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The Hug Run // Part Seven

From The Field
The Hug Run // Part Seven

Morgan Cardiff is documenting the journey of Dave Chamberlain, part-way through the ‘Hug Run’ – a seven-year, 64,000km run taking him all over the world. It has now been one year since Dave started on his journey and he’s covered 14,500km (averaging 40km per day). In this seventh Sidetracked report, Dave looks back on this first year and what’s yet to come. Read Part Six here.

Words: Dave Chamberlain // Photography: Morgan Cardiff & Jay Gunning

It is a fact well known by those who know it well, but unfortunately not known by those who know it not, that May the 2nd is ‘Runner’s New Year’. It’s the time when we reflect on past hiccups, while setting out ridiculous goals for the coming year.

Over the past year, I’ve:
1) Run in 11 countries and a principality;
2) Run in 25 U.S. states and a federal district;
3) Broken a tent;
4) Outslept a sleeping bag;
5) Lost four pairs of flip-flops;
6) Asked for directions, and gone grocery shopping, in English, German, French, Russian, Spanish and, surprisingly, Afrikaans in New Mexico, and have ordered ice cream in a further four languages;
7) Used up 19 pairs of shoes – don’t worry, Asics. No rush. There are still another seven years for you to send your sponsorship offer – GT2000, U.S. #11, 2E – to

Not bad for a project planned by simply typing in two locations, and then getting Google Maps to plot it out as a pedestrian. And then subsequently re-planned every time I woke up and decided that I didn’t want to do that route after all.

Luckily, previous projects have given me an idea of what daily mileage is achievable, but this goes out the window when factors like ice cream, weird science museums or a pretty butterfly get added to the equation.

The project was dreamt up and has been executed on an entirely flexible and whimsical approach. But what have I learnt from all this, you might ask? Unfortunately, the common theme across all these projects is that I am an idiot. Usually in an adorable, amiable kind of way, but still an idiot.

I’ve also learnt what the two most valuable pieces of equipment are. Having misplaced a roll during a rabid bout of upset tummy, and accidentally contaminated another with bear spray in a separate incident, never take for granted the humble roll of triple-ply toilet paper. Believe me, that extra softness is a chafe-saver. And in between rolls, spending a few extra pennies on thick running socks, the ones with the reinforced heels, is absolutely worth it.

The Hug Run // Part Seven

‘But what,’ I hear you ask, with clenching of exasperated jaws, ‘of the people, the cultures?’ Well, to put it simply, Americans are not Europeans. Across Europe, there was a general response not dissimilar to the Scandinavian ‘Law of Jante’. Not that people weren’t interested in what I was doing, they just approached it with a subdued, analytical mind. What were my logistics? How did I gauge my progress? How did I balance out my water, so that the pram didn’t run skew? Had I thought about trying another method to avoid mosquitoes? It’s not that Europeans were trying to take the wind from my sails, but they seemed to appreciate that the value of something is intimately tied to how personal it is, so while my run might be big in terms of mileage, it was no more or less important than anybody else’s personal ambitions.

And that was very humbling and refreshing. We spoke as equals, just with different stories.

Americans, however! They’ve been like kids in a candy shop. Too many choices and not enough hands. And it’s changed my perception – for the better – about Americans. They genuinely are positive, excitable and optimistic folk.

Sometimes they seem to brain-fart a bit as a result of all this, whenever they hear about my project, and are temporarily confined to a bunch of OMG’s. Of course, these are generalisations, but it’s been interesting to see how parts of the world react to me and my pram.

Would I change anything based on my experiences? Not at all. While there have been tougher portions of the trip, nothing has questioned my resolve to continue. And this has been the most wonderful consequence of the journey so far.

More and more, I seem to be viewing the world with all the wide-eyed wonderment of a five-year-old. Waist-deep snow banks become enchanted mists tugging at my legs while I go off to rescue a princess. Yes, there are princesses, dragons and trolls in my imaginings. Obviously they don’t really exist, but during times of difficulty my world takes on the fantastical. It’s been liberating to experience the unexpected with so much innocence, wonder and excitement.

The Hug Run // Part Seven

Year one is coming to an end. Another seven-ish lie ahead of me. For now, the focus is on the ‘Gump Detour’ – knowing that in 18 months’ time, I’ll have covered a further 22,000km, and yet be only 500km from where I’m standing today.

Told you that I’m an idiot.

This project isn’t about running, though. It’s about making life more magical by investing in something important and valuable. Not because of its scale, but because it has meaning to me. I’m off to do battle with ogres and orcs in the coming year. Hopefully, during this time, you’ll find your own ‘princesses’ to rescue.

Dave is currently retracing Forrest Gump’s fictional run across the USA, extending his global run by another 24,000km (and 2.5 years). If you’re able to join him for a week, a day, or even an hour then please get in touch and we’ll help connect you up with him. Or follow and support Dave on Instagram @thehugrun.

Read Dave’s article, ‘West To The Sea’ about his previous running expedition across Canada. Also, ‘The Penguin Runner’, a story about Dave’s journey across southern Africa and filmed by Morgan Cardiff was featured in Sidetracked Volume Two.

The planned routes can be viewed here, and for more information about Dave’s Vidamago Foundation visit Words by Dave Chamberlin and Morgan Cardiff. Instagram: @rhys_morgan & thehugrun.