A League of Their Own

Posted by martin.parnell |

Quest completed:

  • Comrades Quest 87

  • The Comrades Marathon (87km)
  • Sunday May 29th 2011
  • Durban to Pietermaritzburg
  • South Africa
  • Finish Time (target): 11hrs 59 mins 59secs
  • Finish Time (actual): 11hrs 51min 23sec
  • Course: Stats and map
  • Video: Comrades in 8 1/2 mins

Benin Right To Play staff members, Marie-Josephine and Romeo, had asked me to hold a running session for all the RTP employees at the Cotonou office. Each week, on a Wednesday morning, they do an exercise routine on the roof of the building but they wanted to add a "learn to run" session. Robert, Caroline, Heather and I arrived early at the office and the first thing I did was give them a Running 101 tutorial. We chatted about shoes, hydration and nutrition, then we hit the crazy streets of Cotonou. Some had not come prepared for this endeavour. The open toed sandals and three inch heels could prove to be an issue. The plan was to walk 4 minutes and run one minute, for 30 minutes. In Calgary, when you get to a crossing, the motorists are very good and stop for you. This was not Calgary. We all survived the 2.62km run and lived to run another day. The objective is to do this once a week and hit 5km in 12 weeks. I made Romeo club captain and he will send me a weekly report.

We had two activities planned for the rest of the day. The first was tree planting. After cooling down and consuming several bottles of water, it was off to Houekegbo school and "Tree day". We arrived at the school and the first thing we did was a Right To Play game, then we dug holes and planted 20 trees around the perimeter of the play area. After saying goodbye to the kids it was off to the Fidjrosse Sports field. Travelling with Caroline and Heather had been a blast. They had been helping me with my French and had been so supportive of the children we had met. They asked me what I was planning to do after the Benin trip and I mentioned that I was trying to get on Mantracker with my buddy Roy. It just so happened that Mantracker is one of their favourite shows and they offered to do a video, in support of Roy and I making the show. If I can't get on with the support of two Olympic gold medalists, I'm not sure what it'll take.

That afternoon, we were to meet members of the Benin women's soccer team and they particularly wanted to talk to Caroline and Heather about women in sport. Arriving, at the Fidjrosse Sports field, a practice session was already in progress. Afterwards, Heather and Caroline talked to the young women about their sports careers. I headed off and found a bunch of young kids to have a kick-a-bout with. After 20 minutes I was soaked and I headed back to the group. Romeo explained that the young women had told the two Olympians that girls who do sport in Benin are treated as outcasts. They're expected to be at home doing chores, instead of following their dreams. Even getting an education is seen as a luxury for girls past grade 5. Caroline and Heather told them that they were leaders of tomorrow and change will happen. I listened to this and realised how brave these young women were.

In my next blog I'll talk about the Slave Trade and Benin TV.

Dr Randolph Randolph's book of animal jokes

Q: What is a polygon?
A: A dead parrot!

Quote of the Day

"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."


Soccer drills with a group of kids in Benin, West Africa


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