Inspired by Banff film festival and after a touch of tequila, Emma and I thought she should run from the west coast of Africa to the east. This is our story of dreaming up the idea, researching it, planning, training and running the distance.
(I’ll admit I put this photo here because, I think it is beautiful and I thought you might like it too but really, it belongs later on in the post.)
If you have a crazy idea, Kendal Mountain Festival is definitely the place to go to get support and advice. Its inspiring hearing about the limits that other people have pushed themselves to. To hear them speak about their adventures with absolute joy and talk about the emotional and physical challenges they went through. It was a huge learning experience for me.
Jez Bragg gave a presentation about his 3000km run, along the length of New Zealand, on the Te Araroa Trail. It was an honest portrayal. The three main points I took away are:
Shoes: It’s pretty obvious but shoes are incredibly important. Jez Bragg has lots of shoes, lots and lots. He keeps his shoes dry and sand free. Emma is running through the desert and into the rainy season. We’ll need gaiters to keep the sand out, lots of shoes and a method of drying them. I am about to test a drying/desmelling method, I shall let you know if it works.
Trail runners like to run on trails: Jez talked about loving being on trails and off roads. It brings home to me Emma’s dislike of roads. We’ll have to find a solution and enable her to go on tracks as much as it’s safe.
Although if the roads are as enticing as the one in the photo at the top of this post, finding trails where Emma can find that runner’s peace, won’t be a concern.
Celebrating: After running 3054km Jez Bragg asked the question, “How do you celebrate running that distance?” That’s a good question. How do you? How would you celebrate running 4000km across 4 countries? But maybe its too early to think about that.
Hooray, we have our first confirmed sponsor! Edible and we like their ethos!
I met the UK Market Manager of Clif Bar at Kendal Mountain Film Festival and after hearing our story and the challenges of the run, he offered as many energy bars as Emma can eat. These, the shot bloks and Clif bars, can be kept in equatorial heat and humidity and will retain their quality and shape. We will see. We shall test them in the deserts of Namibia and tropics of Mozambique.
I am hoping that we get a few extra ones for the support team, as they are yummy and some are dairy free.
Jay tells me that driving a car at 4mph behind Emma whilst she runs (he does not know speedy Emma) is not good for cars. It might not be good for Emma – me, sitting comfortably in the 4×4 behind her, munching chocolate bars, whilst she is busting her knees. Jay runs the garage, Mini-max, where I shall soon be studying. He wants to know what my plan is as, “no car in the world can manage that”. Clearly a challenge for engineers everywhere, please design the slowest car ever – Oh, that’ll be a tank! Slow moving and potentially rhino proof.
Or a cheaper and friendlier option is the bike after all (We will still have a car, before anyone gets confused, it will be nearby, but the bike can be right beside her). This means, I will have to learn how to fix a bike too (no kidding, its something I’ve avoided learning for most of my life). They say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks: if they can’t teach me, Emma will have a lot to do aside from running a marathon each day.
Other than that, during our Saturday night catch up, I learn that if you aren’t strong enough to loosen the wheel nuts when changing a tyre, you can use a spray or heat (he’s thinking of a blow torch, not charcoal from a log fire or equatorial sunshine).
I am feeling a little apprehensive about working in the garage in a few weeks time, I don’t like that part of learning when you are in a permanent state of confusion and even simple tasks start to elude you. Apparently, there’s no heating. I am going to be coooold.
We pass just below the Niassa Reserve which looks beautiful. Maybe we can visit it once the run is over. Shortly before Christmas.
Google maps and my map/information don’t agree much on this bit, so it’ll all be flexible as we go but the 242 comes up as an ‘all weather route‘ across the province. Really excited about going to Niassa. Its not somewhere I’ve heard much about.
The rest of the route is planned too but Google maps and I are in disagreement whether there is a road to Mukumbura. Just checking this out and whether the border crossing is possible. According to Google: A to I is 2,494 km.
The Namibian Embassy have emailed me back, I am to contact the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Youth National Service Sport and Culture to ask permission and advice! I’m a bit overawed. The Permanent Secretary!
As it turns out, the office of the Permanent Secretary advise me to call the Directory of Sport who advise me to call the Deputy Director of Community Sport and Development.
Luckily, I find www.planet-numbers.co.uk, and for £5 I buy myself 83 minutes worth of calls to Namibia. I have used 11 minutes and 70p.
I get through to Mr Bernard-Kaanjuka, who is a delight to speak to. It feels like he is gently laughing at me or may be with me, but definitely gentle laughter.