The Freetown Fashpack Runners were a class act at the Liberian Marathon on Sunday, dominating the international field of athletes and once again proving they are a sporting force to be reckoned with.
The dream team included nine of the country’s best long distance runners and one mighty wheelchair athlete. Their banged up minibus will be hauling a total of six medals over the border and back to Freetown tonight plus more prize money they could ever have imagined. The team have done themselves, their country and Fashpack proud. Fashpack Runners, you are a brave team of champions and let’s hope this is the first of many more international opportunities. Now for the details.
Marathon athletes Idrissa Kargbo, Mamie Lahun, Osman Challey and Aminata Kargbo gathered at the start point at 4.30am ready to blow the competition out of the water. The gang of pint sized rockets all looked slick in their new-season Fashpack shirts printed by our kind sponsors Protec while ‘Super’ Challey’s tight-fit nylon swimming cap psyched out even his most ferocious competitors.
On the other side of town awesome foursome Mohammed Bah Kamara, Agnes Manseray, Joseph Kamara and Mabel Kallon were braving the rain with functional plastic bag head wear all ready to fly the green, white and blue flag.
Wheelchair dynamite George ‘the machine’ Windham was ready for his first international event. Despite being involved in para athletics for the past 14 years he has never had the opportunity to leave his country and see what the rest of the world has to offer. George came in fourth against the fierce field of Liberians.
There was no doubt that marathon victory belonged to charming Kenyan Nathan Naibei, but a big win was also scored by Idrissa Kargbo who came in second. He not only ran his best time breaking a new marathon record for Sierra Leone, but he also made a firm friend in Nathan who invited him to Kenya to train in a high altitude training camp. “We can make this boy a champion, after a few months in Kenya, he will beat the Kenyans I promise”, said Nathan.
Nathan is one of Kenya’s elite marathon athletes normally running 20 minutes faster than the time he ran in Monrovia. But in a show of first class sportsmanship he chose to pace Idrissa, stopping along the way to offer him water and words of encouragement. Nathan we name you best and fairest Kenyan, man of the match and grant you honorary Fashpack membership. Idrissa will be at your camp as soon as we can find the coin to send him.
It was a great day for the Fashpack ladies whose performances were bigger than Beyonce at the Superbowl bringing home a tonne of medals and prize money. Mamie Lahun was the first woman across the line setting a new personal best. New Fashpack member Agnes Manseray left her competitors way behind in the 10km women’s race and beat all but three men. Second place getter Mabel Kallon came in a stunning second and Aminata Kargbo ran a very respectable fourth in the women’s marathon.
With so many medal winners, the Freetown Fashpack Runners were once again clear victors on Sunday putting the country’s vibrant pool of long distance running talent firmly on the athletics radar. A big thank you must go to the Liberian Athletics Association for feeding and housing the runners as well as Protec for their donation and the Sierra Leone Athletics Association.
However as we like to say in Salone, the journey to the start line was ‘CHALLENGING’. A grueling 24-hour overland road trip from Freetown to Monrovia on one of the worst roads in west Africa meant the athletes arrived exhausted. With minimal government support and corporate sponsorship, the trip was made on the mega-cheap and not in the style that champions should be shown. I bet Usain Bolt doesn’t have to travel in a cranked-out shell of hurtling metal on death defying roads to get to his race meets, and neither should the Freetown Fashpack Runners.
So people out there with money, a trust fund, corporate connections, generosity, a royal title or just the inclination, contact me for more information on how you can jump on the Fashpack train and create more champions from Sierra Leone.