Explorers Connect

What it's like to run a marathon in Africa

Trip Report, Adventure RevolutionJames Hipkiss
"It's impossible to describe the overwhelming excitement as I realise that the challenge is almost complete..."

A flurry of dust sticks to my skin as the support vehicle swirls past me for the final time… I glance up through the haze of burning afternoon sun to see the faint outline of the finish line - the Mozambique border at Maraka.  It is impossible to describe the overwhelming excitement as I realise that the challenge is almost complete - conflicting feelings; exhausted by the last few days of running in the heat with injured muscles, but devastated that this incredible adventure is almost over.

As usual, a thousand thoughts flash through my mind, vivid memories of the last month in technicolour…then silence...as I focus and enter my usual ritual…click watch…check distance…eye contact with Emma…glucose gel...sticky fingers...head down...fresh chewing gum...one more stride.

A Journey into Africa


27 days ago I started on the opposite side of this incredible country and 708 miles later I was here at this point, my body anaesthetised by endorphins and my mind craving more as I reach the finale…

Coming into the run, I was not in the physical state I had planned; I was carrying an extra stone in weight, I had a return of a previous leg injury that I suffered with during training and I remember cursing Ronald MacDonald for every Creme Egg McFlurry that he sold me, as every extra gram on-board put extra stress on my overworked joints.


My extra weight, recent injuries and sub-prime fitness meant that I started the first day with less confidence than I would have liked; but with self doubt firmly suppressed I took the first steps…within the first mile I was joined by children running beside me, and their excitement was contagious, giving me confidence, giving me strength, energising me with their joyous spirit - but most importantly, reminding me why I was doing this in the first place.

Returning from travelling Asia two years ago, I longed to be back in Malawi, but I wanted to travel this time with a purpose. My fundraising for this challenge was to build a Science and Art block for the FOMO independent school in the heart of Mulangie district, to give something back to the children who had inspired me so much in the past and set my life on a path of fulfilment and self-discovery.


And now as I take my final steps I should be exhausted, but realise I am still being energised by the children who have joined me for the last few hundred yards. It feels like I’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning as Mary screams with joy and holds me in a tight congratulatory embrace.

I did it… I became the first person to run the full length of Malawi… 708 miles in 27 days…

"The incredible warmth of the Malawian people embraced me every step of the way" 

We did it… my incredible support team of Emma, Mary, Joseph and the FOMO crew made this happen.

They did it… the incredible warmth of the Malawian people embraced me every step of the way and the hundreds of children who joined me, encouraged me, laughed with me, fed me, pushed me, pulled me, energised me and made every day so memorable.


I am forever grateful, and am now planning to return to Africa in May 2018 to run the 4000 km coast to coast Namibia to Mozambique, and I cannot wait to run through Malawi again.

Words by Brendan Rendall

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