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Why you should vote for the Sierra Leone Marathon

Martin Forsyth

There’s just one week to go until voting closes on 2017 Running Awards! We’re super excited that the Sierra Leone Marathon has been shortlisted for Best International Event! This is a HUGE opportunity for us to grow our incredible race and keep raising vital funds for some of the world’s most vulnerable children. It’s an honour to be shortlisted and we wanted to say a massive thank you to all of those who voted for us to get this far - thank you, you guys are awesome! We need you to vote again!

Why? because we now have an amazing opportunity to win this prestigious award and join the ranks of world-class events such as the Marathon de Sables and the Berlin marathon. Runner’s World dubbed us the ‘World’s Craziest and Most Worthwhile Marathon” and this has been our mantra for the last 5 epic editions of our race; we’d love to add “award-winning” to that title!

Here’s why you should vote for us:

1)      In 5 years our amazing runners have raised a whopping £1.5m for Street Child – this money has helped us to transform the lives of thousands of children in West Africa.

2) This is a great opportunity for our incredible race to grow. We are always looking for new runners and a way to expand our race to make it bigger and better each year – the bigger the race, the more lives we can change in Sierra Leone!

3) We want our race to be up there with the best in the world and winning Best International Event would be an incredible opportunity for us particularly as we up against some big names

How to vote:

Your votes have got us into the shortlist of 12 but we need your (and your friends/families/neighbours/postman’s) vote to help us to win. Voting is SUPER simple and easy, it won’t take longer than a minute!

Just follow the link https://therunningawards.com/vote/104/143#vote and scroll down and click on Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon.

THANK YOU in advance!

 

Post-marathon beers on the beach anyone?

Martin Forsyth

Sierra Leone Marathon - Relax on the best beaches of West Africa

With winter looking like it's never going to end there is no better time to get lost in thoughts of a tropical paradise and so.....we are pleased to announce the details of our incredible beach extension to the Sierra Leone Marathon!

Last year's runners told us that the hardest part of the trip was having to tear themselves away from the beach and head back to the office after race day. Why not avoid the disappointment and book yourself in for an extra two nights of rest and relaxation at the beach? Given that the Sierra Leone Marathon package is set to officially end on Monday 29th May after the beach party, the beach add-on gives you the option of staying in this beautiful beach town until Wednesday 31st May! 

A two night stay at The Place is the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind after a high tempo week in Makeni. With panoramic views of either the sea or mountains, a stunning restaurant and refreshing pool you simply won't want to leave! Prices are below, but please note that if you require only one bed the price is the same.

- £100 PER NIGHT in a sea facing or mountain facing room for two people including breakfast

- £135 PER NIGHT in a beach front room for two people including breakfast

- £25 for an extra bed

For those who are on a tighter budget, we have covered all bases (limited places)! Details for the cheaper option are as follows:

- £55 PER PERSON for two nights in a tent including breakfast and surf board rental

- £70 PER PERSON for two nights in a hut including breakfast and surf board rental 

*Located at Bureh Beach

If you are interested in either of these options, whether for one night or two, please do not hesitate to contact us for more information and details on how to book this add-on. 

We hope your training is going well and we can't wait to see you at the start line in Makeni!

We're back!

Martin Forsyth

It’s cold, grey and wet this February but the wonderful team at the Sierra Leone Marathon have just the treat to get you through the month – we’re relaunching our blog!

To celebrate we thought we’d share with you some of SLM17’s exciting news:

We’ve hit 125 runners!

We have over 125 runners registered to take part in the marathon in Makeni next May which is BRILLIANT. However, we want to make this year’s race the biggest and best yet and so we need more runners!

If you have friends, family, colleagues interested, or if you are umming and ahhing about your own participation – why not come and chat to us in person? Find out more about the race of a lifetime at our February Marathon Meetup Thursday 9th February 6.30pm - 8.30pm at The Old Dairy, Fitzrovia, London  W1T 6BW. What’s more, there will be expert talks on Hydration and Nutrition - specifically how to prepare for running in tropical conditions, from the team at Precision Hydration. and the guys behind the Old Dairy. This is not to be missed!

And if you’re hitting a bit of a training wall this January then fear not: former Sierra Leone Marathon Runner and ex-England rugby sevens captain Ollie Phillips has written a blog on how to get Marathon-ready by May - take a look here!

Bright Side of the Road

Martin Forsyth

Sierra Leone Marathon - Chris Parkes

Pounding the pavements and stopping at traffic lights in London – that’s not why I run. That was merely training, completed in the hope of making the end goal slightly less painful: a goal that would take me out of London and out of England. I was headed to Sierra Leone to run my first marathon....

2016 Marathon Runner Nina Fitton spoke to the Run Like the Wind magazine about her experience running the Sierra Leone Marathon, read the whole article here

The Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon - Have you heard of it?

Martin Forsyth

The following blog is written by 2016 runner Nina Fitton, the original post can be found on her blog 'HAVE YOU HEARD OF IT?'. 

Last month was a pretty exciting one for me.  I love to travel, and I enjoy exercise, but in May 2016 I decided to combine the two to form one ginormous challenge: traveling to Sierra Leone, to run a marathon, organised by the charity Street Child, in the town of Makeni.

I figured the best way to tell this story is via pictures – so this post will take the form of a photo diary.

Our trip was seamlessly organised by Street Child charity (although transport and timings did tend to happen on “Sierra Leone time”!).  Prior to the marathon, we had three days of project visits, traveling to urban and rural areas of Sierra Leone to see exactly where the money we raised would be going.  Although harrowing to see such poverty and struggles, particularly in the aftermath of Ebola, it was also so positive to see what a difference Street Child are making in Sierra Leone.

There are no short-term cash injections here – only empowering, sustainable projects.  Street Child offers a Family Business Scheme, giving parents of street children a small loan so that they can earn money to keep their children in school.  We visited some of these family businesses in a small town called Bumbuna.

“Business” is perhaps an overstatement by Western standards, but since it costs just £20 to send a child to school for a whole year (including the cost of materials and uniform), these small market stalls, selling everything from salted fish to chilis, really do change lives.

This year, Street Child are particularly focused on girls’ education.  Girls in Sierra Leone don’t really get a fair start in life, and are not given the opportunity to stay in school, so the #GirlsSpeakOut campaign is looking to change that.  You can read more about the campaign here.

We also visited schools that Street Child have built.  Meeting the pupils was more uplifting than I could ever have imagined – their energy was infectious, their welcome songs were heartwarming, and their excitement at meeting us oporto (white people) was so joyful.

The Sierra Leonean scenery is like nothing I’d ever imagined too – such lush greenery, stretching for miles, with striking rocky outcrops dotting the horizon, and red dirt tracks winding through jungle.

We were transported about in mini buses and 4x4s – even taking a hand-pulled chain ferry across a river!

And before we knew it, the marathon was upon us.

With a single shake out run under our belts to test out how we’d fare in the heat and humidity, we set our alarms for 4am, to ensure plenty of time for fueling up and stretching before the 6am start.

Race day dawned and hundreds of locals and tourists congregated at the sports stadium, awaiting the official opening of the race by a Sierra Leonean official.  And with surprising punctuality, 6am struck and we were off.

I thought I was familiar with the landscape from driving through it – but running through it was something else.  We wound along pot-holed tracks heading out of Makeni…

Along highways, dodging escaped goats and chickens, watching motorcycles whizz past…

We were spurred on by the cheers of local villagers, cries of oporto and thank you, and so many little hands reaching out for high fives.

It was so energizing to be running a race where everyone is gunning for the same cause.
This wasn’t about us, the runners.
No one cared for a PB, or for pushing themselves so hard they couldn’t enjoy the experience.
We were all running for the children and families who we’d met over the past few days – the very people whose villages we were running through and waving to.

The first 20 miles flew by, but right at the point where my legs grew heavy and my energy levels dipped, the temperature started to get up…  I can only apologise to the locals I passed during the last 6 miles, as I barely had the energy to smile, let alone wave and high five!!

Seeing the stadium that contained the finish line gave me another boost, and somehow – despite 26.2 miles run, 80% humidity, and 35°C – I managed a fairly sprinty finish!

My finisher’s medal was handmade and painted by locals in Makeni, and as a result it means more to me than any other medal I’ve ever won!

We refueled and partied at the Clubhouse that evening, a bar/restaurant owned by Street Child (all profits are plowed back into the charity – nice to know that buying a round of drinks can send a child to school!).

Our last day was spent at the beach – actual paradise, with the warmest ocean, zero tourists besides us runners, and a cool breeze.

These guys were selling fresh coconuts and oysters by the ocean!

We had the most stunning sunset as we left for the airport…

If you like what you see, registration for the Sierra Leone Marathon 2017 has opened already, with prices frozen at 2016 rates if you book soon!  Details here.

Why the Sierra Leone Marathon is great for beginners too

Martin Forsyth

A group of friends relaxing at the Wusum stadium after finishing our 5K, 10K and half marathon races in October 2015...

A group of friends relaxing at the Wusum stadium after finishing our 5K, 10K and half marathon races in October 2015...

If you want to support Street Child’s work but just the word ‘marathon’ strikes panic into your heart, fear not! Our 10K and 5K race options are the perfect opportunity for you.

They’re an achievable challenge...

Training for a running event can seem daunting, but most first-time racers will say that by starting with shorter distances and following a good training plan, 10K and 5K runs are very accessible. Check out these training programs from Nike and Women’s Running to get started.

You’ll be running with the locals…

The 10K and 5K options are our most popular distances for the local Sierra Leonean runners who participate!

By choosing either of these options, you’ll have the exciting opportunity to run together with hundreds of locals. Combined with the beautiful rural landscape that you’ll be passing through, you’ll get a true feeling for this magnificent country. 

You don't miss out on any of the experiences…

The race itself is only one part of this eye-opening trip! No matter what distance you choose to run, you will have the opportunity to meet some of the children and families that your fundraising will go on to support.

Every participant also gets the opportunity to visit the glorious beaches of Sierra Leone on the last day –or you can treat yourself to a couple more days of relaxation with the beach extension!

And most importantly, you’ll help change lives…

At the heart of the Sierra Leone Marathon is the support that the event allows us to give to local street children in the country. Our 10K and 5K runs allow you to get behind these causes, even if long distance running isn’t necessarily your thing.

Regardless of the distance you choose, being a part of a unique team of runners who are all supporting one cause is a truly life changing experience, and one that you’ll never forget.

 … And if you really don't enjoy running, you can choose to be a race day volunteer

Ben Hodgson: Returning to Sierra Leone

Martin Forsyth

Our original Race Director, Ben Hodgson (right) was instrumental in organising the first ever Sierra Leone Marathon in 2012. Here he is pictured with SLM16 Assistant Race Director Alusine Kanu.

Our original Race Director, Ben Hodgson (right) was instrumental in organising the first ever Sierra Leone Marathon in 2012. Here he is pictured with SLM16 Assistant Race Director Alusine Kanu.

Sometime around 6am, I awake to the sounds of morning prayer from the nearby mosque. It seems that the loudhailer is broken, so the imam resorts to shouting at the top of his impressive lungs. I realise that I have slept for a full 10 hours, not something I am used to in the sticky air of Sierra Leone.  The night has been unusually cool.

I disentangle myself from my mosquito net and consume a couple of sachets of water and some Jaffa Cakes as a makeshift breakfast. Then it’s out into the hazy half-light of a January morning in Makeni to relive some memories of my preparations for the first ever Sierra Leone Marathon in 2012.

I make my way to the original start line of the marathon by Birch Secondary School and set off slowly: this is all about enjoying the sights. Familiar scenes greet me immediately. Cooking pots simmering over hot coals, parents chivvying their children to get ready for school, people brushing their teeth and rinsing the brush from a plastic watering can, teenagers queuing at a well for their turn to draw water, or walking stiffly homewards under the weight of a full bucket in each hand. Girls braid each other’s hair. Skeletons of abandoned cars and minibuses, stripped of anything that can be unbolted, remain on the same street corners.

A toddler squeals as his mother sloshes a jug full of cool water over him to wash off the soap, and then forgets his annoyance to shout out a familiar greeting in my direction: “APATO!” Further down the street a group of older children turn it into a chant “A-PA-TO, A-PA-TO!”. The air is warm and tinged with wood smoke. Above me, the imposing Wusum hill, around which the marathon is run, is shrouded in mist.

I continue along the course I used to know so well for another mile. It is exactly as I remember it, except that there are streetlights and, I now notice, many people are no longer doing their morning routines on their porches by torch or lantern light, but under fluorescent bulbs.

And then I reach a junction. The next stretch used to be a rutted dirt track. Now it looks like it has been tarred. It feels too wide, somehow. Am I going the right way? I scour the shop signs (“World’s Best Barbing Shop”,  “Man United Auto Spears”) for a familiar road name but can’t find one. I look for familiar landmarks for reassurance – mosques, radio masts, the clocktower. But it’s no use; the replacement of mud roads, rickety bridges and open ditches has conspired to disorientate me. Finally I find the Cathedral – I’m back on track and can look forward to one of my favourite stretches of the course towards the bridge in Talent Town. And then I take a wrong turn and end up in a family’s back yard, much to the kids’ amusement, and their goat’s annoyance.

Armed with directions from their father, I head off again, hurdling the furrows cut in the mud roads by the long rainy season last year, skidding on the Harmattan dust. But I lose my way again and decide just to explore these new streets. By now children are leaving home to walk to school, immaculate in their white or yellow shirts. They greet me with no small hilarity. It’s getting warmer and I’ve been running for the best part of an hour. A sweaty white face is not a normal feature of the walk to school.

I run straight until I hit a tar road and spy the Makeni clocktower in the distance. I’m back on familiar ground. Motorcycle taxis honk their horns as they pass me, perhaps assuming that I need rescuing from this sweaty madness. Along the main road, posters of Neymar and other luminaries of world football remind passers-by how to avoid contracting Ebola. But the checkpoints that were in place only a few months ago are unmanned, and the only barriers across the road are there to catch motorcycle taxis riders who haven’t paid their union dues.

I reach the finish line of the 2012 marathon, having covered only 12 zigzagged kilometers. At Birch School, teachers are corralling tardy students. They are made to raise both arms in the air and hold them there at the teachers’ pleasure. I buy a couple of loaves of bread from a trader and sit down for a second breakfast.

The following morning, the mosque’s loudhailer is working again. I set off to meet the Assistant Race Director of the 2016 race, Alusine Kanu, for an inspection of the new half marathon course. As we run, it’s fun to share memories of 2012 and to hear stories of the races run since then. The new course is simpler, with fewer turns and avoiding many of the traffic hotspots. We pass Talent Town, which now boasts some of the biggest houses I’ve seen in Makeni. 4 years is clearly a long time in a country which, but for Ebola, was on track to record double digit growth last year. But the countless Hiluxes owned by mining companies have disappeared, victims of the crash in the price of iron ore. And yet, in the distance, the blasts from the horn of a massive train dragging ore to the coast give some cause for optimism.

Alusine describes how much the marathon is now a fixture on the Makeni calendar, and how he is already getting calls from would-be runners from all over the country asking when it is taking place in 2016. The Sierra Leone Marathon is alive and well, and has come a long way from its beginnings in 2012. I can’t wait, finally, to run it in May.

Nic Errol: My running journey

Martin Forsyth

Nic Errol completing one of his extreme runs..

Nic Errol completing one of his extreme runs..

Hello runners! Yes, runners. If you have 2 legs, you can run. And from there, the opportunities are endless.

I’m Nic, an Australian that has called London home for the past two and a half years. I am a Brand Ambassador for Nike, as well as a Mountain Ultra Trail Runner. Basically, I like running far longer than the marathon distance, and in some of the most beautiful natural locations in the world. 100 milers are my distance (for now).

My journey started not much different to most peoples. I made a decision that I was going to start running. I started small, and as I grew to enjoy running far more, 5kms became 8kms, 8 turned to 10, and then I signed up for a half-marathon. Until one run I got lost. Badly. Without an oyster card, bank card or mobile phone. Just a GPS device. So I kept running. Until I got home. And had run over double the longest I had ever run previously. Tired, hungry and shocked. And yet, I LOVED it. I had ran over a half-marathon accidentally, and wanted more. Before I had even raced my first half-marathon, I had signed up for marathons, and even my first ultra-marathon, the London – Brighton Ultra (I got 2nd in that too, much to my surprise). That day changed what running meant to me, and I am now thankful to be competing in elite level ultra-marathons all over the world.

My unique journey began with a choice. Which has led to do and see things I never dreamed possible. The Sierra Leone Marathon represents that for you. A choice, a desire, and something with meaning. We all run for different reasons, with different goals, intentions and expectations. But we ALL made that choice. To run, to say yes, to be curious.

Regardless of why you run, remember these basic principles in your preparation.

  1. Remember your WHY. The overall driving force that gets you up and out there.
  2. Be consistent with your training. Progress is made with gradual and incremental improvements, and not big and sudden changes. Quality not quantity. I work full-time (in an office job), so I have similar challenges with scheduling and balance.
  3. Have fun. Whilst training and growth DO require challenge and adversity, if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it. Run with friends or a run club. Run to brunch/coffee. Stop and enjoy the views (London has PLENTY). Reward yourself (in moderation) for milestones. Hard work is necessary, suffering is a choice. Choose to smile.

I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you in person, and being involved with your own journeys in cooperation with Street Child. To follow my training and adventures leading up to my February 6th race in New Zealand, visit my website or find me on Instagram (@nic_errol).

Happy Running! 

The 5th Sierra Leone Marathon is here!

Martin Forsyth

SLM16 Race Director, Mark Maughan returning from a run with Adidas 26ers

SLM16 Race Director, Mark Maughan returning from a run with Adidas 26ers

The Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon is back and we are hoping to make this year’s race the biggest and best one yet. Can you believe that this will be the fifth Sierra Leone Marathon… where has the time gone!

It has been over 2 months since I left Sierra Leone and once again I’m itching to get back.

After a busy few months up in the North East of England, which involved spending a lot of time entertaining my young nephew, it is now back to business and I’m running (literally) all over London to spread the word of SLM. So far I have joined seven different running clubs in and around the city:

  • Putney Running Club
  • Runner’s Need, Strype street runners
  • London City Runners
  • London Marathon Store Adidas 26ers
  • Nike Town Run Crew
  • Sweatshop, Trump street runners
  • London Hash House Harriers

Feel free to come and join me on any of their runs as part of your training, or if you are already a member please come and say hello!

If you have already participated in what Runner’s World described as “the most worthwhile marathon in the world”, then fancy doing it again? If not, what are you waiting for? Register now to take on the challenge of a lifetime this year. On the day there is a 5km, 10km, half marathon and full marathon so that everyone of all abilities can take part in this amazing experience!

If you are concerned about training and running in tough conditions or fundraising for the first time, then do not worry; the SLM team are here to help. We plan regular meet ups to keep you updated, our fundraising team can help you think of inventive fundraising ideas and we encourage you to come along to some of our training runs –check out our calendar of free running groups in London!

If you are still undecided, then why not come along to the Street Child Fun Run on Sunday 28th February in Putney to meet SLM veterans and new runners.

See you in Makeni on 29th May!

Tenki Ya,

Mark

SLM 2015 post-race wrap up!

Martin Forsyth

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The Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon was once described as “the most worthwhile marathon in the world” and I couldn’t agree more.

In its own right SLM is a unique and challenging event as runners are united in one cause, running together and visiting charity projects all to support the amazing work of Street Child.

Throw in to the mix that SLM15 was I think the only official international marathon to be held in a country not yet declared Ebola-free and this just goes to show what a truly exceptional and interesting marathon this year has been.

Everyone who was involved in the event from the runners, staff, volunteers, spectators and even His Excellency the President have come together to make a real statement, that Sierra Leone is more than Ebola!

All four races were a huge success, whether you took part in the 5km, 10km, half or full marathon, everyone ‘enjoyed’ themselves and completed their distance knowing what a difference they are making to Ebola orphans and street children across Salone.

Participant numbers may have been lower this year compared to previous, however together we all managed to make a big impact and created a wonderful atmosphere.

Having been involved in the Sierra Leone Marathon since the first-ever event in 2012 I have been fortunate enough to see the effect it has on the people of Makeni.

SLM is the biggest event to be held in the home of SCoSL, not only does your money go a long way to helping vulnerable children; it also funds the development of the country. With SLM investment I have witnessed growth in the infrastructure of Makeni.

By hiring vehicles, booking up guesthouses, ordering food and drink the marathon is investing in the local economy, more and more jobs have been created, more and more people have been able to earn an income to support their families, more and more children have been able to go to school rather than depend on the streets.

The roads are better, street lights have been installed, skills are enhanced, these are all the extra added bonus of participating in the Sierra Leone Marathon along with supporting the work of Street Child.

Bring on SLM May 2016!

SLM15 Race Day through the eyes of our race director

Martin Forsyth

SLM15 Race Director Mark Maughan with Assistant Race Director Alusine Kanu

SLM15 Race Director Mark Maughan with Assistant Race Director Alusine Kanu

A lot of work goes into making sure that we provide a safe, secure and exciting experience and so many individuals contribute to this. The event wouldn’t happen without them.

Street Child staff and volunteers, both local and international take on extra responsibilities to their day-to-day jobs to coordinate the whole week. Local stakeholders such as the Red Cross, Police, Army, Sports marshals and Council all pull together to cover the course and the SLM team just generally rock, so thanks to all of them.

I want to share my race day(s) experience with you.

Thursday (22nd October), the truck was packed with all equipment and materials, which had been stored at the Street Child compound over the last few months including banners, cool boxes and even the podium.

Friday (23rd October), even though we had booked the Wusum Stadium for all day Friday and Saturday I showed up at the venue at 8am in my full/valuable truck to find that football practice was still going ahead, crowds of women selling breakfast were all over the pavilion and rubbish was everywhere. At this point I became the villain as football was cut short, everyone was cleared out of the stadium and workers were told to clean the mess up ready for registration.

After a busy start, registration smoothed out and was controlled all day, whilst also setting up the start/finish area with banners + bunting. Following a drill patrol with the local security firm it was time for the Street Child beneficiaries football match, a fantastic spectacle and chance for the kids to show off their skills. This was their Champions League final, the opportunity to play in front of an international crowd.

Once again the stadium was cleared and I was off to the Pasta party at the Clubhouse in order to refuel for the big day ahead and deliver my pre-race brief.

No rest for the wicked as we went off to meet with the President’s security team. It’s not as glamorous or intense as you see on a TV series like 24, instead we sat in a large living room in the Presidential residence had a quick chat with his Chief of Staff, handed over a number of runner’s t-shirts and that was it.

Race Day, Saturday (24th October), back to the Wusum Stadium. It is well known that the Race Director never gets any sleep the night before the race (Thanks to Emma and Alusine for the company).

There is something quite relaxing about setting up in the middle of the night with very few people around, no distractions and just enough time to get stuff done but then funny things like this happen:

  • Clearing the main gates where all of the APC (political party) guests decided to park their cars.
  • Asking a security guard to hack off a chain on the other gate so that runners can enter/exit
  • Posting up tape and posters on the street outside whilst dogs bark crazily at you.
  • Putting up distance markers and signs around the course in the pouring down rain.
  • Carrying and allocating bundles of water to each vehicle/water station so that they are ready to collect.
  • Refusing a few late night partygoers in to signing up for the full marathon only hours before the race.
  • Sweeping up and cleaning a private room for the President.
  • Ringing and shouting at certain people who have slept in and are late in collecting water/equipment ready to deploy out on course.

By 5am, the majority of course volunteers and vehicles were deployed, with runners then starting to arrive and begin their warm up on the pitch. Hats off to the Africell DJ, the music got everyone in the mood for a big day ahead.

Next it was time for the President and all of his convoy to arrive. The President gave a warm and welcoming speech to officially open this year’s event and then came the call for marathon and half marathon runners to make their way out to the start line.

I thought it was very fitting for Palo Conteh, head of the National Ebola Response Committee to start the race and get our long-distance runners underway before daybreak.

30 minutes later, after some more stretching and dancing we were ready for the 5km race to start. Once again I was asked by the President’s security team to go out and stay with His Excellency as I knew the course and his team –this was great fun!

President Ernest Bai Koroma is much loved in Makeni, the crowds were showing real affection towards their leader and this was amazing to be part of.

Whilst waving back at the crowds, we spoke along with his First Minister about Makeni, the marathon course, the roads and his love for football and Arsenal. The First Minister even invited me to visit him for dinner in Freetown some time, so I returned the offer and said I would take him for a night out in Newcastle.

The 5km was done done, the crowds were overjoyed and it was a beautiful day. So far so good. The finish line was electric, everyone eager to welcome in the half and full marathon runners.

Congratulations to all participants but special praise to our sweepers at the back, Josh and Bart who kindly offered to match the slowest runner and make sure everyone got home.

Everyone did it, everyone managed to complete their distance, well done as I know it’s not easy! But you were all some way off my SLM (2014) record slowest time of 8hours 37minutes, so come along next year and give it a go…

Tenki Ya… Mark

Hear from our youngest runner, Rosie van der Vliet...

Martin Forsyth

I have been to Sierra Leone to take part in the Sierra Leone Marathon with my family 3 times and all 3 times it has been the most amazing experience. In the first year, when I was 8, I ran the 5km. In the second year, I was 9 and ran the 5km and the third year I was 10 and ran the 5km. I will be running the 5km this year as well. 

In the past years I have gone with friends my age but this year I'm just going with my family and some people my parent’s age. When I tell people how I'm running in the 5km race they say 'you must be mad' and stuff like that and they find it hard to believe, they found it even harder to believe that I started going there when I was 8 years old!

I wanted to write this blog because I would like to raise money for Street Child.

Rosie with her friends on her last trip to Sierra Leone

Rosie with her friends on her last trip to Sierra Leone

Street Child is a very important charity because it helps children get off of the streets in Sierra Leone, that’s why it’s called Street Child.  In Sierra Leone street children don’t get any education and its always very hot and humid.

Street Child have done an amazing job so far and it is really interesting to go and see some of the projects. We support families so that their children can go to school. At the schools where we visit, we sometimes give the children pencils and pens because they don’t have any at all. We also bring the very small nursery children cuddly toys which they love. Most children’s toys have been burned because of Ebola.

Ebola is still a small problem there but my family and I will stay far away from it. I am still a bit afraid of going because of this reason but I'm sure that once I get out there I'll forget all about it. 

I have done some fundraising for Street Child in the past. My friends and I made bracelets, brownies and cupcakes and sold them at my local church, St Marks. We spent about £50 for all the material and mixture but managed to raise close to £600. 

Some of the saddest things about Sierra Leone are that you get to see how different their lives are to ours. How they don't have clean water and not much food at all. Not like us, how we have everything right in front of our eyes. 

How would you feel to be in the same clothes every day of your life and how would you feel if you have no family at all at a young age?

Can you help me raise money? http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BartvanderVliet

Rosie van der Vliet

Age 11


Training tips from Daniel McCarroll

Martin Forsyth

We have partnered with PT Daniel McCarroll. Here he shares a few tips to help with your Sierra Leone Marathon preparations to ensure you are getting the most out of what you put in.

Shoes

Not all trainers are suitable for running a marathon, especially for the conditions in Sierra Leone. You want to be training in the shoes you are going to run in on the day, however not if you've been running in them for a long time. Running shoes normally last between 400-500 miles, which sounds a lot but it all adds up.

One way to tell it's time to replace your running shoes is to test the rigidity of the mid-sole material. To do this, grab the round stiff part of the heel and push with your thumb on the cushioning part towards the bottom of the shoe.

When a shoe is new, this material will feel very rigid. However, when it is old the mid-sole material softens. Judging a shoe's usefulness by just looking at the wear on the black outer sole is not necessarily a good indicator of a shoe's true condition.

Ensure your running shoes are lightweight whilst having enough support to keep your ankles snug in uneven surfaces.

Socks play a huge part in preventing blisters. It’s worth spending a little extra to get a good comfy cushioned sock. Similarly, laces and the way they are tied can play a huge part in your performance and comfort. Check out this video to see if you have your laces set correctly and comfortably.

Training

Along with running and cardiovascular training you need to ensure your core is strong and is supporting your form. Maintaining a neutral pelvis will help prevent injury especially as you start to tire. This doesn't mean doing hundreds of crunches but rather targeting the deeper abdominal muscles and strengthening your pelvic floor and transverse abdominals. 

-Daniel McCarroll

It’s great to be back!

Martin Forsyth

It has been around 15 months since I left Sierra Leone and that was 15 months too long.

I left after the Marathon in May last year and obviously due to the Ebola crisis it became difficult to return, but I’m certainly glad to be back here now.

My early morning run in Makeni soon reminded me why I love this place and why the Marathon here is so amazing. Only minutes into my run I was cheered by locals and a chorus of “Oporto” began to ring out, with excited children high fiving and running along behind me.

Even at 7am some of the top-up stalls were blasting out African tunes, so I just had to stop and show off my dance moves to the kids. This led to a fair bit of laughter plus the odd praise of “fine moves”.

As it is the middle of rainy season, the ground is fairly soft following a night of heavy downpour and there are a fair few puddles to avoid, but this just adds more to the adventure, a bit like trail running.

Some of you may still be worried about Ebola and the situation it has caused. Of course Ebola has terribly affected so many people here, and the country is still not classed as ‘Ebola free’, but everyone is taking strong measures to make sure this is the end of the outbreak.

Now Sierra Leoneans just need something to look forward to and to celebrate. This is what makes the Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon so important this year, not just to the town of Makeni but to the whole country.

So come along and be a part of it, see what a difference the marathon makes and help us to celebrate this beautiful country.

-Marathon Mark