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.

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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

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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.

 

 

 

Almost half way, the most challenging time

Almost half way we are treated to some of the most stunning views of the journey …

… and it is the start of the most challenging time.

There is pain and there is pain and there is running almost 1700km in 6 weeks and knowing you have another 2300km to go. After toenails have gone and your knee has swollen up and you are wondering why you are doing this. I am guessing at Emma’s thoughts but I know about her feet. I can only imagine the powerful discussion between her body and head.

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At first break, I walk over to her but her focus is within herself. Sensing anger, I move away. Mike stays silently with her. He has been with her every step of the way, whilst the rest of the team have been with her only for meals, rest times and the occasional run. I am surprised at how little opportunity we have had to chat. Even in Victoria Falls, I was too busy blogging, admin, shopping, cleaning. And now, right at the darkest point, what can be done to ease her pain?

*****

Number of Days: 40

Total distance run by Emma: 1683 km, 1045 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42 km, 26.1 miles

Distance run today: 41.76 km, 25.95 miles

 

 

 

 

Fetching water

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To be honest, I just love this moment and wanted to share it with you. I don’t even know why I like it so much. Possibly, I like that we are helping people out, or may be it’s the whole male only moment of men working together with boys to resolve a mechanical problem and all from different countries – the boys from Zambia, Robert from Zimbabwe and Woocash from Poland. I think that must be it.

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Did you notice the wooden pump? And the yellow containers are to be filled with water at the bore hole and then they cycle home with them. Many people don’t have bicycles and walk several kilometres a day to fill up. We often fill our water from the boreholes and don’t even need to purify it, which I find amazing as it wasn’t like that when I visited 20 years ago. But we rarely carry it more than a few yards to the car. Living as we do now, longing to be clean, makes me appreciate the easy availability of fresh clean water in the UK.

The scorched scenery in the first photo will be from fires that are set deliberately.

Emma continues her incredible achievement in a lot of pain. We are almost at the border and almost time for a rest. She keeps pushing herself to get there sooner. Mike is always by her side.

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Number of Days: 36

Total distance run by Emma: 1591 km, 988.5 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.2 km, 27.5 miles

Distance run today: 53.55 km, 33.27 miles

Robert Returns

In constant pain, Emma with a determined gait, still covers phenomenal distances. We try running with her to provide support and variety for her day. Before, she would chat happily but now she conserves all her energy and focus on running. It’s hard to know what to do. I do come up with this make shift idea: (video of me cooling her feet).

Peaceful breaks are a challenge. Children come running, their little legs spinning as fast they can as soon as they see us. I feel a sense of obligation as guests in their country but having them watching us closely at every rest stop is not restful. Woocash and I cook as quickly as we can and then move on to meet Emma and Mike but even then, at times, we still have to swiftly pack up and drive 1 mile down the road, as the children come running after us. Emma arrives at her breaks looking stressed from the constant attention. Once a small child had run up and slapped her. I can only assume that the child thought Emma was a ghost or something. I suggest Emma calls us on the radio when children surround her but she doesn’t believe we can help and so never asks. As every metre hurts, the mismatch between the car’s measurements and Emma’s measurements become a significant irritation for her.

We pass road works: a sign says, “Apologies for the 15 minute delay” which makes me chuckle. I come from the UK. I love my country dearly but for sheer politeness Namibia and Zambia are winning. The road itself is good quality.

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The main highlight of the day, however, is Robert chasing us down in a minibus taxi. If you remember, Robert is SEED’s Project Manager and is on the trip as our guide, to gain experience and consider expansion into new areas. Having travelled overnight from Harare to Victoria Falls, Robert caught sight of Cleopatra (the car) in the distance travelling in the wrong direction, which confused him (we were returning from a breakfast in hiding) and persuaded the driver to accelerate to catch us. I was thinking who is this crazy driver trying to overtake us until everyone chorused “Robert” as they saw him frantically waving out the window. His cleanliness makes him stand out. Woocash is instantly happier, the two of them have a budding bromance, and the whole team seems re-energised for seeing Robert.

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Number of Days: 34 (almost 5 weeks)

Total distance run by Emma: 1,482 km, 921 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.6 km, 27.1 miles

Distance run today: 52.85 km, 32.84

A moment in camp

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I have uploaded a video of us in camp.

In case the video won’t play for you. Here’s the story:

Most nights we camp on the side of the road, we cook over a campfire, wash with a little water or wet wipes and go to the toilet behind a bush, avoiding snakes and scorpions.

Emma went off to pee in the dark. As there is no comfy toilet to sit on, she has to crouch putting weight on her blisters and painful knee. I heard a sorrowful wail,

“Oh! No!” from Emma.

“What is it?”

In attempting to avoid bending her painful knee too much, she has peed on her flip flop but didn’t notice until she put her heel back down. Then she tried to wash her foot with fairy liquid but lost her balance and stepped in the sand. By the time we start videoing, Emma is sat down safely, laughing but very tired, and I am helping her to rinse her foot and shoe, whilst she explains what happened.

Emma ends with the question, “Why is everything so hard?”

And I reply, “That’s what happens when you run 40k a day.”

It’s a long tough journey.

*****

No of days: 31

Total distance run by Emma: 1,346 km, 837 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.45 km, 27 miles

 Distance run today: 41.8 km, 26 miles

Playfulness and Poverty

Before we enter the “risk of lions” area, we come across several villages on a Saturday. We are an unusual event and an opportunity for a new experience, food, medicine and fun.

In case you can’t download the video it is very brief and shows two lovely moments that day. One when 3 adults came over to find out what we were doing when cooking lunch and then showed their support for Emma by chanting “Go, Emma, Go!” The other was when two young people, barefoot, rushed to join Emma jogging on the road. They were there for a while.

However, there are also many people begging in this area. This group of children were polite and good-natured whilst asking if we had anything we could give them. They were pleased with tins of tomatoes and delighted with the pack of cards. What inspired the young woman to place the cards just there in the photo? There are no mirrors to check out her styling or magazines in shops to stimulate her imagination? More importantly, what are her opportunities for her creativity?

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 I would have liked to have got to know these children better, understood the roots of their poverty and most importantly to have found real solutions. On the return journey, I looked for them but travelling ten times faster we missed them in the blur of African landscape.  Travelling more slowly gave greater rewards.

A lady comes over to ask for medicine for a friend, the nearest clinic is a day’s walk away. We have a friendly chat and I give her a few paracetemol and rehydration sachets. This isn’t the answer. I am no doctor. I hope it did no harm.

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Other moments are not so positive. A blind adult approaches with his hand on the head of a 4 yr old. It’s an uncomfortable sight and I consider whether the child is being exploited, as a passerby it is impossible to know. In some communities, disabled people find it particularly difficult to make a living. Money isn’t the answer. Not in terms of a fulfilling life, only for survival. But who am I to judge in this moment?

In the afternoon,  a crowd has collected around a bar beside the road and a drunk teenager moves towards Emma with his arms out. He doesn’t touch her, he’s simply being playful, pretending to grab the back of the car as we pass, until he gets yelled at by an adult. Frequently, dogs start barking, heading towards Emma. As long as there are adults present they keep control but these are two of the reasons Mike keeps close to Emma at all times.

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Tim the Nomad in his blog explains a good response to poverty:

” … giving money does not change anything. Instead, people most often use it to buy temporary things, which too often is alcohol or drugs. Better than giving money, she said, is identifying goals. When a villager sets a goal, he or she can assess what is needed to achieve it. One goal at a time, the village discovers that they are not excluded from financial opportunity. Then, in knowing that financial opportunity is something accessible, they find something to strive for. This changes a destructive cycle of dropping out into a productive one of self-reliance. In this way, they can find independence. Instead of depending on federal or foreign aid, they can depend on themselves while maintaining the traditional foods, products, and practices that they identify with. With this financial independence comes sustainability and peace of mind.”

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If you want to help make sustainable improvements in people’s lives please consider donating to the SEED Project or our fundraising page, which was the reason for doing this run and writing this blog (I hope you are enjoying it).

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No of days: 28

Total distance run by Emma: 1193 km, 741 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.6 km, 26.5 miles

Distance run today: 54.7 kms, 34 miles

Lollipops???

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!!!!

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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.

Emma