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Date : 28th March, 2017
Time : 55’ 10”
Total distance run to date : 1020 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1682370768
Some years ago, I volunteered for a charity called Crimestoppers. Not to be confused with Crimewatch, Crimestoppers offers a free and completely anonymous system for people to pass on information about crimes and criminals (by phone – 0800 555 111 – text or online.)
As someone once forcibly said to me, it’s not for the middle class. They can just go to the police.
It’s for people who are scared of the police. Or who are scared of retribution from the criminals in question. Or who want to stop their sons and brothers from entering a life of crime but know it would rip the family apart if anyone knew they’d gone to the police.
The information is received and assessed by trained operatives (usually ex police) and then passed on, stripped of any details that might identify the informant, to the police. It’s very simple and incredibly effective. In 2015-16, 318 211 people contacted Crimestoppers solving or preventing 16 263 crimes including 2024 violent crimes.
Crimestoppers was set up in the UK by (Lord) Michael Ashcroft who has a number of business interest in Belize. Claire, who used to sit on the London Crimestoppers Board with me, got in touch with him about my run in Belize and he was kind enough to put us in touch with his organisation in Belize who, in turn, got in touch with Channel 5. They liked the story and invited me to do a 25 minutes interview on breakfast TV.
I think it’s fair to say that the atmosphere at Channel 5 was more relaxed than you often find when doing media interviews in the UK. I was interviewed by two very well prepped and utterly charming interviewers (picture above). We covered a lot of ground and they asked me a number of questions which, despite all the Run the World interviews I’ve done around the world, were new to me. Including whether its cathartic for me to be doing something positive in my mother’s memory. Which I hadn’t thought about previously but which I guess is true. Anyway, if you’re interested, the interview can be seen here.
Perhaps the most difficult question they asked me was how I’d enjoyed my run in Belize the previous day. Hmmm…how to answer that? I was very happy to be in Belize but, frankly, the run had bordered on the hellish.
I was running with Julian from the British High Commission. The Commission is situated in the capital Belmopan – 80km inland from Belize City (where I was based). Luckily Julian had a meeting in Belize City that morning and I was able to meet him after his meeting. The only downside being that it would mean running at 1pm.
As I walked to meet him, I began to realise just how hot it was. I started to feel a touch apprehensive remembering other ‘warm’ runs from the past. South Sudan where the world had gone orange as heat stroke set in. Namibia where I’d been so discombobulated that I tripped over nothing and then got lost. Egypt where it had been over 100 F as I ran round the pyramids. Papua New Guinea where it had just been bloody awful.
At first the run wasn’t too bad. Julian is ex-military and he regaled me with tales from his tours everywhere from Bosnia to Iraq to Afghanistan. Now I know not everyone thinks British troops should be in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. But ordinary soldiers aren’t involved in those decisions and I admire the soldiers for what they do and the dangers they face while the rest of us sit safely at home. (Julian’s typically military view was that they were just doing the job they signed up to do.)
But the heat kept pounding us – exacerbated by the fact that, not only was sun beating down on our heads but it was also bouncing back off the asphalt of the road surface.(Picture above.) Eventually we got inadvertently separated as we both battled to keep going. Without Julian’s conversation the last few kms were fairly grim. I’m not sure how Julian – who’s not constantly training to run 10km like I am – made it. That’s the military training for you I guess.
Having said that, the ending made up for a lot. We finished at the British Army Training and Support Unit Belize – BATSUB – which supports British and allied troops doing their jungle raining in Belize. The officers and soldiers – picture below – clapped us in and treated us to a post run orange squash and a biscuit. Nothing like a warm reception to make you forget about the run!
Thank you Julian, everyone at BATSUB, Lord Ashcroft, Claire for all the support and help. And thank you Channel 5 for the chance to tell my story to the people of Belize.
Facts & Stats
Belize, formerly British Honduras, is an independent country on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. Its mainland is about 290 km (180 mi) long and 110 km (68 mi) wide.
Belize has an area of 22,800 square kilometres (8,800 sq mi) and a population of 368,310 (2015). It has the lowest population density in Central America.The country’s population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2015) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize’s abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems gives it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. English is the official language of Belize, with Belizean Kriol being the unofficial language. Over half the population is multilingual, with Spanish being the second most common spoken language.
Belize is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to both the Latin American and Caribbean regions. It is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Central American Integration System (SICA), the only country to hold full membership in all three regional organisations. Belize is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state.
Finally, here’s the latest World Bank data for Belize – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
Population 359 k 2015 247 k 2000
GDP $1.75 billion 2015 832 million 2000
GNI per capita $4490 2015 $3150 2000
% below poverty line* No data No data
Life expectancy at birth 70.2 years 2015 68.4 years 2000
Primary school enrolment** 113% 2015 116% 2000
*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