In July, some of the World’s top athletes launched the ‘champions walk for peace’ with a 500-mile torch relay across Kenya’s troubled North Rift Valley, helping to lay the groundwork for our charity – the Aegis Trust (www.aegistrust.org) – to establish a peace school in the region, where ethnic violence has left hundreds of people dead and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes this year.
Fundraising for this initiative is ongoing, and the campaign was picked up by ultra-runners in the UK and US (world record-breakers Rob Young and Adam Holland in the UK; Pat Sweeney and ‘Barefoot’ Alex Ramsey in the US). They all wanted to relay the torch from Kenya too, but running rather than walking.
The Kenyan-made torch was cleverly designed but involved an open fuel chamber which would be very hard to run with. We needed a different solution. It would need to be a torch athletes could carry while running -and not just for short distances either. The UK relay was planned to be 1900 miles (it ended up being 2200): the US relay, 850 miles.
The Naples oil torch from Za Za Homes was perfect for the job. Using the last section of the pole it’s mounted on as the handle, we made a couple of modifications to fit the exterior cone of the Kenyan torch around it.
The actual flame unit itself proved remarkably robust, being dropped onto a concrete floor from about five feet up at one point, and still working.
The torch was not lit the whole time; as the UK relay was unsupported, the athletes tended to have it unlit during daylight on the road in order to conserve fuel (and save the weight of carrying multiple fuel bottles), but it would often be lit after dusk, and of course for photo opportunities.
After over 1,000 miles on the road, this first unit – a little the worse for wear – sprang a slow leak from somewhere, probably due to the prangs it had received. We replaced it with a new Naples torch, the replacement supplied free of charge by Zaza Homes, and that one was fine.
The UK torch now resides in the office of Kenya’s High Commissioner in London, where it was presented to the Deputy Commissioner, Ambassador Jackline Yonga, on 8 October. The US torch is currently continuing its journey from Chicago to New York (you can find out more, and see some pictures and videos, at www.walkforpeace.co.ke).
Throughout, we could not have asked for more from Zaza Homes. Their speed of delivery and their customer care has been quite outstanding.
We have put the Naples torch to unconventional use, and you may not want to do more with it than attractively light your garden, but should you feel the need to pick it up and run a thousand miles with it, we’ve been there and can tell you it’s an impressive and robust tool for the job… Just remember that running with an open flame isn’t risk-free, and try not to drop it too often in the process!