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A huge well done to our fundraising heroes!

Martin Forsyth

On 29th May 2016 over 100 international runners travelled to Makeni, Sierra Leone for the fifth Sierra Leone Marathon. This year’s marathon was arguably the most important yet as it was the first since the country was declared Ebola-free. What’s more, all funds raised for the Sierra Leone Marathon went towards the Girls Speak Out appeal supporting more than 20,000 vulnerable children can go to school and receive a quality education.

In recognition of the amazing fundraising efforts of our 2016 runners, awards for the top fundraiser, a fundraising hero and the top fundraising team were given out at our annual Street Child Summer Ball on the 25th June 2016.

The Sierra Leone Marathon 2016 was Charlotte Evans’ first ever marathon and she raised a fantastic £6870 making her this year’s top fundraiser. She told us how she did it:

“I was a bit nervous asking people for sponsorship so I decided to organise a gig and arranged for 11 acts to perform on the night. It was a huge success and it had a great turnout as so many people wanted to come and support their friends singing. I raised £4.5k from selling tickets and doing a raffle. It’s actually a pretty easy model to replicate so I would recommend it. I discovered that if you take on a challenge like running a marathon in a country like Sierra Leone, and for such a fantastic cause, people are extremely willing to sponsor you. I was really amazed with the support my friends, family and colleagues gave me and how generous people can be.”

 Abigail Watling was part of the Tokio Marine Kiln team who won Top Fundraising Team.

 "I've actually found it really hard to put into words how amazing the experience was to my family and friends. I will forever remember the Sierra Leone marathon not only as it was my first marathon but because of the incredible people you meet and places you visit. I really don't think I will beat this running experience, although I would definitely do it again! Fundraising can be really tough at times and you feel like you’re not getting to the next milestone quick enough. I think the more knowledge people have about Street Child and its projects, the more donations we were given. Making people feel engaged and involved was the key to our group’s fundraising. So happy we won the award!"

 

This year’s fundraising hero was Florian Weimert who raised £3,077 after returning from the marathon:  

"I feel blessed about having met many admirable people who impressed me with their passion, determination and positive thinking to make a difference in Sierra Leone. And big "thank you" to everybody who donated on my marathon fundraiser for Street Child helping me get the best improved marathon fundraiser award."

 And our final award of the night went to the amazing Chris Parkes who won the ‘Spirit of the Marathon’ award for all his hard work photographing and capturing the essence of the marathon.

When we asked Chris about winning the award he said:  

“It was completely unexpected as the experience in itself had been so extraordinary and rewarding in itself. I felt really loved and that my work was helping make a real difference to a cause in the way I always hoped it would. I was humbled that I have found such inspiring, supportive people to work with."

Thank you again to all those who came, fundraised and supported the Sierra Leone Marathon 2016. We hope to see you back next year! 

You can register for next year's event here.

‘ESKIMO’ BRAVES TROPICAL HEAT TO WIN 5th SIERRA LEONE MARATHON

Martin Forsyth

- Mustafa ‘Eskimo’ Kamara crowned 2016 Sierra Leone Marathon Champion

- More than 600 runners compete in the world’s most ‘worthwhile’* marathon

 29th May 2016: 118 British runners travelled to Sierra Leone this week to join over 500 Sierra Leonean competitors in the 5th edition of the Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon.

Laid out over four distances – 5k, 10k, half and full marathon – the runners weaved their way through the parched streets of Makeni in the north of the country. Braving hot and humid conditions, the surrounding communities were out in force to provide boisterous support for competitors from more than 15 countries worldwide, including those as far afield as Finland, Australia, China and Chile.

Mustafa 'Eskimo' Kamara as he crosses the finish line as the winner of the 2016 Sierra Leone Marathon 

Mustafa 'Eskimo' Kamara as he crosses the finish line as the winner of the 2016 Sierra Leone Marathon 

But it was the Sierra Leonean nationals that swept the field, winning all four categories of both the male and female competitions. Mustafa ‘Eskimo’ Kamara, 21, was the first full marathon runner across the finish line to take this year’s title.

“This is my first time winning here at the Sierra Leone Marathon at this distance.” Kamara said. “I’ve only competed in one marathon event before in Nigeria so it feels good to be the winner. I felt comfortable across all of the course and I’m so glad to be here now as the champion.

'Eskimo' running the Sierra Leone Marathon 

'Eskimo' running the Sierra Leone Marathon 

 

“This event is for children in our country so that makes it special for us and for me as the winner: children that are in the streets, children that need help getting into school, children that have very little – knowing they will be supported by this event, I am glad to have taken on those 26 miles for that.”  

The first half-marathon runner to cross the line was Mohammed Bah Kamara, 18, from Waterloo.

 “It was Street Child that started this competition and I feel so happy to win the half marathon in my first year running this distance. Last year I competed in the 10k,” he said.

“I was feeling so happy during the race and there was no problem when I was running. I enjoyed it very much and I want to come back and defend next year. It is not easy to compete in events like this. I’m glad to have the chance because, really, it’s not easy as a runner here.”

This year’s marathon is supporting Street Child’s Girls Speak Out Appeal, for which all funds raised or donated will be doubled by the UK government to help ensure twice as many Sierra Leonean girls can stay in school and gain a quality education. Bearing in mind the fact that all runners were taking on this challenge to support girls’ education, the results of the female section of the event were more poignant than ever. 

The first female marathon runner across the line was Isatu Turay, 18, from Freetown.

“I’ve just finished so I’ll just say I feel okay!” said Turay not long after powering across the finish. “I did my first marathon here in 2015 and I came second. I’ve trained so hard for these conditions and I trained to win this year; and now I’ve done it.

“Since the marathon is helping support girls into school, girls that maybe don’t have a family or are struggling to go to school, to compete here and win is very special for me. Education is so important for girls in our country. If you are educated, people will be careful with you, they won’t be foolish with you. Girls need that help.” 

Fatima B Sesay, 18, from Freetown won the female half-marathon.

“I’ve been training so hard at long distance running and I felt very comfortable out there today,” said Sesay. “I’ve competed in the Sierra Leone Marathon four times, the first time in 2013 and it feels so good to be here this year as champion of the half marathon today. This event is a big one for us as we do not have much opportunity to compete.

“I am also happy to be running to support girls’ education in Sierra Leone. This is for their future and it is so important. Education for girls is very important because if we do not go to school we will really suffer.”

The first female to cross the line in the 10km race was Mariama K Conteh, 19, from Freetown.

“I feel so happy because I really wanted to win this year, my second time at the Sierra Leone Marathon,” said Conteh. “I’ve been training morning and evening for this event. It was very hard but I did all I could to complete the race in first place.

“This year the funds support girls’ education and that is very important for us as a country. So this race is great not just for the runners but also for the girls that will benefit. I hope next year everyone who is not here will come to join us.” 

Georgina Sesay, 16, from Freetown took first place in the female 5km.

“I feel very good to win the 5k because I have been training so hard for it,” said Sesay. “I felt good all the way round and I like competing in this event so much. This is my second time at the Sierra Leone Marathon so I’m so glad to come back and win.

“I’m also glad to know I have won my distance in this event where all the funds will support girls into school in my country. Education is very important because it represents success for us girls.”  

Street Child would like to say a massive thank you and a heartfelt congratulations to everyone that competed in this year's marathon. To those that have taken on this challenge and raised money to support the children, families and communities that you visited ahead of the race, we are incredibly grateful for all that you've done - and continue to do - to support our work. We look forward to seeing you soon... and to welcoming you back next year!

PRESIDENT OF SIERRA LEONE WELCOMES RUNNERS TO THE 2015 SIERRA LEONE MARATHON

Martin Forsyth

As first light broke on Makeni’s Wusum Hill this morning, around 600 runners lined up to participate in the first Sierra Leone Marathon to be held in the country since Ebola began last year. And it was none other than the President of Sierra Leone that wished those intrepid runners luck for this very special event. 

Spread across four distances – full marathon, half marathon, 5k and 10k – there were a total of 51 Brits in the field as well as representatives from nations around the world. But it was the Sierra Leonean runners that swept the field across all categories. The winner of the main event was Osman Challey with an impressive time of 2hrs 26mins.

We caught up with the winners of the men’s and women’s half and full marathons after their race:

Men’s Full Marathon winner

Osman Challey, 24, from Freetown: “It’s never easy to run 26 miles but I’ve trained hard for this year and I feel very happy to be the champion. What Street Child is doing with this marathon to help with the suffering of children in Sierra Leone is so important, especially in a year when so many children have been orphaned by Ebola. I am an orphan myself and that always makes me want to perform well at this event. What Street Child does is a great help so I am even more proud to be this year’s champion.”   

Women’s Full Marathon winner

Victoria Bestman, 17, from Waterloo: “I was proud to compete this year; I felt good going into the race and it was my training that has helped me to win. It felt good because as a Sierra Leonean it is a special feeling to represent your country. The Sierra Leone Marathon is very important because it helps runners in this country know when and how we have improved. Thanks to those that have organised the event.”  

Men’s Half Marathon winner

Mustafa ‘Eskimo’ Kamara, 21, from Waterloo: "I felt comfortable during the race and I'm very excited to win. It's always a responsibility to represent your country and this event is so important for Sierra Leone. We appreciate the work Street Child is doing to help children especially those suffering as a result of Ebola and I'm proud to have been a part of that."

Women’s Half Marathon winner

Fatima B Sesay, 18, form Freetown: “I trained so hard for this race. I am pleased to have won so I can know my position as the fastest female half-marathon runner in the country.”

We also caught up with Tom Dannatt, Street Child’s CEO, who commented: “We’re delighted to be able to return to Makeni in Northern Sierra Leone for this fourth outing of the Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon. We’ve welcomed runners from across the UK and beyond to take on this unique sporting challenge.

“On the same day as our last event in May 2014, Sierra Leone registered its first Ebola patient. It’s been a devastating 18 months for a country already struggling against extreme poverty. Now, with Ebola all but gone from Sierra Leone, this event is more important than ever to help show the world that a country with such wonderful potential is once again open for business. 

“Our wonderful runners have spent the last few days visiting Street Child projects to understand a little more about how Ebola has affected vulnerable children in Sierra Leone, many of whom were orphaned by the virus. I hope they will return to the UK full of enthusiasm for how our work is helping to improve their lives. It’s important to remember that Ebola does not end when the country is declared free of the disease, as wonderful as that day will be; it ends when the last orphan knows where their next meal is coming from, has a safe secure family to rely upon and the chance to go to school.”

THE SIERRA LEONE MARATHON RETURNS: 24TH OCTOBER 2015

Martin Forsyth

Despite everything that has happened, The Sierra Leone Marathon will, as revealed in the Evening Standard, be held for the fourth time, on the 24th October 2015. As ever, the event will return to Makeni in the north of the country in a bid to raise much needed funds, this time of course to support the vital recovery effort.

The marathon is expected to take the same route as in previous years, which poignantly includes running through several villages devastated by Ebola – villages where Street Child has been providing vital aid. There will also be a half-marathon and 5km events as in previous years. 

Tom Dannatt, Street Child’s CEO, said: "The disease has been terrifying and had a devastating effect on the country. But cases are now very low, schools are open and by October we expect Sierra Leone to have defeated Ebola and it will firmly be time to rebuild. This marathon will be raising funds directly for the orphans and other victims of Ebola and we predict a lot of British and overseas runners, of course alongside hundreds of nationals, will take on this challenge to help out."

He added: “The Sierra Leone Marathon has always been about two things: firstly, it is about fundraising - in a unique way, because it involves you actually going to the place and meeting the very people your fundraising effort are supporting; secondly, it is about this huge sporting challenge that also showcases the beauty and potential of Sierra Leone. 

“As we hopefully move towards an end to this tragedy, both these goals have never been more important. When you think of the orphans, the children who are not yet in school and so many others who have has suffered in the past eleven months other – the need has never been greater. 

“But, as importantly, by October especially, it will be more vital than ever to be telling the world that Sierra Leone is open for business & a wonderful place to visit and invest in. The image of Sierra Leone has taken a terrible bashing and it is time to reverse that. 

“There is of course still work to be done to get to zero cases and that challenge is not under-estimated – but we are sure Sierra Leone can achieve this well before October. 

“It is my sincere hope that this event will attract the same, or more, enthusiasm we have seen in previous years. It would be impossible to overstate how important that enthusiasm is at this difficult time."

Further details will be announced in the coming days. 

Click here to read the Evening Standards's 2-page report on the 2014 marathon.