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.”