Running in lion territory

This is a tense time. Local knowledge is invaluable and we have been warned that the area Emma is about to run through has lions in it. Mike is no longer on the bike beside Emma but inside the car.


The car is beside Emma so that if a lion is spotted she can get in as swiftly as possible.


Woocash is driving and I am on top with binoculars. I know from experience how incredibly difficult it is to spot a lion.

Do you think you could spot a lion amongst this grass?

Staring at a strange looking burnt tree, I realise after a moment that it is an ostrich, stationery in the forest. It moves away as we get closer. Ostrich can be vicious when they want to be, lions aren’t the only animals to be wary of. Although of course in the excitement of seeing an ostrich, I forgot all of that and simply yelled “Ostrich, ostrich!” Everyone looked right and for a moment failed to keep look out left, which was the side Emma was on.

The strangest thing about this forest is how silent it is. There may have been lions in the grass watching us for all we know but we don’t spot them. We are wary when we stop to eat and rest but never see anything and we all make it safely through.

It is an adventure but right at this moment Emma has run, on average, a marathon a day for 30 days. She is in a lot of pain and she is in danger from the wildlife. What kind of strength is required to achieve that distance, face that pain and danger and keep going?

However, the stress is too much for everyone and although Emma ran through dangerous game parks in her previous run along the Freedom Trail in South Africa with only her brother on a bicycle as support, we make a very good decision to turn left and run through Zambia instead of Botswana and the Chobe National Park, which is full of animals.

The only thing is that I have not prepared for us to cross into Zambia. I don’t know requirements for the border crossing at all. Lets hope its an easy one. This will be my first land crossing in Africa and my first with Cleopatra, the car.


No of days: 30

Total distance run by Emma: 1,305 km, 811 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.5 km, 27 miles

 Distance run today: 56 km, 35 miles

Advice, particularly to do with lions

Jenny at Sense Africa, is clearly confused by my cluelessness. I have called her for advice but I know so little I don’t know what I don’t know. She generously gives me some in country contacts. She warns against heatstroke, land mines in Mozambique and areas of civil unrest and tells me, in response to my anxiety about lions: “If you see a lion, man-eating or not, if you’re running he’s going to chase you. Best to walk slowly backwards.” I stop planning to do the trip with a bicycle and plan, instead, on a hefty car with an experienced safari guide.

My mother offers some great advice on lions: carry dustbin lids and bash them together. I like this advice a lot, its simple, cheap and nobody gets hurt. I imagine standing in a truck, looking out for lions and at random moments crashing the lids together and scaring the life out of Emma. Not that Emma’s easily scared and its probably not a game I want to get into with her. I’m wary of spiders, heights, cows and generally most things that have a risk of death or pain. She’s not.


I read the chapter in “Traversa” about man-eating lions and start to have concerns about Emma’s run. Last time, she did it with her brother on a bicycle. I’m thinking: Lion vs two women and a bicycle. Ooh, lets guess who’s going to win! I hadn’t planned until this point to go with Emma. But now, I realise, I feel responsible for asking her to do it again. I’m going to have to go. I think seriously about what I will do if her life is in danger: I’m not relishing the thought of stepping between a lion and Emma, fab in the movies, not so fab in real life.