Today we participated in the launching of a Right To Play running club for young women.We arrived to meet the group of about 30 girls. We introduced ourselves to the girls and Martin shared his story and how he started running, his training and the races he took part in. He also spoke about the 250 marathons that helped raising over $300,00 for Right to Play. The girls were so impressed as they should be to hear that Martin ran 10500 kilometers in one year and on average 5 marathons a week. Last Saturday, Martin ran 89 km in South Africa before joining the Right to Play trip in Bénin. Time to start running! We could tell the girls were exited to get started!
Martin decided that we would run for 30minutes with 3 small breaks for a sip of water. The group started very fast out of the gate after a 10 second countdown. We ran in the courtyard first and then ventured out into the streets. Part of the reasoning is always to maybe inspire one person to want to join or start running! It is extremely hot this morning and very sunny. The sweating is instantaneous. I must say that running here in Africa is very challenging because of the heat, the humidity, the traffic and the polluted air. The streets are not all paved, many are sandy roads and the pot holes are huge. Sadly, many of the girls did not have shoes and ran bare feet, at best some wore sandals with a few having shoes. But the girls ran with such enthusiasm, with smiles plastered on their faces. Most of them were excellent runners. When we were done, I felt like I had run a hour instead of 30 minutes. I guess this heat will do that to you! We gathered after the run and spoke about the importance of exercising and the benefits for one’s health. We also spoke about the fact that training is tough, if it was easy everyone would do it! Everyone would be able to run 10500 km in one year. It needs dedication and drive. Even if at first, one might not be good at it, the more we do it, the more we learn to enjoy it and eventually training becomes like a drug. We need it to feel good about ourselves.
What we witnessed today was the creation of a Right to Play running club but in some way it is much more than a simple running group. It is an opportunity for young women to get together, to share thoughts and challenges, to help one another through difficult times, to acquire self-confidence and strength, and to inspire other young girls and women to exercise and be healthy.
In a country of 9.3 million, where 38% live below the poverty line, where women have on average six children, and only 23% of women are literate, the Right to Play programs empower young girls to understand the importance of education and the rights they have as children as recognized by the United Nations. Girls learn how to protect themselves against various illnesses and to gain ownership over their reproductive system and control over their own bodies. These young women are pioneers in the sense that they will lead the way for a better life for young girls to come.
Thank you for reading!