In the lap of the gods

Well this might be the last post before the big one.

Had quite a time in Africa trying to keep to any sort of running schedule. As it stands I have no idea how I will do on Sunday’s marathon.

I have basically squeezed in runs and exercise where I could around a hectic schedule of meetings and driving thousands of kms. Roads and time have been the biggest problems. Had a beautiful 14 mile run at Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, South Africa. A bit depressing that they seem to be building right up this coast and the same thing is happening in Swakopmund, Namibia.

After this I did my first 18 miles around Windhoek north west suburbs in torrential rain. They have had enormous rains this year and all the ephemeral rivers are flowing. Many Bushman villages around Tsumkwe quite inaccessible.

Ploughed up and down the roads in /Uis. Hard work squeezing in a 14 miler after a day out looking at rock art in 40 + degrees. Still, got it done. No chance of running in the sand of Aba Huab river so combined a museum exploration trip with an 18 miler in Swakopmund. Was a very good idea and the last easy run I would have. After this I was up in Tsumkwe where they have one tarmac strip of about 3/4 mile and when we were off in the villages obviously no tarmac at all. The main road varied but was generally large  stones – v. painful on the feet. Needless to say did not manage more than one 14 mile run on the gravel. My watch failed on this same run – which was interesting. Setting off down a gravel road with no indicators as to how far you are going or have gone is a funny feeling – as is the thought you could be being stalked by something large in the bushes.

After Tsumkwe I had to drive down to the Southern Kalahari. About 1,500 kms. Ended up in Keetmanshoop at a restcamp by an Engen petrol station. This was where I had to go for the big 20 miler. Problem was the road is the main route between Namibia and South Africa. Huge trucks. I set off and after 2 miles found a gravel side road. I followed this for just over 5 miles but was reluctant to go further because I had no water and if I hurt myself might have been there for some time. It had also become dark. Heading back to the petrol station proved a challenge – avoiding the trucks and coping with difficult gravel on the side of the road in the dark.For safety reasons I had to complete the last 5 miles by doing laps of the restcamp and the petrol station. Guard dogs barking I went round and round about 5 times, with added multiple laps of a grassy lawn and the truck turning area.

From Keetmanshoop I managed a short run on the road up to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and 10 miles on the farm land of !Khwa ttu, the Bushmen / San education and training centre where I am helping out.

Just been out for a lovely three miles around Battersea Park. Beautiful with all the blossom coming out. And how my feet loved the soft pavements – honey like after southern African roads.

So, the strategy. Hmm, get to the other end. I am not sure what shape my feet are for running barefoot. I decided early on that I would train mainly in the xeroshoes as I just could not get the mileage up without wearing through the skin. I think I will take them on and off, aiming at about 5 miles barefoot unless it is looking good. Have done none of this eating and drinking planning. Only had a drink on the 20 miler. Will probably take some nuts and a crunchy bar or something.

I have fitted some new laces on the xeroshoes. I find the lace lasts about 40 miles and then needs adjusting to take up the top thread where it snaps through.

So there we go. Most important thing to enjoy the ride. Not often that top athletes get a chance to run with me!

About Chris

Chris Low is a London based academic, increasingly southern African charity worker, and a person who like to feel alive by playing music, telemark skiing and, as of recently, running barefoot

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