"What? A marathon in Sierra Leone ? Are you crazy? ”I think all the other runners have had similar reactions when we told our loved ones where our next trip is going. After an initial bewilderment, incredulous amazement follows and ends in shaking of the head. Fortunately, not everyone reacts like this! I have often seen how impressed people were when I told them about the experiences in Sierra Leone that I had on previous trips. And sometimes I could even motivate one or the other person to accompany me on the adventure. The best thing is that it is called “Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon”, but it is open to you whether you really want to run 42km, 21km, 10km or even 5km. So you don't have to be the biggest sports cannon, but you can just let yourself be carried away by the culture. I ran again this year and as always it was a wonderful experience that I would like to share this time.
At last! Back to Sierra Leone. Back to Freetown. Back to my second home. We are on the plane and I notice how a happy expectation spreads in me. My mouth is watering when I think of all the delicious food I'm going to eat over the next few days. Fresh fruits, jollof rice, ground nut soup ... The food in Sierra Leone is very simple and mainly based on rice, plantains, peanuts and yams, but it always tastes great. When we get off the plane, a heat wave hits me. It is my 7th time in Sierra Leone and yet the warmth surprises me every time. Over 30 degrees in the shade are not uncommon here. We leave the airport and are greeted directly with calls from various taxi drivers "Good Price, good price", "Freetown", "Apoto". We deal with a taxi driver and after some back and forth we have agreed on a good price for both sides. When we arrive at our accommodation in a taxi that is too small after a long journey, we are exhausted, but at the same time euphoric.
We decide to eat something first and then to discuss the course of the next few days. We meet with the other travelers - together a large, international group. We are all here to take part in this year's Sierra Leone Marathon, which is organized by Street Child, a non-profit organization that implements educational projects in West Africa and Nepal . I look forward to the next few days. We will visit the various projects that Street Child oversees here and I will be able to see the progress that the projects have made. It is a fantastic feeling every time to visit the different people who have been helped and to notice the change in their self-confidence and life situation.
I wake up and feel relaxed. After yesterday's arrival I slept like a stone. I'm glad I don't feel jet lag. Although Sierra Leone only deviates two hours from German time, the long journey can exhaust you. Accommodation is very simple, we sleep in a large room with mattresses lying on the floor and protected with mosquito nets. You can choose between different accommodations, but I chose the simplest package. It feels like a real adventure. I am not the second Indiana Jones, but we are all here to experience the local culture and that includes sleeping on the floor and showering with a bucket. When we visit the Fly and Help School project, it immediately becomes clear to me that this will be one of my highlights of this trip. The Fly and Help School is a project that Street Child initiated in cooperation with the Reiner Meutsch Foundation Fly and Help and Taglieber Holzbau GmbH in order to provide children with secondary education. When we arrive in the village of Manjoro, the residents greet us with a warm welcome. The residents are happy about our visit and sing songs for us. The hospitality of the people from Sierra Leone moves me every time anew. We are going from the residents to see what they have accomplished in the past few months. It is a great experience to see how far the construction has progressed and how proud the villagers are about it.
The marathon is definitely a unique experience. We walk far away from the western infrastructure and everyday luxury over unpaved roads, through Makenis landscapes, along small villages, through the jungle and all in a heat that has it all. We are over 100 foreign runners and around 500 local runners. On the morning of the marathon, we start at 6 a.m. to avoid the midday heat. I look around and take a moment to look into the motivated, excited faces of the runners. It will be a challenge, that's for sure! The high humidity and the hilly landscape definitely make running more strenuous than it would be the same route in Germany. However, these circumstances are quickly forgotten when you start to pay attention to the breathtaking landscapes and cheerful villagers, who wave to us excitedly and sometimes walk part of the way. So we all run at our own pace, our chosen distance and it's great. The best thing is the sense of achievement, which then spreads within us, which cannot be compared to anything. After this exciting day we have a relaxed dinner and talk about the trip. Everyone has their own little anecdote to tell. Some are still amazed at how easy it is to eat rice with sauce with his hands if you shape the hand as a "spoon" and another has an extraordinary story to tell about how he had to squat in the African bush because of his stomach problems have left no choice .. One thing is certain, Sierra Leone is not for bores! What will be your story