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Date : 7th March, 2016
Time : 1h 10’ 36”(city centre run ; group photo stops)
Total distance run to date : 710 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1086957522
Regular readers will know how much British Embassies around the world have helped me with Run the World. And how much I appreciate it when local runners and running clubs join in.
Serbia was a great example of how it can all come together. Vladan at the Embassy organised it all (at short notice) via Facebook and about thirty of us met outside the British Embassy one Monday night. Some of the runners came along because they love running. A number came because they had personal experiences of cancer and wanted to show their support. And some, from the Embassy, joined in because supporting crazy Brits abroad is just part of what they do.
It was an excellent run taking in some of Belgrade’s key sights and plenty of stops for photos. We ran from the British Embassy to the Church of Saint Mark, past the National Assembly, through Republic Square – picture above of us all in front of the statue honouring Prince Michael for removing Turkish forces from Serbia – and to Kalemegdan Fortress, down the Great Staircase, past the zoo and down to the mighty Danube. Finishing back along banks of the Sava – Belgrade sits at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava – and through town to the Embassy. (More pics below.)
The conversation was also good. Some of it moving as I heard about people’s experiences with cancer and why they support cancer research charities. And some it fascinating as I caught up with the current political situation in Serbia as it considers whether or not to join the EU. (I don’t envy our diplomats having to deal with this at exactly the same time as we British wrestle with the issue of whether or not to stay in the EU.)
If my fellow runners will forgive me, I will make one reference to the past and the Milosevic years – if only because I think it will be of interest to the blog’s readers to hear a different perspective on events. Towards the end of the run we passed a building that had been badly damaged by the 1999 NATO air strikes. Those air strikes are (mostly) seen in the West as a necessary evil that helped to end the war in Kosovo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they are viewed rather differently in Belgrade. As one person put it, “I’d spent three months on the streets in the middle of winter protesting against Milosevic. Why should I be bombed? ”
Leaving the past behind, I can only say that I encountered friendliness from the moment I landed. Friendliness that included humouring my desire to talk about recent, and no doubt painful, history as we shared a post run beer. There was even a bit of good humoured banter about Scotland and the UK breaking up.
Thank you Vladan for organising the run, thank you Ambassador Keefe and Jeremy for all the support, thank you Milena and Running Serbia, and thank you to the 30 or so runners from clubs across Belgrade who joined. I hope to run with you all again when we launch the global Run the World event!