Big Running Shoes

Monday, August 1

Leybato Guest House

Ashley and I have been doing a lot of things on our one week post-run-across-the-country holiday.  We’ve been lying on the beach. We’ve been swimming, believing that the Smiling Coast’s water can cure all. We’ve been practicing yoga on the beach. We’ve been spending as much time as possible with our guys Spider, Kebba, Pa Modou and Pa’s wife Agie. We’ve been crying every morning at breakfast.  We’ve been trying to hold onto as many Love4Gambia moments as possible.

In our moment-capturing, we’ve developed this list of “roles” that each of our invaluable team members played. When we began, we had titles like “runner, logistic man, driver, nurse” but very quickly realized that we were a team that would take care of each other together.  Titles and duties weren’t necessary.

Ashley Sharpe

  • Be the nurse
  • Take care of Erin, should she need taking care of
  • Feed Erin
  • Water Erin
  • Mix the team’s Gatorade
  • Be the manager
  • Tell Erin what to do when Erin is no longer functioning at full capacity
  • Put Erin to bed
  • Sometimes wash Erin’s running gear (what a girl)
  • Sunscreen Erin
  • Lead team effort to make Erin eat more
  • Push Erin out of the truck when she doesn’t want to run
  • Run 100km across African country
  • Run farther and longer than ever before
  • Tape Erin
  • Massage Erin’s quads
  • Manage the boys
  • Try to prevent the boys from harming themselves
  • Threaten not to take care of boys should they harm themselves through stupidity and stubbornness
  • Sing special Canadian songs while running
  • Negotiate permission for Erin to have one single Julbrew on a school night
  • Participate in many giggle-fests
  • Possible contributor to Akon-conspiracy (?)
  • Monitor pathway between Erin’s brain and mouth and intervene when necessary (understanding that running 25km a day makes one emotionally labile)
  • Drive the NSGA truck through the bush after relearning a stick shift on an African dirt road
  • Manage all of the money
  • Manage our room key
  • Yell at boys “no crying in the truck” when necessary
  • Be an irreplaceable part of the team

Pa Modou Sarr

  • Run 136km across The Gambia
  • Run even when not feeling like it
  • Be DJ extraordinaire for 424FM: All Akon All the Time
  • Sing Akon when Akon is not playing
  • Develop interrogation skills for upcoming film appearance as CIA Agent Momodou M. Sarr
  • Entertain team with dramatic performance as President and continue performance much longer than a lesser skilled person could ever continue
  • Tease the Fula
  • Become brothers with the Fula
  • Arrange media appearances, electricity or no electricity
  • Hold Erin’s hand during media appearances
  • Remain at the ready to assist falling runners: “Careful Ashley!”
  • Take care of Ashley while Ashley is sick and Erin is running
  • Become Ashley (for 1 day)
  • Pack the truck
  • Unpack the truck
  • Secure location in which to unpack truck and put team to bed- sometimes requiring way more negotiation than reasonable (Soma)
  • Drive the truck
  • Operate the Flip camera, the Cannon camera, the Nissan Patrol stick shift, the gas pedal and possibly 1 of his 2 cell phones simultaneously (what a man)
  • Teach Ashley to drive the truck (while recording driving lesson, thanks Pa-parazzi!)
  • Listen to Erin’s stories and answer her questions
  • Keep Erin company by keeping in-step with Cliff Matthews’ track warm up drills
  • Celebrate each 20km and 5km accomplishment
  • Remain the push-up king (sorry, Ashley)
  • Beat Spider’s kilometer total
  • Practice yoga on demand- Namaste!
  • Yell “morfing” at kids who incessantly yell “toubab” at Erin and Ashley
  • Surprise team with full cooked breakfast on rest day
  • Cheerfully allow Erin and Ashley to talk with wife Agie every day
  • Entertain Erin with football stories while running across country
  • Share marriage stories (go Team Marriage!)
  • Make Erin feel better when she’s ill (preferred method- decorating Erin’s “presidential convoy” truck)
  • Pull Erin onto the road on mornings when she doesn’t want to run
  • Make the breakfast tapalapa sandwiches for the team while singing Akon in the front seat
  • Read the team our daily messages from Aunty Debby
  • Get Erin enough food and water
  • Locate appropriate trees for rest
  • Hold the team together with easy, caring nature
  • Be an irreplaceable part of the team

Kebba Suso

  • Be the King: EGWEEEE!
  • Run A LOT of kilometers next to Erin
  • Fill in all empty running shifts following team decision about Erin not running alone
  • Sing to Erin when running is hard (in English or Mandinka)
  • Listen to Erin’s stories
  • Answer Erin’s questions (sometimes with strategically shortest answer possible: ‘poverty’)
  • Be the Dalai Lama when Erin needs some extra spirit
  • Provide Erin’s anthropology lessons while running
  • Lead kids in singing
  • Lead mamas in singing
  • Mislead crowds who are gathered for the president and instead receive a running white girl and a running Gambian
  • Make Erin feel better when ill (preferred method- decorating Erin’s “presidential convoy” truck)
  • Pack the truck
  • Unpack the truck
  • Secure location to unpack truck and put team to bed
  • Drive the truck.  But frequently threaten to abandon the truck if driving the truck interferes with running quota.
  • Force Ashley to drive
  • Get our morning tapalapa (bread)
  • Cut the mangos
  • Be Ashley’s brother.  Evidence of brotherhood- much playful quarreling
  • Grow gorgeous, brave and generous sons and nephews to share the running work on a day when the team was down
  • Share sisters Bintou and Fatou with the team (we love you, sisters!)
  • Possible contributor to Akon conspiracy (?)
  • Practice yoga- Namaste!
  • Use smile to light up the truck
  • Use laugh to light up the truck
  • Get Erin enough food and water
  • Locate appropriate trees for rest
  • Exhibit patience during Fula-Serere battles
  • Pay 80Dalasi in fines for saying “I’m hot”
  • Locate and bring Ashley to the bootlegger on Erin’s birthday
  • Occasionally impress team by eating more rice than Pa Modou
  • Celebrate each 20km and 5km accomplishment
  • Be an irreplaceable part of the team

Dodou Bah/Spiderman

  • Infuse team with energy and enthusiasm on Day 12
  • Be the lead running vocalist
  • Be the lead running dancer
  • Be the lead running army chanter
  • Banter with the Serere
  • Become brothers with the Serere
  • Dance with Ashley
  • Keep mood happy at all cost
  • Guard Erin while running through insane traffic in Serrekunda
  • Lead swimming lessons for Pa Modou and the Suso kids in Bwiam
  • Engage in high stake kilometer competition with Pa Modou
  • Fit into the team like the 5th finger of a glove
  • Catch up on more than 2 weeks’ worth of team jokes
  • Playfully follow Pa Modou’s orders like a good sport
  • Lead opposition party in Pa Modou for President
  • Be the ‘Bachelor’s Team’ with Ashley
  • Happily do warm-up drills with Erin and Pa Modou on days where legs are slow to warm up to running 20km
  • Celebrate each 20km and 5km accomplishment
  • Become the 5th glue that holds the team together.  Dodou Bah: “Together we stand; united we fall; Black and White unite; together as one.”
  • Talk Erin and Ashley through their return to Canada: “the body will return home but soul will live on in The Gambia”

Erin Poirier

  • Run
  • Coach team
  • Help team take care of each other
  • Do what Ashley says

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5 Responses to Big Running Shoes

  1. Dawn Hughes says:

    Sounds like a well oiled team. Great job done by all.

  2. Colette says:

    Erin, these are memories that will remain with you forever and that no one else (besides your team) will never be able to understand. Thank you for sharing them with us so that we could try!!! You helped build a strong team and I know that they will miss you!

  3. Debby Hughes says:

    What a wonderful final entry, what a wonderful team, thanks for taking us with you on this amazing journey:)

  4. Laura says:

    Erin, I think you had many more jobs than 4! But I do enjoy how Ashley functioned as your boss, telling you when/where/what to drink, eat, etc. A great final entry at the end of an experience, helping the memories to last forever!

  5. Greg says:

    The appreciation you all have for each other is really cool. It would be really interesting to read a list from each of the others as well. I enjoyed this blog a lot. Cheers to you All.

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