Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the partner of someone who’s about to run across Africa? Alice Light, an ultra runner herself, knows. Her partner, Deo, who has been a guest on the podcast, is embarking on a run from Cape Town to London on July 24th.
Most people will never be in the position of supporting a loved one who’s taking on an epic journey across two continents and 16 countries, but you can support anyone in any endeavor, no matter how big or small. As Alice says, “We’re stronger together. And the journey is much more fun if we’re not alone.”
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Alice only began running three years ago, when she was coming out of an abusive marriage that she describes as some of the lowest years of her life. She’d always wanted to run, but had lacked the confidence. In 2020 though, she decided to follow a Couch to 10K plan. “Running just started as a process for me,” she explains. “I’d say mental healing, emotional healing, finding myself, finding a community, understanding who Alice was, or is; I’m still doing that work.”
After completing the plan, she signed up for a half marathon to support a cause that spoke to her deeply. Just after her 21st birthday, fresh out of school, Alice had moved to Paris to pursue her dreams. Less than 48 hours later, she was raped. Shattered, she returned to London to rebuild her life. The half marathon she chose to run was for Mothers2Mothers, a charity in Africa that supports women with HIV and helps them to live a life free of the disease. Alice had endured the journey of testing for HIV, and helping other women in similar situations resonated with her.
Within two years of starting running, she signed up for her first marathon. The challenge was greater than completing 26.2 miles; the race was the Paris Marathon, and Alice was determined to reclaim the city’s streets. She decided, “I’m gonna take back my dreams; I’m gonna change the narrative; I’m gonna talk about this. And the momentum, and the women that reached out to me, and the shared stories were overwhelming. It was phenomenal. It was just women with shared stories, women that can’t tell their story for whatever reason, women from all backgrounds. And I was really proud that I found something really strong from such an awful time in my life.
“People who had known it had happened even now say, ‘Why can’t you just put that to bed? Why are you still talking about that?’ That’s hard because I’m not bringing it to the surface to play the victim; I’m bringing it to the surface because it’s something that happens so often. And that really came to light when I started telling my story.”
She ran the marathon wearing a shirt that read, “One Woman Running For All Women Everywhere,” and she continues to carry that message for even greater distances as she runs ultra marathons. She’s carried another message as well, running for over two months for Running for Justice to raise awareness and campaign against racism.
Running for Justice was created by Alice’s partner, Deo, following the murder of George Floyd. He committed to running a minimum of 10 km per day for 381 days, inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, which lasted for that long. After Deo finished his 381 days of running, the movement became a relay, with members of the running community carrying the baton.
Deo is about to begin an even more audacious endeavor: Project Cape Town to London. He intends to cover the distance, 9,053 miles, in 381 days, averaging 25 miles per day. His purpose is to tell the story of human migration from Africa to the rest of the world. As daunting as the journey is, Alice supports him wholeheartedly, as he has supported her in her challenges.
“Deo and I support each other equally,” she says. “I don’t believe he could do this journey without me and I certainly wouldn’t have done a lot of what I’ve done without him. Not because he’s proof reading my Instagram posts or saying you should or shouldn’t do this race. But it’s more that you have that person who has fundamentally, 100%, without a doubt, just got your back and is behind you. I really believe in surrounding yourself with people who want only the best for you and you only want the best for them, and you all rise together. You might rise differently because you’re doing different things, but you’re all rising and all supporting and encouraging each other.”
As hard as it will be for Alice and Deo to be apart for over a year, Alice supports him because of her belief in him and in his message. “It’s something that’s really, really important and it’s gonna change so much and I do believe Deo has been put on this planet to be that person. He’s a change maker. He’ll be in the history books; I do believe that. Kids growing up will learn about his run through Africa and they’ll learn about human migration and change the way we think. My hope is that people will really sit up and rethink what they’ve been told and been taught and really question their understanding of history. We all need to be open to that.
“If you want to follow someone running through Africa, there’s a guy doing it at the moment. There are guys, men, women doing all sorts of incredible things when it comes to running. But if you want to watch someone create history, then follow Deo’s journey. We’re working with schools. We want to promote the film that will be made about his journey. We imagine it being in schools as the new curriculum to teach kids across the globe.
“If people out there listening are trying to understand why a man would do this, well, it’s because things need to change. Something huge needs to be done for something fundamental to change. So sit with that and imagine what it’d be like if you felt something was so wrong in society that you had to leave your loved ones for over a year and put your life on the line and at risk to achieve something so great. And keep following the journey because the story, the story of human migration will be told in many ways.”
If you’d like to support Deo’s run and keep updated on his progress, you can learn more on his GoFundMe page.
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