Today was our seventh running day and it was a day marked by many milestones. First, we left the Central River Region behind and arrived in the Lower River Region. Then we reached the 200 kilometer mark and we were moving along to reach the half-way point between Koina and Banjul. After today, I would also be half way through the long week of running six consecutive days without rest. And finally, Kebba ran the distance of a half marathon with me today! There was much to celebrate and to motivate the team, but it was also my toughest day to date.
Once again, the heat proved to be my kryptonite. It had been unbearable hot and no air was stirring the previous afternoon and I found it tough to get any rest. As there had been no rain over night, the air had not cooled at all and even at 7:00 a.m. when we started to run, it was sweltering and humid with no breeze to provide relief. I was barely a kilometre into the day’s run when my light Mizuno clothing was already drenched in sweat and more sweat was running down my face, torso and legs.
Along with the miles I had run, the aches and pains in my body had also started adding up. My left knee continued to be sore and I also had some discomfort in the arch of my left foot. The shoulder I had hurt in a ski accident last winter was also aching. And last but not least, my stomach was not feeling 100%. It was going to be a long day on the road.
As always, Kebba started by my side while Pa Modou and Spider did the driving, photography and provided comic relief. We didn’t get very far when we met the first people who wanted to say hello and find out what we were doing. We stopped to talk for a little while. In the next village where people came to speak to us, the kids told me that there was someone named Bintou in their compound as well. A child was dispatched and reappeared moments later with a baby in her arms. The tiny girl was my namesake and she was content to let me hold her.
In spite of the cheers and smiling faces along the way, I struggled. I don’t think I have ever sweated so much and also had to pee about every kilometre. It was impossible to replenish all the fluid lost and I began to get a headache. At every community we passed, the team tried to find ice or at least some cold drinks to cool me down, but there was none to be had. To make matters worse, the road had also decided to give me a hard time today and threw a few good rolling hills at me. I trudged on. Vultures were circling above to swoop in and feast on the many dead cows and donkeys we saw by the road today. I gave them defiant looks.
Kebba then told me they had a surprise for me. This was welcome news as I needed all the help I could get today. A bit further up the road, I saw a group of school children lining the street. They were there to cheer me on! With them was Lamin and some of the peer educators who were there to teach a course on malaria. I had a nice visit with the students and then it was time to continue the push for the half way mark of our journey.
Shortly after leaving the school behind, an older boy on a motorbike stopped to say hello and ask to where we were running. To Banjul, we told him. Banjul? Yes, we said, from Koina. As so often there was utter disbelief in his face and as we continued running, I saw him a long while later still parked by the side of the road, staring after us incredulously.
We stopped to celebrate the half way mark and then I had about four kilometres left to go. I walked for a few hundred meters until I reached the shade of a tree and the guys again tried to find ice. No luck. After a brief rest in the shade, I pushed on. When we finally reached today’s end point, I was feeling dizzy and nauseous. The guys put out my new mat and pillow and I lay down resting my legs against the trunk of the tree. It took a while before the nausea subsided and I could have something to eat. We then got into the car and drove the 20-some kilometres to Soma where we were to spend the night.
Once in town, we went to a restaurant for lunch and I had some coke. The food and drink restored me somewhat. Then we walked into the narrow back alleys where people were selling their wares and I bought a piece of fabric that we then took to a tailor to make into a wrap. To date, I had been making the return trips to our accommodation in my wet shorts, but this was probably not the healthiest way to go. The new wrap will now be what I’ll wear until we get to a shower. The boys were patient while I was shopping and indulged me by walking from stall to stall with me to choose the prettiest fabric. Those who know me well know that I am never too tired to shop.
We then settled into our accommodation and got cleaned up. Seconds after washing, I was bathed in sweat again. But a few hours later, the rain started. It is pouring hard and water is standing in puddles and running off in small creeks everywhere while thunder and lightning are cracking. There is also a bit of a breeze – sweet relief!
For those who are waiting for Garmin data, I spent the entire afternoon downloading plug-ins, ANT agent, software updates and more, but for some reason my Garmin is not transferring the activities to the web page. While I can see the activities in the device’s history, any attempt to transfer gives me a message stating there is no new data. I give up for now and will try to trouble shoot next time the stars align and I have an internet connection and power at the same time.
Here’s hoping that tomorrow will feel easier than today!