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Date : 17th September, 2014
Time : 50’ 11” (Fastest run in North Africa – flight to catch)
Total distance run to date : 290km
Run map and details : http://connect.garmin.com/activity/593928296
I’ve often sung the praises of our overseas diplomats – the people who work at our Embassies and High Commissions around the world. Their work doesn’t always get huge amounts of publicity – or thanks – but they do invaluable work helping British nationals wherever they may be.
Algeria is no exception as Jacob (Political and Press Section at the Embassy in Algiers) has put me in touch with Mahrez Rabia who sends a film crew to meet me at the airport. This a great chance for me to spread the word about Run the World and why I’m undertaking this crazy challenge.
We start with a quick piece to camera focussing on what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and the calls to action. I explain that I’m raising funds for Cancer Research and looking to promote the importance of exercise and physical activity. And then I find myself departing from my normal script to talk about running. And how running – and walking – are our most democratic sporting activities. Ones that a large percentage of us across the world can do irrespective of wealth, gender, age, culture, race or religion.
And how, in this increasingly divided world, it’s important to find activities that unite us and remind us of our common human heritage. (Avid readers of this blog will know that one of my dreams is a Run the World event that brings people together across the globe to run or walk 10 km at a set time one day each year.)
And why am I expressing these views? I think it’s partly the effect of visiting so many countries and thinking about their commonalities and their differences. But it’s also because those good folk at the Foreign Office not only help me with my runs but they also produce a website that gives travel and safety advice on every country in the world – https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
And when you spend many hours on this website planning your travels – as I do – it’s pretty scary. There are just so many countries scarred by violence and political instability. In most cases, the violence is internal and receives little or no coverage in the western media. But it’s no less real for that and countless millions live in fear and danger. Can one man running round the world do anything to help? Will a global running event make a difference? Probably not – but at least I can try.
Enough of the philosophising, I hear you cry. Back to the running!
A quick photo or two outside the airport and then Samy and the team give me a lift down to the Bay of Algiers for my run. But the traffic’s bad and the journey takes longer than expected and, by the time we get to the waterfront, it’s later than I’d have liked. If I run at my normal pace, and the journey back to the airport takes as long as the outward journey, then I’m not sure I’m going to make my flight to Tunisia. (The downside of only having five hours in Algeria between flights.)
Samy’s picked a good route for me. 5 km along the waterfront with views of Algiers in front of me ; and 5 km back. Normally, I’d have taken it easy and enjoyed the view – it’s hot and this is, after all, the middle run of 3 runs in a 40 hour period (and 4 runs in less than 4 days). But logistics rule my life and a missed flight is going to spell disaster. I push harder and realise that I’m not going to last until the end of the run. I take a detour for a call of nature and get back to the run. It really is hot. By the second half of the run, I’m veering all over the place seeking any shade I can find and taking a water break every kilometre.
Eventually, I get back to the start point in just over 50 minutes. Allowing for the faffing around at the beginning, and the various water breaks, I’m quite pleased with the time. But, by the time I’ve done a final few words to camera and changed, there’s less than 2 hours to my flight. And I’ve been to plenty of airports recently where you need 2 hours. (Many of them in London – hang your heads in shame.)
I’m increasingly nervous – especially when we hit what appears to be a massive traffic jam. But the others are sanguine. And they’re right. We get there with an hour to spare –and it’s plenty of time. And, airports of the world take note, this is as it should be!
A huge thanks to Samy, Abdelraouf, Jacob and Mahrez, for all their help and support!