To The End

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The day begins as every day for the last 3 months has begun: Emma and Mike rise just before dawn, ready to set off as soon as daybreaks. We clear up the campsite, fetch water from a borehole and drive ahead to prepare breakfast. As always, we attract attention but it is a working day, people don’t stay long, they head on to their fields.

 

After breakfast we leave Emma and Mike and drive to the coast, to Pemba. This day, the second last day, Emma ran an incredible 74 kilometres in one day.

We speak to several TV companies who say they will film Emma finishing her run. We are delighted that the stunning Avani Pemba Beach Hotel agrees that Emma can end her incredible journey across Africa on their beach.

 

The next day we wait. Emma has risen early, looking forward to finishing. Robert is waiting on the road to film her arriving at the hotel and radios to let me know she is coming. Woocash is in the middle of the hotel and I am at the end.

It’s a wonderful moment as Emma runs through the hotel: guests and staff cheer and direct her to the beach. It’s been 18 months preparation. Many hours of commitment: for Emma and Mike training and for us preparing the car, kit, logistics, support network, and sponsorship. When Emma and I first came up with this idea, everyone told us we would not survive. We accepted this as a strong possibility and were determined to go. Then, it has been 3 months on the road. There were times in the middle when it looked like the team was going to fall apart and the run would not be finished. Yet, we were all determined to see it through.

Emma runs down the wooden stairs, steps onto the beach, walks along the concrete pier and into the sea. An amazing 3974 km, in 89 days, averaging over a marathon day. She did it. We did it.

We celebrate with champagne and sweets.

*****

Day 88 distance run: 74.17 km, 46.08 miles
Day 89 distance run: 62.11 km, 38.59 miles

Number of Days: 89

Total distance run by Emma: 3974 km, 2469 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.7 km, 27.7 miles
(A marathon is 42.195 km, 26.219 miles)

Harare!

We contact Mike and Emma regularly to check they are okay. Sometimes they whisper if it is after dark and they don’t want anyone to hear where they are. We meet them briefly in Chinhoyi before heading down to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to wait for them.

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They look pretty happy to me

Harare is beautiful.

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I couldn’t decide between that pretty photo or this weird one, so I gave you both:

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Robert disappears to see his family and go back to project work for a few days, whilst Woocash gives Cleopatra a health check. I find the best café with internet and spend a lot of time there: photos, blogs and contacting journalists. Luckily for us, friends of the family, Bobby and Margie, generously put us up which saves a huge amount of money. Harare isn’t cheap. As a thank you, Woocash fixes Bobby’s car and we donate some spare car parts. We do a lot of scrubbing and cleaning kit. We also give a surreal children’s TV interview. Thankfully it is live which means that it will never be seen again. Hooray!

A few days later Emma and Mike arrive:

The team takes a trip to The SEED Project’s office to catch up with Robert and meet friendly Nyasha, who is SEED’s only other full time employee . Driving through the city, Emma photographs stallholders, people start shouting and frowning at us to put the camera away, it’s an uncomfortable moment.

Emma and Mike enjoy a couple of days of rest at Joy’s lovely home. Emma fits in an interview with a journalist, from the magazine Out of Africa, who writes a beautiful article. At a delicious dinner, organised by Bob and Margie, Emma meets Mike who decides he would like to join Emma on one of her marathons. Which is great.

Water

The Water-to-Go bottles are perfect for Harare as otherwise the tap water isn’t safe to drink without being boiled. With the bottles we can simply fill up and er, go out and about on our business in the city!

Visas

We have decided to head on in to Mozambique. Last year there were civil disturbances and vehicles were attacked. But there has been nothing recently and we are avoiding areas that are considered at risk. Rumour tells us we may have to wait 3 weeks to get visas! Rumour turns out to be wrong. It is all sorted within 48 hours by a very organized and helpful lady.

Over at the Malawi embassy, Woocash has to write a letter explaining why he wants to visit Malawi. He does and the lady bursts out laughing when she reads it. We never find out why.

*****

Huge thanks to Bobby and Margie Warren-Codrington for having us to stay in their gorgeous home, loaning us essential kit and arranging for us to meet with someone from the BBC. And perhaps most of all for linking us up with the wonderful Dora in Mozambique who looked after us through two medical emergencies.

Huge thanks to Joy Peacock for having Emma and Mike to stay and for all the help and connections to journalists that you provided.

And thank you to the Specialized workshop in Harare for helping Mike out with his bike.

*****

Day 55 distance run: 56.21 km, 34.92 miles
Day 56 distance run: 52.85 km, 32.84 miles
Day 57 distance run: 53.43 km, 33.20 miles
Day 58 distance run: 32.11 km, 19.95 miles
Day 59 & 60: Rest days in Harare

Number of Days: 60

Total distance run by Emma: 2412 km, 1498 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 40.2 km, 25.0 miles

*****

If you have enjoyed reading this, please consider making a donation our fundraising page:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EmmaTimmis

Donations can be accepted up until 15th August 2016.

With the Chief’s Permission

As we cannot find a secluded area to camp in. We stop outside someone’s house and Robert asks them if we can stay. It is fantastic having Robert with us. He knows how to approach people in a polite and respectful way: the rest of us are learning to cup our hands and clap them whilst saying “Wakadini?” which means “How are you?” in Shona. Zimbabweans are delighted and laugh at our childlike stumblings.

The homeowner tells us we must ask the Chief’s permission first. Warily, we drive on to the Chief’s house. He turns out to be a very welcoming man and insists we stay on his land. I think this is for our safety and the safety of his community if we turn out to be the bad guys.

We are settled under a beautiful tree and given a large bowl of fresh nuts as a gift. Robert tells us that we must return the gift with a plate of food. I hope they are going to like my cooking. Of course, they are too nice to say anything other than it was delicious.

Emma was up and running before we could take the photo with the Chief and his wife.

*****

Number of Days: 52

Total distance run by Emma: 2163 km, 1344 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.6km, 25.8 miles

Distance run today: 54.09 km, 33.61 miles

In the centre of the chant

This moment lifts my heart.

I am running with Emma and as we come round the corner of a hill I see a class of children let out to play. Before they spot us I can see their skittish joyful runs around their school and then they see us. Excited shouts pour out as they race towards us and surround us. Emma wants to run free, so I slow down my pace and hold my arms out, guiding them to run in line with or behind me. Unsure how to entertain them, I encourage them to sing. One of the girls looks uncertainly around her and then takes the lead with confidence. My senses are overwhelmed with their energy flowing through their voices.

I could tell you many things about this day, about crossing the Tsetse fly border or the moment the team spirit was broken when something was said that took away trust, but this is the moment I want to remember, to share with you and show how wonderful visiting Zimbabwe and meeting Zimbabweans can be.

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A headmaster kindly let us camp in his school. The toilets were full of spiders!

*****

Number of Days: 51

Total distance run by Emma: 2109 km, 1310 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.4km, 25.7 miles

Distance run today: 53.41 km, 33.18 miles

Dust devils of discontent

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Emotions are disturbed. Dust devils of discontent have been swirling, slowly picking up strength and pulling in all members of the team. At the same time, Mozambique, our final country, is due an election in a few weeks, and there are fears of civil war. I learn to take joy in every thing I can, whenever I can. Luckily, we are in Southern Africa – Africa is amazing.

And one of the hills that Emma & Mike determinedly reached the top of:

That night we camp round the back of a store. To do so, we must first get permission and we hunt through the village for the owner. The owner’s teenage son says we can stay. But later his Aunt comes to check who are these strange people. Children peek round the corners at us and I can’t resist walking up behind a group and saying “Boo!” They all jump and giggle.

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Sister of the owner of the shop looking dubious about our story

*****

Number of Days: 45

Total distance run by Emma: 1965 km, 1221 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.7 km, 27.1 miles

Distance run today: 58.46km, 36.32 miles

 

What can be hot, red, green or crunchy?

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Dawn, 5am

Water!

Apples and chocolate wafers are good crunchy textures. Not so much water.

“Water is not meant to be crunchy” laughs Woocash, shortly after he has moaned at Robert for borrowing his drinking bottle and shaking up the water. Now, he needs to let the dust and twigs and grit settle.

It’s only for a few days when we have accidentally filled up from river water. You know how that is, you imagine the tap is treated water and in fact it comes direct from the river. Assumptions can kill you. In any case, we’re not picky and we survive and mostly use it for cooking. Normally, we fill up at boreholes, which is delightfully sociable. The local children come stare at us and laugh at the strange sight. The local ladies help us out. The most embarrassing moment was today, when I got out the car and they all burst out laughing at my dirtiness.

Water from boreholes comes in different flavours and colours. At one point, we can choose between green, orange and clear water. And I am sure the iron enriched water resulted in extra energy for a few days in Emma and I.

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For cooking and washing only, we think

Today however, the water is hot. Hotter than warm, hot. It’s not a big deal for us, we have some cool water, we were just topping up, but it is a problem for the villagers. They have to wait for water to cool down before they can water their crops with it or drink it, which means that they need twice as many containers. And we are near the equator, at night it is so hot that we are all having trouble sleeping. I sit upright in the tent at times just to get some circulation. Cooling down isn’t happening very much. The villagers need a pipeline or perhaps someone clever to extract the heat from the water as energy. Hmm, maybe that’s an idea.

Emma runs on by.

*****

Number of Days: 43

Total distance run by Emma: 1848 km, 1148 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.0 km, 26.7 miles

Distance run today: 57.28km, 35.59 miles

To school and back: a marathon!

3am. The young man gets up in the dark and drinks water. Without a torch or shoes he sets out into the Equatorial darkness. His way is lit by stars and the moon as he carefully navigates the dusty path, wary of snakes and scorpions. He is conscious that not long ago there were lions and elephants living in this area and there are still wild dogs hunting in packs. As dawn rises, 2 hours later, he is almost half way to his destination. School. He can speed up in the light. 20 kilometres he travels each morning, without breakfast, studies all day and then makes the return journey home, arriving late afternoon, when he can finally eat.

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This day, however, is unusual, he meets white people from countries he has never had the chance to be to, running on the road. Choosing to run more than the distance he runs to school everyday (well, only one of them). Traversing his country and continent. A luxury experience and education he cannot imagine.

It was my privilege to meet this young man and slowly realise what an incredible person he is. I had joined Emma running. I do this occasionally to keep her company and add variety. For me, it’s refreshing to be moving, to be in the environment. There is the gorgeous view of the Zambezi, cutting through the valley far below us, dust beneath our feet and Cleo is the only car. As sometimes happens, school children excitedly run alongside us. We are a novelty. They run close to Emma, but too close, almost tripping her and shouting and laughing. I drop back and try chatting. It works and they slow to my pace. They are wonderfully exuberant and great company. All on their way home from school. Robert hops out the car to run and translate their stories for me. As the children drop off to go to their homes, we are left with this last young man. He is the tired looking man in the middle of the photo.

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The conversation takes place between the padding of our feet and haltingly.

“Is it safe to travel in the dark?” I had naively asked.
“No,” He answered, “There are many animals that will bite you.”

Eventually, discovering he has little opportunity to drink water, we offer him some.

“Would you like the container? ”
“Yes” is the quick and happy reply.

Now, he has a bottle to carry water on his journey.

He exchanges contact details with Robert and we hope that SEED will be able to do something more constructive and empowering in the future. I think he would make a good employee.

Or maybe I missed a trick and he would make a great athlete. If you have the resources behind you and wanted to help this young man I am sure we could find him again.

*****

Meanwhile, Emma has continued battling with her pain to run a phenomenal distance.

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*****

Number of Days: 41

Total distance run by Emma: 1734 km, 1078 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.3 km, 26.3 miles

Distance run today: 51.73 km, 32.14 miles

*****

If you have enjoyed reading this, please consider making a donation to The SEED Project, a highly cost-effective charity, praised for its innovative and long term sustainable work. Or you can make a donation to our fundraising page:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EmmaTimmis

Donations can be accepted up until 15th August 2016.