Inspired by Banff film festival and after a touch of tequila, Emma and I thought she should run from the west coast of Africa to the east. This is our story of dreaming up the idea, researching it, planning, training and running the distance.
We are secretly camped beside a farm that was forcibly removed from a white Zimbabwean farmer and given to black Zimbabweans. Robert is jumpy. Acting on his advice, we are cautious.
The redistribution of farmland was set as an objective by President Mugabe in 1980, when Zimbabwe gained independence. 20 years later the process had barely started. In 2000 government supported land seizures were enforced by armed gangs of young men, these were often unexpected and violent and farmers, their families and staff were sometimes injured and killed. The most recent land seizure in the area was in 2008, just 6 years earlier. That is why we are hiding behind a thick hedge.
Robert warns us that these people can be aggressive and may think that we are trying to steal their land. He also assesses the camping spot as likely to attract a lot of snakes. Everyone is wary when we hear cars passing, becoming silent and switching off torchlights. To add a little extra adventure, I have a stomach upset in the night and 3 times have to make a dash into the darkness. Given the situation, I wake Woocash to keep me company, which he suffered with surprisingly good humour. We are happy to get off the site as quickly as possible in the morning.
Number of Days: 53
Total distance run by Emma: 2204 km, 1370 miles
Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.6km, 25.8 miles
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
Past Omaruru, we enter the lands of game and cattle farmers. To keep the animals in, there are wire fences either side of the road. There are warthog everywhere. I worry they will attack Emma but they run off as soon as they see us.
When we first arrived in this area and set up for lunch, a car appeared out of the dusty road. The man who got out, warned us that we might, accidentally (on purpose?), be shot if we camped. He suggests the next game farm as a place to stay. Emma runs her final 16 km of the day (like its a normal thing to do). I’m a bit concerned for her and Mike’s safety, since we are on hunting territory, but am thinking that no-one aims towards the road and that mistakenly harming someone dressed in bright pink is going to be tricky to explain. Woocash and I go in search of a place to camp. We haven’t found the next guest farm but we turn down a track signposted to a B & B. A mile down and we are in a forest: trees looming close to the path and vines hanging down. It feels like a scene from “Big Fish“. The track forks and we turn left. We are unexpectedly in a farm. There’s no-one around and its a little spooky. We turn round to take the right fork which arrives at a wide sandy river bed. There’s a car track across and we follow it to an island thick with trees and vegetation. There we are met with padlocked gates and a sign that reads:
“Warning Dangerous Dogs”
“There is life after death:
Enter and find out.”
Naturally, we’re curious to take up the challenge. However, getting to a hospital would take a long time and delay the run. Hoping the dogs can’t get over the fence, I get out the car to help Woocash turn the car round. We head back to the main road to look for somewhere better, where we won’t be mistaken for fair game and shot. Not a thing and its getting late. On the Tracks4Africa map we can see that 25 km in front is a camping lodge. Emma has gone as far as she is going for the day. We load everyone and everything onto Cleo, make sure Emma has something to eat as she needs to eat within 20 minutes, and head towards the lodge. We travel slowly. The sun is setting.
We arrive at Omaha Guest Farm in the dark. The gates are padlocked. I toot the horn but no response. We’ve got nowhere else to go. Being slightly off the road, we decide we’ll camp to one side of the gate. In the hope that no-one is going to shoot us right outside their front door. I’m trying to figure out what will be quick to cook as Emma needs a healthy meal each day and lots of rest, when, the owner and his wife appear. Arif is from Manchester! Our home city, that we all love. They invite us in. Using a bathroom for the first time in a week is fantastic. Emma comes out of the toilet with her eyes sparkling, “I washed my hands and my face!” she grins. Its a joy to be clean, well some bits anyway. This is a luxury we haven’t had for days. They also have delicious prawn curry to share. Cold water to drink. Cold water to drink is a wonderful thing, especially in a hot country, after running 40km. And an adorable 2 year old girl who plays with me. After a happy dinner, its an early night as always. The next day, the whole family came out to cheer Emma on as she runs past: