Part 1: Entertaining Children

Before dawn Woocash takes Emma and Mike to the point where they stopped the night before. As dawn is breaking, Emma starts her run and Lukasz has returns to pick us up from the center of the village.

This day held one of my favourite moments of the trip and, of course, it involves children laughing. We had put up a tarpaulin to shelter from the threatening rain clouds but, as the crowds of children gathered, we shifted it to act as a privacy barrier. Emma and Mike had arrived for breakfast stressed from being screamed at by excitable children. A few of the watchers drifted off to school but the less well dressed ones stayed. I am guessing, but may be wrong, that they didn’t have enough money for a formal education. So, in order to enable the team to have some peace, I went out to the children to be their focus and had loads of fun.

The children were sweet and friendly and tolerated my lack of language skills and crazy antics. I taught them how to spin their leg under themselves, did a few yoga moves, sang songs – “heads, shoulders, knees and toes.” And several times I tried to teach them the Mexican wave (they had surrounded me in a circle and I thought it would be fun).

One girl, Margaret, spoke a few words of English and had the confidence to be the first to try things. Thank God for her. Mostly, the children laughed and giggled and looked up at me with shining eyes and smiles. Pushing in to touch me at times then running away squealing when I looked at them.

An old man came up to me and asked, “Why do you do this?”

“Because I like children.” I reply.

He smiles and says, “Thank you.”

He went on his way to the fields to work.

That thank you and smile that went with it and the sound of children laughing, will warm me for the rest of my life.

At last, I saw Mike and Emma setting off on their journey, hopefully at least a little rested,  and disappearing down the road. I could stop, pack up the car, say goodbye to the little crowd and revert to being an introvert. Onwards we go to Mangochi and Lake Malawi.


Lake Malawi
Emma in Mangochi. We had a good teamy lunch break. Mangochi is a beautiful town.


Number of Days: 74

Total distance run by Emma: 3143 km, 1953 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.5 km, 26.4 miles

Distance run today: 56.07 km, 34.84 miles

And other animals

Having Katie join Emma in the morning is great. Anything to change the routine.

Pretty (tough) in pink: Emma and Katie

It’s a long stretch of tarmac. 252 km from Grootfontein to Rundu, now another 197 km to Divundu and then 310 km to the border. It’s long and it’s a bit dull for Emma.


That night we camp on the side of the road. Literally. All along the road there are rest stops, with a tree, a table and bench seats and a couple of big bins. Up until now, we have been very careful about camping out of sight but here, there are houses everywhere we go, and this place seems the most unpopulated. It makes for a noisy night, as lorries thunder past.

Emma is ill all day the next day and it’s very worrying. Stomach upsets in Africa are serious because it is easy to dehydrate in the heat and it takes too long to get to hospital. We are 100km from the nearest clinic. Emma continues to run when most people would be dithering between the bed or the toilet.

Bad horn day
Bad horn day
From left to right: Emma, me, curious friendly people sharing a bicycle (they take it in turns to peddle), Mike
From left to right: Emma, me, curious friendly people sharing a bicycle (they take it in turns to peddle), Mike

I call a contact Andy gave me, Charlie Paxton. On the phone, Charlie asks if we are sitting under a tree having lunch. Yes we are! We have been spotted. Charlie invites us to come and camp with them that evening at Shamvura, which, if you ever get a chance, is a delightful and unusual experience. Both Charlie and her husband Mark are extremely knowledgeable about the area and animals. They educate us on current conservation techniques and issues.

I wanted to share how stick like the stick insect is. Easy to miss.
I wanted to share how stick like the stick insect is. Easy to miss.

Charlie knows a huge variety of people and reminds me of my childhood hero Gerald Durrell (who wrote “My family and other animals”). Having told us wonderful stories about her pet vulture following and doing whatever she did, including sunbathing in the pool, Charlie invited us to have a look in their bedroom to meet their pet goat. I imagine a little cuddly goat. But no, this guy is as big as me. Startled by us, he almost jumps on the chicken that is calmly sitting on a trunk. The chicken doesn’t shift a feather. The one thing that struck me most was how clean and tidy the bedroom was. I am guessing you won’t believe me but honestly, it was a clean and tidy room. I failed to ask how you train a chicken and a goat not to poop in the house.


It’s a fairly eventful time at Shamvura. Woocash wakes me up in the middle of the night as he rushes out the tent, barefoot, to throw up. On the way, there are poisonous spiders, snakes, scorpions and thorns to step on. So, in sleepy befuddlement, I find his sandals and a torch and make my to the bathroom where he’s finished by the time I get there. I have no idea how he did it in the dark.

Anyone know if this is dangerous or merely cuddly?
Spiders in the dark. Anyone know if this is dangerous or merely fluffy?

Whilst trying to leave, before dawn, a friendly horse bothers us. He’s very curious about the tent and what we are doing packing things up. He seems a bit miffed when we push him out the way.

Then it’s through the darkness of the trees and back to the road.

Number of Days: 24

Total distance run by Emma: 998 kilometres, 620 miles

Average distance run, including rest days: 41.6 kilometres a day, 25.8 miles a day.


For anyone considering staying at Shamvura, the campsite seemed great. We had a little corner to ourselves with good facilities.

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.


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

Physio – stage 1

So, along with my new theories on my training (inc cross training etc), I am also visiting my incredible physiotherapist regularly, and actually doing what she tells me! She nursed me through the tendonitis that I had in my knee on the lead up to my Freedom Run.  She is absolutely amazing, very thorough, very understanding and extremely strong.

I went to see her yesterday. I was pummelled, poked, prodded and caused some unpleasant pain, but it was all worth it.  Being a typical runner, all my muscles are tight. I do stretch every time I run but probably not enough, and definitely not enough to run a few thousand miles without getting injured.  I have been given a set of exercises that I need to do everyday. I am not very good at sticking to things like this so I thought I’d write a quick blog to show everyone the exercises and also to encourage me do them.

Here they are:

Firstly, a bit of this. Contract muscles, raise leg, hold, lower down. X10 on each leg.


Similar to the last one but after raising leg, tilt ankle to the side, hold, return, then lower.314

Next, hold pillow (or ball) between ankles and squeeze for a few seconds. X10.


Then, same but between knees.

And then with knees bent.

I have been faffing with the photos for hours and I cant get them to stay where I want them so they may be floating around in irrelevant places.

Michelle Pennell is my physio. I highly recommend her to anyone, of any age, with any problem. Check her out here: or email her

The Running Show

The Running Show is full of clothes, shoes, nutritional supplements, physiotherapists, sports therapists, compression tights, future marathon events and runners (there’s a 10k on the morning I go.) It’s a little overwhelming. Happily, clothes, shoes and training are Emma’s area of expertise.

There are freebies, mostly nutritional supplements. (This is lucky for me as the only dairy free food I can find, at the venue, are average tasting chips).

For a bargain £15, I sign up for 6 months of Runner’s World and get a free camelbak. I don’t need a camelback, I only run for 20 minutes at a time. But it seems too good a deal to miss. And you never know.

I’m seeing how I feel

Amidst all the clothing, I find some techy stuff. There’s an awesome machine, Ithlete, that can tell you whether it’s a good day to train or not. I’m tempted by it, although it would ruin my standard excuse for laziness: “I think I’m coming down with something”.  Then again, it would be hugely motivating to be told that today is a perfect day for training. Emma, to my surprise, is interested in the product too.

I am also delighted to find Lessbounce. If you’re a woman and into sports you must know about this shop. I first discovered Lessbounce just over ten years ago and it changed my life. Specifically, Panache Sports Bra, changed my life. Since then, sports bras have improved a lot, and now, there are many different effective brands in many different sizes. If you’re not comfy, seriously, get to Lessbounce.

“If it’s a faff, you won’t bother”. It’s another snippet of advice that I pick up from ultra runner, Andy Mouncey. This advice is for people who are racing. I’m not sure it’s so relevant to a journey of 120 days. We will have more opportunity for faffing. But I like it as a general concept. Make things simple: keep them simple.

Finally, I have nice long chat with who are interested in a press release. (Another skill to learn.)

On the whole, I thought the running show was pretty good, especially for its first year.

Next stop: the Adventure Travel Show in January @ Olympia– anyone else going? £10 entry.

Kendal Mountain Festival: Jez Bragg, ultra distance runner

A fine looking trail in Mozambique doubling up as a quality road. Photo courtesy of Fred Hoogervorst
A fine looking trail in Mozambique doubling up as a quality road. Photo courtesy of Fred Hoogervorst

(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.

Perhaps no solo trail running here ...
Perhaps no solo trail running here … (Zimbabwe)

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.