2014 Europe Run to Unity – WW1 Memorial Run

This was my team as we crossed Germany in May 2009.
This was my team as we crossed Germany in May 2009.

In 2009, in one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, I was lucky enough to be the only Briton to take part in a special 9-day run along the length of the former Iron Curtain with 34 Germans. The 1,363km-long barrier had divided East and West Germany from 1952 to 1989 when finally the Berlin Wall cracked.

Now for 2014, organiser Stefan Esser has an even bigger project in mind – a run along the length of the First World War front lines. (Download promo flyer here: 2014 Run to Unity – English flyer)

Taking place 10-21 June 2014, an international team of 48 runners will split the whole route into 6-10km segments to be covered by pairs each day. ‘Down time’ between stages will be spent looking at historical sites or just relaxing and doing the things people do on holiday.

Crossing borders, seeing Europe.
Crossing borders, seeing Europe.

The run will start at Nieuwpoort in Flanders (Belgium) and finish at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg (France).

20 years after the fall of the Wall, the 2009 run – combining teams from both sides of the old border – retraced the route of the electric fences and guardposts, revisiting historic sites where NATO and Warsaw Pact troops had faced off during the Cold War.

This time, there'll be a British van. But plenty of mingling and new friends to be made.
This time, there’ll be a British van too; but plenty of opportunities for mingling and making new friends

It was a great way to mark an important anniversary for a now united Germany and most days finished with a beer, bratwurst and a toast from the local burgermeister. I was made very welcome, made a lot of friends, had a lot of fun and became a confirmed Germanophile. I covered the event for Runner’s World magazine. This one promises to be just as good.

Refueling is a crucial part of any distance run. So we did!
Refueling is a crucial part of any distance run. So we did!

Marking the tragic centenary of the outbreak of WW1, we will remember the events that ultimately led to an even bigger tragedy: WW2. But we will also celebrate the fact that Europe is now united. Crossing borders and working together, we will enjoy the fact that – on the road or on the dirt – we are all just runners.

The precise logistics are still being organised. Accommodation will be in hostels or village halls on camp beds. Food will usually be communal.

There will be a fee to cover the costs of the (non-profit) run which we will try to keep as low as possible through sponsorship. It’ll probably be around €300. A likely scenario is a British minibus leaving from London, driving to the start point at Nieuwpoort and carrying on down to to Strasbourg.

We are currently taking expressions of interest from runners; over the winter more details will be released. If you are interested in this once in a lifetime opportunity, please don’t hesitate to contact me (Simon Cole) here: hackneyfit@gmail.com

We are also looking for sponsors to help keep the cost down for the runners. Please contact me on the same address if you can help.

You can see the Europe Run to Unity Facebook page here, or watch a short film of the 2009 ‘Grenzenlos Laufen’ event. You can also read some of the blogging I did for the event here.

Twitter updates: #EuropeRunToUnity

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