Frenchman sets off on 110 day run across Africa

Frenchman Serge Girard set off on Thursday from Africa’s westernmost point on an 8 800-kilometre run that will bring him several steps closer to achieving his bold and a “little crazy” ambition: he wants to run across the world’s continents.

The 49-year-old Frenchman, who has already crossed Australia, South America and the United States on foot, set off in the early hours of Thursday from the Point of the Almadies, 15 kilometres west of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, bound for Cairo, where he is due to arrive in 110 days—around January 19 next year.

His first stop will be Thies, 70 kilometres east of Dakar.

From there, Girard will jog eastward across Senegal into Mali, across the Saharan sands to Timbuktoo and into Niger; up and down shifting dunes to Chad; then across Africa’s largest nation Sudan and into Egypt, where he will cross the Nile and finish his run at the base of the pyramids outside Cairo.

By his own admission “a little crazy”, Girard will cover between 80 and 85 kilometers every day, running almost all the time—like a real-life Forrest Gump, the eccentric character played by Tom Hanks who ran across America as part of his journey of

self-discovery.

Girard reckons he will probably wear out 25 pairs of running shoes and lose 10 kilos of the 60 kilos he carries on his virtually fat-free frame during his African odyssey.

Accompanying Girard on his run are two vehicles and a back-up team of five: one physiotherapist, a mechanic, a computer technician, a cameraman, and Girard’s partner Laure, who is looking after the logistics of the operation.

A father of three from the northern French city of Le Havre, Girard only started running at the age of 30.

Initially he ran half-marathons, then the full 40-kilometre marathon, but dreamed of bigger and, for him, better challenges—like running across the world’s continents.

A financial adviser at a French insurance company, he convinced his employer and two other sponsors to fund his ultra-distance wanderlust.

He ran from west to east across the United States in 1997, then across Australia 1999, adding South America to his list of conquered continents in 2001.

Everytime he trots across a continent, he produces a film of his exploit, holds press conferences organised by the company he works for and visits schools on his route “because children ask questions that adults never think of.”

Daily updates of Girard’s adventures and mishaps will be posted on his website at www.sergegirard.com during his African crossing.

After Africa, the Frenchman is already fomenting a plan to add Europe and Asia to his running tally, with a 300-day jog from Le Havre to Shanghai.

When asked why he puts himself through this kind of madness, Girard—who will turn 50 on October 25, somewhere in the Sahara—says simply: “When I run, I can be myself.” - Sapa-AFP

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