So­cial Move­ment

A group of run­ners races through Euro­pean em­bassies in Wash­ing­ton DC each year

Runner's World (UK) - - IN THS ISSUE -

Run­ning con­ti­nents in a mat­ter of hours


15 coun­tries in six hours may not seem hu­manly pos­si­ble, but Chito Pep­pler and the Em­bassy Run­ners have found a way to cheat space and time. It’s a feat made pos­si­ble by the Euro­pean Union Em­bassies’ Open House, a cul­tural event that takes place each May in Wash­ing­ton DC, when 28 em­bassies open their doors to the pub­lic.

Pep­pler first at­tended the cel­e­bra­tion in 2008, sam­pling tapas and wine in Spain, play­ing cricket in Bri­tain and lis­ten­ing to a sax­o­phone per­for­mance in Bel­gium (the sax was in­vented by a Bel­gian). ‘When I was in the navy, I al­ways loved vis­it­ing the dif­fer­ent ports of call,’ says Pep­pler, who served as a pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer for 20 years be­fore found­ing Runi­nout, a search­able and cus­tomis­able restau­rant data­base. ‘EU Open House is the next best thing. The fact that all the em­bassies open up and spend a day show­ing hos­pi­tal­ity is spe­cial.’

The un­of­fi­cial chal­lenge is to visit as many EU em­bassies as pos­si­ble be­tween 10am and 4pm. But queues at each em­bassy and long waits for shut­tle buses make it tough to take in more than four or five. (Iron­i­cally, the most pop­u­lar of the EU em­bassies is Bri­tain’s). After walk­ing be­tween build­ings Pep­pler re­alised there was an easy way to fit in more: he could run.

The six-time marathoner per­suaded three friends to dash through the 2009 Open House with him, set­ting out to reach 10 em­bassies dur­ing the al­lot­ted six hours. For a visit to ‘count’, run­ners would need to min­gle long enough to sam­ple food and drinks and to wit­ness a cul­tural pre­sen­ta­tion. They sur­passed their goal, cov­er­ing 12 coun­tries and clock­ing up an im­pres­sive 13 miles in the process.

The cross-con­ti­nen­tal jaunt in­cluded stops in the Czech Re­pub­lic (for folk danc­ing), Poland (for dumplings) and the Nether­lands (for beer). ‘It was the best Heineken I've tasted in my life,’ says Pep­pler. ‘I could have spent hours in the Nether­lands, but it was 3:45pm and we had to be in Sweden by four.’

The fol­low­ing year, Pep­pler de­cided to make a pro­mo­tional Youtube video of the Em­bassy Run and par­tic­i­pa­tion has been grow­ing ever since. There were 40 Em­bassy Run­ners in 2014 – that dou­bled to 80 in 2015 and over 150 last year. There’s now an $85 (£70) reg­is­tra­tion fee, with pro­ceeds go­ing to var­i­ous char­i­ties. Last year, the Em­bassy Run­ners set a new record, sam­pling the wares of 15 em­bassies and vis­it­ing Bel­gium for the first time. ‘We get front-of-the-line priv­i­leges, which we thought might cause some frus­tra­tion,’ says Pep­pler. ‘But peo­ple know us and cheer for us.’

Clock­wise from top left: em­bassy run­ners with cutout roy­als at the Bri­tish em­bassy, group shot; Em­bassy Run­ner founder Chito Pep­pler; on the fid­dle with Jo­hann Strauss at the Aus­trian em­bassy; and mak­ing a get­away after yet an­other fly­ing visit to a for­eign land, and not a Fer­rero Rocher to be seen

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