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Date : 19th January, 2018
Time : 1h 9’ 34”
Number of runners : 12
Total distance run to date : 1360 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2452288827
Media : National television ; national radio
Ever since Denise ‘Da Bees Knees’ Williams joined the team she has taken the line that I should never run alone in any country. Which is great because running with people means that I’m much more likely to fundraise and get across the Run the World message about an active, healthy lifestyle. It’s also a lot less painful running another bloody 10 km if you’ve got some company.
But Guinea Bissau proved a tough nut to crack. Denise tried all the usual channels with no result. We appealed for help on social media. Lots of responses but, again, no result. Denise then instructed to me to talk to everyone I ran with in West Africa to see if they had contacts. Still nothing.
And then, just when it looked like I’d be running on my own, she was introduced to the legendary Jan van Maanen. Jan is a 69 year old Dutch citizen who’s also part-time British consul ; part-time Dutch consul ; part-time importer / trader (“of anything and everything legal”) ; part-time local media magnate ; part-time ‘famous foreigner’ ; and full time great character.
Jan, who’s lived there for 39 years, knows everyone in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau (‘Bissau’ was added to the country’s name to distinguish it from the various other ‘Guineas’ in West Africa.) Including a number of Prime Ministers (the President has something of a revolving door policy when it comes to Prime Ministers so they are relatively thick on the ground.)
He’s also very well connected with the media and national television came down to interview me before the run and, apparently, there was a seven minute piece on national news the following evening. (Unfortunately I haven’t been able to track down a copy – which has at least saved me the usual agony of watching myself and wishing I looked and sounded better on telly.)
There were about 12 of us at the start of the run including a couple of people from Jan’s team and a group from a fitness class. And a number of Brits who were taking part in the ‘Plymouth to Dakar’ rally. This is a slightly less glamorous version of Paris- Dakar and involves buying an old banger for no more than £500. And then seeing if you can drive it from the UK to Dakar.
Our intrepid banger drivers didn’t do much of the run – with most of them heading off for a beer after about 200 metres – but they did donate £100. Thank you guys!
We ran from Praca do Imperio, down Avenida Amilcar Cabral (Cabral was a nationalist leader in the struggle for independence from the Portuguese), past the post office
and main cathedral
to the docks area.
From there we ran along Rua Guerra Mendes past footballers until the cross roads with Estrada da Granjo do Pessube. Where Jan had arranged of us to speak to national radio. Which was the first time I’d stopped part way through a run to do media but you know what they say. When in Guinea Bissau, do it Jan’s way!
We also rehydrated with the plastic bags of water you see all over West Africa. For those who aren’t familiar with them, you tear off the corner of the bag with your teeth, drink the contents and then drop the bag on the ground. Or at least that’s what happens to millions of them. Which is pretty similar to what happens to plastic packaging all over the world. Surely we can all do a little better…
Right, off my plastic high horse and back to the run. From the cross roads we walked through the crowds past the roadside market
and then back to Praca do Imperio for a stretch,
commemorative medals for everyone (courtesy of Jan who thinks of everything)
before a quick(ish) turn around and back to Jan’s place for dinner.
One of Jan’s loves is middle of the road music (needless to say, he used to own a middle of the road radio station) so, after dinner, we watched DVDs of Roger Hodgson, ex lead singer of Supertramp, performing all their old classics. (Emma Reuss, you would have loved it.) And then some Bee Gees.
Sadly I had to leave at 11pm to start the long and painful trip to Cape Verde but it was a brilliant evening. And a top day and run in Guinea Bissau. Jan, I can’t thank you enough. In recognition of all your help and support, here’s Roger Hodgson and ‘Give a Little Bit’. And if that should prompt you, dear reader, to give a little bit to Cancer Research, then so much the better!
Finally, thank you to my fellow runners for the company. Especially the couple who ran hand in hand for a kilometre or so which I found very touching
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