Lessons from 3 Days on the Road to Banjul

July 10, 2011, 8:15pm, Basse

Day 3 of running complete! We’ve conquered 75km so far and it feels pretty good!

I love a good list so Ashley and I have prepared 2 lists for you tonight- written quickly before I melt in front of my laptop. We present to you: the things we’ve learned during the first 3 days of this running expedition as well as a list of things that are funny (to us anyway!). We’ve been laughing a lot. Pa Modou loves to laugh and is always ready for a joke. Kebba’s happy face just looks like laughter.

Things we’ve learned:

1. The road across an African country is run 20 minutes at a time. I can’t think of 20km of road ahead, or 10 days of road ahead. I’m running 20 minutes at a time. I stop to be watered at the truck. Then I run another 20 minutes
2. If you wave persistently and long enough at Gambian women, children and men, they will wave back
3. If Ashley shows kids to clap from the truck, kids will clap for me as I run by
4. The motorbikes remind of Will Ferrell in “Elf.” Remember when he goes to NYC for the first time and gets hit by a cab and says “Wow, they are really fast!” That’s what I felt like when the first one road by me. “Wow, they are really fast!” And they don’t move for me. I move for them.
5. Gambians thinks that my mission is just as crazy as Canadians but they go a step further and say “HER?!” Eyebrows raised at me, expression incredulous. And the best, “a woman can do that?!” Heck yea!
6. Roosters are bastards (I knew this already so this is more of a confirmation).
7. We’ve learned lots about distance running support
a. I need to drink my first litre of Gatorade by 1:20 so I can drink the second by end of 20km
b. I need a lot of water on top at truck stops
c. I need to change my socks at 10km
d. I need to eat my gels at 40min, 60 minutes, 1:20
e. Sometimes it’s ok to listen to the same song for 20 minutes (if it’s a good one)
f. I love the 90 minute rest under a tree. It might be the best part of the day
g. The worst part of the day is shoving food into my unwilling stomach during the 90 minute rest
h. I need 750ml of Gatorade and not water for the second 5km
8. A vast and beautiful farmland is a lovely place for a 90 minute rest but leaves little place for a girl to pee.
9. My shoulders ache after running just like my legs
10. Basse is incredibly dusty. It covers me in so much dust that the dust could pretty much substitute for sunscreen
11. I am fighting a losing battle with sunscreen
12. Believe it or not, I think the run is the part of the day when I am the coolest. I’m not minding the heat. The heat just is. I need to run whether or not it’s hot so I’m not thinking about it. The rest of the day in our little house is very very hot. So the moral of the story is, if a white girl comes to Africa and she wants to stay cool, all she has to do is run across a country
13. In a fight between Africa and Kinesio tape, Africa wins every time
14. A girl must not forget to use her anti-chafing Sport Shield
15. When we get home, there’s a mad rush to charge all of our electronics before the generator is shut off
16. The Fenis is best used when bladder is not full to point of exploding
17. Your Gambian radio interview may be cut into 2 segments when the generator/power go out


1. Pa set a new Personal Best for his horn honking on Day 3. PB = 5km of horn honking. That’s right, 5 full km. We are thinking about what we tell the boss when we return the truck with a silent horn (hope you aren’t reading, boss!)
2. Kebba is wearing my fuel belt and is calling it his armour. When he puts it on, he says he’s a solider armed with grenades. The hot pink bottles, er, grenades are the most deadly
3. Everyone is encouraging/taunting Ashley to run more with me. Today Kebba told her that he would disqualify her if she stopped running before he said she could. It did not work. But she did run 5.8km today (in 2 runs).
4. On the way back to Basse today, through the rural countryside, I was passed out across the back seat with my feet and legs out of the window. When we got to more urban Basse, we were laughing at driver Pa: “Pa, people want to know why you are dragging around a toubab (white person) and a dead toubab.”
5. In Pa’s world, there’s no such thing as too much Akon
6. Team is calling me a horse and when I leave the truck for my next 20 minutes, they say “Giddy-up, horsey
7. When it’s been silent for awhile and Pa beeps the horn a few times, Kebba (running with me) always says “Banjul calling!”
8. The “I’ll run to Banjul” jokes are versatile. Ashley had coffee this morning and felt good. Pa says, “Erin, you’ll have coffee tomorrow.” I say, “Can’t, I’d just take off and run all the way to Banjul before you catch me.”
9. We spent an hour laughing at/with Almamo who claimed that a Land Rover could drive right through the Gambia River
10. If I keep running through these dusty roads, I’m going to turn color. Then I’ll be Gambian.
11. Kids love to yell, “Toubab, how are you!” at us. Pa always answers, “The black man is fine!” and then he laughs at himself and then we laugh.
12. It’s totally ok to be introduced to the Chief of Police and the Governor of Upper River Region (like a province) whilst covered in dust and sweat and wearing your short shorts having just run 25km.

We really love your messages and thank you for taking the time to write us.  We don’t have enough internet time (pay as you go on cell phone credits) to answer you but please know we are thinking of you on the road ans so appreciate you are thinking of us.

Love Erin + Ashley

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12 Responses to Lessons from 3 Days on the Road to Banjul

  1. Debby Hughes says:

    Most awesome entry!!

  2. You are doing great. Your laughter and enthusiasm and determination will see you through. Remember we are all with you we just are not running.

  3. Mel Connors says:

    Erin and Ashley,
    I really enjoy the lists!!! I can picture you with the dust stuck to your sunscreen… you are totally going to be Gambian when you get to Banjul! Have a great rest and a great run #4!!! You are getting there and fast!!!!!

  4. Shauna says:

    awesome!!! what great memories you are creating with your blog, great to look back on to realize the amazing journey you are completing! So proud of you and thinking of you often:) Will appreciate my showers a bit more after hearing how dusty you are during your runs!

  5. Gina says:

    I am, as you know, also a lover of lists. Thanks for giving me a couple of really good ones to read!!
    Tanya and I did our run together on your behalf today. We did not want to go. Here is our list of why:
    1. It was raining. Again.
    2. We were feeling lazy on a Saturday.
    3. Did I mention it was raining? Again?
    But we went. And we ran for “Erin time”…no mapped route, just a watch and our minds on you! This is what happened:
    1. We met on Lady Hammond, by Windsor exchange.
    2. We waited at the 5 minute stop light and had to warm up all over again.
    3. The rain stopped.
    4. The sun came out.
    5. Then it was humid and we felt like stripping our long-sleeved shirts off, and we thought of you running in the heat.
    6. Then we sucked it up and finished the run on an uphill (but without dust).
    Keep up the good work!!!
    xoxo Gina

  6. Cheryl Sharpe says:

    Great getting the updates. You are doing an awsome job. Have a good rest day and I will look forward to the next entry. XOXO Cheryl(MOM)

  7. Dawn Hughes says:

    Your funny list was hilarious. Love that you are all able to laugh and enjoy the experience. You are all doing great.

  8. Colette says:

    Laughed my head off at your list. =) I feel like I have been to Gambia considering how many family members have gone and told me about it so it is great to hear more Gambian stories and lists!

  9. CathyC says:

    LOVED reading this, as I love all your posts….I was laughing out loud and the boys wanted to know what was so funny so I read it all to them. Sam’s favourite item on your list:
    -that they call you a horse and say “giddy-up horsey” to you 🙂

    Jakob’s favourite:
    -that they were wondering why Pa and Kebba were driving a dead Toubab around

    My favourite:
    -VERY hard to call but I do find it very funny that Pa can’t get enough Akon….love that….and happy for you that he is there to offset Kebba’s Celine Dion love.

    It rained hard here yesterday but is warm and sunny again.

    I gave a talk to about 150 grandmothers at MSVU last night: about the NSGA in general but then I snuck in Love4Gambia and explained that you are doing this to raise $. To save lives. They had tears in their eyes. I hope it translates into donations.

    I am regularly posting updates on the NSGA facebook page and everywhere else I can think of…..less than 2 weeks until my departure now…can not WAIT to see you guys at the finish line (have I said this yet?!)

    LOVE xoxoxoxox

  10. Libby says:

    Kebba is running too!! Such great work you guys are doing!

  11. Jeanne Poirier says:

    Love reading your updates Erin! Keep on running and smiling we are all pulling for you!!!!

  12. Marcelle says:

    Great updates Erin! Sounds like an amazing start to your run.

    One question: are you sleeping in villages along the way, or returning to a base camp every night?

    Have a great run today!!

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