The next installment of the Lithuanian tale from runner Ben
So the Running For Change team have completed their first
official run on Saturday - the Vilnius half marathon. The team,
represented on this day by Mindaugas, Tomas, Oleg & myself,
wore the Kiln/Street Child t-shirts with pride. We wanted to raise
as much awareness of our project as possible so we tactically
spread ourselves throughout the field. This time we let Mindaugas
cross the line first in 1 hour 34 mins, followed evenly spaced
by Oleg, then Tomas, with myself coming in exactly 22 minutes
later. As agreed.
This was my first half marathon and according to my training
plan it would be straightforward. Well, that's not the word that
was foremost in my mind as I closed in on the finish. Having now
run 21km in the 20 degree "heat" of Lithuania, the reality of the
challenge that is running a full marathon in the oven of Sierra
Leone has kicked in. About bloody time, my wife would say. But hang
on, it's not about the run.
Ever since I started out on this adventure I've always said to
anyone who would listen that this is about something bigger. My two
dogs are sick of hearing about it on our walks. "Don't focus on the
run", I'd say. It's just a run, not a race. A run in the sun. A fun
Raising money - now there's the challenge. This is a new model
for Lithuania. It takes some explaining. And some faith!
We started collecting donations at the end of
February, and, like my run on Saturday, got off to a flying start,
followed by a steady jog, with a few wobbles and the occasional
burst of unexpected speed. Unlike my run, we are still expecting a
strong, sprint finish.
We've had to register our own charity. We've created our team
identity - Running For Change. And we can boast our own logo,
website & facebook group.
But the legacy we really want, is to have funded the
construction of one and ideally two schools in Sierra Leone.
Schools that were "Made in Lithuania".
We've got some way to go.
We've appeared on radio & TV, and have had regular photos or
articles in the press. Having our own local celebrity, Leo, in the
team - the kind of celebrity your grandma would like - is a big
help. As is Rytis, our World Championship silver medalist in
Karate, and bodyguard to the Lithuanian President.
All our effort is paying off as many people have heard or read
about our project. It's new, it's different, it's interesting. I'm
proud of what we have already achieved.
Next on the horizon is the Druskininkai (no, no spelling
mistake) half marathon on 6 May. This time the full team will be
running. We'll be staggering our finishes again.