Running across Africa – blog 1

Sorry it has taken so long to get this first blog out there, as I’m sure you can imagine I have been quite tired and not been able to find time in amongst the hectic life of running and sleeping! And, I’m sure you can understand, internet access in the middle of nowhere is not so easy to find.  I have decided to keep it quite simple and show you the distance run each day and some highs and lows from my diary. I don’t have much experience of writing blogs so this may not be the best way to do it but I can adapt it the next time perhaps.

Day 1 – 37.70km

I wanted this trip to be coast to coast so I literally started in the sea at Henties Bay. The whole team got in the sea and we all had lots of childish fun and giggles, splashing around. The energy was great, a real sense of the journey beginning. The environment is real desert, you can see for miles, nothing but a flat horizon and sandy, sandy ground. Not easy running. I managed to pull my left quad while attempting to stretch, good start to the trip. We set up our camp on a puff adder’s home which was a nice surprise for us all!

Day 2 – 45.08km

Woke up in a soaked sleeping bag, delightful. There is a lot of moisture in our tent considering we are in the desert. Morning running was cold but extremely refreshing. The air outside was also really wet, my face was dripping as I ran. Legs: seriously stiff. As soon as the sun came up the mist lifted and I felt like a new woman bounding along. This was ruined after breakfast when the wind was directly in my face for the rest of the day, the sand was deep and the sun blistering. Aaagh! Seriously tight calves.DSC01270

Day 3 – 46.36km

Ran through Spitskoppe, this place is stunning. Huge, towering boulders surrounded us for miles around. We noticed some routes were bolted, and there were chalk marks, no climbers to be seen though. Would be great to return and climb here. The running got really hard after breakfast. Hot, sandy, windy. I had drunk plenty of water but hadn’t had any salt today and suddenly I felt horrendous. Mike was a hero and set up a shelter for me within seconds. I lay down, ate a Clif Bar, dozed off for ten minutes and woke up feeling perfect again. In the evening I studied the maps closer than I had before and decided that to get the best route I should back-track 7km which is slightly annoying but would be best overall.

Day 4 – 42.17km

Running today would have been perfect if it wasn’t for my right knee that had been hurting for a day at least. I am feeling acclimatized and energetic but just in pain. In the evening we thought we might get attacked by bandits. As we were sorting things out in our camp, which was hidden in some bush-land, what sounded like two men on horses came down the road noisily. They stopped alongside our camp, got off there horses and walked into to bush towards us. We switched off our lights and stood in silence. A car came along, there was some chatting and the horses went. It sounded like the men were still by the camp though. After some time of being stood in silence we decided we were being daft and we should just pack up quickly and go to sleep. Me and Mike slept in our separate two-man tent and the others slept in the car as they were leaving at 4am to sort visas. Once everybody was in bed, me and Mike heard footsteps outside our tent, without saying anything we prepared ourselves for danger. Mike lay with a knife in his hand and I held the pepper spray. Just silence. Again, after some time of laying there we felt stupid so decided sleeping was a better idea. We are still alive.

Day 5 – 46.59km

Aysha and Woocash left with Robert at 04:00 so they could take him for his visa run. My knee felt really stiff this morning, again, this was annoying as I otherwise felt on top form. I had a good day running. Robert returned with the bad news that his visa could not be extended so he must leave us tomorrow but will hopefully return as soon as he can. We slept in a rhino and elephant reserve this evening. Aysha and Robert slept in the car and I slept in the rooftop tent with Woocash and Mike. At about midnight I felt the tent rocking and woke up. The boys unbelievably slept straight through. There was the sound of an animal trotting down the road a short distance and then returning to the car. It would scrape at the floor with a foot, give a little grunt and then nudge the car which was causing the tent to rock. It would move around the car and do the same again. This continued for at least half an hour. The boys just kept sleeping. I felt like an orchestra conductor giving each of them a small prod every time their snoring began to reach a croshendo. I am hoping that our visitor was a rhino but i’ll never know. Whoever it was they took Mike’s smelly flip flops as a souvenir.

Day 6 – 38.00km

Half way through my first running session today I suddenly felt crippled. My knee that had been causing me some problems seized up and it was excruciating to move. I could barely walk let alone run. I was doubled over in agony, the kind of pain that makes you feel like you might vomit. This was terrible. I felt so annoyed with myself. I was just hoping that continuing to run on a bad knee hadn’t made it worse. I slowly started to jog and as I got warmed up it eased off but each time I stopped it would go back to being stiff again. This is frustrating as it’s so hot that I need to stop to hydrate otherwise I’d have a whole load of other problems. I decided to have an easier day and lowered my mileage. I also changed my stretching routine which will hopefully help.

Day 7 – 48.57km

All four of us slept in the tent last night, this is overcapacity I think as I woke up with condensation dripping on my head and my sleeping bag soaked, delightful. Had a good days running though I was worried about my knee but it seemed to be holding up. We had been running through a hunting area all day which apparently isn’t safe for roadside sleeping so we drove around looking for somewhere to sleep. Eventually we found a guest house to sleep outside, they were actually closed but the lovely owners invited us in for dinner. They were actually from Manchester but live in Namibia and they had heard us on the radio this morning (must have been repeated from a while ago).

Day 8 – 50.74km

Had a really bad nights sleep on the back seat of the car. My legs are so restless in the night from the high mileage that I’m doing. Having them squashed up in the night isn’t really a good option. The morning began badly, no energy, tired legs, felt like I dragged myself around. Then, later on I felt proper chipper, managed to get my longest mileage in so far. I did loads of stretching, loads of foam rolling and got lots of massage. Aysha made a delicious pilchard curry for dinner, yum.

Day 9 – 41.63km

This was the first day that I have had to run on a tar road, all the rest has been sand and gravel. I changed into my road shoes when I met the tar at 5km, this was a disaster. I had the same problems that I have experienced at home before, the feeling of a pebble under the bone in my foot. I think its called ‘Metatarsalgia’. Whatever its called, it’s really not pleasant. As soon as we met up with the car again the road shoes were off and trail shoes back on, I’ll just continue to run on the dirt at the side of the road. Road shoes and road running are clearly just not for me, I’m much better off playing in the mud and dirt! By about 15:00 the time had come, I had completed almost 400km and I was due a day off. We had been invited to stay at Africat, one of the beneficiaries of Tusk who we are raising money for.

Day 10 and 11- 0km

Africat – lots of interviews and learning about the charity.


I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all the sponsors that have helped this trip to be possible.  A massive thank you goes to the Head Over Heels team who help me out each step of the way, these guys are meticulous with their care and attention, love and support. A special thank you goes to Michelle Pennell and Michael Whitehurst, thank you Michelle for training Mike in physio, he has been massaging my legs everyday and I really doubt they would still be moving without this treatment. Big love to everybody.

11 thoughts on “Running across Africa – blog 1

  1. btmedpsyc October 7, 2014 / 4:27 pm

    Day 6- you say you were in pain so lowered the mileage- YOU STILL DID 38KM! I am so in awe of you. keep up the good work all. You sounds like such a tight team!


  2. ken October 7, 2014 / 8:01 pm

    Great Blog. I have an image of a rhinoceros wandering the plains of Africa with a flip flop stuck on its horn. Eager to hear more, when do we get the other days up till today?
    Take care, keep up the good work.


  3. alison October 8, 2014 / 10:49 pm

    You are one crazy woman!! We visited Africat briefly after I had that chance encounter with you in Maruea Mall in Windhoek. They are doing great work, so hats off to you for raising funds for them too.


  4. Amanda Lovett October 9, 2014 / 7:10 am

    Really amazing. Please post a link as to how to donate thanks


  5. Janet Whitehurst October 9, 2014 / 11:27 am

    I know from past experience just how smelly Mikes shoes are. I bet you were pleased someone (thing) else liked the smell of them more
    great informative blog Emma.


  6. Keith Simpson October 9, 2014 / 1:54 pm

    awesome work – what a team – what a challenge – great causes. Hugs from East Timor


    • Head over Heels - Aysha October 24, 2014 / 10:08 am

      Thanks Keith, its a real challenge. How is East Timor? Love the hugs. Sending one right back xx


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