Welcome to a collection of blogs that will hopefully give you a bit of an insight into what it is like to run across Africa. I am going to break them down into sections of approximately 10 days at a time. I am most definitely not an author or blogger or any kind of English language expert. So please be kind to me if there are spelling or grammar mistakes, I try my best but am just a mere human.
Every night on my run I would try to write in my diary as I lay down to go to sleep. All the information in the blog is taken from my diary. Sometimes my eyes shut before I could finish one sentence, those days will be brief. Sometimes there was so much sweat dripping from my forehead that the ink wouldn't stick to the paper I was writing on, those days will be brief too! Day 1 to day 11...
Day 1 – 37.70km
Skipping, jumping and squealing in the ice cold water of the Atlantic ocean. I pressed start on my Garmin watch while stood in the crashing sea at Henties Bay, Namibia. The energy of the whole team was great, a real sense of the journey beginning. So I began. Within a few kilometres the environment was desert, just desert. Sand, then more sand. You could see for miles, nothing but a flat horizon and sandy, sandy ground. Not easy running. I managed to pull my left quad while attempting to stretch, a good start to the trip. We discovered a Puff Adder under the car when we set up our camp which was a nice surprise for us all!
Day 2 – 45.08km
Woke up in a soaked sleeping bag, delightful. There is a lot of moisture in our tent considering we are in the desert. Morning running was cold but extremely refreshing. The air outside was also really wet, my face was dripping as I ran. Legs: seriously stiff. As soon as the sun came up the mist lifted and I felt like a new woman bounding along, like Bambi before the 'falling-over' part. This was ruined after breakfast when the wind was directly in my face for the rest of the day. The sand was deep and the sun blistering. I was like Bambi again, this time the 'falling-over' part. Aaagh! Seriously tight calves.
Day 3 – 46.36km
Ran through Spitskoppe, this place is stunning. Huge, towering boulders surrounded us for miles around. We noticed some (rock climbing) routes were bolted, and there were chalk marks but no climbers to be seen. Would be great to return and climb here. The running got really hard after breakfast. Hot, sandy, windy. I had drunk plenty of water but hadn't had any salt today, and suddenly I felt horrendous. Mike was a hero and set up a shelter for me within seconds. I lay down, ate a Clif Bar, dozed off for ten minutes and woke up feeling perfect again. In the evening I studied the maps closer than I had before and decided that to get the best route I should back-track 7km which is slightly annoying but would be best overall. Doh! Lesson one: study the maps before running!!!
Day 4 – 42.17km
Running today would have been perfect if it wasn't for my right knee that had been hurting for at least a day already. I am feeling acclimatized and energetic but just in pain. In the evening we thought we might get attacked by bandits. As we were sorting things out in our camp, which was hidden in some bush-land, what sounded like two men on horses came down the road noisily. They stopped alongside our camp, got off there horses and walked into to bush towards us. We switched off our lights and stood in silence. A car came along, there was some chatting and the horses went. It sounded like the men were still by the camp though. After some time of being stood in silence we decided we were being daft and we should just pack up quickly and go to sleep. Me and Mike slept in our separate two-man tent and the others slept in the car as they were leaving at 4am to sort visas. Once everybody was in bed, me and Mike heard footsteps outside our tent, without saying anything we prepared ourselves for danger. Mike lay with a knife in his hand and I held the pepper spray. Just silence. Again, after some time of laying there we felt stupid so decided sleeping was a better idea. We are still alive.
Day 5 – 46.59km
Aysha and Woocash left with Robert at 04:00 so they could take him for his visa run. My knee felt really stiff this morning, again, this was annoying as I otherwise felt on top form. I had a good day running. Robert returned with the bad news that his visa could not be extended so he must leave us tomorrow but will hopefully return as soon as he can. We slept in a rhino and elephant reserve this evening. Aysha and Robert slept in the car and I slept in the rooftop tent with Woocash and Mike. At about midnight I felt the tent rocking and woke up. The boys unbelievably slept straight through. There was the sound of an animal trotting down the road a short distance and then returning to the car. It would scrape at the floor with a foot, give a little grunt and then nudge the car which was causing the tent to rock. It would move around the car and do the same again. This continued for at least half an hour. The boys just kept sleeping. I felt like an orchestra conductor giving each of them a small prod every time their snoring began to reach a croshendo. I am hoping that our visitor was a rhino but i'll never know. Whoever it was they took Mike's smelly flip flops as a souvenir.
Day 6 – 38.00km
Half way through my first running session today I suddenly felt crippled. My knee that had been causing me some problems seized up and it was excruciating to move. I could barely walk let alone run. I was doubled over in agony, the kind of pain that makes you feel like you might vomit. This was terrible. I felt so annoyed with myself. I was just hoping that continuing to run on a bad knee hadn't made it worse. I slowly started to jog and as I got warmed up it eased off but each time I stopped it would go back to being stiff again. This is frustrating as it's so hot that I need to stop to hydrate otherwise I'd have a whole load of other problems. I decided to have an easier day and lowered my mileage. I also changed my stretching routine which will hopefully help.
Day 7 – 48.57km
All four of us slept in the tent last night, this is overcapacity I think as I woke up with condensation dripping on my head and my sleeping bag soaked, delightful. Had a good days running though I was worried about my knee but it seemed to be holding up. We had been running through a hunting area all day which apparently isn't safe for roadside sleeping so we drove around looking for somewhere to sleep. Eventually we found a guest house to sleep outside, they were actually closed but the lovely owners invited us in for dinner. They were actually from Manchester but live in Namibia and they had heard us on the radio this morning (must have been repeated from a while ago).
Day 8 – 50.74km
Had a really bad nights sleep on the back seat of the car. My legs are so restless in the night from the high mileage that I'm doing. Having them squashed up in the night isn't really a good option. The morning began badly, no energy, tired legs, felt like I dragged myself around. Then, later on I felt proper chipper, managed to get my longest mileage in so far. Woop woop!! I did loads of stretching, loads of foam rolling and got lots of massage. Aysha made a delicious pilchard curry for dinner, yum.
Day 9 – 41.63km
This was the first day that I have had to run on a tar road, all the rest has been sand and gravel. I changed into my road shoes when I met the tar at 5km into the day, this was a disaster. I had the same problems that I have experienced at home before, the feeling of a pebble under the bone in my foot. I think its called 'Metatarsalgia'. Whatever its called, it's really not pleasant. It's agony. As soon as we met up with the car again the road shoes were off and trail shoes back on. I'll just continue to run on the dirt at the side of the road. Road shoes, and road running, are clearly just not for me, I'm much better off playing in the mud and dirt! By about 15:00 the time had come, I had completed almost 400km and I was due a day off. We had been invited to stay at Africat, one of the beneficiaries of Tusk who we are raising money for.
Day 10 and 11- 0km
I had a two day break from running. We were very kindly given accommodation and food at Africat which is a cheetah and leopard conservation project funded by Tusk Trust. We had one day that was crammed in with learning as much as we could about the project, and also doing what felt like a million interviews for all kinds of TV, radio and newspaper journalists. That was a long day, but thankfully the next day we could do a bit more relaxing (but still more interviews!).
Continue reading about my journey in the next blog post, coming soon!