An Ottawa runner has started planning for an African odyssey and ultramarathon in July 2012.

“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Steve Prefontaine

My first blog was about those who do good through running and I had the intention of talking about running tights and highlighting two pillars of the running community in Halifax, N.S., but life often works in strange ways. While trying to contact my east coast friends Luke and Freeman (you can read about them in a later blog) I came across some information about an amazing African running adventure an Ottawa runner is set to embark on in July 2012.

I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. I have been finding that after 24 years of running in the traditional track and road race distances that my mind has started to wander to where fewer set foot. Ultras. But enough of me and back to the blogging and the run across Africa.

The Run
The run is called “Love4Gambia‘s running expedition,” a 424K run across the West African nation of  Gambia in support of health education for Gambian youth. The run starts in the rural community of Koina on The Gambia’s Eastern border with Senegal and ends in the capital city of Banjul by the Atlantic Ocean.

One runner, accompanied by a support team, will take on this challenge, running a minimum of 30K each day and facing high heat and extreme humidity along the way. The support team looks after logistics and provide the runner with food and moral support along each leg of the arduous journey.

This will be the second year of this epic run begun in 2011. But it’s more than merely an ultra and adventure. Funds raised go to raise awareness and support of the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association’s (NSGA) HIV/AIDS, malaria, and landmine injury prevention programs in West Africa.

The Runner

Andrea finishing the 100km ultra-marathon in Germany.
Andrea finishing the 100km ultra-marathon in Germany.

Andrea Moritz is tall, strong and has an aura of confidence. Now living in Ottawa, she works as a communications manager for Transport Canada. I know Andrea when we both ran the streets of Halifax, and through conversations held in the cozy specialty running store called Aerobics First that I used to work at. I recently bumped into Andrea in Ottawa and found out she had rapidly grown from a beginner marathoner into an accomplished ultramarathoner. Like I alluded to before — funny timing, I had just finished reading a book by a man many call one of the kings of ultra-marathoning, Marshall Ulrich. The book was called “Running on Empty” about his non-stop run across the United States. Ulrich, some say, is only surpassed by the great Greek runner Yiannis Kouros who holds every men’s outdoor road world record from 100 to 1,000 miles and every road and track record from 12 hours to 6 days.

Andrea has no world records but has run the Boston marathon (PB of 3:17), put in numerous 50K and 50-mile races and also a 100K ultra in her hometown of Remscheid, Germany. I am also envious because Andrea has also veteran of three Comrades marathons (which is on my to-do-list) in South Africa (fastest North American in 2009) and is also the Canadian Ambassador for the race.

What She Said
“When I was approached about this project,” Andrea told me, “I knew right away that it was for me, as it combines my two great passions: running and Africa. I am excited about the challenge to run across an entire country and about having an opportunity to give back to the amazing people of Africa, who have welcomed me with such hospitality every time I went to run and travel there.”

I too love the idea and the reason for the run and I am trying to convince Andrea she needs a partner and fellow runner in Gambia in July and at the minimum plan to help her raise funds for the adventure. Stay tuned for updates as her adventure draws nearer.

Send me your feedback on my blog and let me know who from your community, town or city has a story to tell or others should hear about.

See you on the roads or in the blogosphere.

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