Day 156 – Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Marathon 50 of 196
Woo-hoo, number 50 done, a run of two halves.
I saw some pretty funny things on my run today, and most of them involved crazy things on motorbikes. Top of the list was a man with two butchered cows on his lap. He was seated right at the back of the bike, leaning around and over the meat to reach the handlebars. Wearing flip-flops, his feet were scraping along the dusty road. Second in this bizarre competition goes to another chap on a bike carrying, get this, another bike. He had a motorbike strapped to him with the front tyre dangling to the left and the rear tyre sticking out into the traffic on the right. To finish the top three of weird bike moments there was a woman sitting right at the back of a bike with her three children sitting up front. The elder child was steering and at the back the woman was holding a pushbike by the handlebars, pulling it along next to her. Crazy 50th run, eh.
Also, this country has more bikes than Beijing, I’m sure of it. Motorbikes though, all small, whiny, annoying scooters.
To be honest I was dreading today. I shut my eyes last night just a few hours before running. After having very little downtime in my short few days’ break I was even more tired, I think. Plus I checked the weather forecast last night and it was due to be close to 40°C. For me 40°C is about the temperature when it means I can’t drink enough to stay hydrated without feeling like I’m carrying an ocean in my stomach.
It rained for the first half, which resulted in me grinning like a child feeling like I’d got away with the horrendous heat. Then the sun came out. Oh wow, that ball of gas needs to cool down. I was sore and heavy-footed for the last 5 miles. Another one down in a quiet city, possibly because it’s a Sunday. Tomorrow I travel to Togo, country number 51.
Day 157 – Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to Togo
TAG YOUR ‘PAIN BRO’. Who do you train with, who do you suffer with to hit your goals? This made me think of all the times I’ve trained in the rain, the heat, the sand, and all the brilliant people I’ve shared the pain with. #painbro
The view from my plane today was spectacular. Like a shoelace draped across a quilt, the dried riverbeds snaking over the patchwork planet below. My nose pressed against the tiny plastic window and the breeze of the air con on the back of my neck, I’m glued to the view. The plane is virtually empty; I’m one of about 10 passengers, all of whom look and act like they’ve never set foot on a plane before, nervously tightening their seat belts and clearly wide awake with intrigue. The small white fluffy clouds litter the sky. The tiny strips of multi-coloured earth on the ground are far, far below us – brown, orange, yellow and the occasional green. I’m reminded that we are travelling at great speed when the clouds deliver a firm rattle to the plane. The shudder makes the nervous passengers sit up and grip the seat arms. The view today, at a slightly lower altitude, due to the size of the plane, was one I’ll remember. It was how Africa was meant to be in my mind: vast, empty, hostile, yet beautiful. The horizon is hazy; light blues seep into darker blues as the sky reaches for the stars (love an S Club 7 reference). What a wonderful planet we have, and how wonderfully privileged I am to explore it. And thank you all for making this adventure enjoyable, from everyone I’ve met so far, for all the support and kind messages. It keeps me going.
Oh, and have you ever seen a fly on a plane? Well let’s just say I’ve seen hundreds! I thought planes are pressurised? Apparently flies get everywhere here.
Day 158 – Lomé, Togo, Marathon 51
One of the nicest beaches in Africa so far – nothing special really, and with deadly currents, not to mention sharks, you probably wouldn’t want to swim off it. Nevertheless, a seriously long and beautiful beach, barrel waves and even clean sections of sand.
Before I mention my run today let’s talk about where I’m staying. Ahomé Maison d’Hôtes is a lovely little guest house, just a mile or so from the beach, with great sunset views. The owners Karen and Jerome are super-kind and brilliant hosts, not to mention the fact that they waited on me like a king, all for free, asking for nothing in return. These guys are great. They have only owned the place for a month, and it’s already really homely – a big thank you to them. @ahome.lome
No car, no driver and no support today… but also no need. I felt safe and able to explore. I jogged the first few miles to the Ghana border where I then gently trotted along the coast. I was hoping to reach the Bénin border the other side, but I reached the 13-mile mark and had to turn back. It was hot, that’s something I will never get comfortable with. I can stand it, and it’s better than rain; it’s just so inescapable, although it’s certainly better running in the heat than sitting in it. At least running you sweat so much and you create a little breeze that makes it slightly more bearable. Apparently some of the more central countries inland in Africa are even hotter – I’m not looking forward to the 50°C+ days.
The run felt a little longer than usual today – I stopped many times to buy water and some sugar to keep me going. No music, no audio book, no car behind me, just me and the open road. It’s quieter here than in other countries so far. It’s also clean in comparison, and more orderly. The coastline reminded me of the Dominican Republic actually.
The best bit of all is that I have a rest day tomorrow. Whoopee! Not even a plane to catch.
Day 159 – Lomé, Togo, rest day
Tan lines? What tan lines? The rest of my body looks ridiculous. I’m constantly wearing a bright white vest. I’ll have to even the tan up soon. Anyone got a top that is the opposite of a vest? Maybe I should wear socks up to my shoulders?
Q&A day! Is there something you want to know about the trip? Just ask…
Today was full of doing nothing. That’s not strictly true, but I certainly didn’t move much. I did, however, spend about 5 hours typing up notes about previous countries, replying to emails and sorting through odd jobs I had been putting off. So today I feel very much like I’ve made some progress on the non-running elements of the trip. It was a day of sitting around in the shade. You know when you hunt for sun in summer and you keep moving to stay in sunlight – I was literally doing the opposite.
It’s 11.45pm now and tomorrow I’m moving on to country number 52. Tonight has been fab! I had a great meal with Karen, Jerome and their friend Quentin. They’re Belgian, so that naturally means great company and great food. The chips were so tasty I had seconds, thirds and fourths. Other than the carbs, we also ate brilliant slow-cooked meat in a really rich tasty sauce, with homemade mayonnaise. I could have kept eating all night.
I’m feeling good lately. It always takes me a while to suss out a continent, but I’m pretty sure Africa is gonna throw up many surprises along the way. It’s what it’s all about.
Speaking at schools and businesses I’m always banging on about staying out of your comfort zone and loving every day. Africa is certainly making it easy to do this. I’m loving this trip, but damn, it’s hard and hot on the body.
Day 160 – Togo to Bénin
I had one of the funniest bus journeys of my life today.
African airports are – how can I put this? They’re just African. Sometimes you have weird local wine in huge shops that look like the shop itself is higher quality than the wine. Have you ever bought wine in a plastic bottle with screw caps? I haven’t. Or like today, the airport lounge was kitted out with beautiful white leather sofas – a space the size of three small bedrooms with 15 white leather double sofas. And I’m talking bright white. There were so many that you could hardly move.
The lounge had no plugs and the only thing to eat was a jar of pitted olives or a funny looking dry cake thing. These lounges are supposed to be luxury, or at least a place for business class passengers to have some nice food, charge their phones and relax. Not possible. But I was in an oddly good mood and so this was just hilarious to me.
Later, just before boarding the plane, I then laughed out loud on the shortest bus journey of my life. You know the buses that take you to planes? Well, imagine a small door looking out onto the tarmac of an airstrip. I could see a plane about 150 metres away, nothing else. Without any announcement and 40 minutes before boarding time we were told to show our passports and board the bus. This bus was now between the plane and the terminal. We all crowded together on the bus. There were about 10 passengers on the flight today, not uncommon for Africa. We were then held on this very hot bus for about 20 minutes, and without driving forward the bus did an immediate U-turn and stopped. Doors opened and there was the plane. And before you mention health and safety etc. there isn’t any in Africa, so that can’t be the reason. Anyway, rant over. Oh, did I mention that my flight landed before the due departure time. African flights do this sometimes. It keeps me on my toes.
Thirty minutes later I had landed here, in Bénin, and was then shown to my rather lovely hotel villa, Maison Rouge.
Day 161 – Cotonou, Bénin, Marathon 52
A big thank you to Maison Rouge today. This beautiful hotel has put on such a great team to support me – Posso Sport (a local sports drink brand) very kindly provided a route, a car, all the drinks I needed and service with a smile.
Today was hot, and the route was pretty boring to be honest. Running along the coastline was the highlight, but I think there was a slight communication problem with the support team. Nobody seemed to understand what a marathon entailed. The support car certainly didn’t understand that I needed to run 42km. Every now and then they would ask me… “Finished? Do you want to hop in now and go to the hotel?” I would reply “no, we still have 25 miles left.” That continued in a rather funny ritual.
I ran with a merry bunch of three, plus two members of Posso in the car with water and their sports drink. Marie, a receptionist from the hotel, wanted to run all 42km with me. Sure, great, I thought. The other two were always going to call it a day after a few miles, but came along for support. I was grateful and it was so nice to pass the time chatting with them, up to about 15km.
At mile 8 Marie revealed to me that she had never run further than 9km before and was planning to just run the 42km. Again, I realised the distance thing hadn’t been thought about. Everyone had assumed a marathon was just a jog in the morning and the distance didn’t count. I explained the history behind 26.2 miles, and then Maria had to call it a day at 14 miles. I was so impressed, though – 14 miles! That’s over triple her furthest distance. I continued the last half marathon on my own on an unfinished motorway. It got hotter and my calf started to pull. The last few miles were sore but a dip in the pool would sort it out. Or so I hoped.
The locals on today’s run were so friendly. Some joined in, some yelled support and others wanted photos. A gorgeous huge beach with crashing waves and clean sand… today was a good day.
A tasty pesto pasta and a chat to some hotel guests, and before I knew it I had I dropped off to sleep. On to Nigeria tomorrow.
Day 162 – Bénin to Lagos, Nigeria
A parrot, an Australian, some pills and a flight to Nigeria – this sounds like the start of some weird comedy!
First of all let me talk you through my pill selection. I take 11 a day, every day:
- Juice Plus fruit capsule
- Juice Plus veg capsule
- Omega 3
- Strong green tea
- Multivitamin with enforced iron
- Protein and potassium
- Malaria tablets
Other than the tablets, I use Pulsin @pulsinandbeond bars to keep the calories in and I drink Athletic Tea Co @athleticteaco to wake me up! Their green tea is amazing! Plus it’s lightweight and good for me. Win.
Juice Plus @juiceplus_uk– their fruit and veg tablets are amazing – 20 ground-up fruit and 20 ground-up veg in every tablet. Easy. Nutrients! Bingo.
Malaria – I’ll have to take about 300 days of a mix of Doxycycline and Malarone, alternating every now and then to use the extra antibiotic in Doxy.
Every few weeks I take a break on everything apart from the malaria meds, just to give my body a full cleanse. Green tea I’m addicted to, so I can’t stop that. If anyone has any other suggestions or knows this is a lethal combination(!), please do let me know.
Now on to Holly. I met Holly in the airport this morning, a brilliantly minded Aussie living in Peru and travelling here to continue her work with agriculture. Some seriously interesting work, and things I haven’t even considered – this trip is such a great mix of everything. I learned so much about how farming and business prop up African families, and how her company and others are doing great work to support the continent. Cheers for the company, Holly. See you sometime.
As for the parrot, this was the rather chatty fella at the hotel in Bénin.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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