UK Run 7 : Taunton

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

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Date : 8th December, 2018

Time : 1h 03’ 39”

Number of runners (total to date) : 276* (2902)

Total distance run to date : 1600 km + 70km in the UK

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3213862473

Media : https://www.facebook.com/longrunmeadowparkrun/ ;

https://www.facebook.com/longrunmeadowparkrun/posts/1756411034469413?__tn__=K-R

https://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/sport/17281765.running-members-of-hydro-harriers-and-running-forever-clubs-take-to-the-outdoors/

If you’ve never tried a Parkrun then you really should. They’re free, weekly, 5km timed runs in a park somewhere near you. Some participants are serious runners ; others are social runners ; and still others are beginners. On the day I ran in Taunton, 261 people took part – with times ranging from 18’ 19” to 1h 10’ 35”.

Parkrun is now in 584 locations and I think one of the reasons they’re so successful is that everyone’s given a bar code and parkrun then produces a table of results for each run. These contain a wealth for data and, even if you’re not a serious runner, it’s fascinating to see how you’ve done vis-a-vis your previous times and vis-a-vis your personal demographic.

Another reason is that they’re very welcoming and supremely well organised. And a large part of that is due to the volunteers. One of them, Dave, introduced himself to me. He has stage 4 cancer, is about to go into chemotherapy, and has been given 3-30 months. He told me all this with smile on his face and I asked him how he stayed cheerful in the circumstances. He told me he couldn’t do it without parkrun.

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The Run the World ethos is that running is both great for you and great fun. But, in truth, it often goes deeper than that. I talk to people all over the world for whom running has made all the difference in their battles against physical and mental health issues.

Dave, best of luck for what’s coming up. May you defy the odds!

The Taunton parkrun consists of two loops of Longrun Meadow and on the day I ran it was plenty wet and muddy. Conscious that I would be driving back to London in my running gear, I tried to run carefully to stay as dry as I could.

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And to save my breath to talk to as many people as possible including Sharron, the remarkable ‘just out of hospital’ Taunton AC runner,

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and Jane – pic below with hint of a rainbow – who works for the police and oversees their fitness testing. (They use bleep tests : everyone is expected to be at level 5.4 and firearms and similar officers are expected to be at level 9.1 or above.)

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Having done the parkrun 5km, I was then joined by a number of parkrunners ; by runners from Taunton AC, the Hydro Harriers, the Taunton Hash House Harriers, and the Running Forever Running Club ; and by staff from Albert Goodman for a further 10km run. There were about 25 of us at the start of the run and, much like the earlier parkrun, there was plenty of mud and good chat with the runners including Harriet Hash House Harrier and various members of the Albert Goodman team.

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Albert Goodman were actually the reason I was in Taunton because I’d talked at their away day / Christmas party the previous evening at the Fleet Air Arm Museum. (For those who don’t know them, Albert Goodman are a firm of accountants based in Taunton. I’ve worked with them for a number of years despite living hours away in London – which I guess is a pretty good recommendation.)

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After the talk, they were good enough to present me with a cheque for £2000 for Cancer Research (thank you!) We then proceeded to the museum for their party – a museum which includes a Concorde.

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Particularly fascinating for me because, many years ago when I was in the computer / video games business, for various unlikely reasons I was flown to New York for a meeting. By Concorde.

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But that story’s for another time. For now, it just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Jamie and all the runners and volunteers at parkrun ; to Mike Cahill and everyone at Albert Goodman ; to Sharron and Taunton AC ; to Tom and the Hydro Harriers ; to Linda and the Running Forever Club ; and to Harriet and the Taunton Hash.

If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on July 4th 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

*261 park runners http://www.parkrun.org.uk/longrunmeadow/results/weeklyresults/?runSeqNumber=272 + c. 15 new runners who joined us for the 2nd part of the run.

 

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Run 160 : Jordan – Amman

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter

Date : 23rd November, 2018

Time : 54’ 40”

Number of runners (total to date) : 60 (2626)

Total distance run to date : 1600 km

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3183882135

Per its website, the King Hussein Cancer Foundation is an organisation dedicated to fighting cancer by fundraising; by supporting patients at the KHCF ; by providing a cancer care coverage programme ; and via programmes to increase cancer awareness and promote early detection.

They’re also, as it turns out, excellent run organisers.

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There were ambulances, banners, volunteers all along the route, police security, run leaders etc. There were also high vis vests – an item I’ve always coveted!

The only minor blip was something they couldn’t control – the weather. A thunderstorm had been forecast for the morning of our run. And, while it never came to that, it was cold with a nagging, slanting rain that broke out from time to time. Enough to deter many runners I was repeatedly told by those who braved the elements – which was a shame given all KHCF’s efforts.

Still, there were about 60 of us at the start and, of course, the great thing about running is that the weather doesn’t matter as soon as you get going.

We started at the Amman Baccalaureate School

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and, after a pre-run warm-up,

ran roughly towards the centre of town via an incline or two (Amman is very hilly) past the Queen Rania Teacher Academy and the King Hussein Medical Centre. We finished with a loop of the Al Hussein Park past the King Hussein Mosque.

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However, I’m not going to dwell on the run – excellent though it was – because these events are really about the runners and the cause.

There were runners from Run Jordan,

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and from local running clubs

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an extraordinary ultra desert runner

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triathletes

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a man who ran in 4 layers to lose more weight (he’d already reduced his weight from 120kg to 90kg) and Tim the Australian journalist who didn’t run but did take lots of footage.

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A more diverse and friendly group you couldn’t hope to meet.

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As for the cause, if you’d like to support the King Hussein Cancer Foundation then please donate here. Cancer sufferers across Jordan will be very grateful.

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It just remains for me to thank all my fellow runners and the King Hussein Cancer Foundation for all the support and great company.

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If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on July 4th 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

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If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

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Run 159 : Iraq – Baghdad

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter

Date : 21st November, 2018

Time : 51’ 22”

Number of runners (total to date) : 40 (2566)

Total distance run to date : 1590 km

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3183882117

Media : https://www.facebook.com/UnitedNationsIraq/

I’ve run in a lot of places where personal security is front of mind – Venezuela and Papua New Guinea spring to mind – but Iraq was at a different level. And, before I offend anyone, let me be clear that I’m not saying Iraq is more dangerous than other places. Just that, for an overseas visitor, the security precautions are taken very, very seriously.

If you are fortunate enough to obtain a visa to visit Baghdad then Booking.com offers you a choice of hotels. However, these are all in the red zone. If you want to stay in the green zone, which you are strongly advised to do, then you must stay at the Al Rasheed.

And, if you want to stay at the Al Rasheed, then you need to use their transport as taxis (and most Iraqis) can’t enter the green zone. Which is slightly painful on the wallet because, based on my by now reasonably extensive experience of these matters, I think it is fair to say that it is the most expensive hotel shuttle service in the world.

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On the other hand, it is quite a drive in from the airport. I lost count of the number of military roadblocks and vehicles we had to pass before we got to the hotel. And, when you get there, you enter the hotel on a red carpet – which covers the walkway that used to feature a picture of George Bush. Apparently installed at Saddam’s behest, the idea was that guests literally had to walk all over the US President.

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Once installed in your hotel, you could, in theory, saunter out for a run in the streets of Baghdad or, failing that, the streets of the green zone. In practice this is considered to be too dangerous – so I’m very grateful to everyone who organised for me to run in the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) compound.

This did mean that we wouldn’t be running through the famous Hands of Victory (aka the Crossed Swords) as I’d fondly imagined. In fact, we couldn’t even get close to them and the following picture, taken during a brief and slightly nervy car stop, was the best we could do.

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As it turned out, the UN compound is a great place to run. We started with welcome speeches from Alice Walpole (the UN’s Deputy Special Representative in Iraq) and myself.

Just as I started talking, the loud speakers around the compound burst into life : “Incoming, incoming.” It was only a test – but it gave me a taste of the life led by everyone in the compound.

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About 40 of us set off on the run which took us 9 times round the compound passing unfailingly friendly and supportive security personal at each corner. Each circuit was run clockwise because to run widdershins (counter-clockwise) is apparently bad luck. (Thank you, Alice, for this wisdom – which I shall try to apply to all my future runs!)

Everyone ran at their own speed and there were plenty of opportunities to chat with the runners who came from every corner of the globe. Excellent company all of them, though special mention should perhaps be made of the Australian Ambassador who’d landed in Baghdad that morning after an 18 hour flight from Australia – and still managed a 53 minute 10km.

Here’s the UNAMI video of the event

I couldn’t have been more delighted when I heard afterwards that people enjoyed the run enough to be talking seriously about making it a regular occurrence. (Please send pictures!)

After plenty more photos

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and a number of very generous donations, I said goodbye to everyone and met with the team from Sport Against Violence. They do fantastic work in the Baghdad region and organise a number of runs for peace including the Baghdad marathon.

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They encouraged me to come back to Baghdad and to see more of the city and the people. They were very polite about it but I think they felt I was being too cautious on the security front. They may well be right and I’d certainly love to revisit Baghdad one day and run through the city. However, as the memorial to the 22 people tragically killed in the 2003 attack on the UN compound reminded me, security is, to put it mildly, a difficult issue.

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A lot of people went to a lot of trouble to enable me to run in Baghdad and I’d particularly like to thank Asif who went out of his way to help me with every aspect of the trip ; Alice Walpole; Louis ; Ivan ; Ahmed and the team from Sport Against Violence ; Glen and the British Embassy ; and last, but by no means least, my old college friend Daud who introduced me to Asif and set the whole ball rolling.

I’d also like to thank everyone who ran with me and who donated. I’ll never forget the run in Baghdad and, if any of you can make it, I’d love to see you in London on the 4th July 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Iraq is a country in Western Asia. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including ArabsKurdsAssyriansTurkmenShabakisYazidisArmenians. Around 95% of the country’s 37 million citizens are Muslims, with ChristianityYarsanYezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land.

The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that mankind first began to read, write, create laws and live in cities under an organised government—notably Uruk, from which “Iraq” is derived. The area has been home to successive civilisations since the 6th millennium BC. Iraq was the centre of the AkkadianSumerianAssyrian and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the HellenisticRomanMongol, Ottoman and other empires.

The country today known as Iraq was a region of the Ottoman Empire until the partition of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. It was made up of three provinces, called vilayets in the Ottoman languageMosul VilayetBaghdad Vilayet, and Basra Vilayet. In April 1920 the British Mandate of Mesopotamia was created under the authority of the League of Nations. A British-backed monarchy joining these vilayets into one Kingdom was established in 1921 under Faisal I of IraqThe Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from the UK in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Iraqi Republic created. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein‘s Ba’ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The US presence in Iraq ended in 2011, but the Iraqi insurgency continued and intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country. Out of the insurgency came a highly destructive group calling itself ISIL, which took large parts of the north and west. It has since been largely defeated. Disputes over the sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan continue. A referendum about the full sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan was held on 25 September 2017. On 9 December 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL after the group lost its territory in Iraq.

Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates (provinces) and one autonomous region (Iraqi Kurdistan). The country’s official religion is IslamCulturally, Iraq has a very rich heritage and celebrates the achievements of its past in both pre-Islamic as well as post-Islamic times and is known for its poets. Its painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, some of them being world-class as well as producing fine handicrafts, including rugs and carpets. Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab LeagueOICNon-Aligned Movement and the IMF.

World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for Iraq – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP $197.7 bn 2017 $36.6 bn 2004
         
Population 38.3 m 2017 23.6 m 2000
         
Primary school enrolment* 108% 2007 97% 2000
         
CO2 Emissions** 4.8 2014 3.1 2000
         
% below poverty line*** 18.9% 2012 22.4% 2006
         
Life expectancy at birth 69.9 yrs 2016 69.2 yrs 2000
         
GNI per capita $4770 2017 $2020 2006

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

** Metric tons per capita

***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While much of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)

Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Iraq performed in the global sporting arena in 2017:

Global Cup – NA

Per Capita Cup – NA

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.

 

 

 

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Run 158 : Turkey – Istanbul

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter

Date : 20th November, 2018

Time : 1h 07’ 53”

Number of runners (total to date) : 11 (2526)

Total distance run to date : 1580 km

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3183882101

Do you like big exciting cities? That are set on water? And are full of world class culture and history? And modern nightlife?

If the answer to all of the above is ‘yes’ then Istanbul may very well be for you.

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Even seeing the city as part of a night time 10 km run it was pretty amazing  – as I hope you’ll agree after reading this blog!

Ten of us met at the Sultanahmet tram station. The majority from the Istanbul Hash House Harriers with a sprinkling of other runners.

We went straight from the start point to the famous Blue Mosque – the extraordinary six minareted Ottoman marvel.

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We then crossed the square to the Hagia Sophia. Often referred to as the eighth wonder in the world, it was built during Byzantine times when it was the largest Christian church in the world. Following the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans it was converted to a mosque and is now a museum.

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From there we ran through the gardens by the Topkapi Palace down to the confluence of the Bosphorus – which runs north-south through Istanbul dividing Europe from Asia – and the Golden Horn which runs east-west through the European side of Istanbul.

West along the Golden Horn, overlooked by various magnificent buildings to the Halic bridge.

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A few of the hashers – motto a drinking club with a running problem – took the escalator.

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The purists amongst us took the stairs and crossed the bridge with views down to the Bosphurus.

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Once over the bridge we headed east where we had the great pleasure of being joined by Deena who last starred in one of these blogs in Ethiopia back in 2016.

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Inland to Macka Parki and then a sharp climb before finishing in Taksim Gezi Parki near Taksim Square.

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Needless to say, this being a hash run, the evening didn’t end there. We walked past numerous bars, clubs and restaurants before reaching the establishment fortunate enough to enjoy the patronage of the Istanbul Hash.

During my various runs with hashers all over the world, I’ve noticed two things. Firstly, there are usually more in the pub than there were at the end of the run. Secondly, they’re great company.

Istanbul was no exception – compare the photo below with the one above from the end of the run.

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Extraordinarily the company that night not only included the aforementioned Deena but also someone I’d run with in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

Talking to them all it became clear that most of them had the Istanbul bug. One runner had even taken the decision to move to Istanbul in the taxi queue at the airport – five minutes after landing in Istanbul for the first time.

And who can blame them? From what I saw it’s a fabulous city and I shall definitely be back!

It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Maria, Tolga, Aleyd, Deena, Beat, Jennifer, and all my fellow runners and hashers for a great evening. If you can make it, I’d love to see you in London on July 4th 2020 for the UK and final leg of Run the World!

Finally, a special thanks to Deniz and Ozgur (who joined the run) from the British Embassy. 20th November 2018 was the fifteenth anniversary of the 2003 Istanbul bomb attack which killed a number of British Embassy/Consulate staff and I’m very grateful that they made the time to support Run the World on the same day as their Memorial Service. (It was one of 4 truck bomb attacks that killed 57 and wounded 700 in November 2003.)

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Turkey is a transcontinental country located mainly in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan peninsula in Southeast EuropeEast Thrace, located in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous strait and the Dardanelles (collectively called the Turkish Straits). Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivanand Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Ankara is its capital but Istanbul is the country’s largest city. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country’s citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 per cent of the population.

At various points in its history, the region has been inhabited by diverse civilizations including the AssyriansGreeksThraciansPhrygiansUrartians, and Armenians.Hellenization started during the era of Alexander the Great and continued into the Byzantine era. The Seljuk Turks began migrating into the area in the 11th century, and their victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 symbolizes the start and foundation of Turkey.The Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm ruled Anatolia until the Mongol invasion in 1243, when it disintegrated into small Turkish principalities. Beginning in the late 13th-century, the Ottomans started uniting these Turkish principalities. After Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman expansion continued under Selim I. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent the Ottoman Empire encompassed much of Southeast Europe, West Asia and North Africa and became a world power. In the following centuries the state entered a period of decline with a gradual loss of territories and wars. In an effort to consolidate the weakening social and political foundations of the empire, Mahmut II started a period of modernisation in the early 19th century, bringing reforms in all areas of the state including the military and bureaucracy along with the emancipation of all citizens.

In 1913, a coup d’état effectively put the country under the control of the Three Pashas. During World War I, the Ottoman government committed genocides against its ArmenianAssyrian and Pontic Greek subjects. Following the war, the conglomeration of territories and peoples that formerly comprised the Ottoman Empire was partitioned into several new states. The Turkish War of Independence, initiated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues against occupying Allied Powers, resulted in the abolition of monarchy in 1922 and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, with Atatürk as its first president. Atatürk enacted numerous reforms, many of which incorporated various aspects of Western thought, philosophy, and customs into the new form of Turkish government. The Kurdish–Turkish conflict, an armed conflict between the Republic of Turkey and Kurdish insurgents, has been active since 1984 primarily in the southeast of the country. Various Kurdish groups demand separation from Turkey to create an independent Kurdistan or to have autonomy and greater political and cultural rights for Kurds in Turkey.

Turkey is a charter member of the UN, an early member of NATO, the IMF and the World Bank. After becoming one of the first members of the Council of Europe in 1949, Turkey became an associate member of the EEC in 1963, joined the EU Customs Union in 1995 and started accession negotiations with the European Union in 2005 which have been effectively stopped by the EU in 2017 due to “Turkey’s path toward autocratic rule”.Turkey’s economy and diplomatic initiatives led to its recognition as a regional power while its location has given it geopolitical and strategic importance throughout history. Turkey is a secularunitary, formerly parliamentary republic which adopted a presidential system with a referendum in 2017; the new system came into effect with the presidential election in 2018. Turkey’s current administration headed by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the AKP has enacted measures to increase the influence of Islam, reversed and undermined Kemalist policies, and has reversed earlier reforms such as freedom of the press.

World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for Turkey – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP $851 bn 2017 $273 bn 2000
         
Population 80.7 m 2017 63.2 m 2000
         
Primary school enrolment* 103% 2015 103% 2000
         
CO2 Emissions** 4.5 2014 3.4 2000
         
% below poverty line*** 1.6% 2015 30.3% 2002
         
Life expectancy at birth 75.8 yrs 2016 70.0 yrs 2000
         
GNI per capita $10930 2017 $4300 2000

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

** Metric tons per capita

***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While much of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)

Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Turkey performed in the global sporting arena in 2017:

Global Cup – 31st

Per Capita Cup – 52nd

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.

 

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Run 157 : Albania – Tirana

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter

Date : 19th November, 2018

Time : 57’ 10”

Number of runners (total to date) : 34 (2515)

Total distance run to date : 1570 km

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3183882074

Media : http://shoqeriacivile.com/te-vraposh-per-jeten-e-shendetshme-me-hapin-sensibilizues-te-britanikut-dan-thompson/?fbclid=IwAR1g6XbiO-R8IMmZsbwsfFy_TPOHD1_ZeE4cDKcbm0xUWv_L-qTKh1S4veY

https://www.facebook.com/ukinalbania/photos/a.994970513877269/2506897636017875/?type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/261FearlessTirana/

There’d been a slight technical hitch but suddenly the opening slide of the Run the World school presentation was up on the theatre wall.

The 90 students from the Shkolla Mihal Grameno immediately started cheering wildly. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Albania had just won the World Cup.

I knew I was going to enjoy this talk!

They were a great bunch – informed, engaged and enthusiastic.

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They even managed to come up with some questions I hadn’t been asked before. Including the poser : what did I think of Albania’s proposed new law to ban fast food?

It’s a tricky one. Not all fast food is necessarily bad. And I’ve certainly got a lot of personal sympathy for anyone who wants to avoid the time involved in the whole shopping / cooking / clearing up process.

On the other hand, some fast food seems to be little better than gristle cooked in fat and saturated in sugar and salt. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that fast food contributes to obesity – which is a huge issue in countries like the UK.

An interesting debate to say the least.

The students’ enthusiasm carried over into that evening’s run as a number of them, plus their PE and citizenship teachers, joined us for the start in Mother Teresa’s Square. (Mother Teresa, nee Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, may have won world renown and the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Calcutta but she was an Albanian – though born in Skopje, capital of modern day Macedonia , where I’d also come across a memorial to her.)

Including Bruna and members of the 261 Fearless Running Club and the TIRUN Club

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there were 34 of us at the start. We jogged off to Tirana’s Grand Park for 2 x 5km loops round the artificial lake. (If you’re ever in Tirana, and looking for somewhere to stretch your legs, then this is a fine place to run or walk.)

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None of the students had ever run 10 km before so it was pretty impressive that some of them ran the full distance. A few of them even managed to stay at the front for the whole run which was good going – particularly as we accelerated over the final few kilometres until we were running at c 4’15” per km pace by the end.

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If any of the students are reading this – I hope you enjoyed it and keep on running!

After our goodbyes, I walked back towards the centre of Tirana, past the Pyramid. This was originally built as a museum dedicated to Enver Hoxha, the long-time Communist leader of Albania. (At the time it was said to be the most expensive single structure ever built in Albania. )

It’s now a broadcasting centre and, on the night I was there, a climbing frame and slide for the Welsh fans in town for the following night’s match against Albania.

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A quick look round the (very likeable) centre of Tirana followed

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before finishing my evening at Eatitalian where I’d been invited by Olsi, one of my fellow runners. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Tirana!

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It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Bruna, the 261 Fearless Running Club, the TIRUN Club, the Shkolla Mihal Grameno, Kebiana and the British Embassy, Olsi, Eatitalian and all my fellow runners for a great day in Tirana. If any of you can make it, then it would be wonderful to see you in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK and final leg of Run the World!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

 

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Run 126 San Marino – San Marino

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 Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

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Date : 16th October, 2017

Time : 59’ 04”

Total distance run to date : 1260 km

Run map and details :  https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2180163296

I was sitting at a dinner party in Italy and the conversation turned, as it does, to San Marino. What exactly, someone asked, is the point of San Marino?

Now, this blog has a large number of Sammarinese (which, as you’re probably aware, is the demonym, or gentilic, for people from San Marino) readers and I want to assure them that the question wasn’t intended to be offensive. It simply reflected our ignorance.

And, whilst I recognise that most of this blog’s readers are either the aforementioned Sammarinese, or are well-educated and worldly folk who know their international geography, it is possible that one or two of you share that ignorance. A little background on San Marino may therefore be in order.

San Marino has been around since 301 AD and can lay claim to being the world’s oldest extant sovereign state. The fact that it managed to remain independent throughout the following 1700 years is a truly remarkable story.

Especially when one considers that those years included Napoleon’s maraudings through Italy, Italian unification and two world wars – during the second of which it was reported to have declared war on Great Britain. Mistakenly as it turned out. Which was probably just as well for us Brits as we already had our hands quite full at that stage. (More – well worth reading – detail on the San Marino story in Facts & Stats below.)

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When you get to San Marino, it’s even harder to understand why no-one has annexed it. Because it’s very pretty, has no national debt, virtually no unemployment and runs a budget surplus.

It’s tiny by country standards – 24 sq. mi – and is one of only three enclaves (i.e. completely surrounded by another country) in the world – the others being Lesotho and the Vatican.

In the middle of the enclave is the capital of San Marino on the slopes of Monte Titano. It’s a dramatic place with amazing views over the surrounding countryside.

And absolutely rubbish for running.

The combination of the gradient, the mostly narrow streets, and all the tourists means that there’s essentially nowhere sensible to run.

My only option seemed to be to jog to the tower on top of Monte Titano and hope that a more accommodating route would present itself.

As I struggled up to the summit I started to keep an eye on my Garmin. Which was telling me I was running slowly, very slowly. To be honest, I couldn’t understand it. Yes, it was steep – but every so often there were little flat terraces off to the sides of the street. Presumably there for the great views, I was using them to run round in circles and get my breath back. The only trouble was that my Garmin couldn’t pick up on the little circles I was running and therefore assumed I was resting.

Which meant I was running but Garmin wasn’t recording. Aaargh!

Never mind, I was now at the tower and surely things would get better from here. Except that it turned out there was a second tower, previously hidden from view, which was even higher up. More uphill slog to the second tower ensued before discovering that, yes, you guessed it, there was yet another bloody tower.

By the time I got to the third tower

I was well behind schedule and in danger of failing to meet the 1 hour time limit I give myself when running alone. Time to head back down and urgently find some flat open ground. Which I eventually did. Except that it was filled with cars. Because it was a car park. After all, what else would you do with your one bit of ‘not built over’ flat ground?

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”

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So I spent about half an hour running round the car park which, given that I was in a beautiful city on a peerless autumn day, was a bit of shame.

Eventually, unduly knackered, I made it to the 10km mark with a minute to spare. And began the long journey back to northern Italy from whence I’d come.

One of the most exceptional things about the day had been the journey there. I’d got up at 5 am in Brescia and taken three separate trains and one bus to San Marino. And they’d all been on time.

Aficionados of Italian train travel in the 20th century will appreciate just how extraordinary this was. Indeed, if you ever read about Mussolini’s time in power one of the first things you’ll be told is that, while he had his critics and is generally considered to have been on the wrong side of history, he did pull off the hitherto impossible feat of making the trains run on time.

Regrettably, the trains reverted to type on the journey back. Possibly because of the large crack which appeared in the window by my head

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and possibly for other reasons, my train, already running late, eventually came to a complete standstill.  And a very complicated journey to my destination followed. But that’s a story for another time.

For now I shall leave you, confident that, the next time the subject of San Marino comes up at social gathering, you will be fully prepared to play your part in the discourse!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

San Marino, also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy, situated on the Italian Peninsula on the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains. Its size is just over 61 km2 (24 sq. mi), with a population of 33,562. Its capital is the City of San Marino and its largest city is Serravalle. San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe.

The country takes its name from Marinus, a stonemason originating from the Roman colony on the island of Rab, in modern-day Croatia. In A.D. 257 Marinus according to legend participated in the reconstruction of Rimini‘s city walls after their destruction by Liburnian pirates. Marinus then went on to found an independent monastic community on Monte Titano in A.D. 301; thus, San Marino lays claim to be the oldest extant sovereign state as well as the oldest constitutional republic.

San Marino is governed by the Constitution of San Marino (Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini), a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century, that dictate the country’s political system, among other matters. The country is considered to have the earliest written governing documents, or constitution, still in effect

The country’s economy mainly relies on financeindustryservices and tourism. It is among the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP (per capita), with a figure comparable to the most developed European regions. San Marino is considered to have a highly stable economy, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus. It is the only country with more vehicles than people. In diplomatic terms, following the leadership of Italy it is among the core members of the Uniting for Consensus group.

Saint Marinus left the island of Arba in present-day Croatia with his lifelong friend Leo, and went to the city of Rimini as a stonemason. After the Diocletianic Persecution following his Christian sermons, he escaped to the nearby Monte Titano, where he built a small church and thus founded what is now the city and state of San Marino, which is sometimes still called the “Titanic Republic”. The official date of the founding of what is now known as the Republic is 3 September 301.

In 1631, its independence was recognized by the Papacy.

The advance of Napoleon‘s army in 1797 presented a brief threat to the independence of San Marino, but the country was saved from losing its liberty thanks to one of its Regents, Antonio Onofri, who managed to gain the respect and friendship of Napoleon. Thanks to his intervention, Napoleon, in a letter delivered to Gaspard Monge, scientist and commissary of the French Government for Science and Art, promised to guarantee and protect the independence of the Republic, even offering to extend its territory according to its needs. The offer was declined by the Regents, fearing future retaliation from other states’ revanchism. During the later phase of the Italian unification process in the 19th century, San Marino served as a refuge for many people persecuted because of their support for unification. In recognition of this support, Giuseppe Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state.

The government of San Marino made United States President Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen. He wrote in reply, saying that the republic proved that “government founded on republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.”

During World War I, when Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915, San Marino remained neutral and Italy adopted a hostile view of Sammarinese neutrality, suspecting that San Marino could harbour Austrian spies who could be given access to its new radiotelegraph station. Italy tried to forcibly establish a detachment of Carabinieri in the republic and then cut the republic’s telephone lines when it did not comply. Two groups of ten volunteers joined Italian forces in the fighting on the Italian front, the first as combatants and the second as a medical corps operating a Red Cross field hospital. The existence of this hospital later caused Austria-Hungary to suspend diplomatic relations with San Marino.

From 1923 to 1943, San Marino was under the rule of the Sammarinese Fascist Party (PFS).

During World War II, San Marino remained neutral, although it was wrongly reported in an article from The New York Times that it had declared war on the United Kingdom on 17 September 1940. The Sammarinese government later transmitted a message to the British government stating that they had not declared war on the United Kingdom.

Three days after the fall of Benito Mussolini in Italy, PFS rule collapsed and the new government declared neutrality in the conflict. The Fascists regained power on 1 April 1944 but kept neutrality intact. Despite that, on 26 June 1944, San Marino was bombed by the Royal Air Force, in the belief that San Marino had been overrun by German forces and was being used to amass stores and ammunition. The Sammarinese government declared on the same day that no military installations or equipment were located on its territory, and that no belligerent forces had been allowed to enter. San Marino accepted thousands of civilian refugees when Allied forces went over the Gothic Line. In September 1944, it was briefly occupied by German forces, who were defeated by Allied forces in the Battle of San Marino.

World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for San Marino – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP $1.66 bn 2017 $1.10 bn 2000
Population 33 400 2017 27 418 2000
Primary school enrolment* 93% 2012 93% 2009
CO2 Emissions** NA NA
% below poverty line*** NA NA
Life expectancy at birth NA NA
GNI per capita NA NA

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

** Metric tons per capita

***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While much of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)

Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how San Marino performed in the global sporting arena in 2017:

Global Cup – NA

Per Capita Cup – NA

 

 

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UK Run 6 : Oxford

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

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Date : 20th October, 2018

Time : 1h 7’ 14”

Number of runners (total to date) : 10 (2536)

Total distance run to date : 1560 km + 60 km in the UK

Run map and details :  https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3107745192

Oxford really is an astoundingly beautiful place. Especially on a sunny October afternoon with its dreamy spires sharply silhouetted against a crystal clear blue sky.

The run started at St Edmund Hall, crossed the High St., turned down Logic Lane and out onto the cobblestones of Merton St. Left into Christchurch Meadow

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and then left again down Broad Walk to the River Cherwell and the punting students.

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We followed Christchurch Meadow Walk round to the Thames, past rowing students and down Poplar Walk to Christchurch and a group photo.

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Out of Christchurch Meadow onto St Aldate’s, Carfax, the High St, Turl St, Brasenose Lane and the Radcliffe Camera.

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Into the inner court of the Bodleian Library for a group photo outside the philosophy library (not a door I recall frequenting as often as I no doubt should have done..).

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The plan was to pass through the Bodleian to the Sheldonian Theatre but there was a wedding taking place so we were ushered out and headed for the Bridge of Sighs.

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Down windy New College Lane to St Edmund Hall, back out onto the High St, past Magdalen College,

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over Magdalen Bridge, past Magdalen College School, and on to the world famous Iffley Road running track.

World famous because Iffley Rd was where Sir Roger Bannister

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ran the first sub 4 minute mile.rtw oxford 14

By now we’d run 5km and the idea was to run the second 5 km on the Iffley Rd track and to stop with about 4 laps to go and run a mile in memory of Sir Roger who died earlier this year.

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Mick tells me that my mile took 6’46” – just the 3 minutes slower than Sir Roger…. Room for improvement as Mick put it!

We were limited in the numbers we could take on the run and there were fewer of us than on many of the Run the World 10kms. However, many of my favourite people in the world either joined or supported the run and it felt like it was small but perfectly formed.

The one sobering note was that I learnt that Howard Orme, who did PPE at Teddy Hall with Caroline, Nic and me, died of pancreatic cancer earlier this year. It’s always bloody cancer these days.

RIP Howard.

It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to all the runners, supporters and donors : my father David, Marit, Mick, Caroline, Nic, Mike, Julian, Lai, Sarah, Tony, Andrew, Morgane, Martin and Matt. To Gareth, Tom, Sue and Martin at St. Edmund Hall for all the support and hospitality; to Sally and everyone at Christchurch College for giving us permission to run in Christchurch Meadow, ; and to Jon, Rosie and the Oxford University Sports Club for the run at Iffley Road.

I very much hope to see you all in London on July 4th 2020 for the UK (and final) leg of Run the World!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

 

 

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