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)

Part 1: Entertaining Children

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Before dawn Woocash takes Emma and Mike to the point where they stopped the night before. As dawn is breaking, Emma starts her run and Lukasz has returns to pick us up from the center of the village.

This day held one of my favourite moments of the trip and, of course, it involves children laughing. We had put up a tarpaulin to shelter from the threatening rain clouds but, as the crowds of children gathered, we shifted it to act as a privacy barrier. Emma and Mike had arrived for breakfast stressed from being screamed at by excitable children. A few of the watchers drifted off to school but the less well dressed ones stayed. I am guessing, but may be wrong, that they didn’t have enough money for a formal education. So, in order to enable the team to have some peace, I went out to the children to be their focus and had loads of fun.

The children were sweet and friendly and tolerated my lack of language skills and crazy antics. I taught them how to spin their leg under themselves, did a few yoga moves, sang songs – “heads, shoulders, knees and toes.” And several times I tried to teach them the Mexican wave (they had surrounded me in a circle and I thought it would be fun).

One girl, Margaret, spoke a few words of English and had the confidence to be the first to try things. Thank God for her. Mostly, the children laughed and giggled and looked up at me with shining eyes and smiles. Pushing in to touch me at times then running away squealing when I looked at them.

An old man came up to me and asked, “Why do you do this?”

“Because I like children.” I reply.

He smiles and says, “Thank you.”

He went on his way to the fields to work.

That thank you and smile that went with it and the sound of children laughing, will warm me for the rest of my life.

At last, I saw Mike and Emma setting off on their journey, hopefully at least a little rested,  and disappearing down the road. I could stop, pack up the car, say goodbye to the little crowd and revert to being an introvert. Onwards we go to Mangochi and Lake Malawi.

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Lake Malawi
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Emma in Mangochi. We had a good teamy lunch break. Mangochi is a beautiful town.

*****

Number of Days: 74

Total distance run by Emma: 3143 km, 1953 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.5 km, 26.4 miles

Distance run today: 56.07 km, 34.84 miles

Malawi

 

 

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Malawi is flourishing green, although sadly all the big ancient forests have been cut down and sold. At 5.30am shops are open and people are busy.

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Tasty tomatoes. Woocash and Robert disappeared off into the surrounding area to hunt out Oofa (Sadza) which has now become a team favourite food. In the meantime, these ladies were lovely and friendly and happy to sell me their produce.

The land of smiles is full of people smiling and waving. Food on the roadside is cheap and delicious. Ripe sweet mangos and home made doughnuts become daily treats. Insects are fluffy and the police are helpful. After a policeman checked our ID at a road block, he sent someone to fetch water for us from his house! A man we met along the way brought us sandwiches on our lunch break.

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In the centre is the kindly man who came searching for us in our lunch break. It took him a while, we were well hidden.

I must take up this habit of being so welcoming to strangers. It’s a pretty incredible experience to be so consistently welcomed in every culture as we travel.

However, fuel is expensive, and I am paying, so camel style we have filled Cleo up in Mozambique and she will have her next drink in Mozambique in 5 days time. I like our mini challenge to make it across a whole (very thin) country with no fuel stops.

 

*****

Number of Days: 72

Total distance run by Emma: 3028 km, 1882 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.1 km, 26.1 miles

Distance run today: 59.21 km, 36.79 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

Back on the road

Emma and Mike set off a few days ahead of us whilst we hang out at embassies sorting out visas. Mike who we met at dinner joins Emma for a marathon, which makes a happy day. Local people take care of Emma and Mike along the way and they even get to stay in a hut for a night to make sure that they are safe. (How great would that be?)

My driving licence arrives in Harare just before we set off again, luckily. I am delighted to leave the city and love being back on the dusty road with fields and trees for miles in every direction. We catch up with Emma and Mike just in time before the border with Mozambique: we have their visas and passports and we can all celebrate Robert’s birthday with watermelon and chocolate cake.

*****

Day 61 distance run: 60.31 km, 37.47 miles
Day 62 distance run: 61.86 km, 38.43 miles
Day 63 distance run: 52.33 km, 32.51 miles
Day 64 distance run: 53.68 km, 33.35 miles

Number of Days: 64

Total distance run by Emma: 2640 km, 1640 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.2 km, 25.6 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

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.

*****

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

*****

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.