Run Israel back on track

TrailRunMag 08.05.2013

It was always a big ask – to run more than two marathons a day, day in and day out, in arid conditions, for 12 days straight.

Prior to leaving Australia, Rich had sat with Trail Run Mag out on trail and while the words coming from his mouth were the usual confident, give-it-a-crack vernacular of the Rich we know and love, the look in his eyes was somewhat different. There was caution there, a glint of doubt. Even Rich, who had knocked off the Bicentennial National Trail and the Te Araroa to cover more that 8000km in under nine months, was unsure if he could really hold that daily distance for that long. You could tell the enormity of the ask was starting to seep in and niggle at his confidence.

And so it was that as he clicked over at the halfway mark, Rich stumbled, literally, in his mission to run the Israel National Trail. At the time his partner and support crew manager Vicki Saunders wrote to us:

Spring at Ein Zur near the Zihron Valley “We are dealing with some pretty heavy hearts (the whole Run INT Team), and badly infected and blistered feet (Richards!)…….and have had to take a break from the run. Rich ran 520km in just 6 days, before being admitted to hospital in Jerusalem where it was discovered that his foot was badly infected (he already had blisters that had turned into open wounds, but they were not the problem).
After having his foot drained, and antibiotics and strong painkillers prescribed, against doctors orders Rich was out on the trail again within the hour, and managed to run another 40km. The next day, yesterday, Rich ran 45km, the final 15km was with me as I needed to see what he was realy going through. He was in agony the whole time with his foot turning inwards uncontrollably causing him to stumble and fall avery few metres. I asked when it would be enough, he said he couldn’t allow himself to stop while he could still stand up.
Within 10km, he could barely stand, and I saw him break down as he stumbled down the dirt track, he screamed out in pain and sadness, it broke his heart, but he admitted he couldn’t continue. However, we still had 5km to go, and they took about 2 hours to complete in his broken down state, I tried to hold him up each time he fell.
He said his body from the ankle up was completely strong and healthy, as was his mind, but the infection made it impossible for him to walk let alone run.
Ben Shemen ForestThere is a chance that Rich will continue running, but as I need to get back home, the support crew will not include me.”

That was more than a week ago now. Rich, as stubborn and brave as he is, took some time off his feet, knowing to continue would likely not just slow his progress but stop it altogether. The rest may have frustrated him somewhat – he’s not a man to sit around and sip cocktails while reading a book – it also worked. Rich has been back on the trail for a few days now, Vicki picking up on his progress:

“Richard  is back on the INT, going for the northern section of the trail.  Is his foot back to normal? No, not quite, but he felt ready to push himself to complete the trail that nearly broke him just 9 days ago.

He is [still] going for two marathons a day. And all that just a week after the infection in his left foot literally brought him to his knees.

During his days of rest in Tel Aviv, Richard turned into somewhat of a celebrity in Israel. The media has been keeping up with him, interviewing him here and there. The big international Jerusalem Post newspaper covered his comeback with another big story, even the German MSN website featured Richard’s spectacular journey.

He met with Tourism Minister Uzi Landau who presented him with a Tourism Goodwill Ambassador certificate, acknowledging Richards enthusiasm and positive contribution to promoting Israel as a great tourist destination.

During his week off, Richard hosted a talk in a Pro Sport shop downtown Tel Aviv, where he answered curious questions from fellow runners in the crowd about his technique, his nutrition, his hydration, his ‘secret’… The essence of his answers and advice being: “Focus on running.” Listening to him talk, it really seems like he was born to run. He will host another talk in Jerusalem on Sunday.

 Now back on the trail, Richard has been keen to increase the mileage originally set for this final 400km, and today saw him complete 94km from Tel Afek to just north of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coastline. Many local runners joined Richard for sections throughout the day, and this kind of support has been constant and much appreciated throughout the entire project.”

Keep up with Rich’s ongoing progress at: