Time : 57’15” (Held back by Commonwealth gold medallist)
Total Distance Run to date : 150 km
Run map and details : http://connect.garmin.com/activity/460279041
We’re in a small aircraft miles above South Africa when we hit heavy clouds. 5 minutes of being thrown around and we come out of the clouds and, as if by magic, the ground is much, much closer. For we’re now flying over Lesotho – Roof of Africa, the Mountain Kingdom.
Lesotho is the only country in the world that lies entirely over 1000m with a low point of 1400m. And it’s simply stunning. The kind of place you want to explore – or at least run through.
Especially when you’re running with Thabiso Moqhali – Commonwealth Games marathon gold medallist – and the current Lesotho marathon squad (who are coached by Thabiso.) Pictures above and below.
Not wanting to over-stretch them, I took the run out gently. Or, perhaps more accurately, Thabiso took one look at me and decided on a gentle pace. Which was just as well as Maseru (capital of Lesotho) is fairly hilly.
As we went up our third and steepest yet climb, I could hear heavy breathing, getting louder and more laboured with every step. And then I realised that was just me. No-one else was even feeling the climb.
Thankfully we turned off downhill and the rest of the run was as much fun as running ever gets for me. It was early evening, the scenery was beautiful, the company was good and I felt infinitely stronger and lighter than I had the day before in Maputo. As we returned down the main street we went up a gear from crawl to jog and we were roundly cheered home by the passers-by.
I invited the guys for a drink back at the hotel and got a ‘yes, but’ answer and a mention or two of the word “lunch”. Taking the hint, I ordered dinner for everybody and discovered that they had great appetites. Not just because they’d been training all day but also, as I discovered over dinner, because they just don’t have the same support structures as athletes from richer countries. You have to admire their ability to overcome these relative disadvantages and compete at the world level
Great guys and a real honour to have run with them.
Finally, just to end my blog about this beautiful country on a sober note. We got chatting to the local director of Habitat for Humanity and two women from the US branch of the charity.
They were in Lesotho in connection with a programme to build local housing (at $5000 a go) for Lesotho orphans. Of which there are far too many thanks to the HIV / AIDS epidemic in Lesotho. In 2009 it was estimated that 23.9% of the total population was affected. Increasing to over 50% of women under 40 in urban areas. Shocking.