Day 13, 14, and 15 from The Gambia
Another 3 days of running a total of 86km has brought us to the centre of Brikama (The nearest major town to Serekunda and Banjul). This means we have completed the rural part of our journey, as our last two days will be through towns and busy streets with a police escort. As I sit at our motel on the shores of the Atlantic, in a sense it seems like so long ago, and in another sense it feels like just yesterday that we be
gan our love4gambia run across the country. On account of slow internet (and an exhausted runner), an update for the past three days has been combined into this one blog post. So much has happened over the past 86km!
Day 13: Mom Arrives!
The main reason we came into town for the last rest day was because my mom (Rita) was arriving in order to join us for the final trek of the run. I learned how to run from my mom. When I was 12 I started going out with her, joining her for the last half hour or so of her runs. She coached me through high school cross country and trained me for my first half marathon. We have ran 5 marathons together and countless half’s, 10k’s and 5k’s. Her passion for running is essentially what got me on to the sport and led me to where I am today. I was so excited for her to join us and run with us along the road to Banjul!
She was flying through Dakar, and unfortunately, so was Obama, which meant all flights to Dakar were postponed. After many flight delays, and extra hotels along the way, me and my sister were ecstatic to pick her up, only 24 hours and 28 minutes later than the original time. Better late than never! And so, the sixth member of the team had arrived!
We hurried to our hotel in Bwiam, arriving after midnight, and quickly tried to settle down in order to rest of for the next five days of running. After not getting much sleep (on account of a flimsy mosquito net and shared tiny bed), we began the final “shift” of our journey. The running felt great, and Kebba and I were pushing a 5:00/km average for most of the run (not counting the many Gatorade breaks of course). It was a good push and we finished in the fastest time yet. Woohoo, Banjul is calling and we are coming strong. (See reason for running so fast below…)
For accommodation’s we were welcomed into the home of the NSGA country Director, Nyakassi. It was so neat to be welcomed into his home, not just as one person, but as an entire team of 7 people. The hospitality and welcome was truly heart warming. It was also quite the experience to see how many people live rurally in The Gambia. The house was simple and functional, with electricity in the main part of the house and a well to get water from. The food prepared for us by Nyakassi’s wife, Naomi, was vegetarian-friendly and super tasty. I don’t think the team has been so well-fed for the entire trip. So, in light of this, I would like to give a big thank you to the country director for opening up his home to the love4gambian team. I felt that this really highlighted the hospitality in Africa, and how people really will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and comfortable in this beautiful country.
Day 14: Happy Canada Day and Steve Arrives!
We hurried our run on the previous day, on account of a special guest arriving in the afternoon – the seventh member of the love4gambia 2013 team – Steve Reid. I must admit, I was pretty excited to see him, and to be able to share the last part of the trip with him.
I felt so lucky as we started out today: here I am, doing something I love, for an important cause, and I am surrounded by so may amazing people. Whenever I thought about that during the day I couldn’t help but smile. So, it was lots of excitement and positive thoughts to start out the day.
It was also Canada day today, and my mom (being the character that she is) made sure to bring lots of Canada flags, banners, hats, and so forth. We had some extra time in the morning before the run and the team went to town decorating the vehicle and getting in the Canada day spirit. The African Jeep Chalet definitely looked like a proud Canadian today. I would have to say the best part about call of the Canada memorabilia would have to be the hat Spider selected and chose to wear for the rest of the day. He definitely kept us all laughing throughout the day with his crazy shenanigans and songs (his favorite being, if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands) ☺
Today was a long day- we did an extra 5km to make it 30km so that tomorrow will hopefully not be too far to get to Brikama. But, with all of the newfound support and energy on the team, we were all in good spirits and the day passed quickly. And so, another day on the trek to Banjul was completed! We spent the evening visiting with Nyakassi and his family, swimming in an offshoot of the Gambia river with a bunch of fearless locals, and avoiding the flying ants that have recently emerged on account of the rainy season starting. Quite the day again☺
Day 15: The beginning of the Bittersweet kilometers
Wow, it is already day 15. This is really hard for me to process. This is the last day we will run on our own, with the team, without a police escort. This hits me hard. Starting out the run today, I would get choked up whenever I thought of this. I keep thinking, “Are we really that close to the end already? We can’t be…there has to be at least another week left, there’s still a long way to go!”
So, with that in mind, the start was an emotional start for me today. Every time I thought about how close we are to the end I would start to get choked up. This run has basically become the centre of my life for the past 6 months, and it is really hard for me to process that we will soon reach Banjul. But, as the kilometers went by I slowly got into the rhythm again. (Also, remembering that there is still over a marathons-worth of running to do helped to make the finish seem a bit further away). Me and Kebba ran together, joined by various members of the team throughout the run.
It was going to be another long one. “How long today?” I ask Kebba. “I don’t know, maybe 30 or maybe more kilometers,” he replies. Not exactly the exact answer I am hoping to hear so that I can prepare and pace myself for the distance to come. We decide to run 24km and then take our usually rest break. Again, the kilometers go by way to fast and soon enough we are telling the team to set up the rest spot. After this we have to run “6 or 7” kilometers to get to where we are supposed to finish for the day. Luckily it really was just 7km and we were done! Kebba and I push in the last couple of kilometers building off each others energy and the questioning looks as we run through town. Finally, we decide on an ending spot and the day is complete…hard to believe that we have reached the centre of Brikama and that there are only two days left.
And so we begin the final part of our journey. The running may be easier now, but the emotions among the team are high. We have all been counting down to the finish, but at the same time we all do not want to his wonderful journey to end. Tomorrow we will reach the 400km mark and end with only 14km to go the following day. So for now, I will make sure to enjoy every joke, every step, and every cheer. I am going to soak up as much as I can and just appreciate that I am able to be apart of the Love4gambia team this year.
Jennifer and team Love4Gambia
I would like to dedicate day 13 to Sylvester and Associated international counselors.
The team would like to dedicate th 15 to Max Jallow, the founder of the Brufut Marathon and a supporter of Love4Gambia and the NSGA. He passed away unexpectedely a few weeks ago, but definitely would have been running with us along the way if he were still here.