A group of runners races through European embassies in Washington DC each year
RUNNING THROUGH 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.’
Embassy runners with cutout royals at the British embassy
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.
Making a getaway after yet another flying visit to a foreign land, and not a Ferrero Rocher to be seen
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.’
On the fiddle with Johann Strauss at the Austrian embassy
The 2017 Embassy Run takes place on May 13. euembassyrun.com
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PHOTOGRAPHY: BROOKS KRAFT