The Sierra 260 team share their experiences of running 260 Miles across Sierra Leone last October.
For most of us, completing 1 marathon is an incredible achievement. For these 14 friends it was all in a day’s work when they decided to run across the entire length of Sierra Leone- a total of 10 marathons in as many days. Running through 35-degree heat and 90% humidity, they battled heat exhaustion, dehydration and injury to complete the challenge, all in the name of charity. We caught up with the team to find out how it came together.
1. How did this idea come about?
It was initially an idea that was thrown around after too many drinks and Sierra Leone was not a country that any of us were particularly familiar with. However, after some careful calculations we found a 260 mile route across the width of the country and 10 marathons in 10 days was born!
2. How did you prepare to take on such a monumental challenge?
Ha! Well the aim was for all 14 of us to turn up at the airport fit and injury free with all the admin locked down and ready to go. Did this happen? Not quite! Mike Houston our expedition leader delegated a task to each of us and in the 10 months leading up to the trip, not a day went by without us all being hammered with emails! There was a lot to prepare for!
3. Once in Sierra Leone what was your biggest challenge?
Heat exhaustion, injury and dehydration were real concerns. Basically, anything you should expect when running through a hot country! The main challenge was where to camp each night but the people of Sierra Leone solved this for us. As planned, we finished each marathon by a village to stock up on supplies and without fail we were always invited to camp in the villages!
4. How much did teamwork play a part in your success?
We were a group of 18 friends when we set out but we came back infinitely closer. We could not have run 1 marathon let alone 10 without each other.
5. How did your experiences in Sierra Leone impact your motivation to raise money to facilitate positive changes in the country?
Whether it is a landslide, Ebola or Civil war it is safe to say Sierra Leone has had a tough time! Despite this the people radiate an eternally positive energy which is inspiring. We were blown away by the "what’s mine is yours" attitude, which is something we have really taken away to our lives back home.
6. In hindsight would you have done anything differently?
Of course lots of things happened that we had not planned for! Perhaps we should have had better communications between our support vehicles and we never will know what happened to our ‘lost’ medical bags...
7. What advice would you offer to someone planning a similar challenge?
No matter what you’re planning, have fun and never lose sight of why you wanted to do it in the first place. Don’t forget to trust your team and delegate and bare in mind that plan B is usually better than plan A! It is amazing how ingenious we can be when our backs are against the wall!
8. Why did you choose the Street Child and MIND charities?
When we decided to head to Sierra Leone, Street Child was a natural fit being the pre-eminent charity in the country. The support they gave us throughout the trip was above and beyond what we could have expected. Mind was a little closer to home sadly after the father of one of our team members took his own life after battling depression. We just wanted to do our bit to help raise awareness of the terrible impact mental illness can have.
9. You raised £120,000 how will this be spent?
We are overwhelmed and incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated so generously. The money will be split evenly between Street Child and MIND and is going to help a lot of people for a long time. Street Child specifically are having a big drive to increase the access to education for young people in Sierra Leone this year.
10. Is there a new challenge in the pipeline?
Of course! These things are contagious and we all left wanting more! A crossing of Madagascar may be in the pipeline with a few extra bells and whistles. Stay posted!
It is hard not to be inspired by what these guys have achieved and we cannot wait to hear what they get up to next! Watch the adventure in full here: