The Daily Explorer

November 14, 2009

256 New York Minutes

New York City: November 2009

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MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): A warm welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. To our regulars, many thanks for viewing our online publication and for giving us your feedback. Over 24,000 visitors have been to see our site since the beginning of 2008. For new readers, Ray has been living nomadically for four years since he left England in November 2005. In that time, he has visited or lived in 16 countries and we have been publishing news and stories about his journey throughout that period. You can find all of these in our Previous Issues archive. We always aim to maintain our high standards of journalism and presentation, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com) or ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com

Our latest issue has been compiled for us by our US correspondent Nick Elandimer (above). Over the last six months, Ray has been preparing for his latest challenge – running in the 40th New York Marathon on 1st November. We have the full, exciting story of the race itself and some highlights from Ray’s eight day visit to the ‘Big Apple’.

In our last issue, Ray was getting ready to depart Chiang Mai for New York and the big race. Since our global nomad started training there in mid April, he had clocked up well over 800 miles on the road and running track! Our Asian correspondent, Me So Fit discovered that Ray had been battling a series of injuries which could have potentially ruined his chances of running the New York marathon in his goal time of under four hours. Ivana Getachek updated us about Ray’s recent fundraising event in Chiang Mai, which was a runaway success. And we took a brief look at some highlights from his social calendar during his last few days there. If you missed it, you can read it now at: Cheerio Chiang Mai

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Above: Our global traveller, who celebrated his 49th birthday this year, leaves Chiang Mai to take part in his first ever marathon. He has been training hard for six months, during which time he has completed two half-marathons and three 10k races. His goal – to finish the gruelling 26.2 mile marathon course in New York in under four hours – was undertaken to raise money for three worthy causes. In our last issue, we revealed how Ray had been battling a series of injuries which could have potentially ruined his chances of running the marathon and how he organised a hugely successful fundraising event in Chiang Mai before his departure. If you missed it, you can read it now at: Cheerio Chiang Mai

Stopping for a few days in London on his way to New York, I contacted Ray to find out how his final preparations for the big race were going. “Well Nick, I am very concerned about the injury to my left calf muscle, to say the least” he told me. “I had to miss a 12k race I had planned to do in Bangkok with my coach, Matt Campbell. With only about ten days to go until the big race, I am starting to wonder if the calf muscle will have recovered enough for me to run the whole distance. It is a major blow and would be extremely cruel if I had to miss out after all the training I have done” he added. “Having said that, I am being treated by an excellent physio in London who has done some massage, given me a bit of ultrasound treatment and I am stretching/icing the leg regularly to assist its recovery” he explained. “After all is said and done, it is a bit out of my hands. If I cannot run the whole distance, I am sure I will enjoy the experience, although it will be disappointing” said Ray.

A few days later, I discovered that Ray had managed to complete a ten mile run in London just three days before his departure, which was a good sign that his recovery was happening as rapidly as he had hoped. “I had planned to run twelve miles, but I could feel my calf tightening after about ten so decided to leave it there and wait until I got to New York” said our cautious runner. Over the last five or six weeks, I have hardly been able to train so I have probably lost a bit of fitness. But I believe I can still achieve my four hour goal, as long as my leg holds out” he said optimistically.

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Above: Our injured runner models his running vest for our photographer in London – “All runners are advised to print their names in large letters on the front and back of their vest so that people in the crowd can shout your name out when you go past” explained Ray. “Having been a spectator in New York at the marathon back in 2007, I can really appreciate how valuable this could be in the closing stages, when your body is really tired and you are running out of steam” he told me

Ray and Nikki had booked tickets with British Airways from London to New York. “We were able to get a pretty good deal on the fares, partly because of the general slump in the industry and partly because my brother Paul works for the airline” Ray told me. “He is a Captain on their long haul fleet and sometimes flies the New York route, although he was actually taking some time off work when we were due to leave London, so we knew he would not be on our flight with us. A couple of days before, he notified the Captain in charge of our flight that we would be on board, just in case it might be possible for us to select more comfortable seats for the seven hour journey” added Ray. What happened after this is the stuff of legend. “Nikki and I packed our bags and said goodbye to Paul and his wife Kitty at their house in London, and set off for Heathrow airport on the train. We thought the next time we would see them would be eight days later upon our return. But we had a bit of a surprise in store” revealed Ray.

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Above: During his few days in London, Ray received many messages from supporters and well wishers, including this card from Nikki – “I wonder if it is a subtle recommendation that I should run around the New York course with nothing on?” joked our traveller

Below: The kids from Namaste Childrens House, the orphanage in Nepal which Ray has been raising money for. sent him this wonderful photograph a couple of days before the race. It reads: “Dear Uncle Ray Martin. Good luck for upcoming New York marathon ‘Calling Angel” – “It was really unexpected and so lovely of them to do this for me – I nearly cried when I saw it. It made me feel very connected to them and determined to do the very best I could in the race” recalled Ray

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So what was the surprise that Ray was referring to? I was intrigued to find out. “Upon our arrival at the gate to board our aircraft, we were asked by the agent to step aside and wait for the flight dispatcher who wanted to have a word with us” recalled Ray. “This did not concern me, because I have been lucky enough to be ‘upgraded’ before on British Airways and this is usually how it happens. After a couple of minutes, he turned up and asked if it would be OK with us if we were moved to two ‘different seats’ – which we knew meant we were going to be upgraded to business class for the seven hour flight. I never expect this to happen, although I always hope it will, as the journey is so much more comfortable than in economy” Ray told me. “We had not realised, until we were shown to our seats, that we had actually been upgraded to first class” said our stunned, but very happy traveller. “Many years ago, my brother recommended that should an upgrade be offered, I should take a couple of minutes to thank the Captain and crew for this privilege. So when I was approached by one of the cabin crew saying that the Captain wanted to come and meet me to say hello, I was only too pleased to accept” recalled Ray. “About a minute or so later, the Captain arrived at my seat – it was my brother Paul!” said our stunned traveller. “It was one of the best surprises I have ever been on the receiving end of – and brilliantly concealed and executed by him and the rest of my family. I think I will be telling this story for years to come” he told me.

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Above: Ray arrives at the gate inside the British Airways Terminal (5) at Heathrow for his flight to New York – “Once we were spoken to by the agent at the gate, we knew we were going to be upgraded but had no idea what was about to happen…..

Below: “Your Captain for this British Airways flight BA179 to New York will be Paul Martin”; something which came as a shock and a welcome surprise to our global explorer after he boarded the aircraft and was shown to his first class seat – “Apparently, Paul had agreed to swap trips with the scheduled Captain several weeks before. Although I had stayed at his house for a week, he never let on about it and was even in his jeans, working in the garden as we left for the airport, completely concealing the amazing secret!” said Ray

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Above: Captain Paul Martin leaves the flight deck for a few moments (left, centre) to see how our travellers are enjoying their journey – “It was really kind of Paul to arrange this for us” said a very grateful Nikki, who was invited with Ray to sit at the controls of the huge Boeing 777 aircraft (right) after it had landed and been parked at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport

Below: The sight of the iconic Empire State Building (left) confirms that Ray and Nikki and have arrived in Manhattan – “Fortunately for us, we were able to go straight to the front of the line at immigration because we were with my brother and the rest of the crew (right) from our flight” said Ray

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Whilst in New York, our two travellers had made arrangements to stay in Brooklyn Heights. “It’s amazing how things work out” said Ray. “The first time I visited the Elephant Nature Park, over a year and half ago, Nikki and I met a wonderful girl called Angela (below, left), from New York” said Ray. “Even though we only spent a few hours together, we really hit it off straight away” said Ray.

A Botta“In July, when I launched my “Calling All Angels” campaign on the internet, Angela got in touch and said that we were both welcome to stay at her apartment whilst we were in town for the marathon, which really blew us away. Not only was it a really generous offer, it saved me having to spend a few hundred dollars on a hotel, which would have depleted the money we have been able to raise. Her kindness has meant that we will be able to donate much more to the organisations I am doing this for” explained Ray.

Arriving in New York five days ahead of the marathon, Ray and Nikki had plenty of time to acclimatise. “Having spent a few days in London, my body clock was already fairly well adjusted from Asian time” said Ray. “Of course, when I am running the marathon, the last thing I want is to have to stop for the toilet during the race so I have allowed myself plenty of time for my daily routines to adjust” he explained. “All runners arriving in the city have to report to the ‘Marathon Expo’ to register and collect their race number and electric tag for timing purposes, so we will be headed there soon” added our runner. “In the meantime, we can enjoy being in the city and hanging out. Nikki and Angela are planning to make a banner so I will be able to spot them more easily in the crowd on race day, and two more of my friends are coming into town for the race later in the week” added Ray.

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Above: Uptown or downtown? Nikki familiarises herself with New York’s subway system – “It’s just like it looks in all the movies” she said

Below: Ray and Nikki purchased a seven-day Metro pass, providing unlimited travel on the subway and bus system for $27 – “The weekly pass is excellent value” she told me. The subway was plastered with ads for the marathon, as our entrant quickly discovered (right)

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Above: Nikki (left) and Angela (right) take a walk through the Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood – “With three or four days to go to the big race, I was looking for places where I could load up with lots of carbs and found a couple of fantastic restaurants nearby serving massive plates of pasta and vegetables” said our runner. “I expect to burn over 3,000 calories in the 26 mile race, so will be looking to consume at least 4,000 calories per day for the two days before the race” he told me

Below: The world famous Brooklyn Bridge is only a few blocks away from Angela’s apartment

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Above: The view across the Hudson river from Brooklyn is of the financial district at the south end of Manhattan (left). Angela took Nikki and Ray to the local bagel shop on Court Street for breakfast (right) – “New York and bagels go together like smoked salmon and cream cheese” said Ray

Below: Our two travellers were in the Big Apple for Halloween – “They really go over the top in their celebrations here” said Ray as he passed this house on Henry Street

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Above: Our very excited marathon runner arrives at the Expo, held at the huge Jacob Javits Convention Centre on Manhattan’s ‘west side’

Below: We’ve got your number!” Ray receives his official race number and electronic tag for his shoe – “My bib number is 32548, which will give you an idea of how far back I will be amongst the 40,000 or so runners at the start!” he told me

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Above: All race entrants collecting their electronic race tags have to pass through a scanner to ensure they work properly, as Ray does with his (left). Then its off to the information point (right) – “Can you tell me if I have any chance of winning on Sunday?” jokes Ray

Below: For people looking for 15 seconds of fame, one of the exhibitors at the Expo was taking pictures of marathon runners so they could be continuously broadcast on the big screen in Times Square

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Above: Nikki shares a big, warm hug with Regina Meredith in the Soho area of Manhattan – “I was absolutely delighted that Regina and her husband Nic, who came to visit us in Chiang Mai whilst I was training, were able to join us in New York to watch the race” said Ray

Below: Our runner and his friends headed for Washington Square Park, near Greenwich Village, for a bit of fun!

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Above: If you are lucky, you can find some marvellous entertainment in the park, like the singing group in this short video clip

Below: A street artist completes another beautiful creation for passers by

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The 40th ING New York Marathon

Speaking to Ray a day before the race, I asked him how he was feeling about the huge challenge he was about to face. “Well Nick, I am about as excited as anyone could be – this is easily one of the biggest days of my life so far” he told me. “I don’t think I could have prepared any better than I have done, and injuries aside, I feel absolutely ready for it. And knowing that we have raised over $15,000, which equates to $575 for every single one of the 26 miles I am going to run, is a huge motivator. I believe I am doing something really worthwhile which gives me a tremendously deep feeling of satisfaction, whatever the outcome of the race” he told me.

Ray’s coach was also in contact the day before. “His knowledge and experience has been so valuable at every stage. Like many other experienced runners, he made sure that my race strategy was right for my goal and warned me about going off too fast at the beginning, which is the major reason that most runners fail to reach their goal time. I arrived at the start on Staten Island at around 7.30 am, well hydrated, fully fuelled up and buzzing with adrenalin. I was in the second start wave, going at 10am so there was plenty of time to get myself warmed up and mentally prepared” recalled our athlete. “Even though I had taken part in a couple of competitive half-marathons in Thailand, it was impossible for me to be totally prepared for or make any meaningful comparison with the start of the New York marathon, as the size and scale of it was just mind bogglingly huge” said Ray.

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Above: There are so many people wanting to run in the New York marathon that there are three ‘waves’ of starts, at twenty minute intervals. Each wave comprises of three different corrals (left) which are moved into position on the south side of the Verazzano Bridge (left). After the start gun has been fired, the three corral’s then converge into one heaving mass of runners (centre) and it is very difficult to move past anyone at this stage (right). This is why the organisers ask people to state their target times on their applications, as they try to ensure that the runners who are trying for a faster time start nearer the front. Each runner has an electronic tag attached to their shoe and as they cross the start line, it registers on the computer system and starts their official race time. The same system is used to keep nominated friends and family members updated throughout the race via the internet – “I joined a four hour pace group at the start and ran a slightly slow first mile, as the first half of the bridge is quite a steep uphill climb and it is crowded. The second mile, which took me over the bridge into Brooklyn was slightly faster” said Ray

Below: Nikki displays the colourful poster that she created with Angela that Ray could use to locate them in the crowd – “The night before, we looked at the route and they wrote down the times I would arrive at each checkpoint if my race was going according to plan, which it did for the first half of the race” explained Ray. “When I reached the eight mile mark, after about one hour and ten minutes, I saw the poster in the distance and headed towards it. Both Nikki and Angela were so surprised to see me eyeballing them for a second as I passed, they almost fainted” he recalled, “but it was great to have found them in amongst the thousands of spectators that turned out” added Ray

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Above: The final three and a half miles of the New York marathon take runners along and eventually inside Central Park, finishing at the ‘Tavern on the Green’ near Columbus Circle – “I was slowing up considerably by this stage of the race” said our athlete. “I reached the halfway mark in exactly two hours, which meant I was on pace for my four hour finish. By the time we crossed the Queensborough Bridge, at mile 16, my calf muscles had started to tighten and I was fatiguing. I struggled to stay in contact with my race pacer and eventually had to let him go. Knowing I wasn’t going to make the four hour finish, I re-planned my objective to make sure I ran the whole race rather than walked it, despite the growing tightness in my legs” he told me

Below: This sign was a really welcome sight for Ray – “I am so glad I had my name printed on my running vest” said Ray. “As I ran the final mile, I was feeling very tired and slightly faint, as if I had literally no energy left. The crowd were fantastic and as I pushed myself towards the finish, I could hear people shouting “Good job Ray!” and “Come on Ray, you can do it” and other words of encouragement. Just thinking about it makes me feel very emotional as it is such an amazing part of the whole experience” he said

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Above: Waiting in the bleacher seats at the finish line were Nikki and Angela on one side, and Nic and Regina Meredith on the other – “One of my friends works for ING, who sponsor the marathon, and he managed to get me two VIP tickets for the finish area for the girls, which meant I knew I would see them just before I crossed the line” said Ray

Below: Only a few metres to go as Nikki captures this wonderful picture of Ray as he spots her in the crowd – “She had no idea how tired I was as” said Ray, who was pretty well exhausted as he crossed the line, in an official time of 4:16:29 seconds. Not bad for a first marathon at 49! – “All I could think about at this point was the chance to stop running in a few seconds time and get some food and drink inside me” he recalled. “It was a great relief to have completed the marathon and a great feeling of satisfaction after six months of training in which I had run a total of about 820 miles to be fully fit and ready” he told me

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Above: Although he desperately tried to get Ray’s attention as he ran towards the finishing line, as you will see in this short video clip, his friend Nic was unable to!

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Above: About half an hour after crossing the line, a very tired Ray is re-united with Nikki and his friends on Central Park West – “I was so pleased to see her as she rushed to congratulate me. It was appropriate that she was the first person to do so as she has supported me at every step on this incredible journey, through thick and thin” said Ray

Below: After the race, Nic very quickly gave his coat and cap to Ray to keep him warm – “It is incredible how quickly my body temperature started dropping after I finished” said Ray. “We had to make our way to my friend’s apartment a few blocks away and I could hardly move my legs” recalled our marathon man

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Above: For those readers who are interested in some of Ray’s statistics, these screenshots show the key performance data. The data is collected in a GPS device worn on the wrist and uploaded to the internet after the run – “Eagle eyed readers will spot that my own time differs from my official time by a few seconds and the total distance covered is also different. That is because the official distance of 26.2 miles is measured taking every corner at the tightest possible angle, which is impossible to do in the race itself as there are just too many people” explained Ray, who consumed nearly 3,200 calories in the four and a quarter hours he was running. The red line, starting at the green arrow, traces Ray’s actual route through the five boroughs of New York. For more detailed information and a closer look, click here

Below: Long distance runners might appreciate a look at Rays ‘split’ times i.e. the times for each individual mile for all 26 miles. You will see that mile 16 (crossing the Queensborough bridge) was slower than all previous miles, due to the steep uphill climb,  and although he was able to recover in mile 17, from that point Ray was unable to maintain the pace required for a sub four hour finish. Mile 24 was particularly tough and the improvement beyond this point can be largely attributed to the tremendous energy of the crowd who turn out to cheer all the runners on in the final stages and enthusiastically shout out their names – “Maybe I will have another go at doing a four hour marathon at some point” said Ray afterwards, “but for now, I am just glad to have done it and would not be too upset if I never had to do the training again” he told me

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Above: Ray gets a huge hug from friend and fan Libby Turnock (right) as he arrives at her apartment on Cathedral Parkway at the northern end of Central Park – “I met Libby just a couple of months ago in Chiang Mai” said Ray. “She was doing some voluntary work at the Elephant Nature Park and when I told her I was raising money for the park by running the New York marathon, she instantly befriended me. I discovered that Libby had run the marathon five times! She also very kindly donated the use of her apartment for an after race party for me and my friends – she is a great lady and I am very grateful to her for being so generous!” said Ray

Below: Ray celebrates his accomplishment – “I had not been drinking alcohol for ages because of my training, so that first glass of champagne tasted and felt very good indeed” he told me

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Above: Finishing the New York marathon was not the only reason to celebrate. It was also Nic’s birthday – “He is one of my best friends and I am so happy that he was there to share this very special day with me” said Ray

Below: At the party, Nikki kindly presented Ray with his very own, limited edition, commemorative ‘Finishers Cap’ which she secretly acquired for Ray to mark the occasion

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Above: Been there, done that, got the T Shirt, er… I mean got the cap! Ray can now tick one more thing off his bucket list!

Below: Ray appreciates how lucky he is to have the loving support of Nikki (left). Later that evening, Nikki and Angela put their extensive knowledge of yoga to extremely good use, helping Ray to stretch off his very tight muscles! (right)

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Above: The day after the race, and a very stiff Ray and Nikki (left) head to Manhattan for a bit of sight-seeing – “We were very fortunate to meet up with our friend Bharat whilst we were in town (right, with Nikki), who we first met in Ko Samui” said Ray. “He is a very experienced palm reader and gave Nic a reading for his birthday” added our recovering runner

Below: The spectacular main hall in Grand Central Station, which has been featured in hundreds of movies, is well worth a view for first time visitors to the city

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Above: Nikki and Bharat stand on the sidewalk on 5th Avenue (right) and admire the tower at the Rockefeller Centre (left)

Below: If you cannot find the book you want at this store in Chinatown, you are probably looking in the wrong place!

52 If you cant find book you want, you are probably shopping at the wrong place

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Above: What a load of balls! Nikki admires the Christmas decorations that are hanging in the entrance to Macy’s on 34th Street

Editors Note: First of all, our sincere thanks to Nick Elandimer for bringing us the news and pictures from Ray’s visit to New York and the marathon itself. And our congratulations to Ray, both for completing the race and for raising over $15,000 for all of the worthy causes supported by his “Calling All Angels” campaign.

Ray is now in London, recovering from the marathon and planning his itinerary for next year. We hope to go online with our next issue of The Daily Explorer in a few weeks. We always aim to maintain our high standards of journalism and presentation, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com) or ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com

MOZZIE BYTE

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Above: Congratulations from everyone at The Daily Explorer to Karla Portch (right), who recently tied the knot with her Australian fiancée Mike. Karla was Ray and Nikki’s teacher when they studied for their Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate at the Chiang Mai University in 2006. We wish them both a long and happy marriage!

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6 Comments »

  1. What an amazing accomplishment for you and for each and every person who in some way joined you on the longer marathon journey that began when you decided to embrace this experience. This is a powerful example of how people can come together, work together giving their own unique gifts to a process greater than their individual selves and find the most amazing gifts along the way. My gift is in knowing and loving both you and Nikki.

    Comment by erin — November 15, 2009 @ 1:39 am

  2. First Class blog -as always- Big well done again! See you soon H

    Comment by howard — November 15, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  3. Ray, you rock!!!! I can never even contemplate the kind of training you did for this event (let the alone the event itself – wow) but I can definitely relate to the feeling of not being too upset if you dont have to train again! Having said that, I am back on the skating team for another year….we never learn. Congratulations on the money you raised – what a fantastic achievement. I hope you SERIOUSLY enjoyed that glass or so of champagne, you deserved it!
    xxxx

    Comment by maree — November 15, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  4. We have just read your blog and we have to say we’re filled with emotion as well as admiration for you (and Nikki for her undying support). We have SO enjoyed reading your Marathon story from it’s early beginnings .. what an achievement, especially as you were fighting an injury! (Needless to say, I LOVED your story about your brother and the secret flight to New York… these are the little extras that make life soooo sweet… kiss your gorgeous brother for me!) What a geezer… yeah… getting to grips with London slang again! LOVED all the photos and the photo from the orphanage in Nepal was priceless… as well as Nikki’s ‘Go Ray Go’ poster… loved them all as well as the whole story which as you know we have followed from the starting line! Just a tad annoyed that we couldn’t be there to cheer you on and do a Susie Paparazzi too… Ho-la! Ray… you are one in a million… WELL DONE… but what’s next on your ‘bucket’ list? Better be awesome!!! Big hugs and kisses… Cyber space LOVE from Susie Cream and James X X X

    Comment by Susie Moberly — November 17, 2009 @ 7:14 am

  5. Great blog! It really gives an idea of what it’s like to do a marathon – and great for me as it brought it all back! However you have raised money for good causes as well, which makes it a double achievement. Lovely to see New York, especially that Verrazano Bridge. Thanks for all the photos and descriptions. ..You deserve some rest now!
    Love, Jane xx

    Comment by Jane Harries — November 18, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  6. What a brilliant blog. Myself and my family are really proud of Ray and his achievement and have been really happy to support him in any way that we can. For myself, it was such a brilliant thrill to surprise Ray and Nikki on their flight to New York. Everything just happened to come together to make this possible. My favourite moment was going out into the First Class cabin before we got going to say hello. Remember, Ray & Nikki were expecting a Captain who they’d never met before. When I showed up next to their seats there was this pause which seemed like forever where Ray just stared at me, not believing what he was seeing (it just didn’t compute). Clearly his expectation and what he was seeing just didn’t match up. Then he screamed ‘Oh My God’ and we hugged! It was an unforgettable moment and those of my crew that witnessed the event were amazed. It was such a pleasure to be his ‘chauffeur’ at the start of his journey!

    Comment by Captain Paul Martin — November 20, 2009 @ 7:02 pm


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