Wednesday, 2 May 2012

USA Day 2 - Revisited (02/05/2011)

Day 2 was the first time on the tour that I'd ever woken up in a Wal-Mart car park. In the RV of course! This was to be the first of many such way ups! I think I referred to overnight RV location as "The Campsite" on my blog at the time. This was for safety and security reasons. It wouldn't have been a good idea to give our exact position away on a daily basis. In fact, I was learning quickly that it wasn't a good idea to give various pieces of information away on my blog and on Twitter/Facebook. Tune in to day 4's blog post for example on Friday when I'll talk about the drugs bust.

Meanwhile, as planned, Shelli left the support team in the early hours of the morning to catch a flight home. This left Richard and Stu on support team duties for the next 13 days until Las Vegas.

To help get in the mind of a long distance runner and to assist with the writing of the book (that was never to be!) I was accompanied by Stu for most of the day. And what a day it was! Another absolutely scorching day in the Californian sun in fact. 

The first obstacle was about 5 miles into the run where I had to cross a major road under construction that was signposted "No pedestrians". It seemed like an insurmountable obstacle at the time. I crossed the road with great fear and hesitation. I was so relieved to be able to continue the journey without any problems once I reached the other side. Looking back, that situation was hardly worth worrying about. Quite pathetic really. At the time, though, I felt sick to my stomach that my carefully planned route had hit a potential dead end and that the run across the USA was in jeopardy. 

The temperature got to 31 Degrees Celsius at one point. It was hard work to run in such heat. Especially weighing 18.5 stone as I did! I think my training in the heat chamber served me well though and I was able to make it through to 15:00 after running 16 miles or so. Later on in the run across the USA I'd manage to run 16 miles easily before midday and in temperatures of up to 45 Degrees Celsius. Those early days were very tough going now I think back.

Such was my tiredness I took a 2 hour break until 17:00 where I took on pasta, iced my swollen feet and had my very first "tactical snooze". The RV was parked in a side street and the world passed us by while I tried to recover as best as I could in the short space of time that I had.

I felt much better after the break and the miles started to go slightly quicker. I'd started the day in what had been quite a nice Chinese community. The quality of the neighbourhoods dipped somewhat with each mile ran. It wasn't long before I was running through a rough Mexican neighbourhood. The stark realisation that I was no longer in the safe area of LA started to hit me. At least that was my perception at the time. I've said many times since finishing the run across the USA that I was a very "timid Englishman" during the early days of the run. I think my opinion of San Bernadino was as a result of that and possibly misplaced.

This area was the first time that I saw the huge freight trains that were to keep me company for the next 10 days. I was fascinated by them. I had so many questions. What was the cargo? Where had they come from? Where were they going? I even counted the number of wagons in each train. I think the record was  194. This may seem like a ridiculous thing to say but I always felt a lot safer when the trains were close by. They were like a friend to me. I even managed to get a wave or 2 from the train drivers which made my day. Call me insane but it helped the miles go seemingly quicker!

After I ran past Ontario International Airport and into Fontana the landscape changed. I was running through a huge industrial park. It seemed to be 10 times the size of Team Valley in Gateshead. It was very modern with thousands of buildings. I later discovered that this was the regional hub of the trucking industry. Hundreds of Millions of tons of good must be shifted through here every day. I really got the sense of the size and scale of the operation when running through this part of California.

It was dark by the time I reached the outskirts of Fontana and I spoke to Gary and Lisa on Real Radio. This, of course, was the first of many calls to the show. Producer Mac would ring me up to setup the line etc. Then I'd record the short interview with Gary and Lisa to be aired later on that morning. The time difference at this stage of the run wasn't was quite kind. Later on in the run I'd do the interviews quite late on at night usually from the comfort of my bed in the RV. It was always a pleasure to speak to them and it soon became as much a part of the run as, say, my running shoes. Here is a link to that first interview - listen to ‘Run Geordie Run on Real Radio (USA Day 2)’ on Audioboo.

The remaining few miles were completed just before midnight with Richard in the RV and myself communicating via walkie talkie. His directions were excellent and I had managed to run 30 miles before calling it a day in what seemed like quite a dangerous neighbourhood.

Given the really tough conditions I was very pleased with another good haul of miles on day 2. That gave me 62.4 miles in total meaning I was ahead of schedule. Albeit only 0.4 miles ahead of schedule!

We stayed at another Wal-Mart that night. When we parked up, a security car was over straight away to enquire who we were. All of these stays had been pre-agreed with the relevant store manager. This had been done in advance by one of Shelli's student colleagues, Kate Beaver. This worked really well and saved a lot of time and explanation. I felt quite safe at Wal-Mart. Security were onto us like a shot so I would imagine they would have been on hand had anybody entered the car park and approached the RV late at night. Hopefully!

Another day was over and the supportive messages that were being received in may different forms; text messages, Tweets, emails and the Skype calls with my family were really helping. That support was not only to grow stronger over the next 98 days but it would make such a high difference to the outcome of the run. Please stay tuned over the next few months to find out how and why that was the case. In the meantime, I've really enjoyed reliving day 2 of the run across the USA which was on May 2nd 2011.

I'm interested to hear your opinions and questions too. If you have a particular question about the run across the USA then please get in touch at I'll incorporate the good ones in my blog. 

One interesting question I received on the back of yesterday's "Day 1" blog post was from Tracy Gullet (@tracygullet) who asked "What led you to choose Huntington Beach as the starting point of your 3100 mile trek? I have family in Huntington Beach, and we live fairly close to Hwy 36 in Missouri, so your route helped me connect with your story.". 

The answer to that one is fairly simple. My route was based on a foot race across the USA held in 2004. Huntington Beach was the start point for that race. It was very important that the run had "coast to coast" status which is why I started on a pier in the Pacific Ocean and finished on a pier in the Atlantic Ocean. There was no doubt then that the run was, indeed, "coast to coast across the USA". I've heard of a few similar crossings that finish in Central Park, New York. These haven't gone down on record as being coast to coast which is a bit of a shame in my opinion. Therefore, my run was from Huntington Beach, California to Coney Island, New York.