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.
My name is Mike, the ‘third wheel’ of the Head Over Heels team. I was lucky to meet Emma at the start of last summer whilst climbing at my local crag in the peak district and we started climbing together through the summer. Climbing quickly builds trust in a person and with our common passion for the sport we soon became good friends. When Emma mentioned she needed a support team for the challenge, I jumped at the chance!
I’m currently in the Austrian Alps and writing this blog after a good day snowboarding! I’m spending 2months here in the Alps with friends, exploring the mountains & pushing myself to progress with the sport. I suppose this sums me up pretty well; I love to be outside, whether it be climbing, snowboarding, surfing, running, biking…you name it, i’ll have a go at it. To explore new places with good friends and overcome the challenges that come with sport and travel, that’s what keeps me ticking.
So hopefully this stands me in good stead to be on the team. I have plenty to learn in the build up to Africa. As Emma’s main bike support I will be carrying supplies whilst she’s running and setting up camp. Fortunately for the others I brew a good coffee too, even if I say so! I will also be learning some new skills for the trip such as sports massage and using fancy filming equipment to document the journey!
Training out here in the Alps with snow underfoot is far from what awaits us in Africa but it’s good early preparation and I can’t wait to get stuck into some training with the rest of the team when I return to the UK!
This is the first time I’ve really hung out with Emma and its great to discover she is one of the nicest people you can meet and she has as daft a sense of humour as me.
On Friday, we fitted in an 8 mile run round Richmond park in the dark.
It was peaceful and companionable. When the deer start to run across the road in front of us, we decided if a stag attacked us, we’d use the bicycle as a shield and hoped it wouldn’t wander off with the bike hooked on its antlers.
The adventure travel show, on Saturday and Sunday, was loads of fun. We met lots of experts in their field, passionate about their countries and jobs and technological developments. It’s a travel geek’s heaven. I’ll go into detail in later posts but inspired by the VBA I decided to give out awards:
Most supportive people award goes to Travel Africa. One of my favourite memories was walking up to the Travel Africa stall and the lady on the stall totally jumping on the story, wanting Emma to write an article and maybe some updates, and then they were incredibly helpful with advice and encouragement.
The most helpful person: frustratingly, we missed Doug McDonald’s presentation on Zimbabwe as the room was packed, so we went back the next day to speak to him. Doug, who runs a safari business, talked us through everything: which roads would be driveable; where we could camp; who we need to get permission from; and where wildlife will be a danger – in areas where elephants are hunted and shot, the elephants become fearful and will either run away or charge and kill us. When Doug said he would liaise with officials to get permission to go through certain areas, I nearly hugged him. And he had advice on how we might work with schools along the way.
Most eco-friendly product:Incognito – developed by a biochemist. It has every eco award going and it is clinically proven to be effective at deterring mosquitoes. We shall test it against midges in the summer before we go.
Most useful local titbit: goes to Drive Botswana for knowing that a particular side road in Zimbabwe is very rocky, we will get at least two punctures and its almost impossible to rescue a car if it needs towing out.
Most interesting stall that had nothing to do with us: Pangaea Exploration. These guys work in marine conservation, documenting levels of plastic in the ocean. They take volunteers if you are interested.
Most freaky piece of information: came from Charlie McGrath, from Objective Travel Safety, who told us to watch out when we pack up our tents in the morning, as snakes will slide under the ground sheet to curl up beside you for your body warmth. I’ll be honest, I didn’t believe him, but my aunt tells me that my grandfather (or somebody like that) woke up to find a cobra wrapped round his feet. I can’t imagine the fear that will shoot through me if I wake up to find a snake cuddled up with me and really hope I don’t find out.
Most encouraging talk:Leon McCarron, for a talk that was honest about the mistakes they made, which made me feel a lot better about the mistakes I will make and have made. It’s all part of the adventure. I liked his comment, “once you relinquish control, that’s where it gets really exciting.”
Then Monday morning we were up and off to Hills Balfour for a meeting with their PR team and Namibia experts. They were great. Providing us with advice and information and offering to put us in contact with the relevant people. Most of all though, it gave me the idea that I would love to make a little computer game of Emma running across africa, jumping over crocodiles and heading down dead ends. If anyone knows how to do this that would be amazing.
Afterwards, we popped into the Zimbabwe tourist board but they had gone to lunch so happily it was time to go home:
A special thank you has to go to my lovely sister-in-law for letting us dump our stuff and shower after the run, Black and Blue waterloo for delicious free food, wine and cocktails (definitely recommend them), Emma and Ross for having us to stay in their living room and cooking us a delicious roast dinner, and my nieces and nephew for hugs and love.
Total cost: including train tickets, bus and tube travel, food, show entry and accommodation (free), approximately £120 each!
Train tickets booked, show tickets bought, 10 mile run in London for Emma planned, adventure travel show programme studied and talks put in the itinerary, (yes, clearly, I’m the geek. Happily, that is my role). Potential sponsor/partner researched. They are amazing. We’re meeting them Monday morning. … so excited.
The fabulous Psyren has nominated the blog for the Versatile Bloggers Award. Thank you. I’m particularly chuffed, as Psyren is one of the few blogs I read, when I should be doing something else. She draws brilliant comedy sketches, which I would rip off and put in here if I had any artistic skill. The VBA is essentially a big star from someone who likes your blog. It’s particularly encouraging to get it from someone who lives on the other side of the world who we have never met. (I have great difficulty believing my friends when they say they like the blog. I think it shows what nice, encouraging people they are.) The rules of the VBA are that you should thank your nominee, include a link to their site (tick, tick) and detail 7 things about yourself. As the blog is now by Emma and me, here is some info about each of us, (I think its pretty easy to guess which is whose):
In 2012 I took up pole dancing. It’s an incredible sport where you can have a good old proper laugh with lovely people and it’s incredibly good for you, I actually gained a six-pack when training regularly. I even managed to come second in the Miss Pole Dance UK amateur competition.
My favourite colour is yellow. It’s so warming and happiness promoting. I love anything yellow!
I believe if you work hard at anything you can achieve it. But you have to work really hard. I’m not an intelligent person but if I want to be good at something or understand something then I’ll work as hard as I can to get it. Anybody can!
I like to be silly, and I like people that are comfortable being silly too. It’s great!
My ideal saturday morning is playing touch rugby in the sun: sprinting, catching, dodging round people, scoring tries, working as a team, laughing at moments of complete ineptitude and coming home covered in mud.
I like to do yoga. My body feels happier afterwards.
My favourite animal is a hippo. Hippos are fantastic, they are loyal (I saw a documentary where the hippos fought off hyenas from a dead hippo), vegan, not to be messed with and mostly sit around in the mud making harrumphing noises.
And then we are meant to nominate 15 other bloggers. 15! There are lots of intelligent, funny, informative blogs that I could spend my life reading so having attempted to reach 15 and decide who should be in and who shouldn’t and who doesn’t already have a VBA. I have chosen only a few who spring to mind immediately.
Blogs that …
Make me laugh:
I am going to nominate Psyren, I’m not sure if I can tag back but her blog is funny and I love it.
Then there is, Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy, I am uncertain if Aussa Lorens is for real but frankly nobody could make up her stories so I think they must be true.