The joys of travelling and other topics

The London Marathon – arguably the biggest marathon in the world and when people set out to complete one 26.2 miler in their lives this is quite often the one they want to do. I get it. I’ve both run the course and supported from the side lines.

As I enter the ballot to see if I can be lucky enough to run it again next year I reflect on the experiences I have had with the event over the last year (and a bit); in 2018 I ran round two weeks after the Paris Marathon so it was a really tough day but a really rewarding one. This year I almost lost my voice supporting one of my good friends run it as his first marathon. Last year it was the hottest London Marathon on record so that presented its own challenge, one I’d not expected or trained for but equally it meant that the crowds were out and I suspect also presented a record number. This year it would have been far more pleasant running as it was cloudy and cool and at one point there was a refreshing drizzle of rain – but that’s the gamble you take when you sign up for an outdoor event in the UK!

So, how do I compare and contrast the two days – running it was obviously the more challenging, both physically and mentally but it was the first time I’d witnessed a marathon live without running it and it was far tougher and more tiring than I’d expected. My view of my friends that have been amazing support to me over the years is that they turn up, pick a spot and enjoy some food, beers and the atmosphere of the day. I was wrong. It was an emotional rollercoaster of a day seeing some people joyously running along have a great time and then the next batch all struggling and running with gritted teeth. Throw in the nervousness of missing the one person out of 42,000 that you want to see and you have a day where you’re walking miles, skipping meals, fighting crowds and are constantly on edge.

We watched from two vantage points; the first being at 20kms so most people were still fresh and feeling good and there was a certain buzz at this stage as the runners were about to cross the halfway point – my friend was beaming and stopped for a hug and a photo, whooping as he ran. The second viewing area was at 40kms so offered a very different feel and glints in the eyes and smiles on the faces of the runners had certainly dimmed somewhat. There was now in its place a look of sheer grit, determination and pain. All running technique had gone, all the training and buzz of the day seemed to have drained from them and it was merely trying to drag their bodies to the end…..only 2kms to go! The crowd however were unwavering and never let up. While running the marathon the previous year it was very difficult to enjoy the crowd. Whilst I was always aware they were there towards the end there were moments that their energy levels almost annoyed me – I certainly didn’t have any energy left for cheering an whooping.

Both offered unique experiences and both will remain with me for years to come, but which would I rather do? The answer is clear. I would rather run it than support it – the life of a marathon runner is a selfish one, choosing training runs over all else continues and I don’t think I’m anywhere ready to give up the challenge and elation of completing what is a phenomenal achievement. Either way it’s a great day and certainly one to remember….

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There were very few things that I could not have done without as, if you think about it, most places you go have a lot of the same shops as home so you can always by things, but one thing that I would have been lost without was my laptop. The ability to search for travel options, hostels, hotels, tours and places of interest without fellow travellers glaring at me and breathing down my neck for their turn on the computer was invaluable. I have always been a bargain hunter, I like knowing that the price I pay for flights, hotels, in fact anything, is the best price I could get and this has never been as important as while travelling the world on a budget, so being able to research all of the options for future plans was very important and over the year must have saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. The only thing booked before I left the UK for a whole year around the world was my flights into and out of each continent and my first hostel in New York, so I definitely had a lot of researching and planning ahead of me. Read the rest of this entry »

How did I end up punching myself in the ribs causing weeks of pain and a trip to A&E? Well, it all began with the simple plan of going on a snowboarding holiday, something I had wanted to do for years but hadn’t got round to. Three friends and I decided to go on a boarding holiday so firstly had to decide where to go.  We decided to stay in Europe mainly for financial reasons, but also to keep it a bit simpler so we didn’t have to bother with international flights, time changes and other things related to heading out of Europe. So, where in Europe? Read the rest of this entry »

Where would we be without these paperback companions? I’m not sure, except I know that we’d all be very bored on planes, trains, buses, boats and any other transport method you can think of, not to mention the inevitable wait for them to arrive, the delays that always come with travel and then when you get to your destination when you decide to have a lazy day to recover so decide to chill out in the sun, and what’s better than soaking up the rays with a good book in your hand? Very little, which is why millions of people fantasize about it on a daily basis while running in the monotonous and tedious rat race or crammed behind their desk drinking the dregs of their coffee which has long since gone cold, dreaming of the days where they get up early not to rush to the office but to the pool or beach to get the best spot before the towel claimers have their pick! Read the rest of this entry »

What do you fancy for dinner, and where? A common enough question, in fact it’s one that we face every day. Fancy a burger? No. What about a pizza? No. Pasta? No, I fancy something a bit different. Alright then, we’ll have a snake smorgasbord and I know just the place…..Snake Village in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The first time I was in Vietnam, back in 2008, I heard about an ‘experience’ you could participate in whereby you drank snake blood, as the Vietnamese used to do it so now gullible tourists actually pay money to endure drinking snake’s blood. I didn’t get round to it while I was there so I decided that if I ever found myself in Vietnam again then I would make a point of ‘ticking it off the list’, so when, in 2010, I was travelling around Vietnam I found myself back in Hanoi where I had seen the experience I signed myself up on the first day there, with Hanoi Backpackers. The next issue was that they needed a minimum of 6 people to do it otherwise they cancelled, so I had the potentially difficult task of finding five other victims, I mean volunteers, to sign up and pay money to do something that most people would want to be paid to do. I used the usual tactics of suggesting the idea over a drink in the hostel bar Read the rest of this entry »

Scuba diving in Koh Tao

During my year around the world, one activity I had been looking forward to was learning to scuba dive. My brother had raved about it for years and a few of my friends had given it a go and not had a bad word to say about it, so I decided that it was another thing to go on the to do list. The first and most obvious question was where to try it? I was tempted by Australia as they have the Great Barrier Reef, but upon investigating prices there it seemed sensible to wait until Asia to try it as the scenery would be just as spectacular, but without the western price tag. I did, however, do 30 minutes of assisted diving at the Great Barrier Reef so I knew that come the big week of full diving I was ok sticking my head under water and breathing with the regulator. So I’d decided on a continent, now to narrow it down little by picking a country…. Read the rest of this entry »

Hi, and welcome to my blog – Andy’s Allsorts. My name’s Andy and in this blog I will be talking about all sorts, hence the name. I recently spent 12 months travelling the world and had some absolutely amazing experiences, so thought the best way to preserve these memories would be to get them down on paper, so to speak, in the hope that it will be a record of my doings and also in the hope that others will be inspired or find some of my posts helpful or at least a little amusing.

It took me a while to get into travelling, as I didn’t even go on a plane till I was 15 years old, but once I had passed this mile stone and discovered there was a big wide world out there to explore there was no stopping me! I also realised that life was short and took on the motto ‘carpe diem’ – seize the day – so I’ll pretty much have a go at anything and try to have new experiences as often as I can. It’s very rare that I’ll get asked if I fancy going somewhere or trying something and will reply with anything other than yes, so I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures on this blog…..