Day 15 + 16

“Nimbarra” means “hard work” in Mandinka.

Day 15, Sunday, July 24. 30km run.

As Ashely wrote, Day 15 was a really big challenge for me. Several factors came together to make this so. My sneakers melted at km 17. More funny than challenging. We didn’t have enough food and I was hungry.  We were in place that food was hard to get. I was cranky. Then my breasts chafed really badly. My sports bra and running tanks rubbed the skin right off, leaving several wounds.

When we started run #2 of the day, we were supposed to hit Brikama at 6km so the run would be one kilometer longer than our usual 25km. I was hurting and I knew that I would need to focus on running and not give in to hurting. If I could just focus enough, I could get the pain under my sports bra to go away. I couldn’t do this while running with one of my guys.  If they were next to me, I knew that I would break down and become really emotional.  So I put Ashley in the truck at 3km and told the guys that I needed them to help me by letting me run alone for the next 3km to Brikama.

They agreed- eager to help me. But then Kebba told me that Brikama might not be at km 6.  Where is it!? I demanded.  I was hovering really close to pain threshold and also to snapping emotionally.  I had been yelling at kids.  This is not like me. “Maybe one or 2 km more.”

So I take off in somewhat stony/stoic silence.  I could focus alone and I could numb myself to the pain in my chafed areas. I’ve run lots of late miles in lots of races, it was just like this. I was just running.

I stopped at the truck at 7km.  We weren’t in Brikama. “Maybe one or two more km,” says Kebba, apologetically. My smile was gone. Brikama was lost. Kebba and Pa wanted me stop but there was no way I was stopping until we got to Brikama.  I had to get there.  The team had to get there.  Our police escort was going to pick us up in Brikama on Day 16 and the police escort was very necessary in the heavy traffic of urban Serrekunda.

I started running one or two kilometers more. I was angry. So angry at the kilometer markers that led to the middle of nowhere. I was hungry. I knew there was pain under my resolve and I was worried that I was creating pain in my legs that would make me suffer the next day. At my lowest moment, a truck full of soldiers drove by.  Along with the kids and the mamas, I love the soldiers.  They travel on open flat-bed trucks. I salute them. They salute me back.  I made it to 9km.

I did not make it to Brikama by 9km.  “How much further?” I ask, wearily.  “Less than a kilometer,” says Kebba.  “Are you sure? Positive?” I demand.  “Well, maybe 990m,” he says.  Poor Kebba.  I had turned into Charlie from “Running the Sahara” but felt like Kevin from the film when he says that he can’t go on running aimlessly to Libya. Kebba doesn’t have a map in his head. He was doing his best.

During that last stretch, I was thinking of my coach Cliff watching me run 150s at the track.  It was comforting so I ran 150s over and over. It wasn’t necessarily the running that was difficult, the kilometers were disappearing, but during these extra kilometers, everything was difficult.

Brikama was 900m from km 9, rounding out the day’s total at nearly 30km. When I reached Brikama, I grabbed my water from Pa and said that I needed to walk and to meet me up the road in about 5 minutes.  When I walked away from the truck, I was crying. I don’t run and cry in real life but I just didn’t know what else to do with myself.  I was so emotionally overwhelmed.  I felt bad for the team because I wouldn’t let them run with me.  I felt bad that I wasn’t my usual smiling self.  But I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to push beyond the pain of my chafed skin without being alone.

I pulled myself together by the time the truck came to get me.  I had to pull myself together because I knew that the guys wouldn’t be able to handle their runner crying.

We clocked the kilometers to the finish line at the ocean after the run and about 25 minutes into our drive, I was steady and ready to talk to the team:

“Pa?” I said. “Thank you for helping me today.”

“Spider. Thank you for helping me today”

“Kebba. Thank you for helping me today”

“Ashley. Thank you for helping me today.”

Day 16. Monday, July 25. 24km run. 410km total. 13.5 to go.

We are at Banjul’s doorsteps.  We stopped our run today at the Westfield junction. It was a really… big challenge getting there.

I was really nervous about today because it involved running through urban, throbbing, bustling, busy Serrekunda.  I wrote on Facebook this morning that in The Gambia, this would be like the equivalent of running through Manhattan.

I needed some extra courage this morning so I opened up my precious package of daily notes and photos from my girl Gina.  Today’s photo was of all of my best girls running down Leeds Street in our wedding gowns at our Royal Wedding Party.  Gina’s note said to think about my girlfriends running with me today, just behind me.  I got teary.  I told Ashley that I had accepted that the next 2 days would be an emotional rollercoaster.

We got in the truck to drive to our start point in Brikama.  I was nervous and not feeling very strong and clutching the photo of my girls in my hand. I told my team that I was nervous and they told me that they would take care of me.  They told me to try not to let the traffic get to me.  I trust my team so absolutely and I knew that they wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. We started running.  Walliduff Jarr, our Gambia Police escort on the motorcycle in front.  Spider, me and Kebba behind.  My men, flanking me.  And Ashley and Pa in the truck behind me.  I had a protective cocoon.

I was thinking of my Aunt Debby’s advice to “Do you best and the forget the rest.”  Today, “the rest” was the long line of unhappy traffic we were creating behind us.  I did my best to forget about them.

At our 20 minute water stop, a little boy named Molamin joined us.  He listened to Kebba explain Love4Gambia to a young man.  Kebba said, “We are running for the youth of this country.” When we began to run, he was next to us.  Molamin was 12 years old and from Brikama.  He ran the next 9km with us in his plastic sandals.

Molamin was incredibly helpful for me.  Obviously my legs are tired and while I’m not injured, of course I am hurting.  I have used mantras during many races- a short sentence repeated over and over again.  It helps me push the sensory data from my legs out of my head.  I concentrate only on the words.  I was watching Molamin run and saying to myself, “Run for him. Run for him.”  I hurt everywhere and nowhere all at once. We got to 12km relavitely easily.  The transfer trucks hauling logs from Casamance were terrifying and I was scared that cars were going to knock over the police motorcycle several times.

Team switched up at 12km.  Kebba in the truck. Pa out of the truck. Kebba also have Molamin taxi money to get home.  When we started running again, I realized that my second pair of shoes in so many days had melted.  All of a sudden, my left foot dropped and felt flat on the ground.  It was like wearing 2 different pairs of shoes. At km 14 of the day, we hit 400km.  Erin with 2 pairs of shoes melted.

We stopped at the truck and Ashley asked me if the same foot melted each day.  When I said they were different feet, she told me to put the good shoe from yesterday on.  I started to tell her that different pairs of shoes have different wear patterns and you can’t mix them up…. And then I stopped myself.  My shoes have just melted!  Wear pattern is no longer a concern!  Now this isn’t a reflection of my shoe sponsor at all.  My shoes have been very, very good to me.  I don’t think that any brand of shoe would stand up to running 400km across a hot African country.

At km 16, our run became really challenging due to factors beyond our control.  We had been running easily from km 10-16 through traffic because the road was a double-lane divided highway with a median.  We blocked one lane, leaving the second lane for moving cars.  Then news came that the President of The Gambia was going to be leaving the city and they shut down one entire side of the highway.  Now traffic in the busiest urban core was using only 2 lanes, one travelling in each direction.  Exactly where we were about to run.

I saw the traffic jam up ahead and dread washed over me. The “highway” is narrow and there was very little space between oncoming traffic and the traffic in our direction and the flow was moving very slowly.  The very tight space between the 2 lines of traffic, in the centre of the road, was where we ran.

For the next 6km, the police bike drove through the traffic and Spider, Kebba and I followed. We had to run single file: Spider, then me, then Kebba taking up the rear.  Car swerved, sometimes in front of us.  The guys were yelling at cars.  I was yelling at cars. I slapped about 10 cars when they tried to move in front me as soon as the police motorcycle passed.  Pa and Ashley and the support truck lost us several times because they couldn’t follow through the tight traffic.  If I had any sense, I would have been scared.  Instead, I was just mad and that emotion is much easier to run with.

We had to run the last 6km non-stop because there was nowhere to stop for water in the traffic deadlock.  I embraced the traffic light at the Westfield Junction and Spider and Kebba embraced me.  The team survived.

If my blog reads to you like a journal, that’s because it is.  I am keeping this for myself and for my friends and family.  If you are outside of my friends/family circle, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to follow my team as we run through this incredible experience.  Please let me remind you why I’m running.  I’m not running for glory or accomplishment, I’m running to keep kids alive in a country that I love dearly.

If you’ve been following Team Love4Gambia, you’ve gotten to know Pa Modou Sarr and Kebba Suso.  My team.  These 2 remarkable men are staff of the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association.  They are the ones that go out into the field and run the projects that keep kids alive in The Gambia.  Pa and Kebba do the malaria prevention.  They do the HIV prevention.  Using cinema, they educate communities about Child Rights Protection so that no one will exploit kids like Molamin and his sister.

I am running to raise funds so that Pa and Kebba can continue to do this life-saving work with the NSGA in The Gambia.  If you’ve gotten something out of my blog, if you keep coming back and if you haven’t supported Love4Gambia already, please consider donating.  Donate Now! is an easy button to click on the homepage.

We finish this unforgettable journey tomorrow when we jump into the Atlantic Ocean as a team.  If you want to celebrate, please donate.



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19 Responses to Nimbarra

  1. Erin L says:

    I’ve been reading every blog and with each post I become more and more amazed at your strength and the strength of your team. I often want to leave a comment but I don’t have the words to explain how inspiring/impressive/remarkable you are. Have a fabulous celebration tomorrow!!
    Way to go Team Love4Gambia!!

  2. Kate Keast says:

    OH MY GOD! I can’t believe that you have ran 410km! Only 20km left! That is Crazzzzzy! I have tears of happiness burning my eyes! I am so, so, so, SO happy for you! That doesn’t even describe how I feel! I bet you were nothing like Charlie on Running the Sahara. You just do what you have to do! You go girl!
    Kate ❤

  3. Laura says:

    To borrow a word from Greg, I think you were very “hangry” yesterday (in addition to the pain from open wounds)! And I am amused that you were slapping cars haha. Probably lots of thoughts of “what is this crazy white chick doing?!” Will be thinking of you tomorrow when you finish! I knew you could do it!

  4. Debby Hughes says:

    Thank you for loving the soldiers

  5. Marcelle Thibodeau-Hennigar says:

    Almost there! What a challenging two days. Glad to hear it all ended well in the end. Enjoy the last run tomorrow, and especially, the jump in the ocean at the end. You will all deserve it!

  6. George Clark says:

    WOW Erin, I can’t believe that you have made it already !
    Your daily blog has been terrific !
    A preconceived plan to get Ashley to run her first ever 10K ! It must be fantastic
    to have Kebba, Pa and Spider now running with you.
    Ashley was right – who cares if you’ve melted 2 different sneakers, from 2 different days.
    They match – one for the left foot, one for the right foot !
    Have a great last run tomorrow !

  7. Gina says:

    I’m glad all the danger, drama and suspense was left until the 2nd to last day. I don’t think my nerves could’ve handled it any sooner. As it stands, I’m so anxious for you to jump into the safety, the bliss, the non-running floaty-ness of the Atlantic ocean, I can’t even describe it! I’ll be doing the same thing at 0600, down in Point Pleasant…taking my life in my own hands if you ask me with the state of our harbour, LOL! Anyway, can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said…proud, happy, relieved, in awe. Congrats my friend!

  8. Tpnya Toole-Brennan says:

    Dear Erin,
    Well done my girl. You are such an inspiration. I was fixated on your blog today. Will read again later once kids are asleep. So much to process. I feel like I’d love to be there to offer you a hot full meal, another pair of sneaks, a few words of encouragement and a huge bear hug, but I know you are in fantastic hands with your team. You are bonded for life to say the least. We are all thinking about you here at home and at the track. You’re one tough cookie. With love, Tonya

  9. Shauna says:

    you are one tough gal!!! I was in suspense reading your blog this evening……so happy and relieved that you and your team made it through the dangerous streets today. You are so strong to continue on in spite of the pain and emotions you are feeling. I’m so proud of you. I wish I could give you a giant mama bear hug right now and a nice home cooked meal. The ocean will feel like a dream tomorrrow…….just imagine after all those km’s and all the emotions…… jump in that ocean and feel VICTORY!!!!!!!! so proud of you my friend:) oxooxox

  10. Sue McWilliam says:

    Wow!!! Your adventure reads so well! It’s fascinating and inspiring. You should turn your blog into a book and then use that to make even more money for the Gambian youth!

  11. melissa allen says:

    So close now, never for one second did we ever doubt you could do this. We wish we could be there when you reach the end and give you a huge hug…but I know that you know we are all there in spirit! You are a hero not only to your family but to each and every person you encountered along the way. You and your team will leave your mark on those people long after you are home from the Gambia. I know you are tired and in pain but please enjoy tomorow and know just what it means to so many people what you have accomplished. Love you,

  12. Gemma says:

    That’s my niece!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Mel Connors says:

    Erin! Pa! Kebba! Spider! Ashley!!! Tomorrow is your day! Enjoy every last minute of pain and crazy roller coaster emotions… Tomorrow I will run the 13.5 km with you and jump in the Atlantic when I am done… I am so proud of you all… what a difference you are making for the NSGA… you guys rock! NAMASTE!!!

  14. Good luck for today Erin. We have only just caught up with what you are doing and love it and what we have seen NSGA do over the years. If you want a night at our luxury eco-retreat in Kartong – a great place to rest and heal those wounds – we would be happy to host you if you have the time.

    All the best
    Geri & Maurice
    and the Sandele team

  15. Colette says:

    Wes, Janelle, Colby and I love you lots and are thankful that you are helping take care of so many kids in such an amazing country. xoxox

  16. Dawn Hughes says:

    I don’t think I could add anything that hasn’t already been said. Erin, I have been following you the whole way and trying to read this though tears. I am so proud of all of you all.

  17. Dawn Hughes says:

    I don’t think I could add anything that hasn’t already been said. Erin I have been following you the whole way and so very proud of you and your team Pa, Kebba, Ashley and Spider. Great job by all.

  18. Philip Rosson says:

    Wow! Hard but uplifting to read this Erin. What a roller-coaster of emotions over the last few days of running. So pleased to hear you have achieved your goal and that you are well (at least relatively!) Enjoy that swim and the rest of your time in The Gambia. See you soon.

  19. Marlene Cairns says:

    You Rock Erin, good thing “stubborness” runs in the family! Congratulations! love and hugs from PEI

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