As we continue our journey through the Unogwaja Challenge 2016 team, we know get a chance to meet the first ever Canadian to take part in the Unogwaja Challenge. The Comrades Marathon ambassador jumped at the opportunity to take part in the journey of heart and also to chat to us about all things Unogwaja.
Jabu: Easy place to start, how did you hear about the Unogwaja Challenge all the way in Canada?
Andrea: I first heard about Unogwaja through my friend Nato from Brazil. We are both ambassadors for the Comrades in our respective countries and first connected through that. I followed Nato’s Unogwaja journeys on Facebook and was inspired.
Jabu: As the first Canadian to take part in the Unogwaja Challenge, do you feel an extra level of responsibility?
Andrea: You bet! Any time I put that maple leaf on a team uniform, I am not just there as Andrea, but I am also representing my country. Canada is no global super power, but we have a proud history of promoting democratic values, multiculturalism, linguistic plurality and peace keeping around the world. Those are values I share and I want to do our flag proud when I wear it on my sleeve.
Andrea: We are the world we live in – it is the sum of all our parts and each and every one of us contributes to shaping it. I would like to be a positive contributor to help tip the balance towards the good, so that the generations who come after us, like that of my amazing step daughter and nephew, inherit something worth preserving.
Jabu: How do you think the effects of Unogwaja can impact on the future of your own country?
Andrea: We live in a global village where everything is connected. Unogwaja is about empowerment and the ripple effects of that will be felt everywhere, including in Canada. Unogwaja, to me, is also about inspiration. And who couldn’t use a dose of that! Just like I was inspired by Nato’s journey, I hope that my Unogwaja experience will inspire other Canadians to do something that will make a difference right here at home or anywhere else on this planet.
Jabu: Can you share a little bit about your own extreme sport experience?
Andrea: Sports has always been a part of my life in some form or another. As a kid I was an equestrian, played basketball and got into running as a teenager to spent time with my uncle, who is a great friend and role model. Sports probably saved me from becoming a juvenile delinquent and taught me a lot of values. In my 20ies, I got into running more seriously and started to compete in marathons. After a few of those, I looked for new challenges, which led me to triathlons. Through that I discovered my love for cycling and I began competing in bike races in my 30ies. As I advanced in my professional career, training for tris and bike races became too time intensive and I went back to running, but upped the ante by running ultras. I love the ultra-running community! Pursuing athletics was also always a great excuse to travel to interesting places. Racing and competing in marathons, ultras, tris and bike races has given me the opportunity to travel all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America and Africa. In my 40ies, I started using athletics to try and make a difference in the lives of others. Projects like Unogwaja and my run across the Gambia in 2012 to raise funds for children’s health education are examples of that. I will turn 50 in a couple of years and can’t wait to see what that decade may bring! 😉
Andrea: Let’s just say that training for a challenge like Unogwaja in the kind of weather conditions we have in Ottawa, Canada in winter is less than ideal! I have had to do nearly all of my bike training on an indoor bike trainer, as cycling outside was impossible in the snow and cold temperatures. There is nothing more mind numbing than riding 3+ hours on an indoor trainer! In early April I finally started riding outside, but we still had to wear three layers of insulated clothing to cover every part of our body, as it was minus 10 degrees Celsius. Running in our winter is also pretty tough. The footing is often terrible due to snow and ice and I remember running home from work one day where we had 50 centimetres of snow in one day. I sank into the snow half way up my calves and my legs and lungs were burning from the effort of pushing through that. On other days, we had temperatures of minus 30 degrees. The wind bites right into your skin and the snot freezes in your nostrils. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I may not have been able to log as many miles as some of my team mates, but I got pretty good at suffering a bit nonetheless! 😉 Here’s hoping that will get me through the Unogwaja Challenge!
Jabu: What is a quote / motto you live by?
Andrea: There are many insightful and inspiring quotes by Tata Madiba that resonate with me. One that I really like is: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.
Jabu: Are you ready to have your life changed forever?
Andrea: Hell, yeah! I live for experiences that give me a chance to push limits, stretch, explore, learn, grow, and to meet inspiring people.
Andrea: There are many people who inspire me - all my everyday heroes, from my uncle who got me into running, the many donors who have generously supported my Unogwaja fundraising campaign, my friend who is fighting a courageous battle with cancer, to my husband, whose kindness and selfless support to others makes me want to be a better person. Another huge inspiration to me is the great Nelson Mandela for his wisdom and his amazing power to forgive. If only there was a little more of his spirit in the world…
Jabu: What does ShoOops mean to you?
Andrea: ShoOops to me is a cheer, an expression of joy, and a form of encouragement. It is also a word that connects me to a community of positive people who want make the world a better place.
Follow the Unogwaja Challenge journey on Unogwaja.com and help the team to empower the future of our country.