We once again rose early to beat the heat. There had been more rain during the night, so the morning felt relatively cool, albeit not in my room, where there was no power and thus no fan. I got dressed, tended to the cuts on my hands and knees and then taped my blistered feet the way my friend Henri had taught me. Then I waited for the guys to pick me up.
6:00 a.m. came and went, but there was no sign of the guys. I lay down on the bed, waiting and resting. I was feeling tired and dozed off a bit. 6:30 a.m. and still no sign of the guys. I began to wonder what may have happened to them, as they are usually punctual. At just before 7:00 a.m. there finally was a knock on my door. Pa Modou explained that the gate to the guest house had been locked and that he’s been trying to find a way in for the past hour. Agghhh! There was one hour of relatively cool weather gone and one more hour to run in the heat. But it is what it is, so no use worrying about it.
To make up for lost time, I skipped making my coffee and we quickly picked up a few bottles of water in Bansang and were on our way. I typically drink a 1.5 litre bottle of water from the moment I get up until we reach the start point of the day’s run. While running, I drink 4 litres of water from my hydration pack and another 4 litres of Gatorade from the bottles in the truck. After the run, I drink at least 3 more litres of water throughout the afternoon and evening. That is a total of nearly 13 litres of fluids a day! Strangely, it doesn’t feel like I am forcing it down, but the body wants and needs that much liquid given that I am always sweating.
To save time, I ate my breakfast sandwich wrapped in news print in the car while Pa was driving at top speed to our starting point. I also mixed the Gatorade bottles and filled the hydration pack while we were driving – every minute saved was a minute less under the brutal sun. When we got to the starting point, I handed what was left of my sandwich to Pa, put on my shoes, and then, with Kebba by my side, starting running down the road.
We had once again given a lift to a school girl who we saw in town while buying bread. Upon climbing into the truck, she mentioned that it was a cold morning today. I laughed. The temperature felt bearable, but I sure wouldn’t characterize it as cold!
My hamstrings felt a bit tight and I was beginning to feel that my legs had been doing some work over the course of the last few days, but I soon got into a rhythm. The first 10 km went by relatively quickly, especially since we had a landmark to celebrate when getting there – after running 30 kilometers each day for the last 3 days, the 10 kilometer mark today would mean a total of 100 kilometers done! 324 kilometers left to go toBanjul, but I don’t think of it that way – too scary! Instead I take it day by day and one kilometre at a time.
We stopped to write 100 km in the sand by the side of the road and posed for photos before running on. A few kilometres further down the road, we were met by a vehicle carrying a group of volunteers from Nova Scotia who are here to teach the water program at schools. These volunteers spent a few weeks travelling from school to school talking about the importance of clean water for health, as well as about water scarcity and conservation. Stephanie, Lauren, Katie and Pam, as well as Lamin and Oumie– the Gambian project leaders – cheered me enthusiastically. We stopped to chat and a few villagers came out to see what all the fuss was about. We all shared stories for a while and then it was time to keep going. The sun was getting stronger and the temperature was rising. The dreaded heat was coming back to full force and the going was getting tougher.
When we reached Bansang, a few boys started running with me and one boy, Muhammed, began to ride beside me on his bicycles. We soon left the runners behind, but Muhammed stuck with me, later joined by another boy on a bike who was delivering bread to the next village. I got the usual raised eyebrows and looks of disbelief along with an “ouiiiii” sound when I told them I was running toBanjul. A little later, when I stopped at the truck for some nutrition, I shared my Honey Stinger waffle with the boys and then they went on their way.
They guys had picked up a block of ice in Bansang, which I now needed to cool my core temperature down. I would take occasional breaks in the shade of a tree and rub ice on my neck, face, legs and arms. The guys also pour ice water over my body, which feels heavenly, but has one giant draw back: my shoes and socks get soaked and even though I put on a fresh pair of my Mizuno Ronins as well as dry socks part way through the run, these only stay dry for a short period of time. Blisters the size ofTexashad started forming on my toes and the tape had rubbed off. We’ll have to refine the cool down technique over the next few days.
The last few kilometres were tough but after 3 hours and 2 minutes of running, we had covered the distance of 19.24 miles. If you wonder why I don’t run an even 19 miles or 30 kilometers: I usually carry on past 19 miles until I reach the next big tree that will spend shade, so I can escape the sun. There also has to be some kind of landmark that will allow us to easily find the spot where we left off, so we can resume the run the following day.
I got into the shade, drank, grabbed the ice block and enjoyed the cold water running over my body. I stretched and then lay down on the car floor mats the guys had put out for me and elevated my legs on a tree trunk. I was hoping none of the black scorpions, of which I had seen a dead one lying on the road earlier, would be hiding out in the leaves where I was lying. Apparently they are often out and about after the rains and their stings are excruciating. When I asked Kebba the question if one may be hanging out here he said empathetically: “No, no,” and then he added: “Probably not.””. Ha – not very reassuring! We had a good laugh.
Spider than came over and gave my legs and shoulders a massage as I was lying down relaxing. Wow, that felt great! Then it was time to head back to the guest house, shower and eat.
The kids that are part of the extended family came over to ask me about my run and my morning. We talked for a while. I learned more about Saikou, the boy who already told me about his father’s death. He proudly showed me his Red Cross first aid certificate for a course he had completed and told me he wanted to be a doctor. Then he pulled another paper out of his file and handed it to me. It was his father’s death certificate, which he had been given at the hospital the night his dad passed away. It showed that he was admitted to Bansang Hospital with severe abdominal pain and that he died later that night of a peptic ulcer. He must have been in severe pain for some time even before being admitted to the hospital and the thought of someone dying from a stomach ulcer is simply inconceivable in our word, but here this is an everyday occurrence. Medical care and equipment are scarce and many people die of completely preventable and/or treatable disease. I once again appeal to you to open your wallets and to donate. Every little bit helps to make a difference and to save lives. If only you could see first hand how much of a need there is and how appreciative people are of the assistance that is provided so they can help themselves.
I had my iPad on the table and they asked what it was. I gave them a demo – showed them that I can put hundreds of books in this little machine, played them some music, showed them my Facebook page and email, then took our photo and finally shot a little video of us, which we played back to peals of laughter.
One of the girls, Sajou, then went off to do her laundry. Later, Saikou made us some green tea – a strong concoction sweetened with loads of sugar. The sugar is mixed in by pouring the tea from one glass to the other and back again several times until there is foam on top of the tea. It was delicious.
Later in the afternoon, the volunteers from Nova Scotia returned, as did the team. We shared more stories. Spider had done the cooking – two chickens we met in a village along the way weren’t as lucky as the one the other day. They ended up in Spider’s pot and were enjoyed along with some chips and a turnip/mashed potatoes mix. Spider is a great cook and will be feeding us all the way to Banjul.
The guys all do a multitude of things – from running with me to organizing logistics, buying food, water and internet time, massage, entertainment, translation services, transportation and so much more. No ask is too much and they insist on doing things even if I tell them it is not necessary or can wait until tomorrow. They really are the best team one could ask for.
It was time for the soccer match, but the power had not yet come back on. When it finally did come back, Germany was already 1:0 behind. I had painted everyone’s faces with face paint in the colours of the German flag – kids, Nova Scotia volunteers, the team (including Pa Modou, who is a staunch England supporter) and even Fatty, the master of the house who was still dressed in the traditional Muslim clothing he had worn to the Mosque for prayer. Yet, the Azzuri prevailed.
I stayed up late after the game, socializing and then reading for a while. Tomorrow was my first rest day, so I could sleep in and relax. Another great day in the Gambia!