Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
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 : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3224737687
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
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.)
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.)
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’.)
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.
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)
the Magritte Museum ; the Musical Instruments Museum (which, in keeping with the Brexit theme, has the words ‘Old England’ on its façade)
the extraordinary Grand Place
the Manneken Pis ( a small statue of a boy peering into a fountain which, slightly unaccountably, draws huge crowds)
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.
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 : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
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?