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Deo Kato – Running From Cape Town to London

From The Field
Deo Kato – Running From Cape Town to London Photo: Duncan Nicholls

A world-first endurance feat with a message
Written by Jenny Tough // Photography courtesy of Deo Kato

Ugandan-born Deo Kato aims to be the first person to run the length of Africa, through Europe, to London, and tell the story of human migration while he does it.

Deo Kato aims to be the first person to run from Cape Town to London, telling the history of human migration from Africa to the rest of the world. Deo will attempt to traverse 14 countries across 2 continents and cover 14,570km (9,053 miles) with 53,400m of elevation, running across deserts and grasslands, covering 8 times the height of Everest and everything in between over 381 days. Inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, when African Americans in Alabama staged a civil rights protest for 381 days, this journey will take Deo the same length of time. Deo wants to show the next generation that nothing is impossible, highlight where humanity first walked on Earth, and be the first person in history to run from Cape Town to London.

In just over a week Deo sets out from South Africa, Sidetracked caught up with him to hear more about this incredible challenge.

Jenny Tough: Your objective is to document the history of human migration – how do you plan to engage with these stories? Have you established connections with people along the way who can help you explore the local stories?
Deo: I have researched African prehistory and early human history, and found that the earliest fossil specimens were discovered in Africa – regions such as South Africa, East Africa, and Algeria in North Africa. I have an archaeology and anthropology student from Oxford University as part of my advisory team. I am also establishing connections with people within the countries I will run through to engage these stories, including teachers, professors, local elders or chiefs, tribes and guides, etc.

What region are you most excited to visit? Most nervous to visit?
I am most excited about visiting the Southern African region. Botswana and Zambia are two countries I don’t hear about as much, but I understand they are rich in culture and diversity. I am also very excited to return to my country of birth, Uganda, which I last visited in 2018 – I can’t wait to see my family members and friends and run through the streets I used to play on as a kid.

The mid-region of Africa has been tricky regarding logistics, such as visas and access. The unrest in Sudan has meant that we have had to keep a close eye on the developments around parts of Central and East Africa. So, this is the unknown, and things will no doubt change when I get to the central region. I am nervous about the Sahara Desert. It is brutal, I don’t have much experience running in the desert, so I think this will push me to new limits. I plan to connect with the locals in these areas and rely on local knowledge and support to get through difficult places.

Deo Kato – Running From Cape Town to London

Let’s talk about the route itself – why start in South Africa, pass by places of the first humans, and then end in the UK? Is there significance in the particular route of choice?
South Africa is one of the nations in Africa where fossils of the earliest humans on Earth were discovered. The route will begin at the Long March to Freedom monument in Cape Town, SA. I want to make the connection that marked freedom for many South Africans through the struggle that Nelson Mandela led to end the apartheid. Starting in the most southerly point of Africa also means I have a better chance of highlighting the human migration journey.

How will you share your journey? What do you hope people will get out of following your story?
I will share it as a film that will be put out once the journey is completed, but during the run, I will share regular updates on my @deoruns and @deoruns_381 Instagram pages. I want people to understand that we are all the same regardless of skin colour. Many Black and Brown people have been told to return to where they come from. I want people following my story to know that humanity started in Africa.

Your run starts with the very ancient history of human migration in the south, but then reaches the Mediterranean, a hotbed of modern-day human migration. What do you think it will be like to see all of that timeline of humanity in one route? Is that juxtaposition part of the story you are trying to show?
The ancient history of human migration and modern-day human migration is the same. People are still migrating for the same reasons. People are forced to leave their homes because it is unsafe and are in search of safer, better environments to call home. Being able to move on foot, the same way as people migrating today, will give me a deeper understanding of the struggle people are going through today and the issues involved, such as modern-day slavery. It will also highlight the barriers put in place by the global north to stop people from migrating. Before the Scramble for Africa, which led to the colonisation and dividing of African territory by the Europeans, there were no borders there, and people could move freely.

Deo Kato – Running From Cape Town to London

How do you hope to affect opinions of migration with this journey?
Opinions will change multiple times over this journey, perhaps my own included. People will question their own knowledge and understanding of migration, of what they have learnt, and I hope that in questioning this they will come to a new understanding. History has been mistaught. Black people have not been celebrated but instead are often erased from our history books. I want to change that. What I hope to gain is that people will start to do the work to understand human migration and that we are all the same. We are all one. The future is bright as one – if only everyone could see that.

You can follow Deo’s journey via Instagram @deoruns // @deoruns_381 .
Written by Jenny Tough // @jennytough.


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