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Date : 30th March, 2017
Time : 1h 1’ 21” (14 minutes slower than El Salvador)
Total distance run to date : 1040 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1682370848
About ten years ago I did the Trailwalker challenge for Oxfam. Based on a Gurkha military training exercise, it’s a 100 km trek across the South Downs. You do it as a team of 4 and the aim is to finish in less than 30 hours. Most people walk it apart from a group from the Queen’s Own Gurkha Regiment who run it – and usually finish in a frankly ridiculous 10 hours.
You need to get on with your team mates because it’s quite challenging (unless you’re a Gurkha of course). You’d be amazed how cold and miserable it is on top of the Downs at 3 am in the morning – especially after you’ve already walked 70 km, half the team have bad blisters, and you’re all simultaneously hitting a wall.
I was lucky enough to do it with Mike, Julian F and my brother – with our families making up the support team. Vital as your team mates are, you don’t get round without a support team. Fish and chips at 50 km ; bacon butties at 90 km ; someone to help me walk the next day. Most of my best memories seem to revolve around the support team.
Mike’s sons – Matt & Chris – also joined us for much of the walk. In their plimsolls. Somehow they didn’t seem to find walking through the night quite as difficult as we did.
Tragically, Matt – one of the finest young men you could ever hope to meet – is no longer with us. He made friends and inspired people wherever he went and, even though he left us far too early, was someone about whom you could truly say that he won’t be forgotten. This blog is my own small contribution to the many tributes that have been paid to his life.
The picture above is of us at the finish line at Brighton Racecourse ; Matt’s on the right.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but Trailwalker was to have a huge impact on my life. It gave me a taste for physical challenges and, ever since, I seem to have become addicted to testing myself in one way or another. Culminating in the current madness of Run the World and its endless treadmill of training, planning, flying, running and blogging!
The latest leg of which had brought me to Tegucigalpa – the capital of Honduras. Where I was running with George Redman – picture below – the head of Oxfam’s operations in Honduras.
George had wanted to run early morning when the traffic and air quality were more conducive to running. Unfortunately that didn’t work with my schedule so we set off shorty after 6pm aka rush hour. A time of day when, a little like walking up Highgate Hill, you could taste the fumes in the air.
After 3kms of mostly uphill ‘running’ along pavements in various states of repair, we made it to Estadio Olimpico where George usually trains. (He’s a 3 hour marathon runner – I’m not sure he even noticed we were running…).
We did about 4kms worth of laps at the stadium which gave me a chance to catch up on Oxfam’s work in Honduras. I’ve been donating to Oxfam for a long time and I’ve always seen them as an organisation that focusses on disaster relief and long term infrastructure development projects (clean water supplies etc.) Turns out that, while this is still partly the case, a lot of the work they now do involves lobbying for political change. In Honduras they’re particularly focussed on women’s rights – a major issue in far too many of the countries I visit. (Please see Facts & Stats below for more information on the situation in Honduras.)
After the stadium we had one more uphill section and then a long downhill along Boulevard Supaya. We’d slightly lost track of the distance and ended up running 12 km. Which had the benefit of giving us more time to discuss life in Honduras.
Crime and personal security are big issues. As George noted, “ I wouldn’t have been comfortable with you running on your own”. Which is understandable given that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world ‘ahead’ of El Salvador and Venezuela. At least that was the case in 2014 per the UN’s Office of Drugs & Crime. (I read somewhere that Venezuela – probably still the scariest country I’ve run in – has subsequently taken the ‘no 1 spot’.)
I also learnt that Honduras was the original ‘banana republic’ with US fruit companies, often backed by US military intervention, wielding extraordinary power in Honduras over a long period of time. (Please see Facts & Stats see below for more detail.)
But, as George pointed out, despite all the political and security issues, the people are very friendly, the countryside is beautiful and, as the World Bank data below shows, the country (like so many others I visit) is moving forward in crucial areas.
George – huge thanks for the company on the run. Ambassador Carolyn Davidson – thank you for the introduction!
Facts & Stats
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It has at times been referred to as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became modern-day Belize. Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.
Honduras was home to several important Mesoamerican cultures, most notably the Maya, before the Spanish invaded in the sixteenth century. The Spanish introduced Roman Catholicism and the now predominant Spanish language, along with numerous customs that have blended with the indigenous culture. Honduras became independent in 1821 and has since been a republic, although it has consistently endured much social strife and political instability, and remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Honduras spans about 112,492 km2 and has a population exceeding 8 million. Its northern portions are part of the Western Caribbean Zone, as reflected in the area’s demographics and culture. Honduras is known for its rich natural resources, including minerals, coffee, tropical fruit, and sugar cane, as well as for its growing textiles industry, which serves the international market.
Crime & Security
Owing to insufficient law enforcement resources, crime in Honduras is rampant and criminals operate with a high degree of impunity. Consequently, Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Official statistics from the Honduran Observatory on National Violence show Honduras’ homicide rate was 60 per 100,000 in 2015 with the majority of homicide cases being unprosecuted.
Highway assaults and carjackings at roadblock or checkpoints set up by criminals with police uniforms and equipment occur frequently. Although reports of kidnappings of foreigners are not common, families of kidnapping victims often pay ransoms without reporting the crime to police out of fear of retribution, so kidnapping figures may be underreported.
In the late nineteenth century, Honduras granted land and substantial exemptions to US-based fruit and infrastructure companies in return for developing the country’s northern regions. Thousands of workers came to the north coast, as a result, to work in banana plantations and other businesses that grew up around the export industry. Banana-exporting companies, dominated until 1930 Cuyamel Fruit Company, as well as the United Fruit Company, and Standard Fruit Company, built an enclave economy in northern Honduras, controlling infrastructure and creating self-sufficient, tax-exempt sectors that contributed relatively little to economic growth. American troops landed in Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925. In 1904 the writer O. Henry coined the term “Banana republic” to describe Honduras.
Among the Honduran people, the United Fruit Company was known as El Pulpo (“The Octopus”), because its influence had come to pervade their society, controlled their country’s transport infrastructure, and sometimes violently manipulated national politics.
As Honduras is known for having a patriarchy system, gender roles which put women in a subordinate position are quite prominent. Such gender roles dictate that men dominate the public sphere, while women are supposed to conform and adhere to the realm of the domestic sphere. Subsequently, women are not allowed to participate in traditional male positions in society; the male is expected to be the head of the household and the main provider. This also gives men the right to make important decisions over women such as when they may procreate, how many children women may have, when and how many daily chores shall be done, if they may receive education, and whether or not they may enter the workforce. Honduran men are expected to father many children, and there is little social stigma attached to men’s premarital and extramarital sexual relationships. Although women who do not conform to what is socially deemed as appropriate behaviour are often subjected to violence, such violence is also targeted towards men who are perceived as effeminate and do not conform to traditional notions of masculinity.
Gender Inequality Index
In 2011, Honduras ranked 105th out of 146 countries on the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Gender Inequality Index (GII). This is a multidimensional index that measures and reports a country’s level of gender inequality. It is represented in a single number which helps represent where countries stand on gender issues. This number is based on the average of statistics in three categories: reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity. These statistics can give a general idea of how a country fares on gender issues relative to all 146 countries in the study, and also against other countries from the same region. The overall comparison between the HDI and the gender inequality index would suggest that Honduras is performing better and progressing faster on gender issues than on general welfare. These changes have come as a result of social and political shifts in opinion on the role of women in society. Since the 1980s the overall value of Honduras’ HDI has averaged an increase of 1.6% annually, which is an impressive improvement that has brought them over a 30% positive increase to date.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused massive and widespread destruction. Honduran President Carlos Roberto Flores said that fifty years of progress in the country had been reversed. Mitch destroyed about 70% of the crops and an estimated 70–80% of the transportation infrastructure, including nearly all bridges and secondary roads. Across Honduras 33,000 houses were destroyed, and an additional 50,000 damaged. Some 5,000 people killed, and 12,000 more injured. Total losses were estimated at $3 billion USD.
Finally, here’s the latest World Bank data for Honduras – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
Population 8.08 m 2015 6.24 m 2000
GDP $20.42 bn 2015 $7.10 bn 2000
GNI per capita $2280 2015 $920 2000
% below poverty line* 62.8% 2015 63.7% 2001
Life expectancy at birth 73.33 yrs 2015 70.49 yrs 2000
Primary school enrolment** 111% 2014 107% 2000
*The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
**Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students