Annie brought us fresh home made grape juice and chips with a houmous dip. It was difficult to get out in all honesty and it had worked wonders on our muscles.
Richard made tacos and fajitas for tea and Douglas, Annie and their daughter joined us. We all chatted away while enjoying the amazing meal Richard had cooked for us. It turned out that Douglas has been a teacher at the high school we had visited the day before. Like all our airbnb hosts they were warm, welcoming, interesting, funny and chatty. We really have been spoilt rotten with the super nice people we have met along they way. Everybody was tired so we all went to bed feeling full, happy and shattered. It was a good day.
Day 2 of running begins. Up and at em. Our airbnb host philomena was making breakfast when we came downstairs. Again she has been a great host who couldn’t do enough for us. After breakfast we checked we had everything and set off for the Boston Marathon start line. When we got there we could see a few runners were stood around waiting for our arrival. We spoke to people for a few minutes and once we were confident everybody was here and ready it was time to start. The weather was drizzly and not very nice but this was still better than the previous day by a fair amount. Off they ran into the distance for the first 5 mile section including Philomena’s Aoife daughter and Neil’s friend Justine who’s house we went to for dinner a few nights before.
In the distance we could suddenly see a swathe of bright yellow t shirts. The runners were coming and there we’re about 15 of them. Simon briefly thanked them for coming and then set off running with them to the school. I put the bike in the back of the minivan and went with Richard to the school to meet them there. When Simon, Neil and the school team arrived at school there were a number of school kids waiting for them on the hill up to school. When they reached the top of the hill the entire school was there waiting for them. It was amazing. Douglas High went all out in support for Simon and the kids all seemed super excited for what was happening. Lots of photos were taken and there was a real buzz in the air. As awesome as this was it was time to head off again. With 6 miles left to go I decided to run the last section. Simon, Neil and I headed out from the school and back on the route.
It was a cabin in the middle of nowhere. We met Pete and Paula the hosts and chatted briefly, we asked if they had a bath tub so ice baths could take place but they did not. Neil noticed a natural pond (pretty much a small lake) and said “I bet that’s pretty bloody cold” next thing Simon, Neil and I are waist deep in the pond for 10 minutes as an alternative to icing down and it worked really well. A quick shower and Neil and Simon went for massages and Richard shopped for an evening meal. On their return we talked to the hosts while Richard cooked then Pete, Paula, Simon, Neil, Richard, Ali, David and I sat down to a meal. It was delicious as always and a lovely end to the evening. Unfortunately there was not enough room at Pete and Paula’s home so Ali, David and I left Simon, Neil and Richard there and went to another house.
Simon set off running from the runkeeper office in Boston with a bunch of the runkeeper staff, some guys from Twitter Boston and a few others. We were overwhelmed by the support. This was apt because runkeeper were a big part of what has allowed Simon to run. Simon set off from outside the offices and started running the Boston marathon route but in reverse, and on a weekday, without the benefit of closed roads, in the middle of commuter traffic. So yeah. Rough. Richard and I arranged to meet Simon, Neil and whoever was left running with him 10 miles out of the city. The plan is to meet up every 5 miles but that would have put us firmly in the city so for day 1 section 1 we figured this would be best.
Alli from air bnb joined them at this point though so yet again Simon and Neil had somebody to talk to. Richard and I drove on through the pouring rain feeling slightly guilty about the how dry we were. We arrived at Wellesley and the 5 mile marker was right by a library. We took advantage of the car park and waited. We tried to make sure we had considered everything Simon and Neil might need. The weather had dried up so we were hoping it would hold off all day. Richard and I were chatting when a runner approached and asked if we were with Simon. We said yes and that was when we met Nicole.
Richard drove ahead and we started pounding the pavement. It was cool to see the actual running going on and be a part of it. Up to now I had only really been in the minivan and offering food and drink to the runners. There were a cone of complications on this stretch. A diversion from the main road due to Road works. Luckily it was only for a few hundred yards. We crossed the finish line and their were a few people waiting for us. Our finish line is the Boston marathon start line which is permanently painted on the road. It was cool to have a proper finish line to cross. After speaking to some people it was time to head to our new airbnb house. Tonight it was just Me Simon and Richard at this house.
Our house host was fabulous, she is called Philomena and originally from Ireland. Despite living in the US for 19 years she had retained her accent. After Simon had an ice bath she served us tea and cookies. We chatted for some time with her, caught up with our wives, put some washing in and then left for the meal at a local restaurant we had been booked into.
Philomena came too and we met some guys from team with a vision (a group of visually impaired runners and sighted guides) . Nicole the runner from earlier in the day also came. It was a really nice meal and the conversation flowed between everybody round the table. Anybody who didn’t know any better would have no idea what had happened today, and what that was only the beginning of.
We returned to the house and were all so tired we pretty much crashed straight away despite it only being around 9.30pm. Philomena’s daughter said she would join us on the run in the morning too which was welcomed by the group as we had no idea who would be there in the morning. Off to bed, ready to tackle another day.
Finally. I managed to sleep in till 6am. Hurrah. Although I will have to be up before that from tomorrow so my achievement is for nothing. This morning we knew that after breakfast a film crew would be coming to the apartment. Airbnb are documenting the trip and wanted to get some shots of Simon at one of the airbnb properties. Simon and Richard had met some of the film crew but they were new to me. It took quite some time to set up all of the gear for the interview with Simon, but once the interview piece was handled quickly and Simon spoke really well. Next the crew wanted some natural shots of Simon, Richard and myself being all natural hanging out in the apartment. This involved pretending to drink tea (all natural like) and sitting on the sofa and chatting, it’s tricky pretending that a cameraman and other crew members aren’t staring at you while you have a fake natural chat.
Some other shots were done of Simon in the apartment and some exterior shots of us recreating arriving at the airbnb listing. Again all naturally fake and a bit weird pretending to walk into the building for the first time ever 5-6 times. Finally the crew wanted to get shots of Simon running along the river in Boston. They took us down there and to save on time Richard went to Trader Joe’s for some groceries, mainly nutrition. On arrival at the river Simon did some short bits of running up and down for the video cameraman and also the still cameraman. I played coat stand as it was pretty cold and Simon put his coat back on between takes (talk about glamerous).
Warming Simon up we went back to the apartment and said goodbye to the film crew, we will see them again first thing in the morning anyway. Richard had made us some Grilled Cheese and Turkey sandwiches for lunch and prepped some pasta bolognaise for our late tea later on. We knew we would be back home late and wanted to be able to eat asap. After lunch we did some pre packing ready for the following day as this our last night in this apartment. As of now we will be in a different property everyday for over a week. The time slowly approached and we got ready to leave for the runkeeper event at Greater Boston Running Company. The drive there was eventful, the gas kept dropping out, but we got there in the end.
Once there Simon was able to pick some running kit as RunKeeper were kindly paying for some for him. He tried on some new running shoes and picked two pairs along with some other bits and bobs too. Shortly after this Simon was introduced to somebody. Simon recognised her voice. Her name is Kat and she is the voice used by runkeeper for the audio feedback telling the user their time and pace etc. It was weird listening to her speak, I had assumed it was a “robot voice” used on the App. Being a runkeeper user also I too was a little taken aback. Kat was lovely and she told us she was a singer in a band also. Simon has spent hours with Kat’s voice guiding him, reassuring him along his route. It was a great opportunity for him to meet the woman behind that voice.
Simon spoke to the people who had come along to the event and told them his story. I have now heard this story many times but it’s always nice to see people’s first time reactions to it. Simon fielded a few questions and snacks and drinks were on offer. It was a nice evening and it was clear that the guys from airbnb, runkeeper and general members of the public are behind Simon. And wishing him to do well on this journey.
We left at 7pm to get home in time to eat and do some last minute prep work before tomorrow. This is it. This is the moment everything has been leading up to, so why would it not start raining really hard and being really windy. The conditions are not ideal as they are. The hope is they will improve slightly by morning but either way tomorrow, the real adventure begins.
If you want to follow Simon’s progress and support him on his run the please click here
Another early morning. 4.30 am and awake. A pot of coffee brewing and Richard made Porridge with granola and banana for breakfast. We had no plans today until 11am so we tried to kill a little time before then but because we woke up early it seemed to take forever. We decided to go for a walk to keep moving. What seemed like forever later we set off for Montague bikes who were kindly donating a folding bike to us for use during the run. This means that one of us support guys could cycle along or run ahead if there were issues etc. It was very generous of them to do this and we were really appreciative. At the offices we met up with Alli from airbnb who has done a lot of the organising for the trip.
What surprised us was that it was a full size bike. The automatic assumption from me was that it would have small wheels and look like a folding bike. It didn’t. This was clearly a very nice piece of kit. The guys at Montague were really nice and encouraging. We had to say goodbye however as we had another appointment to get to.
Runkeeper has special significance to Simon, it is the app he used to enable him to run unaided on the street. Visiting their headquarters was a real treat as a result. They invited us all in and gave us some lunch of barbecue, coleslaw and cornbread. Simon’s running partner Neil (another Neil) met us at runkeeper too. Simon then gave the staff a talk about his journey as a runner up to this point. Some of the staff were aware of Simon because of his relationship to the app and it was nice to see them be so enthusiastic about his adventure. Eventually it was time to leave. Yet another pressing engagement on the other side of town.
Twitter Boston had invited Simon to give their staff a talk. I was quite excited about this as I kinda love twitter. Simon’s talk appeared to go down really well and their were plenty of questions for him to answer afterwards. Some staff joined us for a group photo and we got given some free tee shirts. The staff here appeared very inspired by Simon and we’re really accommodating. Alas it was again time to move on.
The last stop for the day was a meal with friends of Neil’s who live just outside Boston. We were honoured to be invited into their beautiful home and we were given a fantastic meal too. I feel like I haven’t had a bad word to say about anybody we have met on this trip and the reason for that is because everybody has been great. Neil’s friends treat us like we were part of the family and the conversation flowed all night. The most common themes of this trip so far are saying hi to people we don’t know only to say goodbye to people we don’t really want to say goodbye to shortly after.
We drove home chatted for ten then all crashed. Ready for the next day.
If you want to track Simon, his progress and support his chosen charity then please click here
Still unable to get used to the time difference I woke up at 4.30. Conscious that Danele had children I stayed in bed till I heard people moving about. Simon Richard and I came downstairs and sat in the lounge talking. One of Danele’s children came in and asked if we wanted some coffee. Before you knew it there was a little bit of a competition as to which of the kids was trying to impress us the most. Their parents tried to reign them back in and calm them down so they could get them ready for school. We felt a bit guilty for distracting them from this but at the same time they were so sweet we wanted to spend time with them.
The children went to school and Danele had offered to make us pumpkin Pancakes for breakfast, how could we say no. Danele was a fantastic host and chatted to us while serving up more coffee, OJ, pumpkin Pancakes, sausage and syrup. It was a breakfast of champions. Danele was in her running gear and ready to go so after a chat and letting our breakfast settle we headed out. This run was nowhere near as hilly as the previous run which was great. Danele, Simon and I ran down Danele’s Street which was really long, straight and quiet. It was perfect for a run, we chatted along the way and we’re running for fun not pace. When we got back to the Keepers Inn we got Richard and took a host photo with Danele.
After showers we ended up sitting and talking to Danele some more. A big part of this trip so far has been sharing stories. People are fascinated by what Simon is doing but we have been equally interested in their stories. Danele offered to make some lunch so we had a Grilled Cheese and soup and continued to chat. The problem with talking to interesting people is we end up setting off later than we want to. Eventually we had to say our goodbyes and headed out.
Richard drove to Cambridge, most of the journey was on a toll road. We were freaking out a bit about how much it would cost as we would be on it for over 50 miles. When we reached the toll booth we were ready to hear a real high number, the lady on the booth told us on was $2.90. Not quite the crazy expense we were expecting so we all had a chuckle as we drove off.
We arrived and met our new hosts Kimberley and Kevin who were really friendly and told us they had watched some YouTube videos about Simon. Their apartment is gorgeous and we have the entire thing to ourselves as they were staying elsewhere. Despite being here for 3 days we may not see the again so we made sure to get a host photo with them before they left us. Simon had been booked in for a haircut with a local barber so Richard went to whole foods to get groceries and Simon and I went to the barbers which was only about 3 minutes away on foot.
Sly was expecting us and greeted us warmly to his barber shop. Simon had the idea to shave the airbnb logo into the back of his head before then clean shaving his head. Sly was up for this and did a great job. After Sly gave Simon the cleanest shave of his life we headed back to the apartment where Richard was making chilli. After a load of laundry was put on We settled in for some food and football. It’s been really nice having hosts to entertain us and we have thoroughly enjoyed talking to everybody we have met but it was really nice to just slob out on the sofa and chill.
If you want to donate to Simon’s chosen charity for this adventure then please click here
Sleep was a luxury none of us could afford. Richard and Simon woke up at around 4am and inadvertently woke me up. I attempted to get back to sleep but they went downstairs. I followed suit at about 6am to find Richard had made a pot of coffee, sweet.
After some granola and a chat with the hosts Pete and Carin, Simon and I went for a run. We had discussed possible routes with Pete and Carin but hadn’t anticipated how hilly it was in their neighbourhood, nevertheless it was a good run and I saw lots of Halloween displays in front gardens.
After the run and getting cleaned up we got in the car and found a store and bought some things and Richard made some omelettes back at the house. We packed up and chilled for a bit as Pete and Carin had gone out and we wanted to see them again before we left. We had another nice long chat with them before saying our goodbyes. It was sad to leave them because they really had been so welcoming and nice to us.
Back in the car and on the road again. The trip took a little longer than anticipated due to getting lost a little bit, but not too much. When we pulled up on the driveway of the Keepers Inn, our next destination, we were greeted by Danele our next host and her son. We chatted with Danele for some time and were entertained by her three adorable and incredibly friendly kids. Danele told us that she runs a little and we arranged to go out for a run with her the following day. We asked where we could eat and got directions to a local bar.
We sat in a booth and looked at the expansive and really cheap looking menu. The staff were really friendly and nice and when the food came it was proof that quantity plus quality does not necessarily equal costly. The food was great and the bar had a really good atmosphere. Having never been to America before I remember thinking that sitting in a booth, eating a burger while watching American football and listening to Bob Dylan was definately the most American thing I had ever experienced.
We returned back to our lodgings sorted out who was sleeping where and spoke about staying awake for a few more hours to beat the timezone differential. Before long I was nodding off earlier than I wanted with a full belly and a smile on my face. Everybody we have met so far has been really friendly and nice and we’ve barely started. It can only get even better.
We’ve arrived, America. We thought Heathrow was big. JFK airport is enormous. Simon and Richard have been to America before but I haven’t. This means that they got the really cute, tiny little immigration line and I got the enormous dormant snake that is for first timers. I didn’t keep track of time for how long I was in line, I’m pretty glad about that because it was a long time.
Rental mini Van paper work done and off we drive. It’s a real strange experience driving on the opposite side of the road. It feels so unnatural but I think I basically got the hang. Driving to our first airbnb destination, zip code in Google maps and off we go… to totally the wrong place. A few readjustment and 15 minutes later we are in the right place. The house is stunning. We were met by Samson the dog who was lovely, his owners are pretty nice too. They made us feel so welcome after around 15 hours of travelling. To sit down with tea and cake and chat was really great. They directed us into town so we could go and get food. We stumbled across a Barbecue place that had ridiculous portions for not a lot of money and I wolfed it down. All three of us figured we would stay up till 11pm-midnight local time to adjust time zones. At 9pm I was crashing badly and we all went to. Bed.
Day 1 done. It was a massive day, it’s starting to sink in where we are and what Simon is going to do. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens to us all along the way.