My Love4Gambia Training

I thought I was invincible. If I can do an Ironman, I can do anything right? …hum not quite! Training for Love4Gambia is not exactly what I expected. It’s actually a little bit tougher than I thought. Ok, it’s way tougher than I thought!! But I like it! I’m always up for a challenge! As the quote says, “Pain is temporary, but pride is forever!”

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Beautiful, but very hilly run during our family trip in Tuscany in July

For the first time in 4 years, I decided not to hire a coach or follow a training program. Since I wasn’t racing this summer, I thought it would be nice to be able to have the flexibility to train whenever I wanted to, however I wanted to, with whoever I wanted to. I am very satisfied with this decision. This summer has been awesome so far. I am able to train a lot, but I also got my social life back which I had put aside for the past few years. My life is more balanced now and I must admit, I’m a happier person!

I’ve never train for just one sport before, so I wasn’t too sure how to organise my running schedule. Erin Poirier (the founder of the Love4Gambia run) gave me one advice at the annual Nova Scotia Gambia Association dinner last June: “Just run, run a lot and stay healthy.” Well that’s what I’ve been doing since June. I’ve never ran that many km’s in such a short period of time. In June, I ran just over 400km, in July just under 450km and I’m planning to run at least 500km during the month of August! Now that it’s officially published, I have to do it!

My training varies every week. But here is one of my favourite weekly plan:

Monday: Recovery day (maybe some hot yoga)

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My parents, sister and I at the Champlain Lookout, in the Gatineau Park.

Tuesday: Swim + weights + track/speed workout with Zone3Sports

Wednesday: 10-15km easy run along the canal + hot yoga

Thursday: Swim + weights + 25km run (on the bike paths around Ottawa)

Friday: 20-25km trail run in the Gatineau park + hot yoga

Saturday: Social bike ride

Sunday: 25-30km run (on the bike paths around Ottawa)

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Trail running in the Gatineau Park….my new little paradise!

Basically I’ve just been increasing my running mileage by a lot and I continue to do some other cross training sports that I enjoy (swimming, yoga, gym and a little bit of cycling!). The big challenge for me is all those 20-25km long runs! During my triathlon training I was only doing one long run a week, now I’m running 4 or 5 of those! My favourite thing about this is that I’ve discovered plenty of new paths around Ottawa and trails in the Gatineau Park. The tough part is my body adapting to the mileage. I didn’t think that running could be that hard on my legs. I’ve been a pretty lucky athlete in the past and never had a major injury. I must admit that I try my best to take care of my body. My post-training best friends are my foam roller, therapy balls and a Louis Garneau chocolate recovery shake! I also have weekly ‘dates’ with my chiropractors and massotherapists! Huge thanks to the staff at Alta Vista Chiropractic Clinic and the Holistic Clinic. I really wish I could take you guys to Gambia with me!

Less than one month and a half before I take on the challenge of running 425km across The Gambia! I’m getting really excited as my departure date quickly approaches! I have an incredible support crew waiting for me in The Gambia whom I’m so stoked to meet! Thank you to all of you that have supported me in my campaign. For those who still want to donate, it’s never too late: https://www.canadahelps.org/fr/pages/love4gambia-run-2/

Now off to Hearst for some running and relaxing time at home! :)

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My Athletic Background

At a very young age, my parents taught me that sports and exercise were the key to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, I tried many different sports when I was a little girl: figurethumb_Julz-piscine2-new_1024 skating, jazz ballet, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, swimming, soccer and tennis. As long as I was active, I was happy. At 10 years old, I decided to join the Hearst Phoenix Swim Team with my sister. Soon after, my little brother and little sister followed our steps. Every morning of the week, the four of us were all up at 5am, ready to jump in the pool! I swam and competed with the team for 8 years, until grade 12.

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During my first triathlon

I then moved to Ottawa to pursue my studies at the University of Ottawa. During my first year, I was living on the campus, just beside the canal. This is where I developed a passion for running. I ran almost everyday. It was my stress relief, my happiness booster and the perfect way to stay fit. Like everyone else, I started with short runs (3-4km) then gradually increased my mileage (10-15km). It’s only during my last year of university, that I finally decided to sign up for my first running race (the Ottawa Race Weekend 10km) and my first triathlon (the Early Bird Sprint Triathlon), and that was it. I was hooked!

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The TriNova crew!

In 2010, I moved to Newcastle, Australia to do my Master of Teaching. I immediately joined the TriNova Triathlon Squad which I trained and raced with for two years. I had excellent coaches (thanks a million for everything Rod and Ben!) and I developed great friendships with the athletes. My schedule consisted of eating, sleeping, training and studying (and ok, a little bit of partying!). During my two years down under, I participated in many races (my first half marathon was in beautiful Sydney!) and completed numerous triathlons, included my first half Ironman (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run) on the sunny Gold Coast! I can say that I made the most of it while I was there!

I came back home in 2012, fit as ever, looking to improve myself even more. I join the Zone3Sports Triathlon Club where I was coached by The Great Rick Hellard. His guidance combined with hard work, brought me to the 70.3 (half Ironman) World Championships in Las Vegas in September 2013. To my great surprise, I finished 3rd in my age group (25-29 years old)! This is when I decided that I wanted to step it up a notch. I wanted to do my first full Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike,42km run)!

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Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant. We all qualified for the World Championships!

Last year, I had the chance to join the Équipe Merrell supportée par Louis Garneau. The team is formed of long-distance triathletes from Québec and Ontario and is supported by great sports equipment companies. Wow, I was getting sponsored! I felt like superstar! My whole season was focused on Ironman Tremblant which was in August. My new coach, Philippe Bertrand from Lifesports, and I had the secret dream of qualifying for World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. From January to August, I swam three times a week, biked way too many km’s and ran like never before. I was motivated and dedicated as ever. Triathlon was not only my passion, it was my lifestyle. On the 18th of August, I not only completed my first Ironman, but I even finished first female amateur! I couldn’t believe it, I had my ticket to Kona! In October, I had the immense chance to race the world’s most famous triathlon. It was by far, the most challenging race I did: salty choppy ocean water, incredible winds on the bike, heat and humidity on the run. Nevertheless, I finished with a big smile on my face, 7th in my age group. I couldn’t ask for a better way to sum up my 2014 season. A huge thank you to all our amazing sponsors who made this possible: Merrell, Louis Garneau, TYRPolar and Compressport. Merci du fond du coeur!

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The 2014 team

After this wonderful year, I felt the need to take a step back. For the last few years, I’ve been very dedicated to triathlons. I trained hard, raced with my heart, travelled to new places, met incredible athletes and I wouldn’t change a thing about all of this. But now, it’s time to focus on another part of me. Therefore, I took the decision to take a sabbatical year to volunteer and travel abroad. This is something that I’ve been waiting to do for a while, but never really gave myself the opportunity to follow this dream. I now have the chance to do it, so I jumped right on the occasion! I feel very lucky to have a job and an entourage that fully support me in this project. Soon after my school approved my leave, I found out about the Love4Gambia run and knew immediately that it was the perfect challenge for me! My whole summer will be dedicated to training, raising money for my campaign and planning a whole year of traveling! I’m so excited about what’s in front of me! Sometimes, you just have to trust life, follow your heart and seize the opportunity! :)

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Proudly finishing my first Ironman!

To donate: https://www.canadahelps.org/fr/pages/love4gambia-run-2/

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The Starfish Thrower

Bonjour!

First off, I would like to say that I feel very honoured to be the 2015 Love4Gambia runner. As you may already know, starting in September, I will be on a one year sabbatical leave from work. I’ve been a grade 7 math teacher for three years now and I must say I truly love my job! Just in case the thought crossed anyone’s mind, I am not playing hookie from school! Nor am I trying to escape my students by leaving the country, that will be difficult part. This opportunity is something that I have been dreaming of for a while now.

At our first staff meeting in September, one of my colleagues read us this short story to highlight the difference we, as teachers, have the ability to make in our student’s lives. It is called The Starfish Thrower.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

My colleague then told us to reflect upon this message throughout the school year.

My decision to partner with Nova Scotia Gambia Association will allow me to make that difference. I am not going to save the world. I won’t be able to stop war or hunger, nor to heal every ill person, but do believe that I can make a difference in someone’s life, somewhere on the planet. I will use my skills, my knowledge, my energy and time to make a positive change.

I believe that my expedition through The Gambia will be my first step in helping the country building healthier youth and communities. One little action is one step towards changing the world. Throughout my Love4Gambia run, I will be a starfish thrower, I will make a difference.

Juliane

My starfish necklace I bought when I was in Halifax. I will wear throughout my run across The Gambia! :)

My starfish necklace I bought when I was in Halifax. I will wear it throughout my run across The Gambia! :)

To donate: https://www.canadahelps.org/fr/pages/love4gambia-run-2/

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A Warm Welcome to Our 2015 Runner; Juliane Lacroix!

I am so pleased to present this year’s Love4Gambia runner and fundraiser, Juliane Lacroix!

Juliane was born and raised in Northen Ontario, in the small French community of Hearst. From a very young age, Juliane has been very active and involved in different sports and clubs such as competitive swimming, cross country skiing, soccer, piano lessons, scouts, school council, just to name a few. Juliane is an enthusiastic and dynamic person; she is always willing to try something new!

In 2005, Juliane moved to the National Capital to study Theater and French at the University of Ottawa. During her fourth year, she decided she wanted to be a teacher. She has always loved working with children. Throughout her adolescence she worked as a babysitter, a piano teacher, a swimming instructor and a French tutor. Juliane loves the positive energy in children.

After completing her studies in Ottawa, Juliane moved ‘down under’ for two years, in Newcastle, Australia to complete her Master of Teaching. Studying abroad was one of Juliane’s dream. This is where she started participating in triathlons. She joined a club and automatically fell in love with the sport. During her time in Australia, she not only finished her Masters but traveled around the continent and completed over 20 triathlons and running races.

Juliane returned to Ottawa in 2012 where she soon started working as a Grade 7 teacher. Most of her free time was dedicated to training and racing. She was hooked! In 2013, she won 3rd place in her age-group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. Last summer, Juliane completed her first Ironman in Mont-Tremblant and qualified for the Kona World Championships in Hawaii where she finished 7th in her age-group. This woman is unstoppable!

Juliane decided to take a sabbatical year to travel and volunteer around the globe. “Another one of my bucket-list dreams!”, she said.  When she found out about the Love4Gambia project, she jumped at the opportunity! She is so excited to be running across The Gambia this fall while raising money for a great cause.

I told her that the experience will change her. She will meet some incredible people along the way. The NSGA support team in the Gambia is the best.

As someone who is also from northern Ontario, I feel a certain kinship with Juliane. I have no doubt that she will be incredible and I can’t wait for our Gambian brothers and sisters to meet her!

Bonne chance Juliane!!

To donate: https://www.canadahelps.org/fr/pages/love4gambia-run-2/

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Love4Gambia 2015 – Are you ready?

Dear Running Community,
The NSGA is proud to release it’s official call for runners for Love4Gambia version 5.0 in the summer of 2015. We are looking for experienced runners to join Pa Modou, Spider and Yankuba on the epic 5th running of the 424km cross-country journey to the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul in either May/early June or late July/ August 2014 (scheduling around Ramadan – June 18 to July 17).

Our new runners will join the ranks of our previous 4 successful teams:

2011 – Erin Poirier & Ashley Sharpe

2012 – Andrea Moritz

2013 – Jennifer & Cielianna Pasiciel

2014 – Terry SanCartier

Who better to share why you should take advantage of this opportunity and run with it (pardon the pun), than these runners themselves:

“I can promise that running across an entire African country, with Pa Modou, Kebba and Spider at your side, will be the most glorious crowning achievement of your running career.” – Erin Poirier (Founder and 2011 runner)

“Love4Gambia was a fantastic experience that allowed me to merge my passion for running with that of exploring Africa with all of its beautiful people and landscapes. Pa Modou, Kebba and Spider are not just the best support crew any ultra runner could ask for, but they will also be your guides for all things Gambian.” – Andrea Moritz

“When I think about the great Love4Gambia 2013 run, I can’t help but smile to myself as a flood of happy memories returns to me. The run was a physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual experience on all levels.” – Jennifer Pasiciel

“What an incredible journey! I will forever remember this adventure and look back on it with fond memories.  The amazing team comprised of Pa, Yankuba and Spider, quickly became “my brothers from different mothers”!” – Terry SanCartier

If you are passionate about running and interested in changing the lives of young Gambians, then the Love4Gambia run is for you!

Please email us here to submit your interest and/or ask questions:

L4Gambia@gmail.com

Week 3 – Day 13, 14, 15, 16 and the Final Day!

After a great day of rest at the Sindola Hotel in Kanilai it’s time to hit the pavement again.

Day 13 – The skies are cloud covered, the sun peaks out from time to time but temperature-wise, it’s more bearable than it has been lately.

Yankuba joins me for the entire run. Because it’s easier to run in this weather, I decide to add some additional kilometres. We reach 30 kms and call it a day. Pa tells me that Erin is the L4G runner who ran the longest distance in one day; 31 kilometres. He then says; “Do you want to break the record?”. Not knowing that he was kidding, I head off. Why not? I’m always up for a challenge. Yankuba was about to grab something in the car but upon seeing me run off, he runs to catch up with me.

As we near the 32 kilometre mark, Yankuba says “I will stop 100 metres from 32 km as I want you to have the record”. I tell him that it’s awfully nice of him but not necessary as I will have the record in Canada while he will have the record here in the Gambia. He still insists on letting me go for the last 100 metres. I say nothing. As we are getting closer, Yankuba asks me how many metres left. I tell him 300. “Ok” – he says. “Let me know”. I say, “Sure. I will.” We are less than 100 metres and I say nothing. Yankuba asks me again and I tell him, “Almost there!”. Then he hears the beep of the Garmin indicating that we have reached 32 km. He looks at me with a surprised look on his face. I smile and tell him that there was no way I was going to let him hold back the last 100 metres. We are in this together. I ask him if he had ever run 32 kilometres in a day. He says no. I congratulate him.

Pa calls me the stubborn king. I take it as a compliment.

We drive to the previous director of the NSGA’s house. We are greeted warmly. I sleep outside for the third time during the run. I sleep well with the gentle breeze and the mosquito net protecting me.

Day 14 – We wake up early. I slept well outside. The director’s wife insists that we stay for breakfast. Pa tells her that it’s not possible. But she insists. And so Pa agrees to stop by when I reach their house. I start 14 kilometres before their house.
It’s much hotter today than it was the day before. The sun is out in full force.

We reach the previous director’s house and stop to eat. I have a few nibbles of rice and some bread from the communal large dish. Given that I have another 11 k to run, it’s not a good idea to have a big meal. There’s chicken and vegetables served over rice. I let the guys dig in. There a live chicken hanging around as we eat outside. I give her a few pieces of bread.

I take a few photos of the large cotton tree just outside the compound. It’s a beautiful large tree.

Back on the road – Yankuba and Spider are running with me. I notice their pace has slowed down from all that food. I give them a bit of a reprieve but then bring the pace back up again and they follow.

At the end of the run, it’s time to drive to Banjul. I look forward to it. We drive to Stew Scott’s place, a Canadian from Ottawa, working for the International Monetary Fund. I stayed at his place on my first several days in Banjul. I look forward to getting to his place again. He’s got 24 hr electricity and AC; two things I didn’t see much of over the last few weeks. Plus, his place is right by the ocean and the sound of the waves is relaxing.

Day 15 – Within a few kilometres of the run, Yankuba and I have company; some students, boys and girls, who are heading to school.

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They decide to run with us. And run they do for more than a kilometre. We stop and I give them each a pencil. We takes some photos then continue on the run. They decide to continue running with us. Yankuba tells me that they shouldn’t be running as they will get all sweaty before class. We thank them for running with us and ask them to walk the rest of the way to school. We press on.

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We reach a mosque and decide it’s a good place for a break as there is plenty of shade. The place is surrounded by mango trees. Spider and Pa ask a young woman who is sweeping nearby if they can pick some mangoes. She comes out with a large stick and starts knocking down the mangoes to the ground. Spider climbs up one tree and grabs the stick to get those higher up. The guys fill a large bag with fresh ripe mangoes. We each eat one before continuing on our run.

I realize that this is my last chance during this run to snap some photos. Up until now, I was so focused on the running that I barely stopped to take some photos with my DSLR. I always left a point and shoot camera with the guys but I rarely used it myself. And so, on this last day, I’m using the camera more to get some shots.

We reach Brikama and call it a day. It’s hot and humid out.

Day 16 – For the first time during the run, I will be escorted by a policeman. The traffic is bad here from Brikama to Westfield. I’m dreading the smoky toxic car, truck and motorcycle fumes. I am calling today’s run, the “Toxic Run”.

Spider and Yankuba start off with me. The policeman is a very nice guy. I talk with him before we leave. He is the same guy that escorted Jen and her sister last year. To start his motorcycle, he has to push it, pop the clutch and then hop on. He has the siren on most of the time.

The traffic gets worse and worse as we advance. People look on. Some cheer and others just stare. The most warm welcome comes from a large group of women selling things in a market area. They clap and cheer as we run by and wave.

We get word from the policeman halfway through that the road may be closed in the next hour for the president’s motorcade. When the president travels, he doesn’t put up with the congestion. I increase my speed; I want to get out of the fumes asap and make it to Westfield before the road is closed.

For the first time during the entire run, I get annoyed by all the vehicles and the fumes. I’m sure it’s not easy on the lungs. Luckily, there are large groups of school kids along the way. Their smiling faces and cheering sounds made the run much more enjoyable.
The sun gets hotter as we near the end of the run.

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Day 17 – The last day!

We get to Westfield late. It is after 9 am. We wait and wait for the media to arrive. After the experience I had at the press conference just before the run, I knew it would take a while.

The television reporter didn’t have a video camera and so we used the NSGA camera instead.

Finally at 10 am we start running. Pa Modou’s brother is there, Jaynaba, Spider’s wife and several others accompany us on the run. It’s nice to have the company.

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There’s congestion but we manage to move through it. We arrive at the Bajul Arch and are greeted by many school kids. We stop briefly and then continue. Not far left until we reach the Atlantic Ocean.

We stop at less than a kilometre to go. Yankuba’s marching band is waiting for us. After 10-15 minutes, they are ready and start playing and marching towards the water. For the first time in the entire run, I walk. The L4G team and our invited guest runners walk arm in arm.

Metres from the water, we stop. The four of us hold hands and raise them up in the air. After a few photos, we start running to the water. The water is warm and salty. And just like that, the run comes to an end. We are overjoyed!

I realise that I didn’t use my GoPro digital video camera along for the ride and so we get out to do that last part again. But the television reporter wants to do the interview right there by the water. I do the interview on my own then Pa speaks and we all stand with him.

Finally, we run back in the water, with the camera this time.

We are being asked to rush out as there is a ceremony and celebration at the NSGA office. I’m pleased to hear that but I need some time here in the water.

I tell the guys that we are not leaving now. I need just a few more minutes to let this sink in. We huddle together and Pa says some nice words. I stay in the water a few more moments and then it’s time to leave.

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At the NSGA office we attend the ceremony where Pa, Yankuba and myself speak. We presented with certificates and are asked some questions from the media.

Then the food arrives. I’m glad and so are the others as we are all hungry.

And so, just like that, the run comes to an end. Months of planning, fundraising and training all come to an end with our feet splashing in the salt water. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!

No more routine of charging the Garmin for the next day’s run (sometimes using my solar charger), mixing the electrolyte mix in my two bottles, ensuring my running shoes are dry, prepping the clothes (sometimes washing some by hand) and ensuring there is enough bottled water.

My body, my legs, my feet took well to the daily running and I adjusted quickly to the heat. I ran without any headphones or music. I supplied my own music from memory. I had no blisters on my left foot and two very small ones on my right foot a few days in the first week that I was able to get under control immediately. I brought a hydration pack to carry on my back but I never used it. I relied solely on the support vehicle.

What I will always remember from my run across the Gambia is; the smiling faces of the many children I passed along the way; the kids who ran along in footwear that was less than ideal and yet they followed; their gratitude in my simple gestures of handing out empty water bottles, handing out pencils, stickers and candy; the many elders we passed who congratulated us and said that they would pray for us. Some even prayed right there on the spot.

What I found very different, was how un-shy the kids were and how much they wanted to shake my hand, touch my skin, gently touch the hair on my arms or legs. Physical contact is a very normal part of life here and it doesn’t matter if you’re a stranger.

Time to rest and enjoy this great accomplishment!

Week 2 – The Adventure Continues! (Day 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)

My apologies for the delay in posting this blog. So many great things have happened since I last wrote. I’ll start from the day after I posted my last blog post.

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I am nervous as the day progresses on my first rest day of the run (Friday June 13th). I know the naming ceremony will be happening and I don’t know what to expect. The guys assure me that it will be great.

After 5:20 pm, it is time for me to take my place on a large mat on the ground. Around me are people from the hotel where I am lodged, Bintou’s Paradise Lodge. There are many kids from the neighborhood. There’s a older woman playing percussion with two wooden sticks on a large plastic container. There’s another woman next to her and she is using the top of a cooking pot on a wooden pestle. Together they keep the beat and sing along. The women who work at the lodge take turns dancing in the traditional Gambian way. It is a sight to see.

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Eventually, Yankuba joins in. He sure can dance! And later, Spider joins in – another great dancer!

More and more kids are gathered around. I ask them to come join me on the mat. I’m not comfortable sitting by myself. A few come at first, then more and more join in. Most want to sit right next to me and touch me. I shake their hands repeatedly as they keep putting their hands out.

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The owners of the lodge, Ebrima and Bintou are on their way. They are delayed due to two flat tires on their drive back to the lodge.

I am asked several times to dance. I oblige but am not comfortable with the idea, but I decide to just go with it and have fun. It’s great! And the locals seem pleased by my participation.

Yankuba makes THE speech. Time to find out what my Gambian name will be. He speaks and I don’t understand a word he says. He says a few funny things and the people laugh. Finally, he gives me my name: Ebrima. I am named after the owner of the lodge. I am very pleased to hear this as I’ve had several discussions with him and he is a very nice man.

Finally, Ebrima and Bintou arrive honking their horn as they drive through the compound doors. The kids and all of us run out to the car. People are singing and clapping. The guys tell Ebrima that they have named me after him. He is so pleased to hear it and give me a big handshake and a hug. I also get a hug from Bintou before we all head back to the main area.

There’s more dancing and fun. What a great evening!

After everyone leaves, Pa, Spider, Yankuba and myself have dinner by the Gambia river in the moonlight. It’s a full moon tonight.

There are a few fishermen just several metres from where we are. They are using nets to catch fish.

Time to go to bed and run the next morning bright and early.

I sleep well every night. My earplugs are my weapon of choice. I pop them in and sleep soundly.

The electricity in the lodge comes on at about 7 or 8 pm (never at the exact same time) and stays on till 2 am. That means I have air conditioning till 2 am. Every night I wake up at 3 am from the extreme heat in the room. The only thing separating me from the heat outside is the curtain between the bathroom (which has openings to the outside that I can’t close) and my room. Not very effective in keeping the heat and humidity out. Still, I manage to fall asleep again and wake up at 5:30 to get ready for the day’s run.

I pack up all my things as we are not returning to the lodge after my run for Day 6.

We drive out to the starting point and take a photo; our fingers indicating what run day it is.

Every day on my run, I’m cautious not to step on animal excrement. It’s everywhere. The farm animals roam freely.

And speaking of the animals, I see cows, goats, sheep, donkeys (I’ll forever associate their sound with the Gambia as I’d never heard that before coming here), dogs and chickens. Sometimes I have to run around them but it’s rare as they usually get out of the way.
I’ve seen many baboons this week but from a distance. They keep their distance from humans. I’ve also seen red monkeys, a few big rats run across the road, some squirrels, some wild boars.

I never tire of hearing the birds in the morning. There are so many colourful birds. I seek them out when I run along.

The smells along the way – I must talk about those. I can’t tell you how many times everyday I smell the distinct unpleasant odor of a rotting corps in the sun (a cow, dog, sheep, whatever). There’s also the smell of burning; either grass, wood, something toxic or simply charcoal for cooking food

I have to watch out for motorbikes and vehicles. Although they have plenty of room to go around, they insist on driving as close to me or whoever is running with me. Ridiculous, but it’s part of the daily routine. The other things these machines cause? Exhaust fumes! And some, a lot more than others. From diesel (or gas-oil as it is know here) to whatever else they are burning, some of it is black and toxic. I cover my face with my shirt when I encounter those.

This week, I totally depleted my candy stock. I still have stickers and pencils. I’ve been handing out all three to some very grateful children. I’ve also been handing out used 1.5 litre plastic water bottles. They are a hot commodity and are used and re-used for various things.

I have fun with my team. As we continue to advance daily to Banjul we bond more and more. I can honestly say that for me, they are my brothers from different mothers. We laugh a lot together.

We have decided that every day, it would be someone’s turn to be king for the day. We must all hail the king and be nice to the king. I would say that Pa is the most vengeful king and when his turn comes we must be on our best behaviours or else! Of course, it’s all in good fun!

In Jarreng, I have the pleasure of sleeping outside – with a mosquito net of course. The place has solar panels but they are no longer working, which means no fan and that means extreme heat in the room.  We take the mattress’ off the beds and take them outside.  I sleep very well.  A first, I am told for a Love4Gambia runner.

We reach an important milestone this week; the halfway point!  212 km on Day 9.

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On Friday June 20th, I was supposed to take a day off but decided to run that day. And so on day 12, I ran 25 kilometres. Having run on that day means that I’ve run 25 or more kilometres 7 days in a row; a first for me. Then again, this run across the Gambia is a run of many firsts for me.

Speaking of first, I think I can safely say that no one has run in the Gambia while wearing a kilt. Yes, that’s exactly what I did for the first 8 kms of the day on Day 12 and so did the team. They all took turns wearing the kilt and running 2 km.  In Perth Ontario, I’ve participated in every edition of the kilt run and I didn’t want to miss it and so, I brought my kilt to Africa and ran it here.

The Kilt Run

We have a blast! The guys really get into it. Running through villages and seeing the people’s faces and reactions was priceless!

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Today, June 21 is my second and last day of rest on this run. Gen and I talked a few days before and she decided, as a gift, that she would cover the cost at the Sindola hotel for the guys. The guys were very pleased to hear that and thanked Gen from the bottom of their hearts! We spend part of the day in the pool and enjoy our surroundings.

Tomorrow, I continue with the run. 5 days till Banjul. 119 kilometres left till we reach the ocean!