Step In Their Shoes second part: Running in Northern Ireland was not another regular Erasmus Plus project. It involved one challenge, that made us and our friends and relatives at awe – Belfast Marathon!
From the beginning it was clear, this is not for everyone. As a result, only 1/4th of applications was received comparing to regular overflow for our programmes. We intentionally seek to find the most motivated persons, who would like to challenge themselves to the maximum. Thirty persons from Greece, Norway, Spain, Hungary, Lithuania and UK dared to take the challenge to arrive to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Here our journey began.
To introduce the story, we have to come back much earlier before the project. One of the inspirational factors for this Erasmus+ youth exchange was reading a book “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall. This has changed our understanding of what the human is and how it survived among other stronger and faster species.
Apparently, humans are the only ones to outrun any animal. We are designed to run – says Christopher McDougall. That is so surprising and true. Our organisms are very well suited for running long distances and long time ago we were running and hunting with all our communities, including families and mothers with babies. By being able to sustain a long run, we could capture even faster animals, such as one of the fastest animals, like gazelle or gepard, who can reach speeds of 112 km/h (70 mph) in short bursts and average speed, while hunting is about 64 km/h.
Interestingly, our muscular and body structure is very well suited to run and run barefooted. Our sweating system suits to evaporate the sweat, so that again to maintain the run. Consequently, it is surprising to hear, but perhaps it should not be, that Wingo from Texas in 1931 run 16 miles every day for 517 days to make 8000 mileage. In modern days people take new records and show that running is so natural.
We decided to launch a campaign before our project to inform about running. Results could be seen in the end of this page.
Coming with such an inspiration, we just had to spread the message of running benefits. By designing the programme Step In Their Shoes, which consists of three phases: Hiking In Wales, Running in Northern Ireland and Mountain Hiking in Scotland, we hopefully attracted people’s interest to running, going back to our ancestors.
We also wanted to invite to step in the shoes of many people who need to fleet their countries and become forced war or economical or any other refugees.
This project was designed to understand the empathy. We wanted to state that it is possible to develop the empathy, to understand better people around or further away from you.
Day 1 – Arrival
Thirty motivated souls arrived to Belfast International Airport and from there were immediately taken to Bushmills youth hostel, where we stayed for 6 days. We need a space near the see, that would inspire us to prepare for the big challenge – marathon running in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland.
We also need to bond, get to know each other, because all 30 persons did not know each other. What a thrilling and magical experience combined. First day was spent traveling, eating, unpacking, and resting.
Here it is
DAY 2 – Cooperation Day
A morning started with sports. A bit energised we had breakfast.
And here you go a proper intro of the day! Good morning everyone, the programme has started!
And first get together, so that to see what we look pre-marathon.
Craziness and creativity is in the air straight from the beginning.
Teambuilding. How about starting with Mission Impossible? Indeed a full burst of productions.
What could be better to know each other than dancing. And dancing with spaghetti in between?
Or how about hypnotising with two palms and being able to control two persons as you want?
It was enough of action for the first day. Lets go for the fully vegetarian dinner by Andres! Mamamia how tasty.
Here you go some taste of what the experience was from one of the participants Clinton
DAY 3 – Culture Day
Day Three was started with the first morning run. Early, very early morning run, so that still to make it for the breakfast, shower and the start of the programme.
We opened programme with the talk about Open Badges – a great tool for measuring achievements, like scouts do in their camps. However, Anja philosophically questioned – why do we need to rank and value everything with some system?
Fighting Stereotypes session with Nina was quite formal, though full of interesting insights.
And here we go – bring something physical and people’s faces light up!
Let the forum theater session begin!
Lets get everyone involved!
Forum Theater placed us under discussions, what is happening in our countries
Spanish team performed protests, freedom of speech, democracy to decide, TV influence.
Lithuanian team performed problems in the hospital, bribery, gifts under the table.
UK and Norwegian team discussed difficulties of getting a job if you are an immigrant, if you are woman.
Long and intensive debates had to end. We met in our reflection – peace groups.
Up we go for the dinner.
And still there is a desert – the day finished with Intercultural Night
Some glimpses in video format:
DAY 4 – Values Day
Breakfast in the morning was important for what was waiting in the day.
We then moved to prepare for our longest and most beautiful hike.
The views of the 23 km hike in the north coast of Northern Ireland are stunning: https://www.relive.cc/view/1581174306
We finished day at the famous Giant’s Causeway.
Tired and exhausted, but happy after long physical walk and delicious dinner, we went to dream.
DAY 5 – Health Day
Morning exercise in the morning lead to a reflection after the hike.
Muscles hurt, but hearts smile.
Since the day was bright, we went outside. Stepping forward in different roles made us understand and be more empathetic about people with difficult situations.
Following Abigail’s story was a mess – everyone had different priorities, interpretations, but still had to choose the ranking of people.
We moved to discuss about, how important is to track heart rate when you run, different patterns and strategies when running.
But some of us had loooong evenings and had to rest meanwhile.
Day was finished with the documentary movie Alone through Iran – 1144 miles of trust, where a Swedish woman deared to challenge herself and society by being the first woman to walk in Iran.
And of course of course – Cultural Night!
A wrap of the day:
DAY 6 – Balance Day
We started this day easy, with morning exercise and discussion of various techniques about marathon.
We discussed the plan and logistics of upcoming marathon.
Raminta led the session about Erasmus+.
We had lovely Open Space session, where some persons were dancing Zumba, some talked about Ancient Greek Olympic games.
We had session of learning to know what you want.
We ended with yoga and an early sleep.
Here it is a wrap:
DAY 7 – The Belfast Marathon Day
The day started very early, because we had to reach Belfast. We had to leave our things at another hostel in Belfast, get ready mentally and physically for the most challenging event over few years probably – to run in the Belfast Marathon.
What an excitement! What a thrill! For most of us this was a biggest achievement of the year.
The joy of running is above the air.
You can run with us and experience it once more: https://www.relive.cc/view/1558388075
We did it, we finished. We were united by this magic experience.
DAY 8 – All in all
We needed a proper rest. And some of us needed an extreme recovery.
We had a light start of the day with brunch.
We talked about Achieving your goals, Follow ups.
It was serious and not true! Emotions!
We discussed Youthpass competences, made last evaluation and Goodbye evening.
DAY 9 – Departure
This was the day of return to the realities.
Packing and leaving, coming back healthy and safely to our beloved homes.
What Abroadship’ers say
Linos (Greece): “I have participated in many European and International projects in the past, but I dare to say that Step in their Shoes – Running in Northern Ireland was one of the best I have ever participated!!! An excellent idea, nicely and wisely organised by so active, skillful and interesting people. It made me reconsider many things, gain new and fresh ideas and find out new perspectives on key issues. Thank you so much for this opportunity!!!”
Lilla (Hungary): “I love the organisers, i learned a lot about myself and empathy, thinking positive way”
Bilyana (UK): “I stepped in many people’s shoes during this project. In my teammates’, in the organisers’, in Abigails’, and in many others across the globe we were discussing during our stay in Northern Ireland. I think I could not exactly step in the refugees’ shoes even if I think I have because the conditions they have are nowhere close to ours. Empathy for me is understanding. To practice understanding and to do it with your whole heart. ”