Are you ready for an adventure of a lifetime?

Dear Running Community,

The NSGA is proud to release it’s official call for runners for Love4Gambia version 6.0 in 2016. We are looking for experienced runners to join Pa Modou, Yankuba and Modou on the epic 6th running of the 424km cross-country journey to the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul.

If you are passionate about running and interested in changing the lives of young Gambians, then the Love4Gambia run is for you! This experience will also change you and the lives of so many in The Gambia!

Our new runner (or runners) will join the ranks of our previous 5 successful teams:

2011 – Erin Poirier & Ashley Sharpe, Halifax

2012 – Andrea Moritz, Ottawa

2013 – Jennifer & Cielianna Pasiciel, Halifax

2014 – Terry SanCartier, Ottawa

2015 – Juliane Lacroix, Ottawa

Dates for Love4Gambia 2016 will be finalized when our runner(s) are confirmed but must be scheduled around Ramadan.  Previous runs took place between June and September over an average of 17 days of running + 2 rest days.

The Nova Scotia Gambia Association, a registered Canadian charity is celebrating over 30 years of providing much needed health education in the Gambia and other parts of Africa. This run and the money raised by it support the health, education and human rights activities of NSGA in The Gambia.

This is your year to make a difference!

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

terry.sancartier@gmail.com

Posted in Running in Africa

Every story has its end

During our last week of the run, Gambians won my heart, once again, on how generous, hardworking and welcoming people they are.

Backyard of our house in Ndemban

Backyard of our house in Ndemban

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! 🙏🏻

Sharing a feast in Bwiam!

Sharing a feast in Bwiam!

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! ☀️

Men at work!

Men at work!

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.

Cheers!!

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.

The NSGA peer educators joining us!

The NSGA peer educators and us, enjoying our last run!

Entering the Arch 22 in Banjul!

Entering the Arch 22 in 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! 🌊

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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. 👌🏻

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Mr. Abdou A. Kanteh, NSGA National Program Manager, presenting me my certificat

Mr. Abdou A. Kanteh, NSGA National Program Manager, presenting me my certificat

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!

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We did it!

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.

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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?🙂

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This is you last chance to be part of the Love4Gambia fundraising 2015 ❤️:
canada-helps

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Never give up!

Running 424km is one thing, but doing it in an African country far away from home comfort is another story. When I signed up for Love4Gambia, I thought I was a tough girl who could handle anything no problem… Well you shouldn’t predict until you actually live it. The past 2 weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions and life experiences for me. Love4Gambia had got the best, but also the worst out of me. But one thing I am sure, this run has definitely made me a stronger woman!

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I can and I will.

From having to deal with constant mechanical issues of our vehicle (sometimes in the mud, sometimes in the middle of the forest) to having electricity and running water for only 5 hours/day, from trying to go to sleep with the sounds of chickens and sheep to having to share a toilet (aka a whole in the ground) with a whole neighborhood… I can say that I had my little cultural shock not long after I arrived in The Gambia!

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Yippidoo…

Combine these cultural differences with having to run 25km in 30+ weather everyday, to not finding cold water or ice anywhere (because of the nightly electricity system), to eat rice and bread every single meal (I’m pretty sure I didn’t loose any weight during this run!) to waking up stiff and sore every morning…well that’s what I call a real challenge!!! I admit that sometimes I did miss (a lot!) the comfort of my bed, my 24h AC and my daily fruits and veggies!

This is what my feet look like after a few hundred km of running.....

Swollen feet…after too many km’s of running!

On the 12th day of the run, I woke up with fever and an upset stomach. I still began the run, hoping it would maybe go away. But after 10km, I sat down on the side of the road and bursted into tears. I was feeling sick, I had no energy… Pa Modou sat with me and gently told me that it was ok if I wanted to stop, that I didn’t have to push my body to the point of exhaustion. But I wasn’t ready to quit yet… Stubborn, I tried to push through, but at the 15km mark, I decided with the team that I should stop and take the day to rest and recover. It was a wise decision. After a good 12h of sleep, I was feeling fresh and energize the next morning. My body and mind needed some rest. I learned that sometimes, you have to put your ego aside and listen to yourself.

We run as a team...

We run as a team…

After this episode, we had our second rest day coming up and I wanted to treat myself and the team to a little bit of luxury. So I decided to pay for the team two nights in a lovely little resort in Kalagi where there is 24h electricity, AC, wifi and even a pool (thanks for the idea Terry!). It was paradise! I even had a salad for dinner!! This is exactly what we needed to replenish ourselves before taking on the last week of the run!

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Jumping of joy!

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This is what I call a perfect rest day!🙂

As I’m writing this, we only have 2 more days of running left! Even though I faced many challenges, I never thought about giving up. I had my starfish necklace to remind me of why I was doing this (the story is in my first post in June). I know now that nothing will beat the pride and satisfaction that I will have when I will be running into the roads of Banjul, crossing the Arch 22 and finally reach the Atlantic Ocean side by side with Yankuba, Pa Modou and Modou! This is it! Banjul is calling!!!

Never. Give. Up.

My lucky visor🙂

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Eat, sleep, run, repeat!

Here is a typical day in the Love4Gambia run…

On the road again!

On the road again!

We usually wake up between 6-7am to make sure to start the run before this Gambian weather gets too hot! For breakfast, I will have my instant oats with my instant coffee mixed with instant milk! The joys of living on the road! 😁 We then drive exactly to the point where we stopped the run the day before. I can guarantee you that I will run every meter of this whole country!

Breakfast of champions!

Breakfast of champions!

The first two days of the run, I was flying. I was running my 25km with almost no rest. I must confess that my confidence was a little bit too high! But then on the third day, it hit me. I woke up sore, with stiff legs and my Achilles’ tendons were already painful. Ok, I had to switch my game plan. ‘It’s not a race, it’s a fundraising run… You have nothing to prove except to finish the run in Banjul in 19 days!’ I had to tell myself.

Every morning before the run, we take a picture of which day we are at. This was the fourth day (4 fingers).

Every morning before the run, we take a picture of which day we are at. This was the fourth day (4 fingers).

So from day 3 and until now, we stop every 5km. We take the time to hydrate, to eat and to stretch. Our pitstops can be as short as 2min or as long as 30min, depending on how we feel. By doing this, yes the run takes more time, but I’m fully enjoying the experience. It gives me more opportunities to take pictures (I’m now admiring the scenery), to talk to the locals and to give ‘minties’ (candies) or pencils to the kids.

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At the 15km mark, it’s IPod time. I keep my music for the last 10km which are usually the hardest. Music is my motivational booster, it gives me a second wind. And the guys keep telling me I always run faster when I have my music on! 🎧

Happy runner! :)

Happy runner!🙂

When we finally reach 25km, that’s when we call it a day. We get the yoga mat on the side of the road and I make sure to stretch/roll properly, often observed by curious children! I’ll also have my chocolate protein shake (that I brought from home, unfortunately I wouldn’t find this in The Gambia) and eat a little something to accelerate recovery.

This group of women stopped to chat with us and I decided to give each of them a massage with my stick roller!

This group of women stopped to chat with us and I decided to give each of them a massage with my stick roller!

Then we drive to the village where we will spend the night. We usually have lunch right away, as we are always super hungry! Lunch usually consists of rice served with spicy fish, chicken or beef stew. When available, we will share a ‘Benachin’ (‘one pot dish’) made with spicy risotto, meat/fish and vegetables. I must say I’m impress by the Gambian cuisine, it is always really tasty and yes, spicy!

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

During the afternoon, I will usually have a nap and then relax at our accommodation or wander around the village where we stay. We usually go out for dinner. One of my favorite meal so far was grilled goat (yes, goat…) in Basse. I was very pleased by the taste of this cute animal! 🐐

The market in Basse.

The market in Basse.

And then it’s back to our house (this is how they call ‘hotel rooms’ here) where we get ready for tomorrow. I will prepare our sports drinks, snacks and my gear bag. Then it’s shower time and sweet dreams under a fancy mosquito net!🙂 😴

It’s never to late if you want to support the Love4Gambia run: https://www.canadahelps.org/fr/pages/love4gambia-run-2/

Enjoying a JulBrew...made just for me! :D

Enjoying a JulBrew…made just for me!😀

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Alningbara!

Alsamade Canada! (Good morning Canada!)

Alsamade Canada! (Good morning Canada!)

Running across an African country is such an eye opener! It’s only been a week, and already, I am amazed by the beauty of this country! The scenery is stunning, the people are incredibly nice, generous and welcoming and let’s not forget about the excellent food!! I am definitely enjoying every moment of this wonderful run! I would like to take this moment to thank Erin Poirier, the founder of the Love4Gambia run. She ran across The Gambia 5 years ago as a personal challenge and since then, it has been an annual run! There have been 5 runners so far: Erin in 2011, Andrea in 2012, Jennifer in 2013, Terry in 2014 and now me in 2015! Anyone willing to take the challenge in 2016?😉

Entering the Central River Region, 100km done!

Entering the Central River Region, 100km done!

Greetings are very important in Gambian society. Everybody greets one another, either verbally or through handshakes. ‘Alningbara’, (a Mandinka greeting) ‘Esama’ (Good morning) and ‘Salam Malekum’ (Peace be with you) are now part of my daily vocabulary. This is what I say (or yell) whenever I run across a village. You should see their smile when they hear me speak (or try to speak!) Mandinka!🙂

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Everyday is a cultural experience for me: a mother asking me to hold her baby as a sign of respect, an elderly welcoming me on behalf of the entire village, children running/cycling beside me to keep me company, meeting principals of numerous schools and giving them schooling materials (Merci Franco Cité!), taking a ride in a tiny canoe full of men, bikes and motorcycles…

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Helping schools in need

Helping schools in need

Saturday night was the highlight of my trip so far. I had the immense chance to assist to my own Naming Ceremony! Every year, the runner of the Love4Gambia run get the chance to receive a Gambian name. I was named ‘Sanna’ after the daughter of the owner of the lodge we were staying at. She gave me a necklace as a present and I gave her a Canadian flag pin. We spent the rest of the night dancing and singing! They even made me sing a French Canadian song to them (ouff)! So I sang ‘L’arbre est dans ses feuilles’ and everyone tried their best to repeat the words after me! It was a great moment!🙂

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My Gambian sister ‘Sanna’ and I!🙂

We are now 150km into the run. Today is a rest day for us, which will be greatly appreciated by our legs! I’ve never ran that many km’s before in such a short time. My body is slowly adapting to the mileage. Thank you for my amazing support team for treating my like a queen!! We are 1/3 of our way to Banjul! Woot!!!😀

Relaxing after a hard day at work!

Relaxing after a hard day at work!

It’s never too late if you want to help us raise fund for Love4Gambia: https://www.canadahelps.org/fr/pages/love4gambia-run-2/

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And it’s a start!

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The 2015 Love4Gambia team!

We started the 2015 Love4Gambia run on Tuesday morning, right at the border of Senegal and The Gambia. The first 5km are on a dirt road, but it looks more like a hiking trail! Since it’s the end of the wet season (there are only 2 seasons in The Gambia: wet and dry), the roads are full of puddles and mud… But the good side about this time of the year, is that the nature is very green. I did have to stop a few times to take pictures. The Gambia is a beautiful country!🙂

The rock that indicates the border of Senegal and The Gambia

The rock that indicates the border of Senegal and The Gambia

First day went really well. I had a week off running before my trip so I was super fresh, but I knew I had to take it easy because there were 16 more days of running in front of me. Yankuba, Pa Modou and Modou are an awesome support crew. There is always one guy running with me to keep me good company! And whenever I want to stop, right away they will offer me water, snacks and they will even massage me with the stick roller! This is what I call first class service!

Getting spoiled!

Getting spoiled!

The second day didn’t start exactly the way we planned.. The jeep got stuck on a dirt road right at the back of the hotel (we wanted to take a short cut….lesson learned!). 2 hours later, we finally got it out with the help of a dozen really nice men that stopped to give us a hand. It’s in the Gambian culture to help each other like that, it’s wonderful!

The joys of the wet season!

The joys of the wet season!

But that means we started our run at the worst time of the day, around noon. It was very warm, humid and the roads were very muddy, but it is part of this whole experience, right?! It reminded me of a saying a friend told me before coming here: When things don’t go to plan, they usually make good stories at the end of the day! That night, we were already laughing about it!

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Herds always have the right of way…

Today was my favorite day so far. We started the run on the trans-Gambia highway that leads to Banjul. No more dirty shoes! Yeah! Throughout the day, we had the chance to visit a few schools. The students are always so happy to meet and greet us! They want to shake our hands, take pictures with us and they always thank us for what we are doing. Their smile and energy are fuel for me, for my run. It’s a great reminder of why I’m doing this.

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I’m in heaven right now. So far, this experience is beyond my expectations. I’m doing what I love the most, running and traveling, while helping others. I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks!🙂

On our way to Banjul!

On our way to Banjul!

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Welcome to the Smiling Coast!

After a long 40 hours of travelling, I finally arrive in The Gambia, my home for the next 3 months. I’m warmly welcomed at the airport not only by my whole support crew but with an interview that will air on national TV! Wow, I felt like a superstar! (If I knew, I probably wouldn’t have wore my PJ pants and I would have put a little bit of mascara!)

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The next day, Yankuba and I travelled to Essau to attend Pa Modou’s baby christening ceremony. In The Gambia, parents wait one week before naming their baby. On the 7th day, they finally reveal the name and throw a big party where everyone is welcome. Pa’s daughter was named ‘Mama’ and she is adorable!

Little Mama and me!

Little Mama and me!

But to get to Essau we have to take a ferry, or a sketchy wooden boat should I say! And to get to the boat we need to be carried on a guy’s shoulders, which cost 10 Gambian Dalasi (30 cents). Loved it! At Pa Modou’s compound, I get the chance to talk to numerous of his family members and friends while drinking attaya (very sweet green tea). What a great afternoon!

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Back in Fajara (little village close to Banjul), I go back to my hotel room which is a located in a lovely little resort beside the ocean! After a short swim and another yummy Gambian chicken dinner I’m off to bed to get some rest before tomorrow’s big day!

Good morning Gambia!

Good morning Gambia!

Today started with a press conference at the Nova Scotia Gambia Association (NSGA) office where Abdou, Pa Modou, Yankuba and I talked about the Love4Gambia run. The NSGA is presently working on having more visibility around the country to promote the run but also their health education programs. The organization has been improving a lot in the past few years, long live the NSGA!

Then we all got ready for the long drive to Basse (at the other end of the country). The trip is about 370km but takes around 5 hours. To my great surprise, the highway to Basse is fully paved and very smooth! What takes time are the military/police checkpoints at the entry of every village and of course herds of cows and goats crossing the road once in awhile! But my guys are really entertaining so it made the trip very enjoyable!🙂

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Now that I’ve seen the route we’ll be running on for the next 17 days, I’m more than ready and excited to face the challenge starting tomorrow! Yankuba, Pa Modou and Modou, let the Love4Gambia 2015 run begin!!

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