Please give generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/Dan-Thompson11/
Date : 20th January, 2015
Time : 53’ 32”
Total distance run to date : 460 km
Run map and details : http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/683240910
There’s a fine line between a determination to get on with things – and foolhardiness. Between being positive in the face of challenges – and sticking your head in the sand and ignoring real risks.
And I really felt I walked that line when it came to Venezuela. There were a lot of worrying signs. The BBC article about runners running in large groups to stay safe. The unexpected call from a contact in Caracas to discuss security concerns. The CNN coverage of food shortages that was showing during one of my interminable airport waits. The report forwarded by a friend saying a coup could be in the offing. The passing comment that “If you’re going there, you’ll be mugged”.
And the problems are very real. In my short time in Caracas, I met people who’d lost friends and family to the violence. Who’d been mugged at knife and gun point. Whose children were emigrating to get away from it all.
The government line that the country is ‘sailing serenely towards 21st Century socialism’ was quoted to me by more than one person. A claim that rings bitterly hollow.
This blog is not the place for political and economic analysis of why the country now faces so many problems. But it’s worth remembering that, not so long ago, Venezuela was the South American poster boy/girl for democracy and a stable, safe society. Furthermore, it has a lot of oil meaning that (the last few months aside) it has benefited from the long term increase in the price of oil. It’s not easy to understand how it has reached its current state – but presumably there are valuable lessons to be learnt.
And yet, and yet. I also met people who love the country so much that they’re determined to stay. And you can see why. The people are friendly ; the climate is close to perfection ; and the country is beautiful.
And when we arrived at Parque del Este at shortly after six in the morning, there didn’t seem to be much amiss in the world. The sun was breaking through onto the mountains that surround Caracas. The park was already full of herds of runners. And people of all shapes, sizes and ages were exercising.
Our group of runners and supporters coalesced over the next hour or so. A very friendly group including Marisela Diaz (photo to the right) and Tery Leguen. Two cancer sufferers who couldn’t run with us but who wanted to show their support. Their smiles in the face of their ongoing battles against cancer were an inspiring reminder of why I’m raising money for Cancer Research .
The run – four times around the park – was a great chance to meet people and to start to acclimatise to the altitude challenges ahead (Caracas sits at c 1000m). In short, it wasn’t too bad. Given that it was my 5th run in 84 hours, and that I’d only had 2 1/2 hours sleep the night before, this was testament to the welcome and support I received.
We ended with many a group photo – I’m now the proud owner of the Venezuelan flag that I’m holding in the photo below.
You’ll have gathered by now that, not only did I have an incident free visit to Venezuela, I also enjoyed my time there. All this was only possible because of the support of a number of people in Caracas including Desmond (an old friend of a friend)– thank you all!
And thank you to all the runners and supporters who came to Parque del Este and made it such a wonderful run. I shall never forget my time in Venezuela!