Adventure running: Athlete's energy for Africa

Emma Timmis does not mind a challenge, judging by her previous efforts. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Emma Timmis does not mind a challenge, judging by her previous efforts. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Here is a piece of advice for parents: be careful what you let your children do when they are grounded.

Emma Timmis (32) is on a two-year working holiday in Queenstown, but was passing through Dunedin yesterday before she heads to the United Kingdom and Africa next week.

Timmis grew up in Derby, a city in the Midlands of England, and came up with a way of getting outside, even when she was grounded as a teenager.

"I tried to bribe my mum by saying 'if you don't let me out of the house, you're going to make me really unfit','' Timmis said.

"She said 'if you want to go out and do some exercise, do that, but you're not going to hang out with your mates', so I said 'I'm going for a run'.''

Fast forward 20 or so years and Timmis has quite the adventure CV to her name.

In 2011, she ran across South Africa as a fundraiser for the RSPCA, following the Freedom Trail mountain bike track.

But her biggest achievement came three years later when she became the first person to run across Africa.

Her quest started on the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia in late August 2014 and finished 89 days later (76 of those running), almost 4000km away on the eastern coast of Mozambique.

Timmis ended up doing the run across Africa after she attended an adventure film festival with a friend in 2013 and they noticed almost every single film was about a man, other than one about a dog.

After chatting about Timmis' run across South Africa, her friend, who worked for a charity in Zimbabwe, asked if Timmis was interested in doing something similar or bigger again.

"I said 'sure, why not'. I had a bit of tequila by then,'' Timmis joked.

"I thought she was going to back out and she thought I was going to back out but neither of us ever did.''

From the deserts of Namibia, Timmis briefly entered Zambia before crossing much of Zimbabwe, into Mozambique, across the southern part of Malawi and back into Mozambique to reach the Indian Ocean.

While the cold nights in Namibia took some getting used to, Timmis found the hardest parts were in the jungles of Mozambique.

"During the middle of the day I would try and set up a tarpaulin to create shade, but the shade made no difference whatsoever,'' she said.

"You're boiling hot to the point where my body was so sweaty, I was literally dripping and all my clothes were completely soaked.''

Timmis received scalding-type burns on her legs from the moisture in her shorts boiling in the sun, although her closest brush with death was during a toilet break in the middle of the night when she was greeted by a scorpion.

"Robert, the African guy who was with us, popped his head out of the tent and said 'yeah, that one will kill you'.''

Timmis heads to the United Kingdom on Wednesday for 2½ weeks before supporting a friend from Manchester in his quest to run the length of Malawi, while she rides a bike alongside him.

"It will be nice on the other side of things - being the one that's supporting and not dying and suffering.''

She has no plans to sit still when she returns to New Zealand. Bear in mind this is a woman who roller-skated across the Netherlands and hiked the 670km Australian Alpine Walking Track in 24 days.

"I've got some ideas,'' she said.

"Obviously there are all the Great Walks [in New Zealand] and I've got some ideas at the end of this year running one of the trails in Australia, but that's it at the moment.''

Timmis has a background working as an outdoor activities instructor, and plans to get into similar work when she returns to work in New Zealand.

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