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Date : 19th November, 2018
Time : 57’ 10”
Number of runners (total to date) : 34 (2515)
Total distance run to date : 1570 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3183882074
Albania has always fascinated me. Ruled by King Zog from 1922 to 1939, Enver Hoxha took over after WWII and led Albania into Communism and isolationism. He was admired by hard core leftists – apparently, per the Independent, Jeremey Corbyn paid him a visit and CND marchers used to chant “Enver Hoxha is our Leader, Happy! Happy! Happy!” – but deplored by many others for, amongst other reasons, his human rights record. (His critics included, it should be said, plenty of left wingers.)
So, when I landed at the airport in Tirana, I was genuinely excited to be visiting Albania for the first time.
My trip started at a local school, Shkolla Mihal Grameno, where we were experiencing a technical hitch. Which suddenly resolved itself and there was the opening slide of the Run the World school presentation up on the theatre wall.
The 90 students from the immediately started cheering wildly. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Albania had just won the World Cup.
They were a great bunch – informed, engaged and enthusiastic.
They even managed to come up with some questions I hadn’t been asked before. Including the poser : what did I think of Albania’s proposed new law to ban fast food?
It’s a tricky one. Not all fast food is necessarily bad. And I’ve certainly got a lot of personal sympathy for anyone who wants to avoid the time involved in the whole shopping / cooking / clearing up process.
On the other hand, some fast food seems to be little better than gristle cooked in fat and saturated in sugar and salt. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that fast food contributes to obesity – which is a huge issue in countries like the UK.
An interesting debate.
The students’ enthusiasm carried over into that evening’s run as a number of them, plus their PE and citizenship teachers, joined us for the start in Mother Teresa’s Square. (Mother Teresa, nee Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, may have won world renown and the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Calcutta but she was an Albanian – though born in Skopje, capital of modern day Macedonia , where I’d also come across a memorial to her.)
there were 34 of us at the start. We jogged off to Tirana’s Grand Park for 2 x 5km loops round the artificial lake. (If you’re ever in Tirana, and looking for somewhere to stretch your legs, then this is a fine place to run or walk.)
None of the students had ever run 10 km before so it was pretty impressive that some of them ran the full distance. A few of them even managed to stay at the front for the whole run which was good going – particularly as we accelerated over the final few kilometres until we were running at c 4’15” per km pace by the end.
If any of the students are reading this – I hope you enjoyed it and keep on running!
After our goodbyes, I walked back towards the centre of Tirana, past the Pyramid. This was originally built as a museum dedicated to Enver Hoxha, the long-time Communist leader of Albania. (At the time it was said to be the most expensive single structure ever built in Albania. )
It’s now a broadcasting centre and, on the night I was there, a climbing frame and slide for the Welsh fans in town for the following night’s match against Albania.
A quick look round the (very likeable) centre of Tirana followed
It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Bruna, the 261 Fearless Running Club, the TIRUN Club, the Shkolla Mihal Grameno, Kebiana and the British Embassy, Olsi, Eatitalian and all my fellow runners for a great day in Tirana. If any of you can make it, then it would be wonderful to see you in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK and final leg of Run the World!
If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
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Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Albania is a country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. It is otherwise bounded by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovoto the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast.
The modern nation state of Albania emerged in 1912 following the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars. The modern Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, before becoming a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, a Communist state titled the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania was founded under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. The country experienced widespread social and political transformations in the communist era, as well as isolation from much of the international community. In the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the fourth Republic of Albania was established.
Politically, the country is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic and developing country with an upper-middle income economy dominated by the tertiary sector followed by the secondary and primary sector. It went through a process of transition, following the end of communism in 1990, from a centralized to a market-based economy. It also provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Albania – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
|GDP||$13.0 bn||2017||$3.63 bn||2000|
|Population||2.9 m||2017||3.1 m||2000|
|Primary school enrolment*||110%||2016||105%||2000|
|% below poverty line***||14.3%||2012||25.4%||2002|
|Life expectancy at birth||78.3 yrs||2016||74.0 yrs||2000|
|GNI per capita||$4320||2017||$1170||2000|
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
** Metric tons per capita
***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While much 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.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Albania performed in the global sporting arena in 2017:
Global Cup – 92nd
Per Capita Cup – NA
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.