It’s not easy to be an athlete in Sierra Leone; there are few opportunities to compete and little funding available for sponsorship. But the Freetown Fashpack Runners will not let these small hurdles get in their way of success. They are a mean, keen running machine and include Freetown’s best long and middle-distance athletes. Members include both girls and boys ranging in age from 14 to 25 selected from various running clubs.
Following a string of successful competitions, the FFR are putting distance running in West Africa firmly on the international radar. They may not own fancy Nike trainers or have an endless supply of energy drinks but what the Freetown Fashpack Runners do have is a fierce determination to always run hard and never give up.
The FFR formed in June 2012 for the inaugural Sierra Leone Marathon where many of the runners competed in their first ever marathon, half marathon or 5km race. This motley crew of 25 athletes blew the international field out of the water, scooping over 10 medals across all events. Marathon victory was awarded to the pint sized Idrissa Kargbo who set a new national record, a mighty effort for someone who had never run a marathon before.
In May 2013 the FFR doubled in size and returned to Makeni district for the Sierra Leone Marathon with a swagger and confidence that could be attributed in equal measures to their new pink terri-toweling headbands and the hours of training they had clocked up in preparation. The FFR proved they weren’t just a flash-in-the-pan novelty act and scooped 10 medals, once again backing up home-side confidence with real results. In 2014, they repeated their success taking out 20 medals.
In August 2013 the cream of the team including 10 members, coach Harold Palmer and a trusty driver called Ibrahim set off in a banged up ‘poda poda’ bus over the border to Monrovia for the Liberian Marathon. The FFR proved their talent once again by dominating the field of international runners and collecting a total of six medals. Mamie Konneh-Lahun placed a dazzling first in the women’s marathon and Idrissa Kargbo took out second place in the men’s event while breaking his own national record. Middle distance wonder woman Agnes Manseray was described by those in the know as ‘one to watch’ when she secured a victory in the women’s 10km race in just under 43 minutes.
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