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)

Back and Forth and Unstoppable

Emma had a planned a day off in Tete, which is lucky as she has had no sleep. In addition, her shorts soaked in oil from her daily massages, are frying her legs in the sun. We take the opportunity to wash them as well as possible. Mike and Woocash are not able to support Emma, so Robert will become her companion and guard. Robert has not ridden a bicycle for years but he steps up to the challenge admirably.

At dawn, I drive Emma and Robert the mile or so to where she stopped 36 hours before. As they are about to set off a policeman arrives demanding to see I.D. and saying there will be a fine if we cannot produce them. It causes a slight delay whilst I zip back to fetch their passports. Later in the afternoon, I pick them up 60km down the road and bring them back to sleep in Tete. At 2.30am, the next morning, we drive for 1.5 hrs out the silent dark city and through the dark countryside. The sun is sending its first rays as we arrive where Emma and Robert will start their day.

Emma and Robert set off into the heat whilst Woocash and I head back to collect Mike. In the afternoon, there are some steep hills on the route and we are all wondering how Robert has coped. (We know that Emma will be fine, although I still think the hills are pretty big). Robert is exhausted when we find them and Mike discovers he has done 55km up and down hills with one of the brakes on! Mike says Alfredo, the bicycle, is misbehaving with out him. Robert and Emma are both an inspiration today.

We are surrounded by tilled fields and wondering where to put up camp when a local man, kindly, says that it is fine to park on his field and sleep there.

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*****

Day 69 distance run: 60.57 km, 37.63 miles
Day 70 distance run: 55.52 km, 34.49 miles

Number of Days: 70

Total distance run by Emma: 2912 km, 1809 miles

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

Bush Fires

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Crackling bush fires start and grow around us, flickering high above our heads. We are parked in the middle of the dusty track waiting for Emma and Mike, Robert assures us that the fire cannot cross the road. I hop out to take a video of the fire, which suddenly swerves closer to me and Cleo, the car. I quick step back to Cleopatra and my video instead of showing the magnificent flames soaring above us, shows a crazy swerving shot of the inside of the car, as Woocash swings her around and out of harms way. Darn it.

We wait to make sure Emma and Mike get through safely. The fire swiftly dies down and makes a fool of our concern.

 

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*****

 

Number of Days: 46

Total distance run by Emma: 2022 km, 1256 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.0 km, 27.3 miles

Distance run today: 57.60 km, 35.77 miles

And relax

1641 km! I can’t believe that we have made it this far: That we bought and fixed up a car, shipped it to Namibia, sourced kit and connections, Emma started the run and is still running and we are still all alive. A lot of me never thought this would happen. Really, truly, but I have a fear of failing and that fear drove me to make it possible. You don’t have to believe to succeed but you do have to work hard. I am not sure what is motivating Emma.

Emma runs, Mike cycles and the rest of us drive into tourist town. A kaleidoscope of colour, noise, little shops, glamorous tourists and backpackers, touts and cars. For the next 3 nights we shall be sleeping in beds, beds I tell you, with mattresses. We are all exhausted and could do with time apart. Emma is obviously much more tired than the rest of us and happy to be off her feet. I am giddy at the thought of not thinking about the rest of the team or cooking.

First, however, is the goodie bag Mum has brought from the UK. We unpack presents and letters for Emma. Emma is overwhelmed as she hears all the words of love and admiration from her friends. She’s not the only one.

There are also shiny new shoes kindly donated from family and friends, which were hugely appreciated. Then it is time for each of us to take turns soaking in the tub and getting as clean as we can, dirt has become ground into our skin. Emma and I have a lovely relaxing dinner with my Mum and leave the guys to their own devices.

Number of Days: 37

Total distance run by Emma: 1641 km, 1019 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.3 km, 27.6 miles

Distance run today: 49.82 km, 30.95 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

Fire in the distance

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Alarmingly, we see wild fires less than a mile away. However, people, cows and dogs are going about their business without looking at even those fires that are near straw huts. So, we do what everyone else does and ignore it.

Robert explains local people start fires to flush out small animals, which are caught for food. I guess Zambians are as experienced with fire as the Swiss are with snow.

With fires around, I am not keen on camping beside the road. Luckily, we are allowed to camp here under this fantastic tree which makes Cleo look like a toy truck instead of the Landcruiser with extra suspension she really is.

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Robert swiftly disappears to chat up the locals who are having a meeting about development in the area and receive some tasty meat and sadza, which I am very happy about. I still haven’t mentioned to the team the possibility we could run out of food as we don’t have any Zambian money to buy any. Why bother them?

In the night the wind gets up.

Advice Moment: When travelling in a windy place, do not take a roof tent. The wind sweeps between the layers of the tent and struggles desperately to get out, crashing the fabric up and down. At moments, shaking the whole car, I dreamily wonder if we will take off. Fortunately, Cleopatra is a big girl and all the kit inside and us on top, adds up to over a tonne so it would have to be some wind to fly us into the sky. In future, I think twice about putting a tent under a massive tree.

Nobody gets much sleep.

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Emma slowing up for Robert 😉 … Truthfully, though, Emma was in so much pain it is phenomenal that she is moving, much less running more than a marathon

Number of Days: 35

Total distance run by Emma: 1537 km, 955 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.9 km, 27.3 miles

Distance run today: 55.71 km, 34.61 miles