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.
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.
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.
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
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