The sixteenth edition of the SaharaMarathon has just ended, and by the comments of the participants and activity on the Facebook group it seems to us that even this year the week at the Saharawi camps, and not just the race, have been a great experience, both for who came for the first time and for those who have returned, who to visit his family, who to start or continue his own project, and who simply can not conceive a February without returning to the Saharawi camps.
Because it is hard not to return. For those working in the organization and for those who came that wonderful first time, when they did’nt expect anything like this, and have been captured.
Because everyone, in their own way, promised to return.
Sorry for those who, on the last day, lived on their skin the toughness and unpredictability of the desert, which held us one day more at the camps, and did lose to flight connections, especially those who came from far away.
But we were lucky that the sandstorm was not the day of the races, as happened in 2005, and certainly some of those who are reading now were there and can remember.
I saw someone write: “We also had the sandstorm! And at the same price!”.
This is the spirit of the participants of the SaharaMarathon, who every year accept the unexpected and inevitable difficulties involved in participating in this event.
This year in particular the difficulties were under our eyes, with the damages caused by the floods of October, for you to realize how precarious everything is in the Saharawi camps, and what effort it is to welcome and receive us.
Some of you have searched for a building that was there and now it’s gone. For me it was a great sadness to see the Bubisher library, so bright with its large windows, and full of kids when I visited last year, now empty and without its roof.
It’s also this that drives us to come back, because there will always be something to build or rebuild, and at least in this we can help.
Every year we find that among our participants there are wonderful stories, like that of Ana Lucia, the first visually impaired woman to participate in the SaharaMarathon, Maria, who raced to complete the wish of his father, who wanted to participate, but passed away before being able to realize his dream.
Or Jon who, among the firsts for the first half of the marathon, got injured, but said that he would walk to the end, for the Saharawis. Or Daniel, 81 years old, who has completed the 21km, and fortunately has promised that next year will participate in the 10km.
And David, his story we discovered only when we returned home.
We are happy to have received compliments for the support during the race, for the frequency and abundance of water, fruit. We want this marathon, one of the toughest, to be as enjoyable as possible.
We are also pleased to have received constructive criticism, as for the insufficient signalization when you cross the camps, especially in the final part, when you are tired and more easy to lose orientation. We are few, but we’ll try to do better.
We also received constructive criticism regarding the program of activities.
The museums are nice and interesting, but many participants want to see more things of the everyday life of the Saharawi society, such as schools, kindergartens, employment centers, hospitals or pharmacies.
It’s good to know that the medals are produced by a women’s cooperative in a ceramic workshop, but it would be nice to visit it.
From this point of view we have in part failed, or at least we did not take advantage of all the opportunities.
Organize visits and moving all participants is complex, so next year we will prepare a map of Smara, with a description of all its points of interest, the times when going there, so that participants can go alone, walking, when they prefer.
There will be no need to accompy them, because those who work at these centers are always excited to show them to visitors.
Another request concerns information on the political and humanitarian situation of the Saharawi people, who are generally transmitted through the speech of a representative of the Saharawi authorities. It is suggested that it would be more useful and interesting to do a debate instead, with questions and answers, a round table around where those interested can ask questions to the Saharawi authorities and to representatives of the civil society.
There is also demand to see the wall erected by Morocco, which separates the territories freed from the occupied territories.
It is a hard journey of several hours by truck, through the desert, but we’ll try to dedicate a day for those who request it.
The Associated Projects deserve a separate discussion.
For too long we have said that are too many to list them all.
It is true, but now are so many that they bring more resources to the camps than the same SaharaMarathon, and we’ve been asked to coordinate them.
There are projects with the same purpose, run by different individuals, unknown to each other, whose cooperation would give much more than the sum of each.
There are participants who discover ongoing projects, to which they could give support, when they are already at the Saharawi camps, and “If only I had known before …”
There are participants who have ideas for a project, but need advice or assistance to start it, and they need a location where to discuss where not only us, but those who have already worked at the camps, can help.
We have created a page on the SaharaMarathon website where we want to begin this work of cataloging the associate projects.
If you have an ongoing project, or you already know that you’ll be there in 2017 to start a project, please email us and we will add it to the list.
Then join the Facebook Sahara Marathon Projects group, that we created exclusively for the projects, and describe yours (to the benefit of all we try us as languages Spanish and English)
I conclude with some information about the project funded by the SaharaMarathon with a portion of your membership fees.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports presented a document with their own wishes and needs for the development of sports activities, and the related costs.
After covering the costs of the Saharawi families accommodation, transport, workers, of sports equipment and activities such as children’s race, we financed with 3000€ the reconstruction of the Daira of Echederia, the municipality that has always hosted the participants of the SaharaMarathon.
We then chose, among the projects proposed by the Ministry, the athletic training one, with a cost of 3500€, in preparation for the next SaharaMarathon, and a 3000€ funding for the organization of the football championship, that hasn’t been for three years, and that by far the most popular sport among young people in the camps.
In the list of projects were present volleyball, men and women, cycling, boxing, traditional games, and others, but our resources are not sufficient to cover them all.
For this reason we will prepare a crowdfunding page to allow those who wish to contribute during the year.
We will try, during this next year, through the website, the Facebook group, Twitter and Instagram, to keep you informed on the progress of these projects.
Now we can rest a little bit, we have a year ahead of us to once again prepare something amazing.