Today was Day 16. That means we had to run from Brikama to Serekunda, and that tomorrow we will finish our run on the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul. The time has finally come!
We started out today refreshed and ready to go after spending the night in the semi-luxurious hotel of Leybato. Luxurious because they have mosquito nets, 24 hours electricity, reliable running water, and air conditioning. In summary, we all slept well and felt prepared to conquer the final two days.
Today was our first day of running through the city; for most of the run we were going through bustling markets and heavy (unpredictable) African traffic. There are no sidewalks to run on here (most shops start right off the street), and cars (and donkey carts, bicycles, and trucks) are constantly pulling on and off the road with little regard for pedestrians, so we had a police escort for the entire run today. I was truly grateful for the police officer on the motorcycle that drove ahead of us for the entire 22km and made sure cars passed safely around us. Not only did this keep us all safe, but it also brought attention to the run.
We started out in the busy town of Brikama, with the police escort blaring his siren ahead of us and the team blasting the horn on the African jeep chalet for us. This was another goose bumps moment. We all have so many kilometers behind us, and they have led us to these final two days, where we have finally showed up to the busy part of The Gambia. It is still hard for me to process that we are physically here.
We start out with our normal routine, running (approximately) 2km and then grabbing a quick drink. Lots of people wave, shout, or look questioningly at us as we go by. Some people seem unimpressed and other seem to get into it, running with us for a bit, clapping, or cheering “go! go!”. The running feels great.
Soon enough, we pass the exit for the airport, which means we are about half way done. My knee/hamstring has been aching slightly over the past couple of days. At one of the water stops, Kebba has to “water the plants” so I walk ahead to keep moving. Then, as soon as we start us again, the pain starts a lot worse than it has been yet. It feels like a cramp in the tendon behind my knee and hurts to open up my stride. It really hurts, but I know that it isn’t even close to enough to stop me from running the set distance for the day.
I distract myself by focusing on the markets and people we are passing – goat farms, used car parts stores, local fast food restaurants, welding shops, mango vendors, police check points. I focus on soaking up the experience of being able to run down the main highway in Africa with a police escort- I don’t think there could be a better way to do sight-seeing across a country. I focus on the good times we have had as a team, and remember the jokes. I look back and see the team running behind me and Kebba running at my side.
It all helps a lot, but the knee still hurts… I find that it especially hurts after a water stop, and that getting back into a rhythm is the hardest part. I try to spread out the water breaks as much as possible and this helps a lot. I take some pain killers and this also helps a lot. Before I know it, Kebba tells me “500 meters left”. Even though my knee still hurts I say, “That isn’t enough”. It can’t be over already. Sure enough, we are at the intersection known as “Westfield” where we have planned to start tomomrrows run. Everyone gives each other hearty hugs. It feels surreal to be at this point. We finish off the day singing our Love4Gambia theme song “Running down the road again” composed by Steve. We are all clapping and singing in the middle of the busy intersection, all immersed in the team spirit and feeling of accomplishment that we do not even notice the groups of people and cars passing all around us.
I must say that, despite the knee hurting today, it was a perfect day. I know tomorrow will be an emotional one, but today was still a happy and celebratory run, knowing that we still have 14 more kilometers to go tomorrow. Those are going to be the happiest and hardest 14 kilometers of my life. So, tomorrow’s the day, by this time tomorrow I will have ran across a country all in support of peer health education programs in The Gambia. Just 14 km…just 14km…just 14km.
Jennifer and the Love4Gambia team
ALSO, IF YOU ARE IN HALIFAX AND WOULD LIKE TO CELEBRATE THE LOVE4GAMBIA FINISH PLEASE READ THE MESSAGE ABOUT THE SPECIAL EVENT ON JULY4th IN POINT PLEASANT PARK
“Please join Nova Scotia-Gambia Association for a 5km friendship run to celebrate Jennifer Pasiciel and Team Love4Gambia’s monumental accomplishment of reaching their destination, the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul, after running 427km clear across the nation of The Gambia.
We will be gathering on Thursday, July 4 @ 6:00pm at Point Pleasant Park, meeting at the lower entrance to the park. Jennifer and team are due to reach Banjul late morning, July 4.
If you have Team Love4Gambia gear from a Blue Nose race, please wear it! You could also red, blue or green, the colours of the Gambia flag.
This is a by-donation fun, untimed 5km following an out-and-back route in support of NSGA’s Love4Gambia campaign. There will be water at the finish. Two washrooms are available at the start and there are two on the route.
Please contact Love4Gambia found Erin Poirier, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.”