Week 9 hasn’t really been a productive one to be honest! I had to take a few days off due to illness, but I did run over the Golden Gate Bridge! Can you believe that? And more importantly (to me anyway) I got to run over the Golden Gate Bridge with my childhood hero, Dean Karnazes.
I’ve spent the last 40 days running every day and I had to take a couple of days off.
I was battling a pretty rough virus and I seemed to be getting worse, so thought that the time out would help.
Luckily, I was hanging out with a really lovely family; Jonica, Steven and Jenna – the Harrison’s who are the VinoShippers.
I had my first shave in a long time and my Adventureman suit finally had its first wash in 40 days – so a proper clean up all round.
As well as the family looking after me, I kinda feel like their whole neighbourhood adopted me, too.
Having dinner with all their friends, a stroke of luck happened, as they had a friend Fred Challoner who used to be a doctor.
(Just a heads up, I’m about to share something pretty personal with you, as well as my virus I’m having another problem!)
So back to the story, sitting with Dr Fred, I explained to him I was having a few problems down below, between my legs, as it felt pretty achy and he turned to me and said,
“I’m going to be honest, I can’t really tell you what the problem is unless I look at them and touch them. Do you mind if I finish off my dessert first?”
We both looked at each other, and though it was a fairly serious moment, we just burst into laughter. We couldn’t help it.
After the giggles, it was time to check the problem.
Whilst Fred was looking, he discovered a hernia in my abdominal area.
I know, I didn’t like the sound of that either.
Fred explained that it should be fine, unless it gets worse, and then it will need to be surgically poked back in.
That’s the not-so-great news but it’s not going to stop me yet.
Fred explained, “you’re putting your body under so much stress, so something like this is understandable.”
Anyhow, I decided to rest up for a few days and get back to running when I’m feeling better!
After two days of rest, it was time to hit the road for day 62 – I could feel the tell-tale tension in my belly that said so.
A neighbour of the Harrison family who I was staying with, Darlene, called ahead and found a couch I could sleep on 26 miles ahead.
So that day was going to be my first full marathon.
All of my two months of running have felt like training for what’s coming up.
From the beginning of the run, nothing has really felt in my favour, battling the injuries early on but none of that matters now, it’s time to start running marathons if I’m going to make it in time, visiting as many communities and hospitals before my visa runs out on my way to Maine.
Leaving the Harrison family and the neighbourhood was pretty sad as I feel a really strong connection with them, after spending 48 great hours with them.
After hugs and a goodbye, it was time to start running.
My legs were soooo fresh it was lovely and accompanying me on the run was Gwen and Lorry.
Running along together, it turns out Gwen is a runner and a nurse. She explained that one of the hardest parts in nursing is caring but trying to not get too emotionally attached to the patients, as it can be tough letting them go.
With Lorry, she opened up too about having breast cancer 25 years ago. Her and her husband Herb (who was our support driver for the run) retired early and took their kids on a big road trip around America not knowing the outcome of her life. At the end of her story, she said, “while we were having such a great time for a long time, we were like s#%t, I hope we don’t run out of money! It’s looking like I’m going to live!”
We all laughed and ran effortlessly just gas-bagging away.
After 10 miles, we stopped off at a Thai restaurant to meet a couple, Brenda and Martin. They were the parents of my friend Denise Gooding (Jody Gooding is her husband, another friend of mine).
It was amazing to eat one of my favourite dishes, masaman curry, and chat about my Gloucester connections back home.
Fuelled on Thai, I ran on and managed to hit my first marathon of the trip, 26 miles. I allowed myself to feel really proud. I think I can honestly and finally say that I’ve broken the back of it!
Landing into Kate’s house, she waited up until midnight to feed me ribs and veggies. There was a small problem though… her dog was not enjoying the Adventureman suit whatsoever!
He kept barking and growling at me. Kate’s husband was in bed and I was worried about waking him. Kate said, “here, I’m off to bed, I’d feed him some of your ribs if I was you.”
So I did, I fed him a piece and he was happy to eat it, but then he growled at me until I’d give him another piece. I kept saying ‘shhhh, now is not the time’ and tried to imagine what Crocodile Dundee would have done to silence the dog, but nothing worked.
Off he barked again!
Kate had to take him away and put him in the bedroom in the end. You can’t win everyone over, huh?
The next day, Kate and her friend Jill took me for lunch to fuel me up ready for yet another marathon.
This run though, seemed to go by… in a Flash (SORRY).
I had to make it to the town of San Rafael, as the next day it was planned to run to the Golden Gate Bridge, AND with one of my childhood heroes, Dean Karnazes.
Dean is a bestselling author and a crazy, crazy ultra-runner, that has run 400 miles in one go! I read his book when I was 16 years old. It was one of the first books that I ever read cover to cover and it blew me away that you could run more than 26 miles in one go.
So, I spent every mile thinking about the questions I’d ask him. What about this? What about that?!
With all these questions rolling around for Dean and a lot of day dreaming, a call popped in from Paul Herrerias, who wanted to take me for dinner.
At 10pm, I was nailing a burger, fries, and sinking a beer with Paul, which was the perfect combo to finish off my second marathon in as many days, running 28 miles.
Landing into a park in the early hours, I set up my tent, climbed in, excited about running over Golden Gate Bridge and spending some miles with one of my heroes.
If it ever felt like I was in America, it’s now!
Some people might like to run with Brad Pitt. Some might like to run with Angelina Jolie. Me? I’ve always wanted to run with Dean Karnazes. And the today had finally come.
On the morning I was due to meet Dean, I woke up in Creek Park having spent the night in my tent.
After packing everything back into Caesar for the day, I spotted a man running along the pathway towards me. He was wearing a bright top and I thought, ‘that’s Dean for sure!’
I walked over and went in for a giant man hug right away. The first thing Dean said to me was “how are you doing?”.
It sounds silly but his question took me aback. There was a tone in his voice that said he genuinely cared and really wanted to know the answer. If there was anyone in the world who could empathise with ‘how I was doing’, it was Dean. I felt a connection with him straight away.
We set off running from the park and I was turning over the billion questions I had lined up for him. As you can imagine, hanging out with your hero I wanted to maximise the time we had together on the 12 miles between the park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Most importantly, I wanted to let Dean know how amazing he is. So I showered him with of all the reasons why I think he’s amazing. That took a while.
Dean kept trying to interrupt and turn the attention back on me and give some love back for what I was doing – but I wasn’t having any of it. I really wanted this to be about him hearing what an impact he’d had on my life and on the lives of others too.
As we ran along, I got advice on my barefoot running in the cat shoes and I asked him whether I might be causing an injury later on down the road by carrying on using them. Dean said, “it’s hard to predict the future and know when or if something is going to go wrong isn’t it? I’d say if it’s working for you for now, just stick with it.”
If Dean says my cat shoes are cool, then I’ll keep on pitty-patting away.
After the barefoot shoes advice, I asked Dean about his legs. The man has legs to die for! There are hugely muscly and have veins popping out around the calves.
Even if I spent my entire life squatting, I’d never have legs like those! And if my girlfriend Anna caught sight of Dean’s legs up close, I’d be dumped immediately. I cannot compete with the mega muscle!
After sharing my man crush on Dean’s legs (with Dean… awkward), I mentioned that I’d be doing adventures for the rest of my days but that for an entire year on the build up to this run, I felt a tension in my belly and I wasn’t sure if I could handle heading off on an adventure again. I asked if he’d ever felt anything similar, and he replied:
“No, I actually haven’t. But I’ve heard climbers, like climbers that do Everest that get a similar feeling.”
He always had an answer to help.
Dean was patient with me on the run, he always ran slowly and I never felt under pressure to run harder or faster. All was going well until we hit a big steep hill and things started to hurt. I thought ‘don’t slow down now Jamie. Dean Karnazes is next to you!’
Ultimately, through all of our chat today Dean made me feel that I was on the right track with everything I was doing. From my mental approach and right down to me pouring peanut butter down my neck at every chance I get. And living on fish, that too.
At 11 miles, the Golden Gate Bridge came into view and it was magnificent. It was so bright, bold and so very red – standing tall and proud against a backdrop of city buildings and under a clear blue sky.
Just beneath the bridge we entered into low hanging mist – the infamous San Fran fog was upon us. It came out of nowhere and glided over our bodies making me shiver slightly and the hairs on my arms stand to attention. It was amazing.
As we ran onto the bridge and neared the end of our time together, I wound up for one final big question. I turned to Dean and said: “So why do you love running so much?”
He replied, “I love running for the sense of freedom and adventure. You meet people. You see things. You experience the world. I mean, tourists wouldn’t get to feel that cold fog on our body and skin like we did just now. We ran through it. You don’t just see the sights, you feel the wind on your skin. It’s just a more immersive experience. I think it’s just beautiful.”
Dean packed me off with a warm hug before he left me on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. He ran off into the distance – off to pick up his kid. From hero to father in one fail swoop.
Although I’m not sure I’ll ever love running quite as much as Dean does, his passion for running is without a doubt infectious. It’s on a level that I’ve never experienced before and it’s no wonder that he’s making such a big difference in the world – by encouraging people across the globe to get off their butts and run too.
They say ‘you should never meet your hero’, and I’d say… what a load of rubbish. Today was one of the best days of my life!