The Hug Run // Part TwoFrom The Field
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. In the second Sidetracked report from Dave’s adventure, Morgan tells the story of the gruelling Scandinavian section of the Hug Run. Read Part One here.
Words and photos by Morgan Cardiff
‘I can change the route, right? I mean it doesn’t really matter where I go, does it?’ It was 8.00am just outside Umea in the north of Sweden. Dave had been running at a madman’s pace, from the top of Norway, though Finland and down to the Swedish coast. The weather had warmed to an unseasonable 28 degrees, and the grey landscape of the weeks gone by had been replaced by the seemingly endless blanket of green that makes up most of the Swedish north.
I’d taken ten days or so to visit the Lofoten Islands, the stunning archipelago high up on the Norwegian coastline. On my return, while he now looked considerably fitter, it was obvious that the north had taken its toll. ‘That constant cold wind had just gotten under my skin,’ Dave stated. ‘As we sat there and I watched him devour a few famous Swedish burgers for breakfast, I could see his mind ticking over. It was more than just the cold, ‘the purpose of this project is to meet people right?, people I’ve known for years who live here, people who I meet along the way. So what am I doing here a few hundred kilometres from the Arctic Circle?’
Under most circumstances I don’t think the remoteness and social isolation would have bothered him. He had experienced long periods of being alone in extreme environments in South Africa, Namibia and Canada. However, Europe had the added restriction of a limited visa, and for the first time I saw a personal realisation of how long this actual project was going to be, and there were sacrifices he was making to do it. Sacrifices much greater than the seemingly trivial above.
As we sat there, I think he was almost looking for approval. So much of what we have spent the last few years planning has not only involved where he wanted to go, but also what was going to make the most visual impact and interesting content from my perspective. The south of Norway and Iceland were obviously high on my list of desired locations, but he was right – it’s his project. After reassuring him that I’m just a willing observer, and urging him to go find whatever he wants, we were off towards Lake Como in Northern Italy.
The Hug Run was about a month old at that point – run at such a frantic pace that, on arrival in Stockholm some 10 days later, the average was 65km a day over the first 40 days. He got lost on numerous occasions, complained that the zigzagging of the cycle route was doubling the actual distance between two points. That complaint, said in jest, was followed by a tired smile while he devoured his daily dinner of two-minute noodles, peanut butter, honey and tuna. It tastes better than it sounds.
I think deep down he would try to impress me with his daily accomplishments. I mean there was no-one else to subtly brag to when you have just run 150km over two days, but while I joke about that, these projects have never been about personal accomplishment. He makes no claims about how much of a great runner he is. What I’m gradually learning, three projects later, is that it’s just something he really wants to do. I have thought about this a lot of late, and I did consider running, as a way to truly understand how it all felt.
From my point of view the project start was horrendous. After driving 3,000km, my van broke down and had to spend a week in the northernmost mechanic in Europe, we still hadn’t secured any documentary funding, and I was at a loss about what I actually wanted to tell about his story. I soon decided that while I like running, doing what he is doing is not my thing – I’m doing my thing by being here. His running created an opportunity for me, and that’s what it’s all about – doing your thing, whatever that is and how challenging, difficult, rewarding or easy that might be.
We joke around that we have experienced all this amazing stuff together, that it’s like a relationship sometimes. And like any relationship there are two people in it. I have to remember not to be too demanding when I attempt to dictate the camping places – not to falsify the experience, but in an attempt to satisfy my visual desire. I mean, he has only run 60km already today, what’s another 5km for an epic photograph, right? I have lost count of the number of times I have asked him to stop for 10 minutes while I sort out my drone, or search around my van for a spare battery. There needs to be a certain level of patience from that side; luckily patience comes with the territory on a project like this. So here we are with Scandinavia done. Poland will come next. What started as a run ending in Iceland has now turned into a search for the world’s best panna cotta in Lake Como. The journey continues.
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.