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Date : 15th March, 2017
Time : 58’ 07”
Total distance run to date : 990 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1629888411
Every so often someone turns to me and says, “ I don’t mean to be rude, but what exactly do you do?”
If you’re reading this blog then you know that I’m currently attempting to complete a 10 km run in every country in the world before the 2020 Olympics. Between all the planning, the training, the travelling, the running and the blogging, it takes up far more time that you might imagine.
However, it doesn’t take up all of my time. And one of the other things* I do is chair a company called Gold Challenge. I volunteer my time – its effectively a not-for-profit – and I’m passionate about it.
Gold Challenge launched in late 2010 and ran two Olympic and Paralympic inspired charity challenges in the run up to London 2012. We partnered with the British Olympic Association/Team GB, Paralympics GB and Sport England and we were part of the official London 2012 mass participation legacy programme. We also worked closely with LOCOG and hosted a pre-Games test event – for 20 000 people – in the Olympic Stadium. (Picture below taken by Help for Heroes at the Olympic Stadium event.)
Over 100 000 people took part in the challenges and we realised that, having made plenty of mistakes along the way, we’d learnt something about challenges and how to motivate people to be more active. Something that shouldn’t just be thrown away once the Games were over.
So we now offer workplace and community based challenges and we’ve worked with a range of clients from major multinationals to local boroughs. Over 160 000 people have taken part in our challenges to date and, if I say so myself, they’re bloody good. And great value for money. So get in touch if you want your workforce or your community to be more active – while simultaneously building team and community spirit!
Enough of the plug for Gold Challenge and back to the story. One of our team has recently been spending time in Barcelona and coming back to the UK for meetings. We decided that it would only be fair if we held a meeting in Barcelona – so we flew there for a strategy and planning session. (We’re not the only people to have had the idea. I recently heard about a company, based in London and Edinburgh, who did the same thing because it was cheaper than putting half the staff on the train to either London or Edinburgh. If you’re flexible about when you fly, and not too fussy about your accommodation, Barcelona is a surprisingly cost effective place to meet.)
Being Gold Challenge, we decided we should do a 10 km run in Barcelona while we were there. I’d already done my Spanish 10km but this felt like good insurance in case Catalonia ever becomes independent. It was one of the most brilliant and scenic city runs I’ve ever done – taking in many of Barcelona’s key sights. Put together by Jon and Jane, it would also make a great walking route. (The picture at the top of the blog is of Eugene, Sophie and me on Montjiuc near the Olympic stadium.)
As I was going to be in Barcelona, I thought I should grab the opportunity to do my Andorran run. (Andorra is c 200 km north west of Barcelona.) I had a look for connecting flights and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find any. Turns out there’s no airport in Andorra. Never mind, I thought, I’ll get a train. Err no, there are no rail lines in Andorra. Eventually, Jon arranged a cheap car hire and we drove up there together. A mixture of the world’s slowest car hire check-in, Barcelona’s one way system and a couple of wrong turns meant that it took us a bit of time to get out of Barcelona. But, once we’d got going, it was beautiful drive to Andorra through some stunning countryside.
Andorra itself is effectively a series of steep valleys. There’s not really a lot of open space or flat ground on which to run. Jon therefore came up with the plan of driving into Andorra, dropping me off somewhere up one of the valleys (picture below), and then letting me run 10 km back down the road to meet him at a prearranged meeting point. A plan which, on the whole, worked remarkably well. I even found a mountainside path which meant I didn’t have to run along the road.
Run over, it was time to put the foot down and try to get back to Barcelona in time for a shower, a cold beer, tapas and the return leg of Man City v Monaco. It was all going pretty well until we got back to the hire company’s car park in Barcelona and realised we needed to fill up with petrol. Even with Google’s help, it took us half an hour to find an open petrol station. And then we couldn’t get into the car park because of emergency works outside the car park. And then the check-in guy discovered a tiny scratch on the car which he decided was our fault.
Jon (picture below) kept his patience admirably and we got out of the car hire company relatively unscathed – a mere hour after we’d originally passed by the car park. Never mind, we still saw the second half of the game in an Irish bar. And found a great local restaurant down some obscure side street in the Barrio Gotico. That’s Barcelona for you.
Thank you Jon and Jane for all the fantastic help with both runs – I wouldn’t have made it to Andorra without you. And thank you Sophie and Eugene for the company in Barcelona!
*I also work with 2 charities : Technology Trust – which helps charities and not-for-profits with technology solutions that cut costs and increase fundraising – and the wonderful Panathlon – which provides sporting opportunities and training for over 10 000 disabled children every year. Finally, I’m a business angel which means I invest in early stage private companies. Recent investments have included StepJockey which creates healthy, active buildings through a mixture of unique interactive signs and star climbing challenges. As you may have spotted, there’s an encouraging people to be more active / healthy living theme to a lot of what I do…
The Facts & Stats
Andorra is a sovereign landlocked microstate in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. Created under a charter in 988, the present principality was formed in 1278. It is known as a principality as it is a monarchy headed by two Co-Princes – the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the President of France.
Andorra is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 468 km2 (181 sq mi) and a population of approximately 85,000. Its capital Andorra la Vella is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 ft) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken.
It is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is the official currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993. In 2013, the people of Andorra had the highest life expectancy in the world at 81 years, according to The Lancet.
Due to its location in the eastern Pyrenees mountain range, Andorra consists predominantly of rugged mountains, the highest being the Coma Pedrosa at 2,942 metres (9,652 ft), and the average elevation of Andorra is 1,996 metres (6,549 ft). These are dissected by three narrow valleys in a Y shape that combine into one as the main stream, the Gran Valira river, leaves the country for Spain (at Andorra’s lowest point of 840 m or 2,756 ft).
Tourism, the mainstay of Andorra’s tiny, well-to-do economy, accounts for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 10.2 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra’s duty-free status and by its summer and winter resorts.
One of the main sources of income in Andorra is tourism from ski resorts which total over 175 km (109 mi) of ski ground. The sport brings in over 7 million visitors and an estimated 340 million euros per year, sustaining 2000 direct and 10000 indirect jobs at present.
The banking sector, with its tax haven status, also contributes substantially to the economy (the financial and insurance sector accounts for approximately 19% of GDP).
Agricultural production is limited—only 2% of the land is arable—and most food has to be imported. Some tobacco is grown locally. The principal livestock activity is domestic sheep raising. Manufacturing output consists mainly of cigarettes, cigars, and furniture. Andorra’s natural resources include hydroelectric power, mineral water, timber, iron ore, and lead.
Andorra has traditionally had one of the world’s lowest unemployment rates. In 2009 it stood at 2.9%.
Two-thirds of residents lack Andorran nationality and do not have the right to vote in communal elections. Moreover, they are not allowed to be elected as president or to own more than 33% of the capital stock of a privately held company.
Finally, here’s the latest World Bank data for the Andorra – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
Population 70 473 2015 65 399 2000
GDP $3.25 billion 2013 $1.40 billion 2000
GNI per capita $43 270 2014 $19 930 2000
% below poverty line* NA NA
Life expectancy at birth NA NA
Primary school enrolment** NA NA
*Methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country.
**Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students.