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.
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.
We met these young men who are studying to become a policeman and an engineer
This friendly lady explained how to use a gourd as a smoking vessel and that particular plant is almost extinct.
An idyllic spot for lunch where a bird of paradise lived.
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.
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
Stopping to eat or go to the toilet has become a public event. Small children run towards us calling, “sweets, sweets”. Older ones stop and stare or join Emma running. There are people, everywhere. Every few yards there are clusters of homes. Some are neat with a sturdy fence surrounding them. Others are carelessly built, fenceless, at risk of wandering hungry cows. Cows, dogs, donkeys and goats ramble at will. Being in the second half of the dry season there are only dusty stalks of grass and spiky bushes for the cattle to eat. Through this activity the high quality tarmac road from Grootfontein cuts a straight line to Rundu: enabling cars to noisily speed and inevitably collide with innocent animals. A dead donkey and a crushed car lie on the side. Children seem to be wise and careful of the road.
First thing in the morning, one of the children from the previous evening arrives asking for food. I do not know if this is out of need or the simple joy of a gift from someone from another world. Erring on the side of caution, I give her an orange.
Children across the world go to school hungry, I have no way of knowing if she is one of them. In addition, I think my 7-year-old self would have been equally excited to have a gift from unusual foreigners. She grins with delight and bounces off, throwing and catching the orange as she goes.
For lunch, we find a quiet stop 20 yards off the road under a huge tree. Soon three 20 year olds come by, I think they are looking for a job, but stay to watch and chat while I cook. Kindly, they leave us soon after Emma and Mike arrive.
Whilst we are eating, in the distance a troop of small children head our way, but a swirling dust devil frightens them off. Dust devils are dangerous for children. Like a mini-tornado that arises from nowhere, stories abound that they can pick up an adult. Seriously! It’s not just an urban myth, it’s in Wikipedia. The small children don’t come back. Maybe they think we sent it. It feels like someone sent it as we get to finish our dinner almost undisturbed.
The school children are there to laugh and interact. Group no 3 are fascinated by everything and want something, anything. They don’t understand that we do need our kit and cannot easily get more. It’s a pleasure / pain experience: it’s great to connect and interact but after a while the pressure to entertain means it would be nice to have a break. Chatting to them is interesting, though, even with the language barrier. When I point out Namibia and Angola on our maps, with soft reverence they chorus, “Angola”. Many of the children are refugees displaced by the war. Clearly, their hearts long to go back.
But the team needs to rest. It takes several attempts before they will leave us. Short of an hour they are back, waking us up. We must be an exciting event, it’s not every day a woman who is running across Africa is snoozing in your field with her team and all their specialist kit. I try to distract them by showing them our leaflets about the run … then they all want a leaflet.
Emma has to give up on resting and sets off running early. The children shouting and screaming, scamper barefoot alongside her. This group drops off quickly but Emma has to deal with this frequently throughout her run. Luckily, she has Mike keeping by her at all times.
For the next 6 hours, there is nowhere to pee in private.
Nor can Woocash and I find anywhere to camp. Eventually, we stop outside a clean and tidy looking compound. A big friendly guy comes running up to check we are okay. When we ask him if we can stay on his land. He goes off to ask his wife. (I don’t know why it makes me smile when I write that. Maybe because he was a big impressive guy and everything he did was so cheerful.) His wife, however, is clear, “No, it is too dangerous.” They, themselves are about to leave and don’t stay there at the weekend. On his advice, we pick up Emma and Mike and head north to find a campsite.
Daylight was fading by the time we turned right onto a long dusty track to Samsitu campsite by the Okavango River. Emma and I were sure it was going to be closed. Happily we were wrong. Andy invited us to stay 3 comfy nights in beds. Hooray!
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.
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
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