Running across Africa – blog 2

All kinds of devices for solo running

So after having a thoroughly enjoyable break at Africat we were back on the road ready to attack some tar! It was great to see first hand what the money we raise will go toward but at the same time we all felt pretty happy to get back on the road and tackle the job we are here to do.

Day 12 – 50.03km

We made the most of our final breakfast at Africat and we were sent off with the biggest bag of muffins you have ever seen (although they only lasted three days with us hungry bunch!). The running seemed great today, not sure if that is due to having some time off my feet or the fact that the road was downhill. At lunch I could barely eat anything, I thing perhaps I overindulged at Africat.

Day 13 – 50.75km

Morning running was going really well today but then at lunch I really lost all motivation. I was annoyed as my Garmin GPS watch was broken so I was now carrying a handheld device which is made for being in the car. I dont really want to be carrying anything more than I need to while running, I already have a pack on my back which probably weighs 4-5kgs. I think Aysha felt sorry for me and gave me chocolate biscuits, she knows the way to my heart! In the aftertnoon we ran alongside the Waterberg Plateau, its really incredible to see. A massive cliff face way up above a thick forest that goes on for miles, possibly 50km. We pondered over climbing possibilities there.

Day 14 – 49.82km

Worst road surface today, deep sand, combined with wind and hills, aaagh! I just wanted to stop. But what would that achieve other than being stopped in a road. So I struggled on. I got to the lunch break and just lay still for a while. I have come to the realisation today that the wind picks up everyday between 10 and 12, and it is straight towards me. Need to change plan to run less at that time.

Day 15 – 49.58km

The wind from yesterday was no longer coming towards me but now coming out of me which made me really popular in the tent this morning!  There were a few healthy gusts!!  I ran alone for the first 8km, not as punishment, but because Mike took the oppurtunity to make a shelving unit for the back of the 4×4.  Aysha rode beside me for the second 8km and also provided me with an excessively salty porridge (you may have seen a video about this!), yum!  I was in agony with my knee again but this was eased slightly with a lunch of sausage and garlic mash, donated by the farm where we camped last night.  Really hot today.  Mince meat for dinner, also donated to us.  Meat = happy campers.  I got bitten on my lady bits today by a big scary fly while I was having a pee, they know how to get a girl when she’s vulnerable.

Day 16 – 45.32km

Change of schedule today. Not a good one.  I wanted to maximise the chance of going through a town without minimising mileage.  I ran 34km straight, before lunch so I could get into Grootfontein and get jobs done, and the team could do jobs while I was running.  It started off so well, I was bounding along for the first 17km until my knee gave in.  It then turned into a slow trot until eventually I just dragged myself along with all the willpower I could muster.  Also a giant blister, that I didn’t know I had, exploded from under my foot.  If you have never experienced that, which I hadn’t, it really hurts.  I queued for an hour in town to post my broken watch home.  On the plus side I did have a passionfruit ice lolly, refreshing.

Day 17 – 54.11km

Late start and strong winds.  Super annoying, I need to get running as early as possible to avoid these forceful winds.  This was the first day of a 257km straight tar road.  Not really very much to say really as it literally just a very long straight road.  Not my favourite kind of running!  We did manage to blag a night in a camp site which means we get to shower, woop woop!!

Day 18 – 54.20km

The alarm didnt go off.  This was no-ones fault but I became a right grumpy monster and started the day with the wrong attitude.  Shame on me.  Thankfully there was no wind and I eventually got over myself and enjoyed the day.  We had internet connection and received lots of encouraging messages on facebook which picked me up no end, thank you.  Aysha ran with me for a short time today, it’s really nice to have some company.  I also met some very enthusiastic African women.P1070480

Day 19 – 58.70km

In the middle of the night we could hear leaves rustling around the tent, within a few seconds the sound lifted and they were crashing into the tent. The ground sheet then picked up, the noise became louder and louder.  Everything on one side of the tent was thrown to the opposite.  Mike clung onto the ladder to the upper tent and I clung onto Mike.  Then all of a suddenly it was silent.  We survived the twister.  Thankfully we had seen one go down the road that evening so we werent too freaked out by it.  Annoyingly the twister alerted me to the pain in my legs so I lay there for ages trying to think of anything but the pain.  We are in the Kavango region now and the surroundings have really changed.  There are no more brick buildings, just many many straw houses beside the road.  The villages go on and on, the people are far more excited here, lots of laughing and singing etc.

Day 20 – 54.28km

There was a lightning storm last night and the air seems much clearer today, far less muggy.  I could tell that I was starting to get tired and worn out, as me and Mike had an argument today and I was almost in tears.  Its really stressful being so exhausted and trying not to upset people at the same time.  It cant be easy for him being beside me all day.  Had a good day for running in terms of  distance but had a lot of children begging for food and money while we were trying to relax so we were all tired.

Day 21 – 35.05km

Slept in Rundu last night so had to get up extra early to drive back to where I finished yesterday.  It was hard work getting the last bit of running completed before a day off.  Not sure if it is physical or mental but its really tough on me.  Eventually got a couple of kilometers before Rundu and called it a day.  We managed to get lots of jobs done in the afternoon, shopping, cleaning etc.  The rest is going to be well deserved.

Day 22 – 0km

Rest day

Not sure when we will next get to internet and have time to get the next couple of weeks updated for you, but keep following us. x

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.

Cleopatra – the movie star

Cleo is finally off on her travels to Africa.  Before she left she made you this movie about her assets (with a bit of help from Womenclimb)!


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Geeky Stats from Emma

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10 tips for your first marathon

Moving comfort

I have to be honest, I had never heard of Moving Comfort and it was only by chance that I came across them.  But… they have become one of my favourite brands of sports wear that I’ve ever come across.  A few months ago I wrote a blog post for Sports Sister online magazine.  You can read my blog here.  In return for writing blogs, they send contributors a gift of a Moving Comfort sports bra.  The type of bra I received was the ‘Juno‘, all of the bras they make have their own unique name.  My initial thoughts were that this was extremely generous of both Sports Sister and Moving Comfort to give away free gifts.  Then after testing out the bra I realised how extra lucky I was to be given this gift.  The bra is incredible.IMG_0957

Review – Juno bra

The material that the Juno bra is made with is really soft and feels great on your skin.  It’s also pretty thick and durable so I have no doubt that I will be using them for a long time.  This is especially useful when you are running with a pack on you back and there is a change of rubbing.  The material across the front has qualities similar to neoprene.  It absorbs moisture from your skin and dries off pretty quickly so you don’t feel sweaty and wet while exercising.

IMG_1275  The shoulder straps are adjustable with IMG_1277velcro which is brilliant as, lets face it, not every woman is exactly the same shape.  This is also really good as if you are training extra hard one day you can adjust the straps to get more support and if you don’t need them so tight one day then you just loosen them.  You can also undo them completely if you decide to sunbathe in the park after a run!!!


The bra has both racer back and a three-hook adjustable chest strap.  I find this absolutely brilliant as the only bras I would run in are racer back so that the straps don’t slip down and become a nuisance while I’m running but it’s also fantastic to be able to make the chest band to the fit that I want it.  Having three hooks makes it far more supportive and sturdy than two hooks.  Moving Comfort bras also come in a massive variety of vibrant colours and patterns so there is something to suit everyone.

After wearing this bra for a while I then wrote to Moving comfort and asked if they would be interested in supporting my African run by providing me with the bras I will need for the run.  Fortunately for me they were very interested.  And I soon received a few bras.



So… lots of people keep asking me questions about the specifics of the running side of things.  I have the answers, but I’m just not very good at expressing the answers so people probably think I don’t have a plan.  I do have a plan.  I’m just keeping it all a secret.  Only joking.  I’ll try and give you a little insight…

My running speed used to be approximately 7:30 minutes per mile.  This included training for my run across South Africa in 2011.  This was mostly because I didn’t have the time to run slower as I was too busy.  I have recently come to the conclusion that running faster is not good for me, it makes my muscles tight and causes me injuries.  The outcome: I now do all of my running at least a minute per mile slower.  I aim to always keep between 8:30 and 9:30 per mile.  This is just for my training; I am currently running between 10 and 15 miles per day.

When I am in Africa my aim is to break my day into 3 x 10 mile runs.  When things are going well and I am feeling fit (or running downhill) I want to be running at 10:30 minutes per mile, therefore each 10 mile section will take me 1 hr 35 minutes.  When things are not so great, when I’m stiff first thing in the morning, running up hill, generally feeling rubbish, I will aim to run at around 12 minutes per mile meaning that 10 miles will take me 2 hours.  If I am hoping to travel 30 miles a day then I should have a maximum of six hours running per day.  And if I take one day off of running per week then I will be running 180 miles per week.  A marathon a day adds up to 183.4 miles per week, so if I just run a few extra miles one day per week then my trip should hopefully equate to running a marathon a day.

I have spent many many hours studying the maps of the route and I have got the entire route distance to add up to 2584 miles (obviously this is probably not going to be the exact distance I will run, as I’m sure I’ll get lost at least once!).  2584 miles is equal to 98.6 marathons.  If 10 miles takes me a maximum of 2 hours to run then the whole run across Africa should take 516.8 hours of running!  According to Runners World, if I run 10 miles in 2 hours I will burn 950 calories, so I will need to take in 2850 calories per day just to cover the energy used running!  Over the distance from Namibia to Mozambique this would equate to 245,480 calories I will burn.  This is the equivalent of 1,014 bowls of white rice, 2,337 bananas or 4,909 lollipops!!!!


Wow, I got a little bit carried away writing this.  I really didn’t intend for it to go off on a tangent like that but hey ho!!  Bring on the lollipops.




Team HOH became unbelievably excited a couple of days ago when a huge brown box arrived filled with shiny new Berghaus kit.  We are exceptionally lucky to have been supported by Berghaus who have given each member of our team a waterproof jacket to be worn in Africa.  This has been a massive help to us as all the kit needed to complete a trip like ours adds up to a big expense.  This is possibly more exciting to me (Emma) than to the rest of the team as Berghaus have made a jacket specifically designed for running.  Im sure that most runners out there will agree with me that finding a jacket to keep you warm and dry, and comfortable while running long distance is not easy.  Thankfully, I haven’t put the jacket to the test yet as the sun has been out, but as soon as I get the chance I will put a review up for you to see my thoughts.

IMG_1173My first thoughts about the kit we received are that Berghaus are onto a winner with the colours of their womens clothes.  I imagine that most women into outdoor sports will agree with me that we don’t all want to wear pink, red or purple!!!  I hear lots of women regularly complaining about the colour options available to us, and unfortunately we can’t just choose XS mens, its just doesn’t work like that.  The colours and style of the Berghaus jackets are gorgeous.  Really shapely and great choice of colours.  Well done Berghaus!!!!



10 tips for your first marathon

On June 28th, myself and Mike completed our first ever marathon.  As with most things that I do, I decided not to choose a nice, gentle, flat, road race but to enter a gruelling, rocky, mountainous, trail marathon!  And I loved it!!  After this incredible experience, between the two of us we have put together a list of our top ten tips for your first marathon.

1. Drag a friend along with you. There’s nothing better than having someone you know to share the pain with you. Great moral support and someone to congratulate you immediately as you cross the line.  And throw energy gels at you when you are looking weary!

2. Its all in the mind. If you have done the necessary training and you whole-heartedly believe you can get to the end there’ll be no stopping you.  Feeling positive and holding your body tall, with a positive posture will make you feel less tired and more confident.

3. Carry enough water. If you enter a marathon that doesn’t have a constant stream of water stations then don’t underestimate how much water you will need to carry. It’s better to have too much than too little.  Even if it’s not hot you will be sweating a lot!

4. Make sure you take plenty of energy gels or whatever type of energy product you like.  You don’t want to run out at the end when you are feeling your worst.

5. Test out your kit before the big day.  Preferably quite a while before the race so that if you find out that something isn’t right it can be corrected or changed.

6. Understand the pain your body experiences. Know what is the kind of pain you can push through and what is the kind of pain thats leading to an injury. It will hurt, its a marathon. You will need to continue through pain if you want to finish. But don’t push on through pain that is going to leave you seriously injured.

7. Be prepared. Have all your kit organised the night before so you know where everything is and you aren’t running around getting stressed trying to find things before the race when you should be relaxing.  If you are carrying a pack make sure that you know where each item is in your bag and the things that could be needed quickly are easily accessible. For example, snacks in waist pockets, blister patches near the top.


8. Don’t go sprinting off at the beginning.  Its a long race!  In fact, it’s probably best to go really slow at the beginning, you will have plenty of time to pick up the pace later if you are feeling fresh.

9. Do the training! If you haven’t put in the time and mileage then its all going to be way tougher for you than the other competitors, and you could be risking getting injuries that won’t be pleasant.

10. Enjoy it!  You have more than likely paid to enter this event so make the most of it. Unless you are Paula Ratcliffe you probably aren’t going to be breaking any world records so just enjoy the experience.


Mow Cop Killer Mile

MC Mike2 MC Emma2

On Thursday 8th May 2014, we returned to the torturous hill they call ‘Mow Cop’.  Both entered into the first adult category of the race. The competition between us was on.  Standing on the start line we both had butterflies in our stomachs.  Amongst the crowd we huddled close together and shuffled around, trying to keep our muscles warm.  As our nerves grew, it felt like we were waiting for hours.  Then down the hill came the lead car.



Off the starting blocks we all ran.  Jostling for position.  Weaving in and out of each other.  At the beginning, Emma was ahead of Mike.  This lasted for about quarter of a mile, until Mike became like a man possessed, and shot through to the front of the pack.  With a smile on his face, looking like he was taking a stroll in the park, he picked off the front-runners one at a time.

MC Mike

By the top of the steepest section Mike was gliding along in first position, he rounded the final corner on the approach to the finish and stepped over the finish line 30 seconds ahead of the second place runner.  Meanwhile, Emma was grunting and trying not to focus on the pain too much as she dragged herself up the hill, finally finishing in 6th position, and first female.

MC Emma

Mike: 8:29 (1st position in race)

Emma: 9:20 (6th position in race, 1st female in race)

By Emma and Mike

Berghaus Trail Running Weekend

I absolutely couldn’t believe it when I received an email saying that I had been shortlisted for the Berghaus Trail Running Team.  I had actually only entered on a whim as I  genuinely had absolutely no expectation of getting shortlisted.  But I did, so… yeah!!!

I was super lucky to be able get a lift up to the Lakes with Rebecca Dent, not only is she a wealth of knowledge about sports nutrition, but she is also the loveliest person ever (and a trail runner).  And along with us was the cheeky chappy Barnaby.

After tackling the motorway we arrived at Helvellyn Youth Hostel (YHA) bright and early.  Once registered and armed with our sticky name tags we all bundled into the conference room.  We were individually called outside to have a portrait photo taken.  With the wind behind me I have no doubt that mine will look similar to a ball of red candifloss with two eyes lurking within.

After photos, we then had the opportunity to hear all about Berghaus and their involvement with the team.  We learned how they design their clothing and equipment around specific disciplines, we even had the chance to have a little play with some of their new products.  Then the same with Torq, who gave us a really insightful talk about fuelling for long distance running, and gave us freebies!!!  This was followed the amazing Steve Birkinshaw.  He is one of the UK’s best ultra distance runners. The best thing that I learned from him is that you can be an amazing runner and still enjoy the odd pint in the pub after!  Helene Whitaker was the final person we heard from.  She was such a delight to listen to, so inspiring.  She has completed the Dragons Back race, twice, and twenty years apart. She is truly an inspiration to me.

From listening to all of these speakers, the main tip that I went away with was that it’s really important that you refuel your body within 30minutes of completing your days run/exercise.  It doesn’t matter what it is that you are putting in but you need to be getting some fuel in.

50 of the shortlisted trail runners in the beautiful Lake District
50 of the shortlisted trail runners in the beautiful Lake District

Sadly the day had to end at some point, but it ended on a high with a group run up the fells.  We only had 45minutes to run so we didn’t go very far but it was a brilliant opportunity to chat with all the other entrants and to hear their individual stories.  Thankfully, as you see from the photo, the sun came out so everybody was smiling.  When we reached the top, a few crazy folk decided to pop into the lake for a paddle (looked a tad too chilly for my liking!).  After cooling off we headed back down to the YHA.  I was one of the last to get back.  I just don’t know how people seem to gallop downhill so easily!

Back at the YHA, I sat down briefly and chatted with a few other runners, before saying goodbye.  I also had a look through the new magazine ‘Like the Wind’, with stories from other incredible and inspiring runners its definitely worth a read.  Unfortunately that was the end for me, Rebecca and Barnaby, and we slowly made our way back down the motorway to Manchester.

Thank you to everybody that put the day together and everybody that I met.  I have come away from the day even more motivated and with a greater love for running.

by Emma

x x x