Part Three: My Trip to Africa with Every Mother Counts

Part Three: EMC’s Kristen Kirkland reflects back on running the Kilimanjaro Marathon for Every Mother Counts in Tanzania.

Kristen Kirkland is Every Mother Counts’ Running Program Director and Human Resources Director. She and a group of 25 runners, including EMC staff, members of our board, and supporters traveled to Tanzania to participate in the Kilimanjaro Marathon. Their goals were to raise awareness and funds to support EMC’s portfolio of programs that link women to critical maternal healthcare and also to celebrate our fifth anniversary as an organization. 

A Crazy Idea

When I hopped in a car on our first full day in Africa I randomly jumped in with all the runners who’d signed up to run the full marathon. The rest of our team, including myself, had signed up to run the Half. That’s what I’d trained for and what made the most sense, but there I was…in Africa in a car full of marathoners and I realized I had an amazing opportunity. I’d recently run the NY and Chicago marathons (back-to-back) and knew I could do it. I realized it would be my 10th marathon and a third continent, in case I ever wanted to do the whole seven continent thing. It was a crazy idea but it felt like the right thing to do, so, I made the announcement to the other runners in the car: “I’m running the full marathon with you guys.”

Pre-Race Day

On Saturday morning, after a three-mile, “shake-out” run to keep everyone loose before race-day, we drove to the Expo center to pick up our bibs. In New York City or Chicago you pick up your race number at a conference center where hundreds of vendors display shoes, clothes, food and anything you could ever want to prepare for your race. When we arrived at the Expo center for the Kilimanjaro Marathon, there was a tent and that’s it. I’d been in touch with the organizers in advance and they had all our group’s info in one packet. It wasn’t fancy, but it was efficient.

Erin and I spoke with a reporter about why we chose the Kilimanjaro Marathon, about EMC and how running represents distance, which is a major barrier to accessing maternal healthcare. Then we drove back to our hotel for a nutrition and training workshop with our guest, the ultra-marathoner, Scott Jurek, author of Eat and Run, My Unlikely Journey To Ultramarathon Greatness.

Scott’s Tips

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Josh Bonifas, Russell Kelly, Disco Meisch, and Kristen Kirkland at the finish line.

And then it was done. A teammate handed me a beer, we took pictures and drove back to the hotel for a celebratory barbecue. I’m still processing all that happened during this great marathon, but I know for sure, I got more out of this race than any I’ve run before.

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