Original article posted on Timeslive.co.za on 20 January 2014
Becoming the first athletes to run the length of Cuba in one attempt was not without its challenges for adventurer David Grier and running partner Andrew Stuart. The Capetonian pair ran 1500km in 28 days despite running into trouble with authorities, being threatened with deportation, having limited access to food and water, and almost being run over by local truck drivers on narrow roads. Author and motivational speaker Grier, 54, said: “A lot of planning goes into organising an adventure such as this. While one plans to put their best foot forward, you don’t plan to encounter any challenges”. “The military there are strict and we were arrested a few times. We were given rules, but these rules kept changing,” Grier said. Grier and Stuart (46) were given back their confiscated passports – accompanied with a set of rules – following intense interrogation by authorities, who later realised they were not a threat.
One interrogation session lasted as long as four hours. The pair was not allowed to camp like they had been the previous days, were required to live in government-approved homes with host-families who notified authorities of their comings and goings, were not allowed to take pictures not concerning their adventure or interview any locals.
“After living in 50 years of isolation, it is understandable why the authorities would be paranoid, and ultimately so strict,” said Grier. While life in Cuba was challenging, the locals’ ability to look past their harsh realities inspired Grier and Stuart to push harder during tough times to complete their journey. Grier, who ran 52km on Christmas Day, faced the personal challenge of missing the birth of his third grandchild during the festive season. Said Grier: “We constantly reminded ourselves that the journey was bigger than any one of us, and that it is about making a difference is someone else’s life and raising awareness of our cause.” The adventure in Cuba saw Grier and Stuart raise over R300 000 for cleft lips and palates corrective surgeries through the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative. The funds will enable over 30 children across Africa to benefit from these surgeries this year.