By Erin Poirier, Ashley Sharpe, Andrea Moritz, Jennifer Pasiciel and Cielianna Pasiciel
Dear Running Community,
The NSGA is proud to release it’s official call for runners for Love4Gambia version 4.0 in the summer of 2014. We are looking for experienced runners to join Pa Modou, Spider and Kebba on the epic 4th running of the 424km cross-country journey to the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul in either early June or early August 2014 (scheduling around Ramadan). Click here for detailed information and to submit your interest in running.
Our new runners will join the ranks of our last 3 successful teams: Erin + Ashley in 2011, Andrea in 2012 and Jennifer + Cielianna in 2013. So who better to share why you shouldn’t pass up this opportunity than these runners themselves.
Erin (2011, founder): I can promise that running across an entire African country, with Pa Modou, Kebba and Spider at your side, will be the most glorious crowning achievement of your running career.
Two years later, I find myself asking, “Did I really do that?” Then I’ll lace up my shoes and go for a run here and I’ll smell farm fields or the ocean and the memories of my most amazing running journey will hit me hard in the face and I will know that I really did it.
I can still close my eyes and imagine running with Gambian youth: I can hear their sweet giggles and the slap of their barefeet on the hot pavement next to me. It still lightens my stride. I still break out in a broad smile, laugh lines crinkling my eyes, when I think of the jokes, camaraderie and love that we shared as a team. When the going gets tough in a race, I think of my team supporting me, telling me that the rope is still there and I can reach for that extra gear to tough out a PB. I still haven’t met a finish line that compares to the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul which opens up majestically and so very African when market stalls in the busy capital part. I still share an immeasurable bond with my girl Ashley. Even after we were apart for almost a year as she worked in D.R.Congo, we reunited like we were still giggling ourselves to sleep in sweltering, electricity-free huts and leaning on each other when the kilometers got long and the food and mood got short.
You could have all of this too, to carry with you through the rest of your running career, your own secret arsenal of running weapons if you consider joining Love4Gambia.
Jennifer (2013): When I think about the great Love4Gambia 2013 run, I can’t help but smile to myself as a flood of happy memories returns to me. The run was a physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual experience on all levels.
On an individual level, the run was a hugely empowering experience. I have a background of long-distance running, but the run across The Gambia let me challenge myself on a new level. Conquering this challenge made me ask myself: what next? It really showed me that when you work hard enough for something, you can do whatever you want to.
On an larger level, the run also really makes a difference in the lives of Gambian youth across the country. Running with the peer-health educators themselves and witnessing their drama shows, really highlighted how important the programs of the NSGA are throughout the country. The programs work, and they need continued funding and support in order to continue. I am so happy that I was able to raise both money and awareness about the NSGA, and know that the money raised is going to a more than worthy cause.
The run is going to be tough – it is definitely a physical and mental challenge. At the same time, it went by incredibly fast, and often I wish I could just wake up in a hot Gambian bed, ready to start another 25km on the South Bank Road surrounded by some of the best Canadians and Gambians. If you are passionate about running and about global health solutions that work, I would highly recommend taking on this challenge and experiencing the most amazing 427km of your life!
Ashley (2011): Over two years ago, I joined Erin on her journey as she bravely set out to run across the Gambia to support a small NGO the best way she knew how. We had already volunteered with the NSGA and knew how vital their work is in supporting healthy youth and communities in the Gambia, so there was no question that their work needed to continue.
I was the support person, the ER nurse, prepared for the running and heat related injuries as well as tropical illnesses I thought we might encounter. What I wasn’t prepared for was the life changing bond I developed with our team and the country. As Erin wrote in our blogs, there is no better way to know a country than to run across it…. and it was so very true.
And learn we did. We ran through a lot of successes, challenges, amazing events and encountered the most inspiring people on the planet. Love4Gambia gave me the courage to steam ahead with a career I only dreamed of (and yes, DRC with MSF for nine months was a fantastic and life changing opportunity!).
If you’re looking for adventure, a unique travel experience (that you REALLY cannot find in any other medium) and inspiration in life; this should be on your bucket list (but in the PRESENT…. probably shouldn’t wait until you feel close to “kicking the bucket” to try this one on, just sayin’).
Good luck with the run! (I know you’ll be signing up to be the next candidate!)
Andrea (2012): Love4Gambia was a fantastic experience that allowed me to merge my passion for running with that of exploring Africa with all of its beautiful people and landscapes. Pa Modou, Kebba and Spider are not just the best support crew any ultra runner could ask for, but they will also be your guides for all things Gambian. Whether it is language, customs, food, animals or history, they will have an answer to anything you could possibly want to know. And they have the incredible ability to make you laugh even when you are tired and hot and your body wants to quit for the day. The team is also your key to meeting countless Gambian people of all ages along the way and to giving you a glimpse into their every day lives.If you have a sense of adventure, love running and are passionate about making a difference in the world by supporting youths, Love4Gambia is for you! Hope you will decide to conquer the 424 kilometer South Bank Road.
Cielianna (2013): My experience with the 2013 Love4Gambia team was one that I will cherish forever and never forget. At first I thought my role as Jennifer’s support team would be a minor task, but it turned into a great adventure as soon as we landed in the Gambia. As we made our way across the country, strangers became family and the heat became bearable. The team shared such special moments on a journey that few get to experience in their lifetime.
One of the best parts of the run was seeing the locals Gambians standing out on the road to yell and cheer and sometimes even run alongside the team with huge smiles on their faces. To see the happiness in their eyes is something that a person can not describe, but it reminds you who and what you are working hard for and it makes you realize that you truly are making a difference in someone’s life.
If you are passionate about running and interested in changing the lives of countless young Gambians, I would definitely recommend the Love4Gambia run. You will have the opportunity of a lifetime to explore a beautiful country through the local villages while running to raise awareness for such important issues. You’ll learn things you never knew about yourself and your team, and the memories will last a lifetime. What are you waiting for? Banjul is calling!