Run 161 : Belgium – Brussels

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Date : 13th December, 2018

Time : 1h 17’ 15” (lots of photo stops)

Number of runners (total to date) : 4 (2906)

Total distance run to date : 1610 km

Run map and details :

It’s hard not to draw parallels between our attempts to organise a run in Brussels and the ongoing Brexit travails.

We tried everything but just couldn’t seem to find a solution. We’d contacted running clubs; the local Hash House Harriers ; the British Embassy. Nothing doing.

And we didn’t have anyone to blame but ourselves (well, me really). The chosen run date – the evening of December 13th – was guaranteed to be cold and dark. It was also slap bang in the middle of the Christmas party season. And the European Parliament was in Strasbourg, rather than Brussels, that week. (The reason for the unfortunate timing was that I had to go to Brussels to get my visas for Burkina Faso and Chad. I couldn’t go earlier for family reasons ; and I couldn’t go later for logistical reasons.)

By now we were looking at the dreaded ‘no run’ option.

In an effort to break the impasse, we went to the people. In other words, we put out an appeal for help on Run the World’s (and my personal) social media.

And the response was fantastic. All sorts of people contacted their Belgian friends and acquaintances on our behalf. (Thank you everyone!)

Amongst a welter of messages we heard from Aneil, who I’d run with in Moldova, and Major Jane Witt, the UK’s Defence Attaché when I ran in Lithuania. Aneil, who works for the EU, had recently moved to Brussels and was therefore able to run with me. Jane couldn’t – but she got in touch with a friend who got in touch with Amanda who could. And Amanda got in touch with Abby who also could.

And so there were four of us on the run – the three ‘As’ – Amanda, Aneil and Abby and me. Not as many as on some runs but, as the As were quick to point out, whatever we might have lacked in quantity, we more than made up for in quality.

And they were absolutely right. It was a great – if bitterly icy – run.

We started at the Royal Palace

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and headed towards the main EU institutions.

The European Parliament – which is where the MEPs from around Europe sit (when they’re not in Strasbourg.)

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The European Commission – which is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU. (It’s made up of members appointed by national governments and that darling of the British tabloids, Jean Claude Juncker, is its President.)

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And finally to the Europa building which houses the European Council (defines the European Union’s overall political direction and priorities and comprises the heads of state or government of the EU member states ; its current President is Donald Tusk.) It also, not remotely confusingly, houses the Council of the European Union (which is where government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. )

In the heart of the Europa building is the ‘egg’ which is where Theresa May was locked in negotiation with EU leaders and officials on the night we ran. (This was the meeting where Juncker described May’s Brexit plans as being ‘nebulous’.)

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A meeting which meant that a number of streets were closed off for security reasons. It may also (but probably wasn’t) the reason for the ‘European Ice Cube’ – a large chunk of ice inexplicably being guarded by numerous policemen and women.

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Having seen the major EU institutions, we then proceeded to take in Brussels’ tourist sites including the Parc du Cinquantenaire (which celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Belgium’s independence and is where we met Abby)

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the Magritte Museum ; the Musical Instruments Museum (which, in keeping with the Brexit theme, has the words ‘Old England’ on its façade)

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Brussels Square

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the extraordinary Grand Place

the Manneken Pis ( a small statue of a boy peering into a fountain which, slightly unaccountably, draws huge crowds)

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the monumental Palais de Justice (which is magnificent in its own right and provides a great vista over Brussels)

before heading back to the Royal Palace and a final lap round the Parc de Bruxelles.

As this was Belgium, we then jogged (it was too cold to walk) to the Place du Luxembourg for a couple of Trappist Monastery beers.

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Amanda, who’s Irish, and I quickly sorted out the Irish border backstop issue – which is causing so much Brexit consternation here in the UK – before jogging off to our respective homes and hotels.

It was a very fine evening and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Amanda, Aneil and Abby for coming out on freezing night and showing me round Brussels. If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on July 4th 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 :

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

*As you may have guessed by now, I’m a Remainer. Not because I don’t think there are arguments on both sides of the debate. But because I think, on balance, and from a European perspective, it’s better for everyone if the UK stays in the EU. And the argument that clinches it for me is this : if you were negotiating with Russia or China or the US (or India or Brazil or Japan or Saudi Arabia or anyone else) would you rather be on your own – or as part of a team including London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Madrid and all the other EU states?

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Belgium is a sovereign state in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are AntwerpGhentCharleroi and Liège.

Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its institutional organisation is complex and is structured on both regional and linguistic grounds. It is divided into three highly autonomous regions: Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south, and the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels is the smallest and most densely populated region, as well as the richest region in terms of GDP per capita.

Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups or Communities: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish Community, which constitutes about 59 percent of the population, and the French-speaking Community, which comprises about 40 percent of all Belgians. A small German-speaking Community, numbering around one percent, exists in the East Cantons. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual (French and Dutch), although French is the dominant language. Belgium’s linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of governance, made up of six different governments.

Historically, Belgium was part of an area known as the Low Countries, a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states that also included parts of northern France and western Germany. Its name is derived from the Latin word Belgica, after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, earning the moniker the “Battlefield of Europe”,[ a reputation strengthened by both world wars. The country emerged in 1830 following the Belgian Revolution when it seceded from the Netherlands.

Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not increased; there is significant separatism particularly among the Flemish; controversial language laws exist such as the municipalities with language facilities; and the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election, a world record. Unemployment in Wallonia is more than double that of Flanders, which boomed after the war

Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as a seat of the European Parliament in the country’s capital, Brussels. Belgium is also a founding member of the EurozoneNATOOECD, and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts several of the EU’s official seats as well as the headquarters of many major international organizations such as NATO.

Belgium is a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy. It has very high standards of livingquality of life,  healthcareeducationand is categorized as “very high” in the Human Development Index. It also ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world.

World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for Belgium – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP $492.7 bn 2017 $237.9 bn 2000
Population 11.4 m 2017 10.3 m 2000
Primary school enrolment* 103% 2016 105% 2000
CO2 Emissions** 8.3 2014 11.2 2000
% below poverty line*** NA NA
Life expectancy at birth 81.0 yrs 2016 77.7 yrs 2000
GNI per capita $41790 2017 $26040 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 Belgium performed in the global sporting arena in 2018:

Global Cup – 17th

Per Capita Cup – 9th

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.



About Run the World

I'm running 10 km in every country in the world - a total of 205 countries - by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I'm doing the Run the World challenge to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to raise money for cancer research following the death of my mother from cancer. If you'd like to donate to Cancer Research - - then I know they'd be very grateful.
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1 Response to Run 161 : Belgium – Brussels

  1. Well done Dan! Persistence pays off. What you’re doing is fantastic!

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