By: Andrea Moritz
As runners from coast to coast are preparing for spring races, Ottawa runner Andrea Moritz is preparing for a special kind of run. There will be no cheering spectators, no aid stations, no chip timing, no balloon-arc finish line, no medal and no Boston qualification.
Her start line will be a cinder block in the rural community of Koina on the Gambia’s Eastern border. Her race course will be a dirt road that follows the Gambia River across the West African country all the way to its Western coast on the Atlantic Ocean. Her adversaries will be the extreme heat and oppressive humidity.
Andrea will make the 424 kilometer solo journey across the Gambia over the course of 14 days by running more than 30 kilometers each day. Her goal is not measured in time or pace, but in dollars. Andrea’s run is a fundraiser in support of a Canadian national charity, the Nova Scotia – Gambia Association. (NSGA), which has been working with West Africans for over 25 years to keep kids alive and communities strong.
“The HIV/AIDS rate in the Gambia is seven times higher than that in Canada and each year, over 1000 children under the age of five die of malaria. Both these diseases are not only preventable, but also treatable,” said Andrea. “The programs of the NSGA save lives by making children and youth aware of these important health issues and of how to protect themselves,” she added.
Andrea’s support crew will consist of two employees of the NSGA who will arrange logistics and will keep her fed and hydrated throughout her run. Members of the crew may also keep her company during parts of her run. But the company of kids from the villages through which she will pass can also be expected from time to time – after all, a tall, white woman running through rural Africa is likely to attract her fair share of attention!
Andrea’s motivation is simple: ‘‘I have travelled to Africa on a number of occasions and had a fantastic and enriching experience each time. The spirit of the people is just amazing and Love4Gambia is a great opportunity for me to give something back to a place and the people who have given me so much,’’ she said.
If you would like to get involved, you can join the Love4Gambiacharity team in Ottawa Race Weekend, the Blue Nose Marathon Weekend or the Chocolate Race. For more information, see the race teams tab at www.love4gambia.com. You can also make a donation and follow Andrea’s progress this summer through the Love4Gambiaweb site.
Mizuno is proud to support Andrea’s run across the Gambia this summer and wishes her all the best!