Run 116 : East Timor – Dili

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Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 7th August, 2017

Time :  57’ 44”

Total distance run to date : 1160 km

Run map and details :

Jet lag. Jet lag. Jet lag.

Some people seem to be able to deal with it. Take my sister for instance. She can fly from continent to continent giving a lecture there, chairing a conference here, educating everywhere, without skipping a beat.

I, on the other hand, cannot. To be fair, I’m not too bad going west. That’s just a matter of going to bed and getting up later. Which is something I practice most weekends.

But going east is a different matter. At best I can adjust at the rate of about an hour a day. Which is something I should have remembered when I agreed to Luke the ever patient travel agent’s suggestion of a 5.45am flight from Darwin to Dili, the capital of East Timor.

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Having fallen asleep at 3am, and then been woken by my alarm at 4am, I wasn’t overjoyed when my taxi was 15 minutes late. Especially as I’d cut the schedule a little fine in the hope of more sleep.

Still I managed to restrict myself to a reasonably cheery “you had me a little worried there ” when I got into the cab. “No worries ” was the response.

Anyone who’s been to Australia will know that the expression “no worries” is as ubiquitous as “cheers” is in the UK. And when it means “you’re welcome”, or “not a problem” , then it’s perfectly pleasant and even quite addictive (you hear it more and more in the UK these days and I even got a ‘no worries’ when I checked in to my hotel in Estonia the other day).

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As a response to a stated concern, however, it can be quite annoying. The pedant in me wants to say, “No, you’re wrong. There is a worry and, since you’re responsible for it, I’d like you to fix it.” But then I reflected that my driver probably wasn’t enjoying being up at that time in the morning any more than I was – and I kept my pedantry to myself.

Not that it really mattered because, as is almost always the case, there was no need to get to the airport more than an hour in advance of the flight. In fact I had time for a nice chat with the man at the check-in counter who’d heard all about Run the World from some running contacts in Darwin. Fame can be a heady thing…

I landed in Dili to discover that there were no maps available and no connectivity on my phone. And the last time I’d looked at East Timor on Google Maps had been more than a week ago. In short, I didn’t know where I was going.

So I devised the imaginative plan of running into town on the main road – and then turning round at roughly the 5 km mark and running back to the airport. With the vague hope that I might bump into something interesting along the way.

Putting my plan into action, I immediately came across a reasonably impressive, if to me anonymous, monument and had my ‘proof of presence’ picture taken.

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I later discovered that it was a statue of the Timorese martyr and independence hero Nicolau Lobato. Lobato had been Prime Minister in 1975 for the brief period between East Timor’s independence and its invasion by Indonesian troops. He subsequently fought the Indonesians only to be killed by Lieutenant Prabowo Subianto who was later to become President Suharto of Indonesia’s son-in-law. (There’s something about this story that smacks of a PR campaign to me – but perhaps I’m just being cynical. Whatever the truth of the matter, Subianto was to go on to have a very successful career in the army before moving into business and politics.)

From Lobato’s memorial I ran along a slightly too narrow pavement navigating bus waiters, drive ways, turn offs, a flock of chickens and a fly encrusted meat stall. I eventually  made it to the harbour where I had a faint view of one of East Timor’s main attractions – the 27 metre high statue of Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King of Dili) statue. If you squint you may be able to make it out in the left hand corner of the picture below.

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And here’s what it looks like from a little closer up and via a better photographer.

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After that it was a fairly uneventful run back to the airport and a wait for the 11.15 flight back to Darwin.

As I sat there in a semi-comatose, ‘I’ve spent more time running than sleeping in the last 24 hours’ state, a man came and sat down next to me.




“Are you Christian or Muslim?”

“Neither, I’m not religious.”


Man left.

In retrospect I suspect that this brief and, at least by British standards, unconventional conversation spoke volumes about the divisions and bitterness of East Timor’s recent history.

Briefly (there’s more detail in Facts & Stats below), East Timor is situated in the eastern half of the island of Timor. The western half of Timor (apart from one small enclave) and most of the surrounding islands belong to Indonesia. East Timor is really only a separate country because it was colonised by Portugal in the late 16th century. It remained a Portuguese colony until independence in 1975 becoming, in the process, a predominantly Christian country in a region that is otherwise Muslim.

Indonesia, citing post-colonial unity, and with US, Australian and British support, invaded shortly after independence and imposed what is generally recognised as a bloody and brutal occupation. There doesn’t appear to be any doubt that mass murder and rape occurred and some go as far as it refer to it as genocide. (My local Amnesty group at the time – led by a wonderful woman called Helen – used to campaign against human rights abuses by Indonesian forces. Sadly, I think Helen found it hard to get much traction in the UK – even amongst Amnesty members.)

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After much violence and suffering, East Timor eventually came under UN rule in 1999 and became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century in 2002. Needless to say, the occupation left a bitter legacy. One of the people I ran with in Australia was ex-military and he’d been sent to Dili post-independence to help with reconstruction. He told that me that the East Timorese hatred was so great that they tried to destroy anything and everything related to the Indonesians – including valuable infrastructure that would have benefited East Timor.

My recollection is that the conflict in East Timor received relatively little coverage in Western media at the time so please do read Facts & Stats below and/or follow the genocide link above if you’re interested to learn more. Other than that it just remains for me thank you for reading this blog. Not as light-hearted as some – and no obscure musical references this week. But informative and engaging…I hope…


Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

East Timor is a sovereign state in Maritime Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. The country’s size is about 15,410 km2 (5,400 sq mi).

East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until 28 November 1975, when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) declared the territory’s independence. Nine days later, it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and was declared Indonesia’s 27th province the following year. The Indonesian occupation of East Timor was characterised by a highly violent decades-long conflict between separatist groups (especially Fretilin) and the Indonesian military.

In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory. East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on 20 May 2002 and joined the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. In 2011, East Timor announced its intention to gain membership status in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by applying to become its eleventh member. It is one of only two predominantly Christian nations in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines.

Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor was marked by violence and brutality. A detailed statistical report prepared for the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor cited a minimum bound of 102,800 conflict-related deaths in the period 1974–1999, namely, approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 “excess” deaths from hunger and illness. The East Timorese guerrilla force (Forças Armadas da Libertação Nacional de Timor-Leste, Falintil) fought a campaign against the Indonesian forces from 1975 to 1999.

The 1991 Dili Massacre was a turning point for the independence cause and an East Timor solidarity movement grew in Portugal, Australia, and other Western countries.

Following the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto, a UN-sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal allowed for a UN-supervised popular referendum in August 1999. A clear vote for independence was met with a punitive campaign of violence by East Timorese pro-integration militia with the support of elements of the Indonesian military. With Indonesian permission, an Australian-led multi-national peacekeeping force was deployed until order was restored. In late 1999, the administration of East Timor was taken over by the UN through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). The INTERFET deployment ended in February 2000 with the transfer of military command to the UN.

On 30 August 2001, the East Timorese voted in their first election organised by the UN to elect members of the Constituent Assembly. On 22 March 2002, the Constituent Assembly approved the Constitution. By May 2002, over 205,000 refugees had returned. On 20 May 2002, the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor came into force and East Timor was recognised as independent by the UN. The Constituent Assembly was renamed the National Parliament and Xanana Gusmão was sworn in as the country’s first President. On 27 September 2002, East Timor was renamed to Timor-Leste, using the Portuguese language, and was admitted as a member state by the UN.

The following year, Gusmão declined another presidential term, and in the build-up to the April 2007 presidential elections there were renewed outbreaks of violence. José Ramos-Horta was elected President in the May 2007 election,] while Gusmão ran in the parliamentary elections and became Prime Minister. Ramos-Horta was critically injured in an attempted assassination in February 2008. Prime Minister Gusmão also faced gunfire separately but escaped unharmed. Australian reinforcements were immediately sent to help keep order. In 2006, the United Nations sent in security forces to restore order when unrest and factional fighting forced 15 percent of the population (155,000 people) to flee their homes. In March 2011, the UN handed over operational control of the police force to the East Timor authorities. The United Nations ended its peacekeeping mission on 31 December 2012.


Nicolau dos Reis Lobato (24 May 1946 – 31 December 1978) was an East-Timorese politician and national hero.

He was born in 1946 in SoibadaPortuguese Timor. Lobato was prime minister of East Timor from 28 November to 7 December 1975. Upon the arrival of the Indonesian military Lobato, along with other key Fretilin leaders, fled into the Timorese hinterland to fight against the occupying forces. On the final day of 1978 Lobato was ambushed by Indonesian special forces led by Lieutenant Prabowo Subianto (later son-in-law of President Suharto). He was killed after being shot in the stomach, and his body was brought to Dili to be inspected by Indonesian press.

Nicolau Lobato was made an East Timorese national hero. The East Timor International Airport has been named in his honour (Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport).


Subianto (born 17 October 1951) is an Indonesian businessman, politician and former Lieutenant General in the Indonesian National Armed Forces. In the Indonesian presidential election, 2009 he ran for the vice-presidency as part of Megawati Sukarnoputri‘s campaign for president. He ran for president in the Indonesian presidential election, 2014 but was defeated by Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo in a close finish, which he initially disputed.

Prabowo is the son of Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, an Indonesian economist, and Dora Sigar. He is also the former husband of Titiek Suharto, the late President Suharto‘s second daughter, they were married in 1983 and divorced in 1998 during the Indonesian political crisis.


Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King of Dili) is a 27.0-metre-high (88.6 ft) statue of Jesus located atop a globe in Dili, East Timor. The statue was designed by Mochamad Syailillah, who is better known as Bolil. The statue was officially unveiled by Suharto in 1996 as gift from the Indonesian government to the people of East Timor, which was at the time still a province. The statue is one of the main tourist attractions in East Timor.

The idea of raising the Cristo Rei statue was proposed by the East Timor governor José Abilio Osorio Soares to President Suharto. It was intended as a present for the 20th anniversary of East Timor’s integration into Indonesia.

Suharto appointed the director of national airline Garuda Indonesia to lead the project. Garuda was given the responsibility to find capital for funding the project, and raised 1.1 billion rupiah (US$123,000). However, that was not sufficient to erect the statue, and contributions from East Timorese civil servants and businessmen were needed to complete the project, which eventually cost more than 5 billion rupiah (US$559,000).

It took almost a year of working to create the body of the statue, which was fabricated by 30 workers in Sukaraja, Bandung. It was made of 27 separate copper sections, which were then loaded onto three trailers and shipped to Dili. Reconstruction of the statue, including the globe and a 10-meter-high cross, took three months.

It was unveiled on 15 October 1996. Roman Catholic bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, together with President Suharto and East Timor Governor José Abilio Osorio Soares, directly witnessed the revelation of this statue from the air using a helicopter.


World Bank Data

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

GDP                                               $1.44 bn    2015      $368 m   2000

Population                                   1.27 m       2016      872 k       2000

Primary school enrolment*      137%         2015      118%       2001

CO2 Emissions                             0.39           2014      0.18         2002

% below poverty line***          41.8            2014      36.3       2001

Life expectancy at birth            68.6 yrs      2015      59.3 yrs  2000

GNI per capita                             $2180        2015      $780        2002

*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 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.)


Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how East Timor performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – NA

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.


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Run 125 : Italy – Salò

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Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 15th October, 2017

Time :  1h 03’20”

Total distance run to date : 1250 km

Run map and details :

Media : Giornale di Brescia

It was the second day at college and Caroline turned to me and said, “You should meet Nic. You’ll like him, he’s Italian.”

I’ve never known quite why she said that – perhaps because she had us both down as foreigners, a long way from our safe European homes*. (I lived in Geneva at the time and Nic lived in Padenghe sul Garda ; college was in the UK and full of a strange rugby playing tribe.)

Whatever the reason, she was right. Nic and I met shortly afterwards and we’ve been the closest of friends ever since. Through the hard times and the good*.

We bonded over music – particularly The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers – and our obsessive love of sport – particularly football and skiing. An obsession that eventually led to us creating Greatest Sporting Nation – the annual ranking of the world’s best sporting nations (based on results from 1250 events across 176 different tournaments and 83 different sports). Highly recommended if you have any interest in sports and statistics.

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Nic and I weren’t the only members of the college international brigade. Our numbers also included Josh, an American, who subsequently spent most of his post-college years globetrotting on behalf of the IMF. (Eagle-eyed readers may recall Josh from the Run the World India blog – at the time he was a special adviser to the Indian government and my host for a 12 hour visit to Delhi.) And Daud, a Pakistani who similarly globetrotted on behalf of the FAO (the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation).

The four of us hadn’t all met up together since an eventful week staying with Daud in Rome, [redacted] years ago. The Italian connection prompted me to drop Josh and Daud a line, mostly in jest, suggesting that they joined Nic and me in northern Italy for the Italian leg of Run the World. To our mutual astonishment, we all managed to overcome the various logistical hurdles and meet up in Brescia on the eve of the run for a memorable reunion dinner.

Now, over the years, and largely thanks to the hospitality of Nic, Gabri (who hosted the reunion dinner – thank you!)  and their families, I’ve got to know Italy and kind of fallen in love with the place.

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However, even an Italophile such as myself would admit that not everything always runs smoothly in Italy. Of course, that’s also true of many other countries (including the UK) but Italy has its own unique approach to life.

For example, there have, I believe, been 65 different governments since WWII. And more turbulence, scandals and crises than the long suffering locals probably care to remember: ranging from Berlusconi’s bunga bunga sex parties to the Brigate Rosse’s 1978 kidnapping and subsequent murder of Aldo Moro (former Prime Minster and leader of the Christian Democracy party).

But much, if not all of this, is in the past and, as the hordes of tourists will testify, none of it really matters when you’re a visitor. (Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world after France, the US, Spain and China and just above the UK.)

Italy has 53 World heritage sites – the most in the world – and the most beautiful city in the world – Venice (below). And countless other cities, including Florence and Rome, that would be in many people’s Top Ten. (Rough Guide polled its Twitter and Facebook followers and Rome was voted the most beautiful city in the world, with Florence second and Venice only 7th. But what do they know?)

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Italy also has fabulous mountains, beaches, lakes, islands and landscapes. Plus great food, an endless supply of history and culture, an inimitable sense of style, Romanzo Criminale and, the odd mafioso and Venetian aside (tourists can be so tiresome..), friendly people.

And it’s one of only two countries in the world to boast both top class skiing resorts and football clubs that have won the European Cup / Champions League. (The other one being France – but only if you count Marseille’s victory in 1993). Admittedly, this isn’t a generally recognised criterion of a great country – but it should be.

Anyway, that’s enough about my Italian love affair. Time to get back to the story.

Feeling a little the worse for wear after the night before, the four of us came out to Salò, on the Lake Garda shoreline*.

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Historians amongst you may recognise Salò as the de facto capital of the Republic of Salò – Mussolini’s second and final incarnation of the Italian fascist state. The reason we were there was because the lovely Camilla (Nic’s sister) and her husband, Stefano, live there.

Stefano is a businessman and politician – and one of Salò’s leading lights. He’s also a runner (below).

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And he’d been good enough to arrange some local PR (Giornale di Brescia below) and for me to run with the Salò Runners.

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We all met at the Stadio Lina Turina (picture at the top of the blog) and sauntered once around the track before the more prudent members of the group – possibly including one or two people I’ve known since college – took a ‘well-deserved’ break and segued into a cheerleading role. The rest of us jogged the short journey down to Lake Garda.

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It’s hard for an amateur wordsmith such as myself to describe how exquisite it was. Ophelia was battering the western reaches of the British Isles, which apparently sucked up all of Europe’s bad weather and meant that Italy was bathed in glorious sunshine. The skies were a spectacular blue ; the surrounding mountains tumbled down to the lake cloaked in a soft green ; and the yacht sails created triangles of white all over the lake. Salò – a tourist hot spot – was looking its best and the promenades were full of happy people.

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The run, led by Max the Rock, went straight into my top 5 most beautiful runs to date – right up there with Rio and Madagascar. We ran around the lake, back through the town and round the lake some more – with frequent photo stops to try to capture the surrounding beauty. Including one in the local pasticceria which just happens to be run by a friend of the Salò Runners.

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We had something of sprint finish as Josh and Daud suddenly rejoined the run, at pace, with 400m to go. Max the Rock and I tried to catch them…

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…but to no avail.

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As they later pointed out, it’s not where you start, or even the journey you go on, that counts. Its where you finish.

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It only remains for me to say grazie mille to Nic, Stefano, Josh, Daud, Camilla, Gabri, Max the Rock, Francesco (paparazzo extraordinaire), Dave the Double, Angelo, Georgia, Vasco, Diego, Silvia, Claudia, Roberto, Mauro, Fabiano and Said.

And thank you for listening to my ‘3 Things You Can Do To Combat Cancer’ speech (translated by Nic) and for your very generous support of Cancer Research. (We raised the best part of 1000 Euros on the day.)

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I hope you’ll join me in London on July 4th 2020 for the UK leg of Run the World!

*Semi-obligatory (for these blogs) obscure musical reference.

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Italy is a unitary parliamentary republic in Europe. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,338 km2 (116,347 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. Due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as lo Stivale (the Boot). With around 61 million inhabitants it is the fourth most populous EU member state.

The Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom, which eventually became a republic that conquered and assimilated other nearby civilisations. Ultimately the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean basin, conquering much of the ancient world and becoming the leading cultural, political and religious centre of Western civilisation. The legacy of the Roman Empire is widespread and can be observed in the global distribution of civilian lawrepublican governments, Christianity and the Latin script.

During the Early Middle Ages Italy suffered sociopolitical collapse amid calamitous barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics, mainly in the northern and central regions of Italy, rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking, laying down the groundwork for modern capitalism. These mostly independent statelets, acting as Europe’s main spice trade hubs with Asia and the Near East, often enjoyed a greater degree of democracy and wealth in comparison to the larger feudal monarchies that were consolidating throughout Europe at the time, though much of central Italy remained under the control of the theocratic Papal States, while Southern Italy remained largely feudal until the 19th century, partially as a result of a succession of ByzantineArabNorman and Spanish conquests of the region.

The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanismscienceexploration and art. Italian culture flourished at this time, producing famous scholars, artists and polymaths such as Leonardo da VinciGalileoMichelangelo and Machiavelli. Italian explorers such as Marco PoloChristopher ColumbusAmerigo Vespucci and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery.

By the mid-19th century, a rising movement in support of Italian nationalism and independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval known as the Risorgimento, which sought the formation of a unified nation-state. After various unsuccessful attempts, the Italian Wars of Independence, the Expedition of the Thousand and the Capture of Rome resulted in the eventual unification of the country, now a great power after centuries of foreign domination and political division. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the new Kingdom of Italy rapidly industrialised, although mainly in the north, and acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained largely impoverished and excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the main victors in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading the way to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in 1922. The subsequent participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction and an Italian civil war. Following the liberation of Italy and the rise of the resistance, the country abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom and, despite periods of sociopolitical turmoil (e.g. Anni di piomboMani pulite, the Second Mafia War, the Maxi Trial and subsequent assassinations of anti-mafia officials), became a major advanced economy.

Today Italy has the third largest nominal GDP in the Eurozone and the eighth largest in the world. As an advanced economy the country also has the sixth worldwide national wealth and it is ranked third for its central bank gold reserve. Italy has a very high level of human development and it is sixth in the world for life expectancy. As a reflection of its cultural wealth, Italy is home to 53 World Heritage Sites, the most in the world, and is the fifth most visited country.

The kidnapping of Aldo Moro (ItalianRapimento di Aldo Moro, also referred as Caso Moro) was a seminal event in Italian political history.

On the morning of 16 March 1978, the day on which the new cabinet led by Giulio Andreotti was supposed to have undergone a confidence vote in the Italian Parliament, the car of Aldo Moro, former prime minister and then president of Christian Democracy (Italian: Democrazia Cristiana, or DC, Italy’s relative majority party at the time), was assaulted by a group of Red Brigades (Italian: Brigate Rosse, or BR) terrorists in Via Fani in Rome. Firing automatic weapons, the terrorists killed Moro’s bodyguards, (two Carabinieri in Moro’s car and three policemen in the following car) and kidnapped him.

On 9 May 1978 Moro’s body was found in the trunk of a Renault 4 in Via Caetani after 55 days of imprisonment, during which Moro was submitted to a political trial by the so-called “people’s court” set up by the Brigate Rosse and the Italian government was asked for an exchange of prisoners.

Bunga bunga is a phrase of uncertain origin and various meanings. By 2010 the phrase had gained popularity in Italy and the international press to refer to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi‘s sex parties, which caused a major political scandal in Italy.

It was allegedly taught to Silvio Berlusconi by Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was also the unwitting originator of the phrase Zenga Zenga.

The Italian Social Republic, informally known as the Republic of Salò, was created during the latter part of World War II, existing from the beginning of German occupation of Italy in September 1943 until the surrender of German troops in Italy in April 1945.

The Italian Social Republic was the second and last incarnation of the Italian Fascist state and was led by Duce Benito Mussolini and his reformed anti-monarchist Republican Fascist Party which tried to modernise and revise fascist doctrine into a more moderate and sophisticated direction. The state declared Rome its capital, but was de facto centered on Salò (hence its colloquial name), a small town on Lake Garda, near Brescia, where Mussolini and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were headquartered. The Italian Social Republic exercised nominal sovereignty in Northern and Central Italy, but was largely dependent on German troops to maintain control.

Around 25 April 1945, Mussolini’s republic came to an end. In Italy, this day is known as Liberation Day (festa della liberazione). On this day a general partisan uprising, alongside the efforts of Allied forces during their final offensive in Italy, managed to oust the Germans from Italy almost entirely. At the point of its demise, the Italian Social Republic had existed for slightly more than nineteen months. On 27 April, partisans caught Mussolini, his mistress (Clara Petacci), several RSI ministers and several other Italian Fascists while they were attempting to flee. On 28 April, the partisans shot Mussolini and most of the other captives.

World Bank Data

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

GDP                                               $1.85 tn    2016      $1.14 tn   2000

Population                                   60.6 m      2016      56.9 m      2000

Primary school enrolment*     101%        2015      103%        2000

CO2 Emissions                            5.27           2014      7.91          2000

% below poverty line***           NA                           NA

Life expectancy at birth            83.5 yrs    2015      79.8 yrs   2000

GNI per capita                             $31590     2016      $21820     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 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.)

Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Italy performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 10th

Per Capita Cup – 33rd

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.


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Run 119 : Denmark – Copenhagen

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Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 9th September, 2017

Time :  57’15”

Total distance run to date : 1190 km

Run map and details :

The first thing you notice about Denmark is that they all talk like they do on the telly. Or at least they do if you’re one of the millions around the world who watched ‘The Killing’ and ‘Borgen’. It’s all ‘tak’, ‘ja’, ‘nej’, ‘god morgen’ and ‘min luftpudebåd er fyldt med ål’ (my hovercraft is full of eels*). You half feel as if you understand what’s being said whilst simultaneously looking for the sub-titles which, frustratingly, aren’t anywhere to be seen. (Not that it matters because, as far as I can tell, amongst their many other qualities, all Danes are highly proficient at English.)

Both shows were highly successful in terms of both awards and international distribution (see Facts & Stats below for more information). And both shows have now received what many would consider the ultimate accolade. Their lead characters, Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg and Detective Inspector Sarah Lund, have been photo shopped (above) into the Run the World blog. (I say ‘photo shopped’ but my technical skills are such that my 12 year old had to do it for me – on Snapchat.)

Sarah Lund and her jumpers captured the international imagination – including Charles and Camilla who were apparently ‘addicted to it’. (You’ll have to take my word for this because, if you search for ‘Charles, Camilla, The Killing’, all you’ll get is articles about Diana.)

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However my favourite was Nyborg as she juggled work and family life, idealism and the compromise and arm twisting needed to get anything done in politics.

Aficionados of the show may recall that Nyborg had a spin doctor – Kasper Juul – who, in addition to the usual comms and spinning, wasn’t above a little political skulduggery if it served Nyborg’s needs. Or a spot of brutal media training.

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And it just so happens I have an old friend who is also called Casper, who is also Danish, and who is also in communications (but not skulduggery to the best of my knowledge).

The backstory as to how I met Casper is, I hope, sufficiently interesting to warrant inclusion in this blog. In the mid-90s David Tabizel, visionary, entrepreneur and financier extraordinaire, decided that that this internet thingy was going to be big and that we should do something about football. David put together a management team of Danny Kelly (ex-editor of NME, Q and Total Sports – a publishing genius) ; Simon Morris (ex-Sega and subsequently a founder of Love Films – a marketing genius) ; and, um, me (who was to go on to become a world renowned blogger – or at least I think that’s what the future holds for me.)

Football 365 was born and, for the first year, we survived on what our mutual friend Hans Stocker calls the ‘fumes from an oily rag’. In other words, we had no money. And then the world caught up with David and we had some cash. Which meant that it was time to recruit a team.

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Casper’s interview technique was a fine example of that bracing directness for which the Scandinavians are justly famous. He informed the three of us that we knew nothing about the internet and that we needed people like him. Needless to say we hired him – and a number of other young internet guns such as Rod Mclaren, Phil Rooke, Julian Marszalek and Paul Holland. (Paul’s real surname was Galesloot but, in typically English style, this was deemed too difficult to pronounce so he became known as Paul Holland. Which may seem a touch feeble but did mean that, when Nick Folland joined our legal team, he quickly became known as Nick Folland Not From Holland. Which was highly amusing.)

Those young guns have subsequently all done very well and Football 365 ended up as part of Sky Sports. As an aside, I was out with a friend from Sky the other night and this came up. I suspect she thought I was going to be critical of Sky’s stewardship of what I inevitably still think of as our baby. But I was honestly able to say that Sky had done a fine job of letting it be (albeit with the inclusion of a lot more ads).

It’s still the rather wonderful thing that it was always meant to be : the digital equivalent of passionate fans sitting in the pub and taking about football with genuine expertise and humour. If you’re a football fan, it’s brilliant.

Enough of the backstory and back to the run. I was due to meet Casper in front of the Radshuis (town hall) and as I walked there it was raining cats and dogs – and all the other denizens of Noah’s Ark.


I like to think this accounts for the rather strange hair in the photo below (Casper’s the good looking one on the left).

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And I must have had water on the brain because I failed to turn on my Garmin properly for the first 500m or so. (Which may not sound like much but is 500m more than I needed to run given my lack of fitness after the recent knee problems.)

I was also doing a very poor job of simultaneously running around unfamiliar streets and following my mental image of the route Casper had been good enough to put together (which was due to take me past most of the major sights in Copenhagen and which I had failed to print out…).

But I do know that I ran past Borgen, which literally means “The Castle”, and which is the informal name for the Christiansborg Palace (top picture) which houses the three branches of the Danish government : Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court. (Borgen is also often used as a figure of speech for the Danish government.)

I also ran round Nyhaven which is a colourful waterfront area full of bars and restaurants.


Nyhaven is also the location for an eye catching artwork by Ai Weiwei. He’s stuffed 3,500 life jackets – collected from refugees in Lesbos – into the windows of the Kunsthal Charlottenborg. ‘Soleil Levant’ which opened on United Nations international refugee day (June 20) aims to increase awareness of the ongoing refugee crisis.

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I also ran around the outside of the Tivoli Gardens which is actually a large amusement park slap bang in the centre of town. Possibly Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attraction, its particularly impressive at night.

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Despite the fact that I was almost permanently semi-lost, it was a good run round Copenhagen. It’s a fine place and would make a great weekend break for anyone who hasn’t already visited. I hope to be back one day.

In the meantime, it just remains for me to say ‘tusind tak’ to Casper and Malene for all the help with the run and the hospitality afterwards. I’ll see you in Den Haag for my Dutch run!

*When I checked online for common Danish words this is one of the phrases they quoted – in homage to a Monty Python sketch called the ‘Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook’. Researching these blogs takes me to the strangest places.


Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Denmark  is the southernmost of the Scandinavian nations. it is south-west of Sweden and south of Norway and is bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark also comprises two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark proper consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate. Denmark has an area of 42,924 km2 (16,573 sq mi), which increases to  2,210,579 km2 (853,509 sq mi) if you include Greenland and the Faroes, and a population of 5.75 million (as of 2017).

The unified kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 10th century as a proficient seafaring nation in the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. Denmark, Sweden and Norway were ruled together under the Kalmar Union, established in 1397 and ending with Swedish secession in 1523. Denmark and Norway remained under the same monarch until outside forces dissolved the union in 1814. The union with Norway made it possible for Denmark to inherit the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. Beginning in the 17th century, there were several cessions of territory to Sweden. In the 19th century there was a surge of nationalist movements, which were defeated in the 1864 Second Schleswig War. Denmark remained neutral during World War I. In April 1940, a German invasion saw brief military skirmishes while the Danish resistance movement was active from 1943 until the German surrender in May 1945. An industrialised exporter of agricultural produce in the second half of the 19th century, Denmark introduced social and labour-market reforms in the early 20th century that created the basis for the present welfare state model with a highly developed mixed economy.

The Constitution of Denmark was signed on 5 June 1849, ending the absolute monarchy, which had begun in 1660. It establishes a constitutional monarchy organised as a parliamentary democracy. The government and national parliament are seated in Copenhagen, the nation’s capitallargest city and main commercial centre. Denmark exercises hegemonic influence in the Danish Realmdevolving powers to handle internal affairs. Home rule was established in the Faroe Islands in 1948; in Greenland home rule was established in 1979 and further autonomy in 2009. Denmark became a member of the European Economic Community (now the EU) in 1973, maintaining certain opt-outs; it retains its own currency, the krone. It is among the founding members of NATO, the Nordic Council, the OECDOSCE, and the United Nations; it is also part of the Schengen Area.

Denmark is considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world. Danes enjoy a high standard of living and the country ranks highly in some metrics of national performance, including educationhealth care, protection of civil libertiesdemocratic governanceprosperity and human development. The country ranks as having the world’s highest social mobility, a high level of income equality is the country with the lowest perceived level of corruption in the world, has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes, and one of the world’s highest personal income tax rates.


Borgen is a Danish political drama television series created by Adam Price. It tells how Birgitte Nyborg, a minor centrist politician, becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark against all the odds.

Adam Price is the co-writer and developer of the series, together with Jeppe Gjervig Gram and Tobias LindholmBorgen is produced by DR, the Danish public broadcaster which had previously produced The Killing.

The series stars Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg Christensen; Mikael Birkkjær as her husband; Pilou Asbæk as Kasper Juul, a spin doctorBirgitte Hjort Sørensen as Katrine Fønsmark, a TV1 news anchorSøren Malling as Torben Friis, news editor for TV1; and Benedikte Hansen as Hanne Holm, a journalist.

Awards for the show include the 2010 Prix Italia for best drama series, a Golden Nymph to Sidse Babett Knudsen for Outstanding Actress in a drama series at the 2011 Monte-Carlo Television Festival,]and the Fipa Grand Prize for Best TV Series as well as for Best Original Soundtrack at the 2011 Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels.[  The program also won the award for Best International TV series at the 2012 British Academy Television Awards.


The Killing (DanishForbrydelsen, “The Crime”) is a Danish police procedural three-series-long television drama created by Søren Sveistrup and produced by DRin co-production with ZDF Enterprises. It was first broadcast on the Danish national television channel DR1 on 7 January 2007, and has since been transmitted in many other countries worldwide.

The series is set in Copenhagen and revolves around Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl). Each series follows a murder case day-by-day. Each fifty-minute episode covers twenty-four hours of the investigation. The series is noted for its plot twistsseason-long storylines, dark tone and for giving equal emphasis to the stories of the murdered victim’s family and the effect in political circles alongside the police investigation. It has also been singled out for the photography of its Danish setting, and for the acting ability of its cast.

The Killing has proved to be an international hit—garnering significant critical acclaim—particularly in the United KingdomGermany and The Netherlands. It has become a cult television show, and has received numerous awards and nominations including a BAFTA Award and an International Emmy, and in 2011 a US remake was produced by the American cable network AMC.


World Bank Data

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

GDP                                               $306 bn    2016      $164 bn   2000

Population                                   5.73 m       2016       5.34 m     2000

Primary school enrolment*      102%        2015       101%      2000

% below poverty line**             NA                             NA

Life expectancy at birth            81.1 yrs      2015      76.6 yrs    2000

GNI per capita                             $56730      2016      $32660       2000

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

**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.)


Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Denmark performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 20th

Per Capita Cup – 4th

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.


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Run 123 : Estonia – Tallinn

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Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 13th September, 2017

Time :  1h 6’52”

Total distance run to date : 1230 km

Run map and details :

A man walks into a bar with a Teddy Bear, a Necklace, a Cucumber, some Stains, Cinderella, a Sniffer and a Virgin.

That may sound like the opening line of a joke but was actually the scene towards midnight one rainy night in Tallinn. For the members of the Tallinn Hash Run no. 678 (names modified to protect readers’ sensibilities) were in town and it was time for the dreaded jellyfish ordeal.

Hang on, hang on. How on earth did we get here?!? This is meant to be a blog about running!

Let’s roll back a few hours. To when someone on the run, I think it was Sniffer, asked me, through mouthfuls of rain, how I recover between daily runs. “Lots of stretching, plenty of sleep, sensible food and minimal alcohol,” had been my answer. Wise words that I could, and should, have followed.

And why was I splashing through the sodden Estonian landscape talking to a man called Sniffer? Let’s roll back a couple more hours to the beginning.

After 3 hours of wondering round Tallinn I’d made it to the agreed meeting point near Depoo (picture below).Though Dewee might have been more appropriate given the weather. (Obviously I am normally above such ‘humour’ but there’s something about spending an evening with hashers…)

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My legs were knackered from all the walking around and begging me not to go on my 5th run in 4 days. But all that was quickly forgotten as soon as I met Grand Master Stains, Teddy Bear and Cucumber from the Helsinki Hashers, and the rest of the Tallinn Hash House Harriers – motto “Small, but low quality”.

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At this point, it may be worth stopping for a minute to fill in the gaps for those who know nothing about the Hash House Harriers. They like to describe themselves as a drinking club with a running problem and that should give you a fairly good idea of what they’re all about.

You should probably also be aware that members are given hash names (as you may have gathered from the opening paragraph). These are frequently, but not always, a touch too bawdy for a family blog such as this one.

I’ve previously run with hashers in AzerbaijanThailand and Ghana (the latter blog is worth reading if you’re interested in the history and genealogy of hashing). They all combine running with having a good time but there are significant differences between ‘kennels’. Some are family friendly and some, like the Tallinn Hash, are a little more, shall we say, traditional.

Back to the run. At first, it was a normal hash. The hares had laid a trail of flour and we followed this as best we could in the unremitting downpour. After about 20 minutes most of the group decided to swap a wet outside and a dry inside for a dry outside and a wet inside. In short, they went for a beer. A sensible response to the appalling conditions.

I would have loved to have joined them but I had a 10km to run and I was fortunate that two of the group stayed with me. So the three of us strode on, getting wetter and wetter, and talking about anything and everything – including recovery routines – to keep our minds off the all-pervading water. Eventually, thankfully, we got to the 10km point and were able to join the others.

Who had been in a bar but were now back outside in the elements for the circle.

Now I could tell you all about the initiation ceremony, the x rated songs and the various traditions of the circle.  And why the man in the picture below – who always runs in black and vapes a lot – was given the name Darth Vaper. But what goes in the circle, stays in the circle. So I won’t. What I can tell you is that it was both a good laugh and a bit of an eye-opener….

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A meal and some rehydration followed before it was time to make our way to the aforementioned bar. Which is something of an institution in Tallinn. (Famously, when Microsoft bought Skype (Skype’s software was developed in Estonia), Steve Ballmer et al went there to celebrate the deal.)

The bar was small, packed and atmospheric. A man was playing ‘Lili Marleen’ on the accordion and the odd couple were dancing in the remaining few square feet of space.

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Even better, Spurs had taken a 3 -1 lead against Dortmund in the Champions league. Exciting news which I made sure to share with the remaining hashers – to a generally nonplussed response.

What better time to down the millimallikas or ‘jellyfish’ – a vicious concoction of Sambuca, vodka, tabasco and tequila.


Several beers were needed to wash away the aftertaste.

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It won’t be great surprise to hear that I got to bed at about 2am before waking up at 6 am, dehydrated and heady. A perfect preparation for my run in Helsinki later that day.

But that’s for another blog. For now, I just want to say a huge thank you and ‘terviseks’ to Stains and the Tallinn and Helsinki hashers for a memorable evening, a soaking wet run and a generous donation to cancer research.

On on!

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Estonia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern and Eastern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering 45,339 km2 (17,505 sq mi) of land and water, and is influenced by a humid continental climate. Ethnic Estonians are a Finnic people, sharing close cultural ties with their northern neighbour, Finland, and the official language, Estonian, is a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish and the Sami languages, and distantly to Hungarian.

The territory of Estonia has been inhabited since at least 6500 BC, with Finno-Ugric speakers – the linguistic ancestors of modern Estonians – arriving no later than around 1800 BC. Following centuries of successive German, Danish, Swedish, and Russian rule, Estonians experienced a national awakening that culminated in independence from the Russian Empire towards the end of World War I on 24 February 1918. After its successful democratic rule, the Era of Silence had made Estonia increasingly autocratic. During World War II, Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, then by Nazi Germany a year later and was again annexed by the Soviets in 1944, after which it was reconstituted as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Following the loss of its de facto independence, a government in exile functioned. In 1988, during the Singing Revolution, the Estonian Supreme Soviet issued the Estonian Sovereignty Declaration in defiance of Soviet rule, and independence was restored on 20 August 1991. Since restoration of its independence, Estonia is a democratic unitary parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties. Its capital and largest city is Tallinn. With a population of 1.3 million, it is one of the least-populous member states of the European UnionEurozoneNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), OECD and Schengen Area.

Estonia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy that as of 2011 is among the fastest growing in the EU. Its Human Development Index ranks very highly, and it performs favourably in measurements of economic freedomcivil liberties and press freedom (3rd in the world in 2012 and 2007). The 2015 PISA test places Estonian high school students 3rd in the world, behind Singapore and Japan. Citizens of Estonia are provided with universal health carefree education and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD. Since independence the country has rapidly developed its IT sector, becoming one of the world’s most digitally advanced societies. In 2005 Estonia became the first nation to hold elections over the Internet, and in 2014 the first nation to provide E-residency.

Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, and occupies an area of 159.2 km2 (61.5 sq mi) and has a population of 446,055.

Due to its strategic location, the city became a major trade hub, especially from the 14th to the 16th century, when it grew in importance as part of the Hanseatic League.

Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tallinn is the major political, financial, cultural and educational center of Estonia. Often dubbed the Silicon Valley of Europe, it has the highest number of startups per person in Europe and is a birthplace of many international companies, including Skype. The city is to house the headquarters of the European Union’s IT agency.


World Bank Data

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

GDP                                               $23.1 bn    2016      $5.69 bn   2000

Population                                   1.32 m       2016       1.40 m     2000

Primary school enrolment*      98.4%        2015       103%      2000

% below poverty line**             21.8%        2013      NA

Life expectancy at birth            77.1 yrs      2015      70.4 yrs    2000

GNI per capita                             $17750      2016      $4150       2004

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

**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.)


Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how  Estonia performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 76th

Per Capita Cup – 16th

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.


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Run 122 : Latvia – Riga

Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 12th September, 2017

Time :  1h 8’42”

Total distance run to date : 1220 km

Run map and details :

Media :

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I’m not quite sure when stag dos stopped being a single night of fun and games and became a weekend away somewhere pretending that, yes, there’s nothing I’d like more than to go out drinking heavily for the third night in a row. But whenever it was, it was (mostly) good news for cities with a reputation for good value (aka cheapish booze) within reach of the UK. Like Riga, the capital of Latvia.

I say ‘mostly’ because we Brits have an almost unique ability to make ourselves at home when abroad. This used to involve deciding that we were best placed to rule the country in question. But now, at least on stag dos, it involves dressing up, drinking too much and other general high jinks. (The picture below is of a beer bike – beloved of stag parties – in front of the House of Blackheads. Which seems appropriate as the Brotherhood of Blackheads were an association of unmarried foreigners.)

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Regrettably these high jinks occasionally turn into one of those nights, you know the kind, where everyone takes off their clothes, dons comedy Hitler masks, vomits all over each other, gets into a fight with some locals and spends the night in a prison cell.*

Riga responded to this kind of behaviour in two main ways. The police set up a task force targeting rowdy stag parties. And the local Mafia developed ever more cunning ways to part inebriated Brits from their bank balances – mostly based on the premise that mullered men can usually persuade themselves that those ‘Russian supermodels’ just happened to be in the bar at the same time as them and just happened to fall for their banter.

Possibly because of these measures, or possibly because, with post Brexit exchange rates, foreign travel has recently become a lot more expensive, Riga is apparently attracting far fewer stag parties these days. (In the interests of Brexit balance I should also note that, if you want visit the UK, or buy British goods and services, then now is the time to do so.)

Certainly I didn’t see any stags during my pre-run tour round Riga’s old town. However, I did see – and I’d be the first to admit that it’s a tenuous connection – a number of animal themed sculptures. There was a life sized wooden horse with people clambering on top to have their pictures taken. Presumably blissfully unaware that parties of naked stags have been there before. Or so rumour has it.

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There was also a metal anteater (or was it a pangolin?) near the cathedral and, probably most famously, the Bremen Town Musicians sculpture which features a rooster on top of a cat on top of a dog on top of a donkey. The Bremen Town Musicians is a famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale and there are works of art commemorating it in various cities around Europe including, perhaps unsurprisingly, Bremen.

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The tale’s about four animals, all past their prime, who, as so often happens with retiring farm animals, decide to leave their farms to become musicians in Bremen. They never make it to Bremen but they do manage to successfully deal with a gang of robbers by standing on top of each other and simultaneously going on the attack. And that’s about it. (It’s possible that the original brings the story to life a little better than that….)

In Riga, they say that, if you can jump up and touch all the animals before you hit the ground, then it’ll bring you good luck. Unfortunately I didn’t learn this until later on the run so I wasn’t able to give it a go.

Which brings us neatly onto the run itself. It was an excellent run, organised by Andra from the ever wonderful local British Embassy, and passing by many of Riga’s main sights

There were six of us in total and we started with a warm-up in the Kronvalda park before making our way into the old town. We stopped outside Riga Cathedral for a photo before crossing the Stone Bridge (Akmens Tilts) and passing by the enormous new National Library (please see video below). There’s a rather lovely story about the new library : when it came time to move books from the old library to the new one, this was done by a human chain of volunteers.

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We ran through some some more green spaces before returning via Uzvaras park and the Victory Memorial. The Memorial, which is made up of a 79 metre tall obelisk and two groups of sculptures, is a controversial subject. It was erected in 1985 to commemorate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. (It was originally – and snappily – named the “Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders”.) However, for many Latvians it’s a symbol, not only of Soviet victory, but also of the Soviet re-occupation of Latvia. (In 1997 it was unsuccessfully bombed by members of the Latvian ultra-nationalist group Pērkonkrusts, two of whom died during the bombing.)

Readers of the Run the World Lithuania blog will be familiar with the background to all this but, for blog newbies, the Soviet Union invaded Latvia (and other Baltic states) in 1940 under the terms of the Molotov – von Ribbentrop pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. Germany subsequently occupied Latvia in 1941 before being kicked out by the Soviets in 1944. Latvia was then incorporated into the Soviet Union until independence in 1991. (To put this into context, the Latvian Museum of the Occupation treats the whole period from 1940-1991 as one of constant occupation.)

This is all so sensitive that none of my fellow runners felt able to join me for the photo in front of the Memorial – which is why I’m Billy No Mates in the picture below.

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We crossed back over the Stone Bridge and a couple of us decided to open our legs (so to speak) and run across the bridge about as fast as we could. Garmin tells me that our peak pace was 3’ 53” per kilometre. Why am I mentioning this apparently trivial fact ? Because, even if we maintained that peak pace for the full 42.2 km of a marathon, it would still take us the best part of 2h 45’ to finish. And yet the top runners complete marathons in just over 2 hours. How do they do it? I just don’t know.

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From the Stone Bridge we wound our way along the river front before turning through the old town and back to the Embassy and a celebratory drink in a local pub. It had been an entertaining and informative run, with some great company, and I hope my fellow runners enjoyed it as much as I did.

It just remains for me to say a huge thanks to Andra, Chris, Mihails, Oskars and Huw. Riga is a fine place end I hope to make it back there one day!


*Since my daughters can occasionally – with a certain amount of arm twisting and threats to withhold their pocket money – be induced to read these blogs, I want to be clear that I’ve never been involved in any evening remotely like this. Nor have 99.9%  of Brits abroad. In fact I’ve been told more than once that we’re some of the best tourists around. Apparently we spend a lot and don’t complain much.


Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, as well as sharing a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

After centuries of SwedishLivonianPolish and Russian rule, a rule mainly executed by the privileged Baltic German aristocracy, the Republic of Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 after declaring independence from Russia in the aftermath of World War I. However, by the 1930s, the country became increasingly autocratic after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime under Kārlis Ulmanis. The country’s de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II, beginning with Latvia’s forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, followed by the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941, and the re-occupation by the Soviets in 1944 to form the Latvian SSR for the next fifty years. The peaceful Singing Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation from Soviet rule and condemning the “Stalinist” regime’s illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990, and restoring de facto independence on 21 August 1991.

Latvia is a democratic republic and a highly developed country. Its capital Riga served as the European Capital of Culture in 2014Latvian is the official language. As a consequence of centuries of Russian rule (1710–1918) and later Soviet occupation, Latvia is home to a large number of ethnic Russians (26.9% in Latvia), some of whom (14.1% of Latvian residents) have not gained citizenship, leaving them with no citizenship at all. Until World War II, Latvia also had significant minorities of ethnic Germans and Jews. Latvia is historically predominantly Protestant Lutheran. The Russian population has also brought a significant portion of Eastern Orthodox Christians.

It is a member of the European UnionNATO, the Council of Europe, the United NationsCBSS, the IMFNB8NIBOECDOSCE, and WTO. For 2014, Latvia was listed 46th on the Human Development Index and as a high income country on 1 July 2014. A full member of the Eurozone, it uses the euro as its currency since 1 January 2014, replacing the Latvian lats.

Riga is the capital and the largest city of Latvia. With 639,630 inhabitants (2016),Riga is the largest city in the Baltic states, home to one third of Latvia’s population and one tenth of the Baltic states’ population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava. Riga’s territory covers 307.17 square kilometres (118.60 square miles) and lies between one and ten metres (3 feet 3 inches and 32 feet 10 inches) above sea level,

Riga was founded in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member. Riga’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture. Riga was the European Capital of Culture during 2014, along with Umeå in Sweden.

In 2016, Riga received 2.3 million visitors.


World Bank Data

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

GDP                                               $27.7 bn    2016      $7.94 bn   2000

Population                                   1.96 m       2016       2.37 m     2000

Primary school enrolment*      99.7%        2015       99.9%      2000

% below poverty line**             22.5%        2014      19.4%       2004

Life expectancy at birth            74.1 yrs      2015      70.3 yrs    2000

GNI per capita                             $14630      2016      $3310       2004

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

**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.)


Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Lithuania performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 63rd

Per Capita Cup – 19th

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80

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Run 121 : Lithuania – Vilnius

Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 11th September, 2017

Time :  1h 0’16”

Total distance run to date : 1210 km

Run map and details :

Media :

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Did you know that Lithuania used to be the largest country in Europe? I didn’t – until I ran there. Which, to use a cliché, just goes to show how travel broadens the mind.

During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (aka the Lithuanian Empire) stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and covered modern day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and parts of Poland and Russia.

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In the 16th century, the Duchy formed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with – and you may be ahead of me here – Poland. (Excitingly, the Poles were to the west of Lithuania – which meant that they could pass the Duchy on the left hand side*.)

The Commonwealth lasted for a couple of centuries before disintegrating under outside pressure with most of Lithuania ending up as part of the Russian Empire. Lithuanian regained independence from Russia in 1918 after WWII and the Russian revolution. Only to lose it again when the Soviet Union invaded in 1940 under the terms of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Germany and the Soviet Union.

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In 1941 the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa to invade the Soviet Union and occupied Lithuania along the way. The Soviets retook Lithuania in 1944 and it remained part of the USSR until independence in 1991.

I appreciate that not everyone shares my fascination with 20th century history (and obscure musical references…). However, I thought this was worth a couple of paragraphs because it could all become horribly relevant – not just to Lithuanian and the Baltics – but to all of us.

Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014, NATO troops were stationed in Lithuania and a number of other Baltic / eastern European countries (but not the Ukraine as it’s not a NATO member). The idea being to dissuade Russia from any thoughts of reintegrating Lithuania and the Baltic states into Russia. The danger, I guess, is that the whole thing acts – not as a deterrent – but as a trip wire for WWIII.

And, at the risk of trivialising a serious and potentially very scary subject, if anything does kick-off then I suspect the British Embassy may be a touch too preoccupied to provide the same warm welcome to the next Brit visiting Vilnius as part of an attempt to run 10km in every country in the world.

There were about ten of us at the start and the route Sandra had devised took us along the banks of the Neris river towards the centre of Vilnius.

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It’s a very fine place to run enlivened by a number of sculptures and works of art. Including the (in)famous Embankment Arch (below).

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When it was first pointed out to me, I assumed it was a rusty old sewer pipe. Turns out its 29 000 euros worth of highly controversial art. (You can insert your own joke about it being a load of sewer pipe content.)

But please don’t take this as representative of Vilnius. Based on everything I saw, its an extremely attractive place which would make an excellent city break.

I wasn’t there long enough to compile a personal list of favourite sights and sounds but this article in the Telegraph’s travel section gives a good feel for it all.

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Anyway, back to the run. I was fortunate to spend a lot of it in the company of Ambassador Andrew Pearce and Defence Attaché Major Jane Witt. Conversations with diplomatic staff are always private but I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences if I say that I was struck, for the nth time on these runs, how lucky we Brits are in our diplomatic representatives.

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Having run c 5km along the Neris we did the obvious thing and turned round and ran back to the Embassy for refreshments, photos and a video interview with Sandra. It was all much more fun than most of these runs and I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did.


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All that now remains is to say many ‘aciu’ (Lithuanian for ‘thank you’ – pronounced in such a way as to sound like a sneeze) to the Ambassador, Jane, Ethel, Ina, Martyn, Erika, Deimante, Elisabeth for the hospitality and for accompanying me on the run.

And, of course, huge thanks to Sandra (below) who organised everything!


*Musical Youth had a massive hit in the 1980s with a song called “Pass the Dutchie ”. The chorus focused on passing the ‘dutchie’ – a Jamaican cooking pot – on the left hand side.


Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Lithuania is a country in the Baltic region of northerneastern Europe. One of the three Baltic states, it is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russianexclave

) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2017, and its capital and largest city is VilniusLithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, along with Latvian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.

For centuries, the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas

, the King of Lithuania, and the first unified Lithuanian state, the Kingdom of Lithuania, was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772–95, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania’s territory.

As World War I neared its end, Lithuania’s Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. In the midst of the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania.

Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, a full member of the EurozoneSchengen Agreement and NATO. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, and part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries. The United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a “very high human development” country. Lithuania has been among the fastest growing economies in the European Union and is ranked 21st in the world in the Ease of Doing Business Index.

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and its largest city, with a population of 542,664 as of 2015. Vilnius is located in the southeast part of Lithuania and is the second largest city in the Baltic states. Vilnius is the seat of the main government institutions of Lithuania as well as of the Vilnius District Municipality. Vilnius is known for the architecture in its Old Town, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Prior to World War II, Vilnius was one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe. Its Jewish influence has led to it being described as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” and Napoleon named it “the Jerusalem of the North” as he was passing through in 1812. In 2009, Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture, together with the Austrian city of Linz.

BBC timeline of events in Lithuania since 1915 :

NATO in the Baltics :


World Bank Data

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

GDP                                               $42.7 bn    2016       $11.5 bn  2000

Population                                   2.87 m       2016       3.50 m      2000

Primary school enrolment*     103%          2015       107%        2000

% below poverty line**            22.2%         2014       20.5%        2004

Life expectancy at birth            75.1 yrs      2015      72.0 yrs     2000

GNI per capita                             $14770       2016       $6040        2004

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

**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.)


Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Lithuania performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 62nd

Per Capita Cup – 25th

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.”


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Run 115 : Australia – Darwin

rtw australia 7

Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 5th August, 2017

Time :  1h 0’28”

Total distance run to date : 1150 km

Run map and details :

Australia’s Northern Territory, the Top End. An enormous area of 1 420 970 square km (c 6 times bigger than the UK) that stretches almost 2000 km south from the central part of Australia’s northern coastline to Alice Springs, Uluru and Australia’s Red Centre. And in all that space there’s only 244 000 people. But no shortage of characters as you’ll see later in the blog.

We were in the northern part – the top end of the Top End if you like – and it’s a pretty magical part of the world. Darwin, the capital, isn’t a bad place to start – Mindil beach and its sunset market complete with drum and didgeridoo band (below), Crocosaurus Cove, a great wave lagoon and marine bouncy castle for the kids, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and the empty sands of Casuarina.

And nearby (by Australian standards) are three memorable national parks – Kakadu ; Litchfield and Nitmiluk – with their aboriginal culture, gorges, beautiful (and swimmable) water holes, crocodiles, rock art, look outs and magnetic termite mounds. And it’s not just the natural world that’s enthralling – you’re also going to meet some memorable people.

Take ‘Hamilton’, for example, our guide for a water cruise on the bizarrely named Alligator River. I say bizarrely named because there aren’t any alligators in Australia. But there are crocodiles – masses of them. And they like to congregate at Cahill’s Crossing where, despite all the signs and warnings, they frequently kill and eat people who decide that it’s a good place to fish or ford the river.

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Of course, Alligator River isn’t really its name in any event. Aborigines have lived in the area for approximately 60 000 years and Hamilton was able to give us the name for pretty much everything we saw. (I’d tell you Alligator River’s real name but the local Aborigine language is very hard for Europeans to follow – let alone remember – and Google hasn’t subsequently been able to give me the answer.)

Hamilton also taught us all about the local flora and fauna – much of it eaten as bush tucker ; spear throwing – which is done with a kind of sling which allowed Hamilton to throw the spear hundreds of meters ; and hollering out to ones ancestors. The phrase ‘cultural cruise’ doesn’t always set the pulse racing but this one was brilliant.

And then there are the good citizens of Batchelor.

Batchelor is a (mostly) peaceful town on the edge of Litchfield Park between Katherine and Darwin. We were told that it got its name from a onetime policy of giving land to bachelors in an attempt to make them – and the area – more attractive to women. Wikipedia has a more prosaic version of events involving Lee Batchelor, the minister responsible for the Northern Territory in the early 20th century – but I think I prefer the first story. (When researching this blog I found it unexpectedly difficult to confirm facts about Australia. Even an apparently straightforward query re the size of the Northern Territory produced numerous different answers when I Google searched.)

Batchelor is home to the Batchelor Butterfly Farm – one of the most wonderfully bonkers places you could ever hope to stay in. It has a butterfly house, loads of pick-upable and petable rabbits (mind those hind legs) and a farm full of everything from pigs to goats to turkeys. Best of all, it’s got Chris and Angel and an 80s soundtrack.

On our first night there we found ourselves (ever so appropriately) dancing to Madness and ‘Night Boat to Cairo’ in a couple of pith helmets that Chris had dug out from somewhere. And, no, it wasn’t a surprise that there just happened to be a couple of pith helmets lying around. In fact, it would be hard to name something that Chris and Angel hadn’t used for decoration somewhere on the premises.

“It’s just gone noon,

Half past monsoon

On the banks of the river Nile”

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Not all the guests were enjoying themselves as much as we were so, worried that we might be damaging Chris and Angel’s business, we retired to the local Rum Jungle Tavern and their infamous karaoke night. (Rum Jungle being an adjacent area that got its name from an incident when a thief stole 750 ounces of gold – that’s a million dollars’ worth of gold at today’s prices – from miners after getting them drunk with rum.)

At which stage things, if possible, became even more surreal.

At first it all seemed quite clear. The locals were fans of both kinds of music – Country and Western. But then a French woman, subsequently joined by her four children, got up to sing a parody of Vanessa Paradis’s ‘Joe le Taxi’. The de la Trapps then took their applause and disappeared from the tavern – only to reappear twenty minutes later in the kind of conical straw hats that you normally see in the paddy fields of Southeast Asia. Always best, I guess, to be ready for the sort of emergency that requires you to immediately go and plant some rice.

‘Joe le Taxi’ seemed to break the musical shackles and we were treated to an execrable Pink – who singularly failed to get the party started – a (weak) Sonny and (strong) Cher and then a beautiful rendition of ‘Can’t take My Eyes Off You’. Altogether now :

“I love you baby,

And if it’s quite alright,

I only know those two lines

So I’ll la la la the rest”

What’s all this got to do with running? Precious little to be honest – but I wanted to give you a flavour of the Top End. Should you ever decide to go – which I’d wholeheartedly recommend – then make sure you go during the Dry (which happens to coincide with the northern hemisphere summer). Because, if you go during the other season – the Wet -you’ll experience 100% humidity, dawn to dusk sweating and national parks transformed into lakes.

The climate isn’t always ideal for running but, in keeping with Australia’s sporting reputation (despite its relatively small population, it’s the 11th best country in the world at sports) Darwin has plenty of runners. And 3 of them – Amy, Dave and Ian – were good enough to join us for Run the World Australia.

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We started at Darwin’s ski club which, when I first heard it mentioned, I assumed was some sort of postmodern ironic comment on the lack of snow in the Top End. However, it does, of course, refer to water skiing rather than alpine skiing. And actually turns out to contain an element of postmodern irony as you can no longer water ski near Darwin due to the number of salties (salt water crocodiles) and stingers (box jellyfish) in the local waters.

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It was a lovely run along the shoreline with the sun setting off to the West. The others took pity on my knee and general lack of fitness and we took it fairly easy.  To be fair, I think I may have seen cane toads racing faster than I did that day..

As an aside, for those who have never been cane toad racing, it involves lots of jokes about cane toads with names such as Donald Jump, Jerry Springer, Fat Bastard, Skippy’s Love Child and Camel Toad. And then, much to everyone’s amusement, the ‘jockeys’ have to kiss their toads. The actual racing is fairly incidental to the whole evening. Which is just as well as the toads are generally quite happy to sit there – despite their ‘jockeys’ best efforts with the ‘whips’ (straws for blowing air onto the recalcitrant toads.)

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Back to the run, which, while it may have taken over an hour, was perfect for chatting. enjoying the scenery – and for my knee. We even did an extra 500m so that Dave could complete 21 km for the day (his daily training regime…)

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Afterwards at the club, we indulged in that Australian habit of an ice cold stubby or two and swapped war stories. Literally in this case as Dave, Ian and Amy were all ex-military. More of that in the next blog about East Timor.

For now it just remains to thank Ian, Dave, Amy, Chris, Angel, Hilton, the singers at the Rum Jungle Tavern and everyone else who made our run and time in the Top End so memorable.

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Australia is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world’s sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New GuineaIndonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. Australia’s capital is Canberra, and its largest urban area is Sydney.

For about 50,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians, who spoke languages classifiable into roughly 250 groups. After the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia’s eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy comprising six states and several territories.

Australia has the world’s 13th-largest economy and ninth-highest per capita income (IMF).With the second-highest human development index globally, the country ranks highly in quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and civil liberties and political rights. Australia is a member of the United NationsG20Commonwealth of NationsANZUSOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade OrganizationAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Pacific Islands Forum. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia had the world’s 9th largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 26% of the population.

The Northern Territory (abbreviated as NT) is a federal Australian territory in the central and central northern regions of Australia. It shares borders with Western Australia to the west (129th meridian east), South Australia to the south (26th parallel south), and Queensland to the east (138th meridian east). To the north, the territory is bordered by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Despite its large area—over 1,349,129 square kilometres (520,902 sq mi), making it the third largest Australian federal division—it is sparsely populated. The Northern Territory’s population of 244,000 (2016) makes it the least populous of Australia’s eight major states and territories, having fewer than half as many people as Tasmania.

The archaeological history of the Northern Territory begins over 40,000 years ago when Indigenous Australians settled the region. Makassan traders began trading with the indigenous people of the Northern Territory for trepang from at least the 18th century onwards. The coast of the territory was first seen by Europeans in the 17th century. The British were the first Europeans to attempt to settle the coastal regions. After three failed attempts to establish a settlement (1824–1828, 1838–1849, and 1864–66), success was achieved in 1869 with the establishment of a settlement at Port Darwin. Today the economy is based on tourism, especially Kakadu National Park in the Top End and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (Ayers Rock) in central Australia, and mining.

The capital and largest city is Darwin. The population is concentrated in coastal regions and along the Stuart Highway. The other major settlements are (in order of size) PalmerstonAlice SpringsKatherineNhulunbuy, and Tennant Creek. Residents of the Northern Territory are often known simply as “Territorians” and fully as “Northern Territorians”, or more informally as “Top Enders” and “Centralians”.

World Bank Data

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

GDP                                               $1.21 tn    2016       $415 bn    2000

Population                                   24.1 m       2016       19.2 m      2000

Primary school enrolment*     102%          2015       100%         2000

% below poverty line**            No data

Life expectancy at birth            82.5 yrs     2015       79.2 yrs     2000

GNI per capita                             $54420      2016       $21130     2000

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

**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.)

Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Australia performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 11th

Per Capita Cup – 11th

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.


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