Day 177 – São Tomé and Príncipe, Marathon 57 of 196
Hand-made skateboards, high-stakes card games, fishing net making and beautiful old hand-carved boats. Oh, and the most adorable kids.
A marathon in every country in the world. A WORLD FIRST – all in aid of @prostatecanceruk – a new country every two or three days – ish.
The sun was out, there was a breeze on my face, and the waves were crashing. Everyone said hello to me. Kids ran with me, people invited me in to watch them make food and mend their fishing nets, and I chatted to a bunch of boys on their awesome hand-made skateboards.
This was a marathon of two halves. There are all sorts of logistical challenges on this trip, but one I face during every marathon is water. A human can’t survive much more than three days without water, and for me running a marathon, I can’t really last much more than 6 miles before my tongue is completely white and my mouth is dry. Once that happens my body starts to crave water, my muscles are using all the wrong fluids and my post-run soreness gets worse if I’m not as hydrated as possible. Despite my usual attempts at drinking more than I think is necessary, my pee is always fluorescent at the end of a run. Sometimes I drink 8 litres and still my body craves more. I’m not forgetting electrolytes – it’s just bloody hot.
Today I spent the first 15 miles trying to find money in order to pay for water en route. The alternative was to repeatedly return to the hotel every few miles to drink from their supplies, which wasn’t exactly interesting or fun. And for one of the very few countries in Africa that’s actually an island, it was a shame to waste the run running inland.
The hotel managed to exchange some dollars for me. These had lasted for months as emergency supplies for paying for things like bribes and unexpected transit visa costs. As the two banks here didn’t accept any of my cards, no cash = no water. Problem solved, I spent the last 11 miles in bliss along the coast, legs fine, water taken on, and the ocean by my side.
12.45am I have to wake up to fly to Namibia for Marathon 58.
Day 178 – São Tomé to Namibia via Angola
I was up at 12.45am today, ready to leave the hotel for a 3am flight. I had organised a hotel car to take me to the airport. This was included in my stay and so I was sure to arrange it early. I wrote down instructions for three separate staff. It was important that the car came on time, and that it was a free hotel car – due to my cash problems in the country I only had enough money to pay for the hotel, and nothing else.
Needless to say I rocked up at the front desk at 1am to check out and jump in the taxi. No hotel car, no taxi. The man behind the desk was as dippy as ever and looked at me blankly. I found a number for a taxi company myself and called, expressing the urgency. Not really knowing if it would turn up, I waited. Meantime, the guy behind the desk asked me how I would rate the hotel in a very smiley way, seemingly oblivious to me possibly missing my flight because of his incompetence. Obviously this wasn’t the right time to ask me this question.
Yesterday evening I had pre-ordered some food while I was showering. The food arrived and I was presented with a bill – £7 for the meal and £9 for room service. I’m aware that room service sometimes costs money, which is why I explicitly told the guy I would eat in the restaurant after my shower, and to call me when the food was ready. I should point out that I am the only guest in the entire hotel, and the restaurant was only eight paces from my room door. So that’s over £1 a step. My answer to the above question was “Your hotel is great.” I was fully aware that he wouldn’t hear the extreme sarcasm in my voice. He smiled and thanked me.
I left the hotel 40 minutes later and paid the driver with a British £5 note, which was all I had left.
After two flights and 12 hours of airports, checking in, collecting bags, waiting in line, etc, I eventually made it to the beautiful Namibia. I run at 6am tomorrow.
Day 179 – Windhoek, Namibia, Marathon 58
–4°C, 5,500 feet, tribal people and a gorgeous sunrise – what a day for running.
It’s been between 30°C and 45°C for the past six months, give or take the freezing cold of Toronto and the snow in North Korea. I arrived yesterday in shorts, which for once was a mistake.
I reached for the bedside light at 5.30 this morning. I had been blissfully cocooned in my fluffy duvet, unaware that when I woke up I could see my breath it was so cold. With my eyes practically still closed I reached for my gear as usual. I always have everything ready the night before. My eyes began to adjust and I could see frost on the ground outside. I couldn’t wear my usual clothes today. I emptied out all my clothes and found a jacket and leggings – no hat or gloves though. So I improvised with socks as gloves, and took a hotel flannel in my pocket to wear under my cap to keep my head a bit warmer if I needed it.
I waited for an hour for the bunch of runners who were supposed to be running with me – 100% of them let me down. Nobody had contacted me to say they wouldn’t be there. Not to worry, I went out into the dark, on my own.
The morning was crisp, quiet and beautiful. The sun slowly peeped over the mountains and I figured out a route around the entire city using a mountain pass and the ring road. The haze of the morning reminded me of the early mornings skiing. Those of you who have skied will know what I mean – the heat of the sun and the cold of the wind chill. I loved this run. I spent most of it daydreaming about skiing and being in the mountains. I miss the snow. Just a gentle trot with my eyes fixed on the endless view. What a morning… And I was back to catch the end of breakfast. I ventured out to meet some tribal people later in the afternoon. It was really interesting to hear how they catch animals for food in some really strange ways. Tomorrow I go in search of some animals myself.
Day 180 – Windhoek, Namibia, The Bush
Today marks six months into my world-first expedition to run a marathon in every country in the world.
I saw a dinosaur today. Come on, let’s face it, rhinos are basically pre-historic. I was less than a foot from this lovely creature. Needless to say my heart rate increased and I had a big silly grin on my face. What a day.
I spent today going in search of Africa’s big and beautiful animals. The 4th of July will forever be remembered as the day I was treated to meeting a beautiful 3.5 tonne white rhino. Majestic, placid, gentle, a very special animal, the unicorn of the savanna.
I was lucky enough to see 14 other animals; you’ll have to wait and see the photos in my photography journal. Keep an eye out. The Kickstarter campaign will launch again very soon. If you want a nice big chunky book of thousands of photos from all over the world, watch this space.
Today was full of life in every respect. I hired a guy to take me to the highest point for miles around to look out over the bush as the sun set. The few lonely trucks kicking up dirt in the distance made for great photos.
It’s not long and I move on to country number 59, Lesotho, and then on to a longer break in South Africa. For now, though, I was happy sitting on the rocks in complete silence, sipping my hot chocolate, smiling in appreciation of the special privilege it is to do what I love – run, meet people, travel, see the world and take a load of photos. I hope one day I’ll be able to reminisce over these photos with my kids and grandkids, with a real sense of accomplishment. With any luck we won’t need to worry about prostate cancer killing anyone either. It’s up to all of us to do our bit. If you don’t want to donate, that’s fine, but please tell anyone you know to get checked. If you’re a man, and over 40, you may have prostate cancer. Symptoms shouldn’t be the reason you get checked. Get checked NOW. Please. And then get the all clear and go explore the world.
Day 181 – Windhoek, Namibia, the day of the cheetah
I made friends with a cheetah today, in the sense that he didn’t eat me, and friends don’t eat each other. He’s gorgeous, and I was very scared!
The deep purr of a big cat in the wild as I’m less than a foot away was such a rush. Scary, but these creatures are so beautiful. I spent two hours in the morning sun walking through the bush with a guide, hoping to spot some cheetahs. We did and I accidentally got very close… too close.
I had an extra bonus day here in Namibia so I wanted to see as much as possible. I was tired, but this landscape and the animals were so special, it was more than worth it. I took some brilliant photos and was left open-mouthed all day.
Along with the cheetahs I visited a sanctuary for various other animals. No breeding goes on, it’s just a place where animals are sent when they are either injured or killing livestock. Farmers contact the centre as an alternative to shooting them. I saw caracal here. These lynx-like animals are so cute, but also a little aggressive.
After travelling for hours into the middle of nowhere to see these cheetahs I needed to find a lift back to the hotel – cue a lovely Italian couple. They offered me a lift and we drove through the dirty, dusty roads, stopping occasionally to enjoy the peace and quiet and watch the sun go down in this amazing place. We were all speechless at the beauty of the landscape.
It’s safe to say another brilliant day, where I feel so lucky. My bags are packed, I’ve scoffed down some yummy food and it’s now time to get a few hours sleep before waking up at 3am for my flight to Lesotho.
The days are flying by and I can’t keep up with all the wonder. It makes a big change from the difficult days in North West Africa. I’m sure this feeling will be revisited soon, no doubt, as this trip is full of extreme highs and lows.
Thanks for the support. Another marathon coming up.
Day 182 – Namibia to Lesotho via Johannesburg, South Africa and Marathon 59
This marathon is dedicated to Kev.
FLIGHT ✈ 101, COUNTRY 59, LESOTHO.
Wow, I’m already over 100 flights!
Today was a very full day. I travelled between three countries, saw a gorgeous sunrise in Namibia and then ran my 59th marathon once I reached Lesotho, after passing through South Africa. I felt so fresh and the weather was perfect. I landed at about 12pm and put my running gear on straight away. My legs felt oddly fine. I then witnessed a gorgeous sunset here, amongst the mountainous countryside of Lesotho. Did I mention I’m staying in a yurt?…
My view this morning was another I couldn’t take my eyes off. I fell asleep during the take-off of my 6.30am flight. Up at 3.30am and in the air by 7am – one of those mornings where I missed breakfast again. I am, however, always grateful the air staff don’t wake me.
I wiped the sleep from my eyes, yawned, stretched my tired body and squinted out of the plane window into the morning sun. A white sea of perfectly flat, light and fluffy clouds was the highway for the next 600km. Similar to that cheetah brushing past my legs yesterday, it’s something I can’t help but look at in awe. You must remember I’ve now been on over 100 flights this year and the view from the plane window never gets old. I’m sure it’s the same for every pilot too.
With a clear day and clear air, the plane glided peacefully and effortlessly on our smooth mattress of clouds. The words ‘cruising at 37,000 feet’ was exactly what we were doing – such a chilled atmosphere on the flight.
My experience this morning in Namibia’s Windhoek airport was brilliant. Namibia isn’t Africa in my mind – I mean that in the sense that it’s not like any of the other African countries I’ve seen so far.
As for the details of the run, you’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s post. There’s so many more great photos, and there’s too much to say in one post. Today was full.
Day 183 – Meseru, Lesotho, rest day
A recap of yesterday’s run.
The mountains were vast, the hills were long, and the peace was deafening. All I could hear was the sound of cows, birds, goats and the distant clang of bells around the necks of livestock as they sauntered through their day. Nothing here is done with haste or precision. Frustrating on travel days, but brilliant on running days.
The pallet of this beautiful landscape is full of dark oranges, pretty browns and blacks of the new Chinese tarmac road that runs across this barren landscape. The rocks and cliffs that litter this place are mesmerising. Small huts made of mud, concrete, sticks, wood, anything really, are cute and homely. There’s no town or city; it’s just lots of tiny farms with half a dozen cattle and lots of dirty clothes hanging on washing lines. Kids play with old tyres or sticks. Shepherds and cattle herders can be seen strolling through the fields so slowly they’re almost not moving; a cloak of heavy coloured wool and a large staff-like stick is all they carry. It’s cold, about 2°C or 3°C.
I ran with a smile on my face constantly. Empty space, and resounding peace. I love this country. The evening was crisp and still as the sun set around the hills, long light reaching every corner of the valley. I could see my breath as I ran and hear only my feet underneath me. Occasionally I would stop and stand in the middle of the road just to hear the sound of nothing. This is why I run!
This run was all possible due to a mix-up with hotels. We always try to find places that are willing to put me up for free. We’re doing well so far, and yesterday I landed and had two different hotels waiting for me, which makes up for the many times I’ve been let down. This, however, meant I stayed with one hotel and the other acted as my support for the run. Griffin, the owner of a guesthouse near the border, is such a lovely guy; he spent the entire afternoon taking photos of me as I ran!
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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