The first week of my run has been interesting to say the least! I’ve already met some amazing people, camped a few times and… well, I already injured my foot leading to me wearing some attractive shoes.
On the second day of my adventure, it was pouring with rain. Like, POURING. I packed Caesar, but not everything fitted. So, I took the sleeping mat out, bagged it up so it wouldn’t get wet and put him on the top of Caesar.
As I ran, my brain went pretty crazy, like, ‘what are you thinking trying attempting something this big like running America? This is too far’. My hands started to freeze too, but I didn’t want to unpack Caesar to search for the gloves and get everything wet. I wasn’t in a good mindset, at all!
After a few miles of running though, with nothing but the sound of the rain beating down on my rain jacket and the trees swaying either side of me, I calmed a little.
Over the past few years, my life has been really comfortable, and I guess I’m just not used to it being uncomfortable again yet!
After 13 miles, my foot began to feel sore and a restaurant named ‘Breakwater’ popped up just in time.
The chef walked over to me and said, “I’ve seen you today, you ran past my road earlier! Here, look at my phone, I took a picture of you.” There I was on his phone. A tiny dot wearing bright colours.
I shared the story of my run to the chef Luke, mentioning that I’d started at Cape Alava. After half a marathon, I was looking forward to a good meal, and thought nothing of it
He came back a few minutes later with Shelby, a waitress. “You do know that Cape Alava isn’t the westernmost mainland point in the States, right? No, that’s Cape Flattery.”
They must have sensed my scepticism. Shelby broke the short silence, and said, “here, let me use your computer.”
She pulled Google up. I couldn’t contain myself, worried that it’d be true, so I said, “oh NO don’t start GOOGLING it!”
In the moment, I was proper gutted. Watching them laugh their asses off at me whilst they said ‘soooorry’ repeatedly did soften the blow and well, made me chuckle too – but now, I’m not so sure! I’ve Google Mapped it myself since and it LOOKS like Cape Alava IS west of Flattery to me (maybe Flattery is the most north western!?), but they’re not the only ones to have said it, so I’m seriously doubting myself!
ANYWAY, after chuckling about it, Shelby telephoned a place a half mile ahead to Winter Summer Inn and got me a spot, which more than made up for worrying me.
I ran on, becoming more aware of the aggravation I was causing my foot. I just put it down to breaking myself in.
I woke up the morning after and realised that my plantar fascia (on the bottom of my foot) was not in a good way.
I couldn’t take a break the day before at any point during the run. It rained so hard and to keep warm I had to keep moving but I’m worried I might have overdid it.
This wasn’t ideal, but I knew I had to take the day off.
I’ve trained – as well as you can for this kind of thing. I’ve had all the best advice I could get, and still, here I am, after two days of running and around 40 miles down, feeling a bit sorry for myself.
Thinking like that doesn’t help though, so I stopped and looked at the bigger picture. I call it ‘getting up on the hill’. A day or two now is well worth it given there are more than 228 marathons left to go. I’m actually a bit proud of myself for listening to my body for once and not getting all chimp about the situation and just pushing through!
I spent the day in Winter Summer Inn, icing my foot, then heating it back up with soaking it in hot water, and repeating. A bit of light yoga broke the boredom.
The owner of the inn, Sandy, happened to be driving into the town of Forks, an hour away, and said she’d stop at the nearest pharmacy. She picked me up some Arnica Gel, a natural inflammation gel grown from a plant in South America, and that helped.
Taking a day off this early on wasn’t great, but I knew I need to look after myself so it doesn’t turn into bigger injury later on.
Later on I was lying in bed trying to sleep, my irrational brain went mental with thoughts like, ‘you’re injured already? You’re never going to run across America – what are you thinking attempting this??!’
The thoughts were driving me so crazy I couldn’t sleep. And knowing sleep is the number one healer, I was getting even more wound up.
Then out of nowhere, something that’s never happened before in my lifetime, I thought of my Grandad in that moment.
A year ago or so, I was next to my Grandad while he was in the process of passing away. It was pretty weird, but I transported myself back to that very moment. That day, I remembered his breathing was so slow. So, I started synchronizing my breathing with his and it slowed mine down to the same speed and before I knew it, I drifted off to sleep.
At 6am, I trialled a walk with my shoes on to test the injury in my foot. After 40 metres, I had shooting pains and was limping. I felt pretty deflated and started to think that this was a pretty serious injury.
In slight panic mode, I called the local hospital and spoke to the nurse to explain my symptoms. We both concluded it was almost certainly, as I’d worried it was, either plantar fasciitis, or a tear of the plantar fascia. He said it would need three – four weeks of rest, at least.
After the call, I walked inside the bed and breakfast house I was staying in, pacing around barefoot thinking ‘how do I speed up the process to heal?’ I looked down and realized I wasn’t getting any pain at all, whilst walking barefoot.
So, I went outside in the pouring rain to run with no shoes on. I couldn’t feel a thing. NOTHING. It actually felt great!
All pumped up feeling no pain, I started to think, ‘I’ll run across America barefoot then shall I?’
After an hour or so though, I was doubting myself because I knew that I was just feeling too eager to move forwards.
I concluded with, ‘let me chat to Ed Archer’. I nickname Ed ‘Arch’, he’s a close friend of mine who’s a movement expert and is always sensible with decision making. After giving him the full low down he said, ‘get something underneath your feet that will make it as least painful as possible and get running. If that’s barefoot, I reckon do it. You’ll only be able to run a few miles at a time, but you’ll run the injury off, whilst continuing to get stronger.”
In my last adventure, Arch was always super sensible with a kind of mantra that said: rest, heal, get moving. So for him to say ‘you’ll run the injury off’, he must know something I don’t, so I didn’t ask questions, I just said “I was hoping you’d say that.”
After my chat with Arch, it was time to find barefoot-ish footwear. So I phoned at least 15 running stores in a 100 mile radius and they either didn’t sell any of the shoes, or no one would post the barefoot shoes out to me immediately (we were in the boonies). They all just went into the usual spill, ‘we can only get them to you in about four days’ time?’ My frustration rose, after each phone call I kept thinking, ‘didn’t you hear the part in my story where I said I’m in a race against time??!!’
In the end, I thought it would be best to head to the nearest big town to look around at some shoe stores.
Sandy, the owner of the B and B I was staying in, kindly gave me a lift an hour away to Port Angeles.
Looking around all the running stores in PA, they really didn’t have any barefoot running shoes of any sort. As they all said over the phone.
As I last attempt we went to Swains, a proper old fashioned American ‘General Store’ that sells everything.
As we walked around the shoe section, Sandy said, “what about swim shoes? They’d have a thin sole and would be barefoot-like?”
We walked over and found the shoes that were made for walking into the ocean – and I can honestly say, we found the best darn barefoot running shoes known to man. I even ran up and down the aisle with ‘em on saying “these are perfect!”
Sandy said to the girl that was helping us, “can he just wear them from now and walk out with them on?” I think Sandy was slightly embarrassed that I was walking around town in my socks with her.
Back at Sandy’s place, I packed my bags, pushed the buggy out and got so excited to don the Adventureman costume and get going again!
I left Sandy’s B and B, running barefoot, with no pain in my foot felt incredible.
My feet felt so light, instead of pounding the floor, I was now pattering the floor with each step, like a cat would.
After three miles though, my feet did become pretty tired from running on concrete. I quickly realized I wasn’t actually a superhero, and rather very human.
Six miles into the run with it raining, I really wanted a roof over my head. Eventually I spotted a house, and an old lady answered.
I said, “Hi, I’m running across America. Don’t feel obliged at all but I just wondered if you could help. Do you have some kind of roof that would keep me dry, I can just roll my mat out and sleep outside?”
She simply said, “no, sorry, I can’t help you.”
Her energy was beautiful, and I could see she felt terrible to not saying yes.
I ran on, slightly worried about the woman, now worrying about me, she seemed that momma bear type.
A few miles later, no houses popped up as I hoped, so it was time to set up my tent for the first time.
I was slightly anxious, I hadn’t tried the tent out yet and I hadn’t slept outside for quite some time.
I slogged around in wet grass, with feet soaked to the bone and started to set the tent up. I grabbed poles, and looked for holes, and filled them. Simples.
Looking at the tent, I was so proud of my quick turnaround I ended up lost for words. It was starting to get very real, and I like it!
Waking up to the sound of birds in my tent was lovely. Though, as looked at my aqua shoes, they were soaking wet and the realization of putting them on cringed me out.
I know I’m supposed to be an adventurer of some sort, but I HATE wet feet. I squirmed when I put them on.
After gathering all my stuff to the roadside to put all my wet stuff in the sunlight light, a Sheriff pulled in next to me, who I called a policeman.
He pulled out a pen and paper and took my details and seemed to like it when I called myself ‘Adventureman’. After a warm chat, he said he’d mention to people that I was in town.
Running on barefoot with wet aqua shoes on, I managed three miles before my feet were exhausted. Taking a break, I spooned tinned fish and butter into my mouth. Getting cold, I had to keep moving, so I cracked on.
Out of nowhere, the Sheriff turned up again. I said “you’re back?” He said, “I forgot to get a photo with you” I couldn’t believe it, I said, “I forgot to get a photo of you!”
Another mile down, a car pulled in, put their window down and handed me $20 and said, “this is for your cause.” Her name was Barbara, and this was the first donation out of a car! A few days ago, her friend had shared a Facebook post about what I was doing, after I met them at a restaurant. Barbara said, “I wish you luck, I love what you’re doing.”
I ran on, more like a panther than a house cat.
After six – seven miles, my right foot started to flare up again. So I called it a day – and stopped at a couple of homes to ask for a camping spot. They both directed me into the wilderness.
Eventually I found an old run-down recreation campground. I piled all my stuff into the open kitchen. Although still outdoors, I had a roof over my head. A roof was luxury knowing the rain was going to come.
Slightly cold, I prepared to bundle wood together to make a fire I pulled out two big weapons that Bear Gyrills would be proud of. 1. A lighter and 2. A fire lighter – freshly out of the packet. I still felt manly as I got the fire roaring.
In pitch black, watching the fire, I did an hours’ worth of yoga, stretching my injury out, battling insecure thoughts. Eventually I worked my way to repeating, ‘this may be the biggest challenge of your life and there’s a heck of a long way to go, but you can do it. Day by day, mile by mile.’