With my flight less than a week away now, and my first day of running in The Gambia less than ten days away now, I am getting pretty nervous, excited, and squeeley. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
With that in mind, I’d thought I’d write down some common questions I have received over the past couple of months when explaining why I have decided to run across The Gambia and how I plan to do it. (Also, I need a break from writing my thesis today…)
Common Questions about Love4Gambia and the run across The Gambia
Why are you doing this?
I am doing this because it is for a good cause. I strongly believe that health promotion programs are efficient and effective at helping people to live longer, healthier lives. I am running in support of the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association, a local non-profit organization that organizes health education programs throughout The Gambia on essential topics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, gender equality, water sanitation, environmental sustainability, and landmine awareness. I have been extremely impressed by the programs efficiency at reaching an entire generation across an entire country, and its ability to adapt its program to the needs of each community. The Gambia has a physician/patient rate of 0.4 doctors to 10,000 people. Therefore, health promotion programs that educate people about key health issues before they get sick are essential and saving the lives of many Gambians today. It’s an approach that makes sense, and I am more than excited to be running for such a great cause.
How long will it take you?
I will be running for 17 days to cross the country. I will also have three days of rest scheduled into my itinerary, which means I will start running on June 15th on the Senegal border and finish on July 4th in Banjul in the Atlantic Ocean (20 days total).
How far will you be running everyday?
I will be running approximately 25km for every running day in order to complete the total distance of 427km in 17 days. I plan to break up the running into two runs: 20km and 5km. I will start out with a 20km run each morning. Then I will rest for about an hour to rehydrate and refuel. I will then run the final 5km each day easy with the goal of flushing out the soreness and lactic acid in my legs from the morning run.
How have you been training?
I have always been a runner, but began training specifically for this run around December 2012. You can read the training plan I followed here. I think the most important part was finding a coach and a group of runners to train with. This really has made a difference as it has allowed me to track my progress, receive support, and meet some really neat runners in the Halifax area. I found this especially helpful in the winter – if they are out doing the work on those miserable days at the commons with gusting sleet, then I can also get through the same workout. Thanks to the training program, my coach, and the runners, I can confidently say I feel prepared to run 25km each day in The Gambia.
Won’t it be hot?
Yes, it will be hot and humid and this will be the most challenging part of my run. On average, temperature will be around 40°C with high humidity. It will be hottest at the start of the run, on the Eastern side of the country, and will cool down slightly as I approach the coast. Dealing with the heat will mostly consist of making sure I stay hydrated and sufficiently “salted” to replace all of the electrolytes I will be losing from sweating so much. Also, I will be running slow, making sure my heart rate does not get too high and I do not overheat. After that, it is mostly a mental battle to keep me positive and not negative about the heat and humidity.
What about wild animals?
Yes, there will be wild animals. No, there will not be any lions, leopards, or any other predatory carnivores that I will have to worry about stalking me. The main large animals I will have to worry about will be hippos and crocodiles, which can both outrun a human. Fortunately, so long as you don’t surprise them or get in between them and water or their young, they are unlikely to attack. So I am not too worried about larger animals. I am more concerned about smaller reptiles, notably poisonous snakes, spiders and lizards, but mostly snakes. Growing up and running in the desert in Southern California made for a few close encounters with rattlesnakes, and I definitely have a (slight would be an understatement) fear of snakes. However, so long as I avoid the tall grass and keep my eyes open, I can feel comfortable knowing that the snake or lizard probably wants to avoid me more than I want to avoid it.
Will you be alone?
For the most part, no. I am so lucky to have an amazing support team of three native Gambians – Pa, Kebba, and Spyder– with me for the entire journey. They have all been training throughout the past couple of months and will be running with me for parts of my run each day. I will also have my younger sister, Cielianna, along for the entire journey and will be meeting up with my mom, Rita, and boyfriend, Steve, about 15 days into the run. I will by no means be alone, but will have this amazing support crew to help me across the country. From driving to mixing Gatorade to running by my side, I know they will all really make a difference to help me run 427km in a foreign country.
Will you be camping?
Luckily, I have the luxury of staying in hotels and guesthouses each night. I will not have to worry about setting up a tent, finding electricity and so forth at the end of a long run each day. The NSGA support team in The Gambia is booking all of the accommodations, and though they will be simple, they will have electricity, a bed, and some privacy to relax and recover at the end of each day. Looking forward to it!
Can I follow your progress?
Yes, you can and I encourage you to follow my progress as I make my way across The Gambia. I will be uploading my GPS running files daily (internet and electricity dependent) onto my website: www.love4gambia.com. This is a great way to see how the journey is going and to see the villages and school that the NSGA is implementing its health promotion programs in.
Why are you doing this again?
Like I said before, the programs the NSGA implements in The Gambia are effective, efficient, and have been working for the past 25 years to keep Gambians living healthier and longer lives. Here in Canada, we have the internet/doctors/teachers available to inform us about essential health information. Many Gambians are not so lucky and rely on the information from the NSGA to stay informed about their health and how to keep their communities healthy. These programs are essential and need to continue to operate in The Gambia to keep the people there happy, and healthy, and alive.
How can I support you?
This is my favorite question because it means that the hours and days and months or training, running, and fundraising are worthwhile, and people are responding to the effort I have been making to support the Nova Scotia Gambia Association. The easiest and most straight-forward way to support me is by making a donation. Big or small, everything raised helps make a difference and will help me to reach my goal of raising $15,000 for health education in The Gambia. In addition, you can support me by sharing what I am doing with other people, and spreading the word about my run and the Nova Scotia Gambia Association. Lastly, you can support me by following my blog and cheering me on from wherever you are. The comments mean a lot to me and I know they will be especially helpful on those hard, hot, and humid days in The Gambia!
Thanks for your support! Can’t wait to get started!