Still time to sponsor/donate at: http://www.justgiving.com/Gareth-Briggs There’s gold in tham ther’ hills You live in Makeni, you think that all white people have money, in a comparative ex-pats in Sierra Leone sense you’re not wrong. You have 700 ex-pats coming to Makeni for the marathon, you know this, it happened last year and there’s loads of posters all round town. So this is an opportunity to make money, right? Surely, there’s one enterprising individual that will try to sell drinks, or sweets or something near the finish line. Surely there’s one person in this town of a few hundred thousand who will realise that this is an annual opportunity to make some money. Surely?! Nought from two from the free throw line President Koroma opened the race, he made a speech and ran the 5k. It was good to see how little security that a President felt that he needed, Makeni is his home town, these are his people but, even so, there was no obvious protection required. In his speech he had to remember two things, the name of the founder of the charity: Thank you Mr, erm, founder and director. And the amount that was raised last year. Last year they raised….a lot of money. Offence is the best form of defence The Minister Of Defence ran the 5k, he made a speech after the race he said that it was ‘fucking hard’. Out of my world The story goes that when Captain Cook landed in Australia the indigenous Aboriginal people didn’t even look up, the entire event of a massive ship full of white people landing was just completely ignored. If I close my eyes you can’t see me either. We were trying to find a place called The Club House. It’s a bar restaurant operated by the Street Child charity. It’s quite a good idea, they have a lot of people in the mining industry passing through and a lot of ex-pats. They have money to spend and want some western food, a few beers, the football, maybe a game of pool. So you set up a non-profit making venture to capture some of this money, put it back into the community and help the pikins. It’s quite expensive, say 60,000 Leones for a plate of food, that’s a lot for Salone and way out of reach for most locals but less than a tenner converted. There’s not lots of places in Makeni, it’s not that big a place, the Club House isn’t that small and it’s not that new. There’s even a massive billboard advert for it beside the main street. We were asking around where it was, we were only a few streets away. Everyone, was really nice, chatty, friendly but as to where the Club House was; they didn’t have a clue. Lazy English I was quite prepared for the run, had completed the distance a few times on my own and had a wee time in my head that I wanted to hit. That said, I hadn’t done anything like this before and I found it slightly daunting both at the time that everyone turned up to register and at the start line. Everyone looked like a runner, to me anyway. It’s all a bit congested at the start so I kind of let most people go in front and then, as it spaced out, I passed most of them so it was quite clear and I wasn’t being bothered. Just behind me some American Peace Corps guy started chatting Catriona up which was pretty funny as I could tell by her tone of voice she thought that he was a bit of a dick. Or that it was neither the time nor the place. Anyway, I was keen to run away from such nonsense, so I picked up the pace a little I was running along happily; after a time, I fell in running with this Irish chap, he was running at a similar pace to me and that helped a lot. At about 11k on my (Gill’s) watch we see a few people running back towards us. That’s a bit odd, I think, they don’t look injured. The idiots (English idiots btw) had forgot to put the sign up saying where the half and full marathon split. So we had to run quite a distance back the way we came to rejoin the half marathon course more importantly I had no idea, quite how much extra we had covered. Predictably, I was furious especially passing loads of people that I was, previously, miles in front of, the righteous indignation helped a little and I specifically sped up when I was told that Catriona was now in front of me! She said she was happy to have provided the extra incentive and when I passed her she said it was time for me to kick on so I left her with the Irish fella to see what was still in the tank. It did make it hard and I am still annoyed, OK I’m no athlete but I had done a fair bit of training from an incredibly low base. I had a wee plan to do the first 15km comfortably and then see what I had left, but I now had no idea how long I was actually running for and it meant I couldn’t see if I could further speed up for the last 1 or 2k as I didn’t even know when that was. Anyway, scores on the doors, I did exactly 1km too much (in my head it was going to be more) and was just under 2 hours but I did find motivating myself hard towards the end as I didn’t know what I had left and in my mind I was already finished. So, not as well as I had hoped but better than anyone that I know, which I guess is something of a win. Basking in reflected glory Time wise my mate John would have won the full marathon quite comfortably so I’ve been getting quite a lot of mileage out of a fairly idiotic world weary that was such a slow marathon my mate would have won easily patter. As runners collapsed over the line having done a sub three hours marathon in the heat of Africa. Is that a bacon tree? No it’s a ham bush The marathon was incredibly badly organised, dangerously so. I’m not quite sure why, they had many people working on it full time- paid for and voluntary- for months and it’s not the first time that it’s been run. I think that they had prioritised the extras and completely forgot about the basics. So they made a big deal about having free WiFi at the finish line (I was going to run with my Kindle to download The Week) but they didn’t have any water. They also made us sit through a painfully long do’s and don’t safety chat the night before but they didn’t have any water. That’s water, there was no water. Or rather no water points. I’m no expert but a half marathon is 21km so 7 water points every 3km, that seems reasonable. And not fucking difficult to arrange. It’s also a great way to get the community involved everyone lined the streets why not give them water to give out, as I say there were loads of volunteers, I even know people that asked if they could help out to be told there was nothing for them to do. What they actually did (I think) was to move water points from the full course to the half so I passed a water point that was being set up, but had no water yet. Basically, the front half-marathon group just weren’t catered for. I didn’t pass a water point from, maybe, 10km to 19km. This is an ‘organised’ distance race. In Africa. I thought burdz could multi-task The day before the race they were casting around for medics because, as I understand it, the race medics that had came over from the UK wanted to distance themselves from it immediately as they were not being given the equipment that they would expect. I know several doctors that were asked to help the day before, despite having already signed up to run. They asked a doctor called Holly if she could do it and she said no on the basis that she was running the full marathon. They said, well if someone collapses beside you, would you please help them out… Timing‘s everything. People train hard for a marathon so their time is important, especially for the serious runners, 70 had flown in just for the race. So, it’s a good idea to put a girl on time keeping duty for six hours who had only offered to volunteer that morning. I’ve already cracked the ‘we’re not allowed to have colonies joke’, right? I stayed in a leper colony the night before, run by some Nigerian nuns, it was very nice. I’ve not stayed in a leper colony before but, from my one experience, I’d heartily recommend it. Sister Perpetua was particularly nice but she did insist on us buying her CD on the way out, I passed the buck on that one making Catriona buy one and saying we could happily share it. I’m going to let her keep it. I’m nice like that. Never off the clock Sister Perpetua’s not a very modest name, is it?
Had a hilarious hour at the Mix Point with a drunk old Kissy Man (a tribe) from Kailahun. Marcus had, clearly, heard it all before and had the perfect barman ‘I’m listening face’. He wasn’t listening.
I, on the other hand, was absolutely entranced by this master storyteller drifting in and out of hypnosis depending on whether I had no clue what he was saying or very little clue what he was saying. When I told him I was from Scotland he drifted a bit then came back with “Scotland Yard, Scotland Yard! They train dogs to be detectives in Scotland Yard!” Then he jumped off his stool pointing to the sky, shouting “DOGS!”
Then he quietly went on to talk about the fact that although Sakia Stevens wasn’t democratically elected he did a lot of good for the country.
Ah, de Kola Bitters…
Drink, football, fish suppers, heart attacks
“This white man, Marcus, he has a culture, but this white man, he will not tell you his culture.”
Moyamba Junction is where I stop off to on the way to Bo to but fruit and veg, there’s a better selection and it’s slightly cheaper. It’s a fucking nightmare.
When you get out the car you’re immediately surrounded by a dozen people all trying to sell you their wares, shouting, thrusting things in your face. It’s a fucking nightmare.
Normally I go with a list and just read it out and what I need just appears from nowhere cassava, sweet potato (both a welcome change from rice) plaintain, G Block (aubergine), some pineapples, some bananas, maybe even some delicious local honey.
It’s the only time I feel like a character in a Rudyard Kipling book, throwing my hands in the air and shouting:
“If you don’t all shut up I’m not going to buy anything.”
Like I say, it’s a fucking nightmare.
But in mango season it’s a lot, lot worse because you are surrounded by dozens of hawkers and every single one of them is selling exactly the same thing. Or, at the very most, a variation on a theme.
I just, basically, grab a bag of mangos and run back to the car.
The Bo Half Marathon
So, I’m doing the Makeni half marathon in aid of Street Child
which has been worrying me as I’ve never really done anything like this before and when I arrived here I was really, really unfit. If I had done any exercise in the previous five years then I’m really not sure what that was. Running for a bus perhaps. And I knew that I had been running a lot but I wasn’t really sure how much distance I was covering so it felt like I was doing a lot but, really, from what I was able to do in January anything felt like a lot.
Anyway, Gill went back to the UK and I borrowed her GPS watch. My first run was my standard Bo Rangers Stadium construction site run and that was about 9km door to door- or 8.5km door to Mix Point. OK Friday night run 8.5km, that’s OK.
Got up in the morning when it was cooler and decided to run to Kanga, that’s the longest run I have done so far, it seemed to be 6km out and 5.9km back (the statellites have moved Rodders) I was going to run on the spot for a bit then realised that wouldn’t work with GPS. 12km, OK not so bad.
Then at some point on Saturday I decided that if I couldn’t run a half marathon the next day I couldn’t do it at all. Not great logic, not even logic logic.
So, fuelled by the previous evening’s partially cooked pasta dinner (I ran out of gas, hopefully not a sign) I set out promising myself that if I could do anything beyond 15km then would be OK to get a bike home.
It’s quite cool at six thirty and I ran out 11km, and felt quite good, on the way back at 15km on the watch I was still feeling good by 17km the sun was fully up and it was really, really hot but by that stage getting a bike would have been a little embarrassing.
Can I get my money now or do I need to do it all again in Makeni?!
A dollar is what I need
My post pub snack at home would have been a kebab. On my way home from the pub I now buy two five block of nuts, one thousand bread, three mangos (two small one big) and a charcoaled corn on the cob.
That costs a dollar.