Stage 11: Palermo

If there’s one thing that Londoner’s like to complain about, it’s transport. Buses get a bit of grief and trams have had a bad rap lately - but it’s the trains that really suck. There’s nothing quite like a train delay is there? Leaves on the track, wet weather, lightning strike hitting the signal, driver’s forgotten his lunch. You name it, it’s happened.

So perhaps it’s not very surprising that Stansted Express trains were cancelled at 2pm on Friday 11th November. As I was travelling separately to the airport from Jay, we communicated our mutual panic over text message and agreed separate routes to travel to London’s most inconveniently located airport. I would be taking the coach and Jay would take an odd combination of trains via Cambridge as advised by King’s Cross station staff.

Now you know where this is going, so to cut a long story short - the train solution was not a winner. With myself on the aircraft pleading with cabin crew staff to keep the gates open, Jay charged heroically through the airport, sweating buckets to make it in time. I’m not exactly sure how much he missed it by, but it can’t have been by more than 60 seconds. Go home, they laughed. I could bore you with the reasons why they didn’t let him on, but let’s just say that Ryanair were... disappointing.

£100 later and another flight from Gatwick, Jay and I were reunited at an “Australian” sports bar in a typical Italian square. I don’t know a lot about Australian bars, but I know they don’t usually serve free pasta as part of an aperitivo. But who’s complaining right? I’ll be disappointed when I go to Australia and that doesn’t happen.

Exchanging stories of the past 24 hours, I told of my experience walking down the ugliest streets of Palermo by accident and encountering a dead cat. I actually thought we’d been mis-sold the experience until race day finally came. Running through the centre I finally came to appreciate the architecture that you find in the brochures about Palermo. And what a run it was - stomping through museum arches, flying down main streets and burning up in the long countryside paths. Neither of us achieved a personal best, but our new found friend Kritika flew round the route to get her best ever half marathon time. And all throughout there was RunEurope groupie Lois Perkins cheering us on, which always helps!

But the most interesting thing for me in this race was how the culture can sometimes reflect the organisation of the race. Now, I don’t want to stereotype but I think most Italians would forgive me for saying that things don’t always work as they should in the boot-and-ball shaped country. Whilst there were bags of free food being given out at the race registration, I had to laugh at the stewards handing out water - of whom there were far too few. Hot tip - if you have thousands of runners coming towards you, make sure you pour the water into the cups before they arrive! My words can’t express the mayhem that was caused by this not happening.

Anyway, despite a few hitches - I can’t complain. At least, certainly not as much as Jay. We had warm weather, beautiful scenery and scored a few more donations off the back of it. Thanks again to everyone who has followed us this far - we’re almost there! LISBON HERE WE COME!

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