I cannot even believe it, day 10 ,11, and 12 are done with already and we are quickly approaching the Atlantic Ocean and Banjul! The steps, kilometers, and days really are flying by. I have come to wake up and look forward to running 25km with the amazing team, and know that I must take the time to cherish the five days we have left together running.
Running over the past three days has been excellent at times and challenging at times. When running such a long distance, the small highs can seem extra high and the small lows can seem extra low. But in the past three days, we successfully completed 75km of our run to bring us to 307km total on the road to Banjul. We can now “smell” the Atlantic Ocean and this will push us the final 125km to the coast. Banjul Calling!
We started day 10 about 15 km East of Soma. Like Pa explained in his blog below, we had a huge welcome from the police, students, and town as we ran the 2km through the main street. The police were so excited about the run, and we were a huge event running through the centre of town. This was special because it really got the people in the markets on the sides of the road into the run and cheering us on. Nothing like a whole town rooting for you to motivate you to keep running. (I have become very spoiled in terms of running – with students cheering me on, and the team giving me water every two kilometers – really going to miss that when I go back to training post love4gambia).
We quickly passed through Soma, and said goodbye to the students and police that had guided us through town (followed by many pictures as well…) This was followed by about 5km through a major construction zone. They are currently trying to pave as much of the road form Kilagi to Soma before the rainy season begins any day now. This was a bit of a challenge considering we were running right alongside huge bulldozers (lots of exhaust fumes) and heavy machinery, with uneven (sandy and rocky) ground and dust clouds that make you want to hold your breath. But, it also made the kilometers towards the end a bit more interesting and soon enough, the 25km was up again. Another good day!
Day 11 started us out on the tarmac that had been paved the night before. It was still wet, and we had to run on the side to avoid sticking to the road. This made the start a bit challenging considering the ground was quite uneven and sandy, and every once in a while you had to leap over a tar pool that had leaked to the side. But, eventually this also passed, and we were on the completed road – now it is paved highway from here into Banjul! The rest of the run went by quickly enough – there is so much beautiful scenery and villages to see that the 20km always seem to go by so fast.
I dedicated today to Nelson Mandela. I have been especially inspired by his humanitarian work and his peaceful and human-rights based approach. One of his quotations: “Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice” has been on the back of my Run Without Borders race t-shirts for the past four years. I thought a lot about this quote during the run and how it relates to my run and the work of the NSGA. People often ask me why I am even doing this run. I often return this question with the question: “Why not?”. I am not doing this run for charity. I am doing this run because it is the right thing to do. Programs like the NSGA need to be supported so that youth in The Gambia can live healthy lives and have the opportunity to overcome poverty. Poverty is correlated with poor health and poor health can also lead to poverty. Education and awareness about how to live a health life can help to break this cycle and overcome poverty and many of the issues associated with it. So today, the Nelson Mandela quote really resonated with me and my reasons for running across The Gambia. In his h, it says that Nelson Mandela would jog and do jumping jacks in place while in his cell on Robben Island. I think he appreciated the calm and peace of mind that comes with exercising and long-distances running, and therefore through it was appropriate to dedicate the 25km to him and his ability to inspire me in both running and international work.
Day 12: Last day of the ‘shift’ of runs. At this point, I think the whole team was feeling a bit drained. Being on the road, moving around, and trying to stay organized and healthy each day definitely takes it’s toll. I think as we started out this day, we were all feeling the accumulation of days under our belt and I know I was looking forward to getting through with the run and using the rest day to catch up. It also didn’t help (for me and my sister at least) that the food from the night before was greasy french fries and a greasy omelet. It definitely helped to load up on calories, but not exactly the kind of calories you want the night before a long run…
So, we started out, 2km at a time, with our heads down in silence, just hoping to put the kilometers behind us. I was feeling alright, but not as energetic and a little heart-burny from the previous days meals. About 10km in we come across a school. At this point it was impossible to be at all grouchy or grim about the kilometers. I think this was the biggest crowd we encountered yet. It started out as one school, then another would join, and another; we were soon enveloped by a huge crowd of students and community members. It was crazy! They were so pumped to run with us and for about 2km and the whole time were chanting “ We are Happy, We are so Happy, We thank you for your hard work”. Eventually we had to tell them to head back to class so they could finish their year-end exams, more but I think many of them wanted to continue to run with us for a couple more kilometers. After this, the kilometers seemed to pass by so quickly; before I knew it we were at our rest point, and then the final 5km was complete. Woohoo, we passed the 300km mark, have completed three out of four sections of the run. Now, time to rest!
Today is our final rest day. We came into town after the run last night in order to attend a CD launching (Jotna, meaning “it’s time”) by the Humanity Satrz (a band Pa Modou is an assistant manager for). They were awesome, and it was really neat to experience a Gambian cd release. Now, we are resting and eating vegetables! Woohoo! Getting some vitamins to power me through the last of the run across The Gambia.”
I came across a quote today while reading “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck: “I believe a woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is almost indestructible”. This quote really inspired me as a woman running across the country with the Love4Gambia campaign. This week the love4gambia team will be “indestructible” as we finish our final 125km into Banjul. We have the team, we have the cause, and we have the love to get us there!
Can’t wait to run them and to share them with you!
Jennifer and the Love4Gambia team