Thursday, July 7
Run Day #1!
25km: 20km in 1:55:52, 5km in 30:10
Today was the first day of the Love4Gambia run and I don’t quite have the right adjectives to tell you just how incredible it was.
At the end of my 25km, I stopped and raised my hands in the air in victory and everyone jumped out of the truck to hug me and it was amazing. Pa Modou has it captured in film. It was the best.
We began our day at 0615 and set out from Basse to the Senegalese border. Although we weren’t really sure where the border was or if the road would take us all the way to it. We were using 2 different google maps online, both were different. Kebba asked a number of people along the way to no avail until we asked just the right person. A man on a motorbike, in a regal purple Muslim boubou, said “Yes, this is my farm and it spreads to Senegal. The border is in the middle of my farm. You will follow me and I will take you there.”
The border was indeed in the middle of his farm. The ‘border’ was a half-broken concrete cinder block in his field: “The French and British put this here to mark it,” he says.
And so, our 430km run to Banjul began at this cinder block around 0745h.
Kebba wanted to begin running with me so we set off. I LOVED the first 3km of the run through this kind man’s farm. We chatted easily and ran a little too easily and fast- around 5:15/km. I knew that we should slow down, I just couldn’t. After 7 months of training, we were finally running.
The farm joined the village of Koina, the last place in The Gambia. The support truck, Pa Modou, Ashley and a happy surprise, our friend Almamo Karang, were ahead of us. The farm turned into the village through 2 concrete walls, only wide enough for a truck. Pa Modou was driving and when he got to this wall, he began beeping the horn continuously! Laying on the horn! Beeping like crazy!
“What’s he doing!?” I laughed to Kebba. “He’s going to wake the whole village up!”
“Yes, announcing our run,” says Kebba.
So Pa rides the horn a full kilometer through the village while Kebba and I run behind the truck. People came to see what the racket was. They waved. They looked on with a mix of curiosity and bewilderment. I was laughing so much. I was so happy and giddy. I told Kebba about my laughing bubble theory (stitch from laughing-induced lack of oxygen) and that this was the best laughing-bubble of my running career.
Almamo jumped out of the moving truck to take some photos in Koina while Pa abused the horn and he let us run by him to snap them. Then he needed back into the truck so he sprinted ahead. Pa wouldn’t stop the truck and we laughed as Almamo struggled to open the door and jump into the moving vehicle. Mind you, it was driving about 15km/h.
After Koina, we came to peaceful farming country. We settled into a relaxed run and enjoyed the beauty of the farmlands. The support truck stayed either ahead or behind us but always within sight. We got into a nice routine of stopping every 20 minutes at the truck to drink water to supplement the Gatorade in my hydration pack.
Pa Modou, the newest member of Halifax Running Club with his shiny new singlet, joined Kebba and I at km 8. We ran easily, me in the middle, my guys on either side. I talk a lot while running and had a really funny moment around km 11. I was talking away when I realized that neither of them were talking back. It reminded me of long runs in Halifax where I talk way more than long run partner McKim and he eventually tells me to stop asking so many questions! If Pa and Kebba could speak and run, they probably would have said the same thing!
At this point, my sidekick Ashley, aka Nicole Ritchie, began driving the NSGA truck. We laughed about her getting a job as a bush taxi driver from Basse to Banjul when Love4Gambia ends. We laughed a lot today.
Kebba ran until km 13 and Pa until km 16 then I finished the last 4km solo. It was peaceful and easy and I loved it. I waved at the kids. I bid the women “Salaam Aleikum.”
The heat was totally fine. Today was rather cool, topping out at 33 degrees with humidity of 56%. I didn’t feel hot while running, just sometimes hot when I stopped moving next to the heat-producing truck.
I completed the first 20km in 1:55:52, 5:48/km pace. A little faster than intended but give a girl a break on day 1!
We rested for 90 minutes under a great tree in a farming field. I had utter disregard for the farmers’ opinion of me and pulled my blanket up to the tree trunk and lay on my back with my feet propped up on the trunk. Add a fresh omelet sandwich, excellent recovery.
Ashley joined me for the beginning of the last 5km and then I ran the last 2.5km solo. My legs felt really good beginning this second run, a nice surprise. All in all, today was easy and it was happy and I laughed a lot. My team is the best. Other than that, I really can’t describe to you how incredible it was.
Day 1 in the books. YES WE CAN!
Thanks for all of the love online.