During our last week of the run, Gambians won my heart, once again, on how generous, hardworking and welcoming people they are.
We had the chance to be home-stayed for two nights, in Bwiam and then in Ndemban. It was a nice authentic experience to stay in a family house instead of a lodge. And let me tell you, Gambians know how to please their guests! Both mothers gave me their master bedroom for the night! One of them even took the only fan in the compound and put it in my room to make sure I was comfortable! Like this wasn’t enough, they all cooked lunch, dinner and breakfast for us! ‘Our home is your home!’ They told us. Abaraca (thank you) to both Jarju Kunda and Suso Kunda! 🙏🏻
On one of the last day, we woke up with yet another breakdown of our vehicle… With the help of many men, my guys tried really hard to fix it (Gambians are very perseverant!) but after 2 hours of non-successful mechanic we had to think of a plan B. So we found a nice guy who offered to drive us in his car for the day. Yeah! …until we realize that his car was having mechanical issues as well… Omg! Anyway, I managed to finish my 25km that day and so did the vehicle, but we had to catch a taxi to our next accommodation… It was the longest day of the run so far, but we finally made it home safe and sound and little bit sunburnt! ☀️
The last two days of the run were magical. Being escorted by a police officer through the busy roads of Serenduka and then Banjul was incredible. It was noisy, hot, crowded but I couldn’t stop myself from smiling and wave to everyone. This was the end and I wanted to seize every moment.
The last day felt like a celebration from the start to the finish. Many NSGA peer educators joined us for the run from Westfield to Banjul which was only 13km. Throughout the run, we sang, danced, smiled and yes, cried. We all crossed the Arch 22 (monument to commemorate the 1994 military coup d’état) hand in hand, tears rolling down our cheeks. We had finally made it to the capital of The Gambia. We hugged the Arch (a Love4Gambia tradition) before entering the streets of Banjul.
And then here it was, the Atlantic Ocean… As soon as I saw the beach, I couldn’t help myself but cried. I made it. We made it. Together, we have run the 424km of this country and now we have reached our final destination. We all hugged, prayed and shed tears for several minutes, reflecting on what we just lived. Then it was the moment I was waiting for, the four of us ran hand in hand into the ocean! What a great feeling it was! 🌊
After the run, we had a closing ceremony at the NSGA office. The media was there again to hear about our experience, another emotional episode! Finally, we received our finishers certificate and the ceremony ended with a meal prepared by the NSGA staff. It was the perfect ending for the 2015 Love4Gambia run. 👌🏻
Love4Gambia was one hell of a ride full of laugh, tears, joy, doubts, excitement, exhaustion but there was never a second during the run that I thought about quitting. The obstacles we faced just made us stronger as a team. We were always there for each other.
Pa, you are a veteran of this run. You played perfectly your role as the leader of the team. You always knew exactly when to make me smile, when to be at my side, when to give me advices and when to better leave me alone (lol). You believed in me from the start to the finish. You are now a brother to me. Thank you boss, wooooooo!
Yanks, we need more people like you in this world! Your energy, sense of humor and positivism are contagious. Thank you for the great moments we shared on the road, they will be unforgettable. You are a kind, generous person and you deserve the best in this world! (Awa, take good care of this mofing!)
Modou, the supposed-to-be-driver, you were my running partner for most of the trip (even after playing football at night!!). You were always there to give me a hand carrying my bags, boiling my water, doing my laundry, translating for me! You were my guardian angel on this trip. Thanks for everything!
Finally, I want to raise my hat to the four previous runners: Erin, Andrea, Jennifer, and Terry. You guys are not only amazing runners, but you are strong, open-minded human being with a HUGE heart. We all have our own story on this road across The Gambia, but we all shared the same goal of making this country a better, healthier place to live.
Every story has an end, but in life every ending is just another beginning. This run has changed me forever, as an athlete but also as a human being. Love4Gambia has open my eyes to a new country, a new culture, a new lifestyle, a new beautiful world that I was unaware of. I am deeply grateful for everything. Without any doubt, I would do it all over again, anytime! (Give me a few days to recover first ok?)
Now, the big question, who will be our Love4Gambia 2016 runner? :)