After we finished yesterday, I was told to prepare a short speech about my love4gambia 2013 experience. I will post a blog shortly about my experience running the last day, but in the meantime, I would like to share the short speech I gave at the closing ceremonies just after finishing my run across a country:
It is still hard for me to comprehend that the Love4Gambia team has ran from Koina to Banjul – that’s 424km (or over 10 marathons) in just 17 days. It really does seem like just yesterday we were driving from Basse through Fatoto and Koina to get to the Senegal-Gambia border. It seems like just yesterday, and yet, so much has happened along our trip.
We have ran the entire distance of the South Bank Road, clear across the length of an African country. We have ran through heat, hotter heat, humid heat, dry heat, rain, wind that can either make you feel cooler or hotter. We have ran by countless goats, cattle, donkeys, chickens, monkeys, warthogs, and hundreds of bird species. We have ran by minibusses that slowed down for us and honked to cheer us on as we ran, and we have ran by other mini-busses that have sped by within inches of us, making a statement that the road belong to them. We have ran through desert, marshland, jungle, rivers, and finally the coast. We have ran through cities, suburbs, and villages, and we have also ran many miles through the rural countryside. We have ran on dirt roads, gravel roads, paved roads, and roads where the tar was still sticky because it got paved the night before. We have ran with a police escort and we have ran many miles alone.
We have ran through many energy gels, Gatorade mixes, and waterbottles. We have ran off of food that our bodies were used to and we have ran off of food that our bodies had to learn to adapt to (mostly spam domadas). We have ran through lost toenails, blisters, and much chaffing in all the awkward places. We have ran through injuries, a lot of sweat, some blood and some tears.
Throughout all of this, we have always ran as a team. We have spent the last three weeks together, pushing eachother through many challenges. This run wouldn’t be possible without each team member, and I’d like to say a quick word to each of you.
Kebba (Egweeee!): who is the wise and patient one of the group and makes sure things get done. Not to mention, he has basically ran the entire country, not for the first time, but for the third year in a row. I am so luck to have shared so many kilometers with you and know it will take me a while to get used to running without you by my side.
Pa: You are the humor and laughter of the group; running many kilometers and sharing what we are doing with the world. You made sure we had a place to stay, internet, water to drink and food to eat, and a functional vehicle to get us around. Pa, I will miss your smiles and pranks, and how to can spark up laughter instantly within the group.
Spider: It means so much to me that a Gambian, not working for the NSGA, is willing to give up a month of his time to volunteer and help make the run successful. This really is a collective of caring Canadians and Gambians. You have cooked for us, sang for us, danced for us, told stories, and I could not imagine the Love4Gambia run without you.
Cielianna (Mama Cie): We have not always been close, but this run has made our friendship closer than it has ever been. We have shared to good and the not so good (toilets that won’t flush) experiences. You have selflessly mixed Gatorade, got me water, listened to me, put body glide on my back, and helped me in countless ways to finish this run. There is no way I could have done it without you and I am so glad you have been by my side since the start.
Mom: I am so glad you could be here to share the last part of the run. You taught me to run, and I know that that has led me to where I am, 424km later, today. Thank you for your constant support.
Steve: I was counting the days from the start until I got to see you. Your positive energy reinspired the team, and seeing you shout “alumbara” from the roof of the jeep always brought a smile to my face. Also, the love4gambia song is amazing and got me through some tough kilometers that last two days (lyrics to be posted soon).
So thank you team – I love you all so much and we are so strong now; the friendships and memories truly will last forever. And who know, maybe the team will be reunited for the Bluenose or another great run in Africa 😉
Lastly, we have also ran with the very students, peer-educators, teacher coordinators, and NSGA regional directors that are benefitting from the peer health education programs implemented by the NSGA. I have been able to see the educational programs, the dramas, and presentations used to educate youth in The Gambia about how to stay health and lead happy lives. We have ran with the youth, hand in hand, as Canadians and Gambians, running together all in the name of health. There are so many injustices in the world, but thanks to the NSGA, young Gambians are being educated and empowered around their health, and are given a chance to beat illness, unawareness, and poverty.
I have been so lucky to be able to run no just for, but with the young Gambians. Today is truly a special day, not only for me, the team, and the NSGA, but for youth and future generations in The Gambia. So thank you for letting us have this day and for sharing and celebration the completion of this great journey with us!