Veronique Bourbeau exudes passion and commitment when she talks about for her latest adventure—the African Run Project. Her face lights up, talking animatedly as she describes why she is running 13,000 kilometres across 19 countries in the African continent from Alexandria, Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa. Quite simply, she wants every country in this vast continent to have safe, drinkable water and she will run—and walk—until this goal is reached. “The number of people dying for lack of clean water is insane,” she says. She is looking to be the first woman and only the second person to take on this remarkable task.

Bourbeau, 49, is from Quebec but recently lived in Singapore where her husband works. Covid brought her back to Canada and Victoria where her son lives. She is partnering with Tanzania-based NanoFilter to provide 1000 filter kiosks for each country. NanoFilter is a water filtration technology that uses a combination of sand and nanomaterials to remove 99.9 per cent of contaminants from water. “Once a kiosk is installed, local entrepreneurs—usually women with children to support—can afford to sell water in reusable containers at rates as much as 10 times cheaper than bottled alternatives all without creating additional waste,” she says.

Each kiosk is $250 US which Bourbeau feels is an achievable goal for her. She is actively fundraising and seeking corporate sponsorships, and as soon as she has secured funds for herself and her support team—her ‘Thirst for Life’ crew—she will start her journey which she hopes will be in August. During her journey she will talk to schools in communities as her crew installs clean water kiosks along the way.

“My life mission is to bring clean water to most people on this planet and the first stage is Africa.”

She will face many challenges during her quest, from difficult terrain and extreme temperatures to cultural differences and political instability. But she is taking it all in stride. “It will be hot but that is fine I run well in warmer temperatures. I am more wary of Sudan and Egypt where I might have to have security. It can be tricky running in Muslim countries so I am not sure what to expect but I will have appropriate clothing like head coverings.” There is also the growing instability in Ethiopia. “If I worry about all of these things I will never start,” she says.

One thing she is in control of is her training bringing a vast experience in long distance running. She only started running
in 2008 on a treadmill, until she felt comfortable running for 45 minutes outside. Her first marathon was that same year, the Marathon des Deux Rives in Quebec. She has since completed many races and what she calls adventures.

She has run the 250-kilometre Sakura Michi Nature Run in Japan twice, in 2015 and 2018, finishing in 35 hours and 34 hours, respectively. In 2016, again in Japan, she ran 3010 kilometres in 72 days averaging a marathon a day. In 2019, she was the overall winner in the 444-kilometre Coast to Coast ultra marathon in Malaysia, completing it in 98 hours. “I am the race record holder and was 10 hours faster than the previous record,” she says proudly.

Bourbeau’s current training is a combination of long runs and walks gradually building up to 120 kilometres a week. Her trainer is Dr. Tim Noakes, the acclaimed South African author of Lore of Running. He will also be her doctor and nutritionist in Africa.

“He says that if I put in more than 12 hours a day run/walking I will put my body at risk. So, I will base my run on what I did in Japan which was a marathon a day.”

Why Africa and why safe water? A journalist for 15 years, Bourbeau was volunteering in Senegal and living with a local family who had no access to clean water. “They walked miles to get their water. This prohibited their kids from going to school as they had to help. I was safe as I had a pill I could use to purify the water, so I asked myself, why as a Canadian was I safe and not this family?”
Her African adventure is just the beginning, she says. “My life mission is to bring clean water to most people on this planet and the first stage is Africa.”

To follow Bourbeau’s African journey go to veroniquerun.com 

Photography by Matt Cecill Visuals

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