Better grab a cup of tea for this one sorry team...
"The final furlong, the last leg, the GF, the home stretch, the big show, the green mile..."
Funnily enough, today again had a movie theme ringing in my ears during the last few hours. It was that line from the great Tom Hanks movie - The Green Mile. If you're Marty O'Rourke, Joel Patterson or my brother, you will have already predicted what line was being repeated by me over and over in my head during the tough times today...
"We got a dead man walking here! - Walking the mile, walking the mile.."
I certainly felt like a dead man walking a few times today and smiled at the thought of the afore mentioned boys calling out that line as I slowly shuffled along.
This morning I got an earlier start that usual, more out of frustration than anything else. I was up at 4am, already sweating as the air-conditioning in my room didn't work and Rome was pretty toasty last night. I resorted to pouring water over myself in bed during the night to combat the heat. The unimpressed land lord will understand I'm sure.
I had predicted that I would hit a barrage of traffic this morning as Rome rattled into action, so my early start was aimed at racing through the city before the masses woke up.
For a change, my plan worked. Usually I am cursing myself for taking another wrong turn or badly guessing what the menu said but today I was due a pat on the back!
Just as the traffic, and the day started to heat up, I was skipping out the other side of the city (Skipping is a massive exaggeration). The most difficult part of this morning though was keeping my emotions in check.
A number of times I had to stop and remind myself that Day 5 would be no less difficult than Day 2 or 3 or 4 (Day 1 is an exception that I will explain later...). Even as I was packing and going through my morning routine, I was so keen to get out the door that I risked missing part of the process which could have had dire consequences later in the day.
DK vs DK.
The thing about endurance events, in my limited experience anyway, is that everything becomes magnified the longer you endure. A grain of sand in your shoe, a crease in your sock, a rubbing strap or a minor hot spot somewhere on your foot will eventually become a huge deal if left unattended.
I have a structured routine that served me well each morning but this morning I was rushing that process in a bid to get on the road earlier. That same enthusiasm had me moving too quickly a number of times this morning or taking silly photos of things to commemorate the journey. More than once today 'Logical DK' had to have words with 'Excitable DK'.
Today's scenery was more industrial city that romantic village and up until the final stretch I was in a good head space to deal with this. However, Excitable DK got his hands on my phone at one point and before I knew it he had taken a screen shot of the remaining distance and excitedly sent that map to my family! To make it worse he also posted it to Facebook but thankfully only Em and Simone were quick enough to see it before Logical DK caught on and deleted it.
This was a perfect case of getting ahead of myself and didn't I pay for it after that...
ITALY vs DK.
The final 18km looked short on the map but there was a definite feeling that 'Italy' did not want me to finish this trip and she was going to throw everything at me on that final stretch to make sure I didn't.
The long stretches of road in front of me suddenly doubled, allowing me to see for kms into the distance now. The arch enemy of a distance runner, even a hack like me, is being able to see the pain ahead of you. At the same time the road side shade disappeared completely, the width of the highway halved and the trucks seemed to get wilder during this peak hour traffic stretch. Italy was putting up one hell of a fight!
At one point I needed a brain break and ducked into a supermarket on the side of the highway for water. My spare bottle was empty and I knew one bottle was only going to last about another 30 minutes. After putting my bag in a locker (I assume that's what the angry service lady meant) and searching the store for water, I made do with a luke warm energy drink and headed to the counter. There waiting for me was the same angry service lady swiping her way through 2 massive trolleys of groceries, at a record slow pace. Well played....
Eventually my weary feet and heavy legs arrived at the seaside, carrying the Bear and a prized photo of Lucian. We had run, walked, shuffled and crawled 250km across this amazing country and we were finally able to take some time to soak it up. I had no idea what I was going to do once I actually hit the water - I had no speech or dance prepared. Strangely I hadn't actually thought about this moment.
Using my phone I attempted to capture parts of the moment. Quick video, snap shots and personal thoughts. Before long though, I was casually told by the life guard (Roberto, who spent a year at Bondi as it turns out), that this was not a free beach and I had to move on. He helped me take a quick photo and then it was time for me to gathered up my bear and belongings and head up to the sidewalk again.
It's a difficult feeling to explain, and I will attempt to do it better tomorrow once it's all sunk in, but finishing a journey like this feels a little strange. I didn't expect a marching band or any fanfare but to every other beach goer there today, I was just some bloke getting his feet wet and then walking off the beach again. I doubt anyone even noticed I was there actually. The only people that know what I have been doing and know what I have been through are a 1000 miles away.
Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not feeling sorry for myself - I'm the luckiest guy on Earth! I guess what I'm trying to say is that the adventure has such a distinct finish and now it may take some time to sink in properly.
WHAT A TEAM.
The most satisfying thing for me though had definitely been the incredible team effort. It's been absolutely tremendous!
I am usually very reluctant to open up about these adventures because most people have better things to do than wade through pages of my dribble. But hearing that my family and close friends have enjoyed the trip and even felt a part of it in some way, makes it all worth while. Like I said, this has been a huge team effort by everyone involved. Every donation, every message, every like and comment - both the heartfelt and the humorous, have fuelled this trip. I owe every single person a debt of gratitude for making this adventure happen. Every single message was read and appreciated!
And now that this adventure is drawing to a close please know that everyone has played a part in doing something special. Not just this week but for years to come now. Together we have raised funds, remembered a special little man and maybe inspired a few other people to reach for something a little irrational. Something worth chasing. This trip has confirmed the notion that with belief and support, we are all capable of achieving amazing things.