She’s got the love

Running across The Gambia

- May 21, 2013

Jennifer Pasiciel training earlier this year. (Jenn LeLievre photo)
Jennifer Pasiciel training earlier this year. (Jenn LeLievre photo)

It’s running season in Nova Scotia, with the 10th annual Blue Nose Marathon just wrapping up and countless other races planned this spring and summer. Jennifer Pasiciel, a master’s student in health promotion, is an accomplished runner with six marathons under her belt since high school.

This June she’s in for one of the toughest runs of her life.

Pasiciel is running across The Gambia. Her trek across the small West African country will span 427 kilometres in total about the length of 10 marathons. Her journey will take 21 days to complete, 17 of which are full days of running under the hot African sun.

But why?

Pasiciel is this year’s Love4Gambia runner, taking part in an annual fundraising campaign for the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association (NSGA). The organization, headquartered in Halifax since 1985, encourages healthy communities and lifestyles in The Gambia through the delivery of health promotion programs and peer health education. One might say Pasiciel and NSGA make perfect partners for leading change in The Gambia.

“I think health promotion is definitely a growing field and there’s a lot of work to be done. I feel like a lot of topics — economics, politics, international development — all of them relate back to health,” says Pasiciel, who’ll be finishing up her master’s degree this year.

Finding international parallels

Her thesis research looks at the health of single women living in rural Cape Breton. She’s looking forward to the opportunity to observe international parallels while she’s in The Gambia.

“I’m very interested in rural women’s health, so that’s kind of what led me down that road. To see it in an international context would be very interesting, I think,” says Pasiciel. “The NSGA is a health promotion organization that works on an international level, which is something I’m definitely interested in expanding to afterwards.”

Running 10 marathons over 21 days in such a warm climate is not for the faint of heart. Summer temperatures in The Gambia can be anywhere between 30 and 40C. That kind of heat is top of mind as Pasiciel trains.

“I haven’t really had any heat to train in. It’s been pretty cold throughout May in Halifax,” says Pasiciel. “I’ve put in the kilometres but not in the heat, so that’s going to make it a mental thing. It’ll turn into just putting my head down and getting through each kilometre.”

Meeting the challenge

Physical training isn’t the only challenge, though. Pasiciel is hoping to fundraise $15,000 for the NSGA, so getting the word out about Love4Gambia and the NSGA requires just as much effort as pushing herself to finish that last kilometre.

“Blogging, tweeting and fundraising, that’s just as important as the training,” she says. “I can run across the country, but if no one knows about it, what’s the point?”

One of the biggest fundraising events for the campaign every year is the Love4Gambia Blue Nose Marathon team, which raised funds this past weekend in the race, led by Pasiciel herself. The team's 60 members have, so far, raised nearly $10,000.

But just consider the Blue Nose her warm-up for the toughest, and hottest, run of her life.


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