Belgium 27 April: Mons - Halle - Brussels
Today's run began with a short dash from the centre of Mons to the outskirts of the town where we visited a school for autistic children, the Ecole D'Arbre Vert (Green Tree School).
We were greeted on the school steps by some charming children who presented us with flowers, then we jogged through the school to a large classroom where we met all the children and told them about our global run.
We sang our "World Harmony Run" song and in return the kids sang to us enthusiastically.
From Mons we had to run quickly to cover the 24km to our next meeting, for which we arrived a little late! The children at the Ecole de Bon Esperance didn't seem to mind though, and they met us in the playground waving paper flags they had made themselves, each bearing a message welcoming the run or wishing us good luck.
While the children presented us with beautiful pictures they had drawn, the teachers handed round bottles of water and Belgian waffles, which was just what we needed after the hard running from Mons. Once the kids had heard about our run, we invited them to join our team for a "Mini Harmony Run" around the playground. They were eager to know all about our adventures on the road, so our French-speaking team members were kept very busy. From Braine Le Compte (BLC for short) we ran to the city of Halle where we paid a visit to the De Bres sports club for the opening of a junior football tournament - another opportunity for a mini Harmony Run, this time around the indoor football pitches.
Each team carried the torch, passing it around until every team member had carried it before handing it over to the next team. Soon it was time for the serious business of football to get underway, so we ran out to a park and began to picnic in a sunny playground while we checked the route plans for the afternoon. The weather suddenly changed, so there was a mad dash for the vans with all our food, and we began our afternoon run a little earlier than planned. Running in the beautifully fresh air on the freshly rain-washed highway was lovely - the temperature was perfect for us and the sun soon returned as we covered the final miles into Brussels.
We had been invited for a short rest and some refreshments at the home of the La Poudriere community, who told us their story over cups of tea and organic food grown on their nearby farm. This group was founded by two Catholic missionaries in the late 1950s as a "pluralist community welcoming people of all religions or of none".
They certainly gave us a great welcome, but we could not stay long, as it was time to head to the city centre for our final meeting of the day. Our whole team ran together into the heart of Brussels, the beautiful "Grand Place", a huge piazza surrounded by incredible buildings, each one an architectural gem in its own right.
Our goal was the City Hall, where we were met by one of the Eldermen of Brussels who took us out on to the balcony overlooking Grand Place so the people in the square could see the torch and the World Harmony Run team. We hadn't planned it, but once on the balcony we got inspired to sing our World Harmony Run song again, so we gave it everything and let the notes ring out across the square - we later found out it could be heard all through the side streets too!
Netherlands 28 April >|