Want to run the ultimate marathon? Endurance runner Susie Chan tells you how


by Wendy Douglas |
Published on

Do you love running but want to give yourself an extra special challenge? Then why not consider running the Sierra Leone Marathon in aid of Street Child?

Susie Chan is an experienced long distance runner but even she found this incredible event to be different from any other race.

She spoke to Closer Online about why she got involved and how you can too.

Susie Chan has raced all over the world (CREDIT: Instagram/SusieChan) ©Instagram/SusieChan

How did you get involved with Street Child?

Street Child called me up in late 2015 to chat about their race. I remember reading about the race in Runner’s World and was intrigued to hear about it. I met with the race director Mark, who told me not only about the race, but about the whole trip. He was so enthusiastic about it, and it was infectious. It sounded so different to anything I have done before, I had signed up before the end of the conversation.

What did you know about the Sierra Leone Marathon before taking part?

I admit to limited knowledge of the country and the race before meeting Mark. I had to look up where it was on a map. The press coverage of the country does not paint Sierra Leone as your typical place to visit. However I recalled reading coverage of the race, which spoke so highly of the event and how worthwhile the experience was, and of the simple beauty of Sierra Leone.

Susie is a renowned endurance runner (CREDIT: Instagram/SusieChan) ©Instagram/SusieChan

What was the experience like?

Doing this race was so much more than running a marathon. The hospitality and the time you spend on the projects prior to the race are like nothing you will ever experience in any other race. The Street Child team look after you from the second you get off the plane, so you don’t have to worry about any of the logistics.

The Sierra Leone Marathon is so much more than just a race (CREDIT: Street Child) ©Street Child

Then you spend the few days before race day visiting the Street Child projects, and seeing first hand how the money you raise helps. You visit schools and see how children are benefitting directly by Street Child money. You see families gaining independence by Street Child business start-up projects. You see young women being given opportunities they would have never encountered if it had not been for the work of Street Child. You realise what a difference just £1 makes. It’s all so humbling and moving, by race day you are raring to go. It is so motivating.

And then there is all the fun stuff that Street Child does also, like learning how to speak Creole and the post run party and beach visit of course!

Susie said the marathon's course was tougher than expected (CREDIT: Street Child) ©Street Child

What were the particular challenges you faced?

The race itself is not your typical marathon, and elements can be a little tougher. The course is on a road, but Sierra Leone roads are a mix of packed dirt and tarmac. So it can feel like trail running at times, with a few undulating ups and downs. It’s also a hot race. Being in central Africa, you would expect this. The race compensates by starting early in the morning. If you don’t fancy taking on the full marathon distance, then there are half marathon, 10K and 5K options too.

Will you be running it again next year?

I would love to come back to this race, is was such a wonderful experience. My race diary is filling up for 2018, hopefully I will make it back one day.

Feeling inspired? Read Susie's top ten tips for running the Sierra Leone Marathon:

  1. Make sure you train! Marathons are demanding, but doable. The better prepared in training you are the easier it will be
  1. Get involved with Street Child. They are so supportive in the lead up to the race, with social events, training meet ups, and help with fundraising. It’s a great way to connect and get support
  1. Find your support group. As well as Street Child you can get motivated by surrounding yourself with support. This can be your family, friends, local run club, or on social media.. (@ukrunchat) there are lots of ways to get advice and support on your marathon journey
  1. Stay hydrated on the run. It can be a warm race, and there are lots of water stops along the way. I also chose to carry water with me on the go. Make sure you drink lots along the way
  1. Do a bit of trail running. This will help your legs get used to the hard packed dirt roads!
  1. Bring nutrition on the run. There are lots of different things to choose from, gels, sweets or even savoury snacks. These will help fuel your run so your energy levels stay topped up
  1. Bring something to carry drinks & fuel in! I used a race vest, or you could use a race belt. These handy things help carry your water and fuel comfortably on the long run
  1. Make friends with your fellow runners. I ran along with a friend. It really helps on long races to have someone to buddy up with. You will meet like-minded and fantastic people on your trip. Having someone to run with helps pass the miles
  1. Have an early night, and a decent breakfast. Both of these things will set you up for the day ahead!
  1. Enjoy it. Not many people can claim to have run a marathon in Sierra Leone! It’s such a unique, wonderful experience. Don’t forget to soak up the atmosphere as you go. You’ll certainly enjoy the beach after the race!







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