In a month’s time, one man will set off from Cape Town on an epic journey through Africa. His attempt is about more than breaking world records: it is an adventure Keith Boyd hopes will right the disillusionment of young Africans and inspire them to take their destinies into their own hands.
Yes, you read that right. A run of over 10,000 kilometres using manpower alone along a cross-continent route through Africa, from Cape Town in the south to Cairo in the north. And the man willing – and eager – to undertake such a gargantuan task? Keith Boyd, a 57-year-old retired telecoms entrepreneur and Monaco resident.
He shares his story and the goals behind his Cape Town to Cairo expedition with Monaco Life in the run-up to the great “Rainbow Runner” run.
A man and his dream
Boyd is a Monaco resident, having moved to the Principality in 2018 whilst in the midst of winding down a high-powered career in the telecoms industry; he was one of the founders of a telecommunications towers company that he helped build up before selling to American Tower.
“I stayed on as one of the senior executives in American Tower for four years after the sale, until I retired in 2021,” he tells Monaco Life.
The 57-year-old, who holds British and South African citizenship, founded a charity called RainbowLeaders in 2017 and it is in this charity’s name that he has decided to make an attempt at running the full length of Africa.
“I wanted to find a way to change the downward socio-economic trajectory that South Africa has been on for the last 10 to 15 years,” he says. “With the economy growing slower than the population, the inevitable consequence is that unemployment, poverty and inequality have all continued to rise. And the youth, those under 29 years of age, have largely disengaged as they are disillusioned with political leadership in the country. Less than 20% of young voters bother to vote, with turnout being as low as 7% in recent local elections.”
RainbowLeaders visits schools, as Boyd will do during the course of his expedition, to talk to 16 to 19-year-olds about the importance of choosing wise and honest leaders.
“However, we will never support nor criticise any political party, as we must remain a-political in order to maintain credibility,” he explains.
The mission is to make it from Cape Town to Cairo, a feat of more than 10,000 kilometres, in less than 318 days if Boyd is to break a 25-year-old world record held by fellow Brit Nicholas Bourne. But this adventure is about much more than just that.
“Far more importantly, [it will be about] engaging with and educating young people about the importance of voting for their government leaders, and then holding them accountable to do what they promised to do,” Boyd tells Monaco Life. “Only through responsible leadership can a country’s economy grow faster than its population, thereby reducing unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
Ultimately, Boyd hopes to raise €2 million or more in the name of RainbowLeaders during the run.
“The expedition is already fully funded and will go ahead,” he adds.
The route from Cape Town to Cairo
Boyd left Monaco on 20th June, having spent the last few months ramping up training that saw him undertake a daily four-hour run and is unlikely to return until March or April 2024. His destination was Cape Town, Boyd’s former homebase and the launchpad for what will be a truly epic adventure.
“In terms of training, I’m 57-years-old and have never been a professional athlete, so it’s been pretty brutal lately. I’m currently averaging over 30 kilometres per day, every day, and will peak at just above 40 kilometres per day in early July, before I taper the training so that I’m ready to start from Cape Town on 26th July,” he explains.
From there, he will need to maintain a marathon distance every single day for a full 280 days if he is to stand a chance of beating the pre-existing record for the Cape Town to Cairo run.
The next “stop” will be in Botswana, then onto Lusaka in Zambia towards the end of September.
“From there, if the situation in Sudan has stabilised, we shall continue northwards through Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt,” says Boyd. “If the situation in Sudan has not stabilised by end September, we will take a slightly longer, more central route, heading through Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Chad, the south east of Libya and into Egypt. The attempt will require me to run more than a marathon a day, without rest days, for approximately nine months.”
The team behind him
“The challenge over such a long period of time will be maintaining muscle mass in my legs as this is critically important for joint strength and stability [as well as] hips, knees and ankles… But I’ve got some great advice from renowned ex-Olympian and sports specialist Prof. Greg Whyte as well as extreme endurance runner Dr. Andrew Murray,” Boyd explains. “And, of course, I want to avoid food poisoning, malaria, wound and blister infections etc. so team hygiene, food storing and preparation will be critical things that we simply have to be very disciplined about.”
Boyd will be accompanied in person by a field paramedic who will be on hand to assist with any emergency care he might need on the journey as well as provide a professional insight into nutrition and recovery. The medic will be charged with monitoring Boyd’s weight, measurements and vital stats every day.
A videographer will also be tagging along to record the adventure as well as two security personnel. These latter two team members will likely change along the route for linguistic and cultural reasons. The team has had two 4×4 vehicles specially outfitted for the trip and branded in the signature rainbow colours of Boyd’s foundation.
The task for expedition manager Wendy Matthee, who will remain in Cape Town, seems almost as overwhelming in terms of admin as it will be physically for Boyd. She will be managing all issues related to logistics, sponsorship, Guinness World Records and travel, although she will get some support from a specialist for this field of expertise. Matthee will also be coordinating with a social media team, who will document Boyd’s travels daily in an effort to bolster his fundraising goals.
Africa: a place of inspiration
“I love the beauty and authenticity of Africa and its people,” says Boyd. “I have spent most of my life working and travelling in Africa, and all three of my children were born there, so I want to make a difference and inspire other Africans to turn their dreams into action, and especially to think critically about who we choose as political leaders. I could not achieve this by running through Europe or the USA, which would be somewhat easier I expect.”
With the countdown on until Boyd departs on his once-in-a-lifetime experience, support is being warmly welcomed via the RainbowLeaders website. Click here to read more about the foundation and its programmes, as well as to donate.
Main photo via Unsplash