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Somaliland Marathon and Education

$3,175 of $3,000 goal

Raised by 69 people in 5 months
I'm Rachel Jones, the author of the Djibouti Jones blog. My husband and I have lived in the Horn of Africa since 2003, focused on education and development. From launching a K-12 school to starting Djibouti's first and only all-girls running team , running and education is what we do.

The Somaliland Marathon brings together these focuses in a beautiful and challenging way.

Help me run Somaliland's first ever marathon and fund a university student's entire four-year degree program!

A Somali proverb says that knowledge is light. You can help bring light to the Horn of Africa.


The Somaliland Marathon is partnering with the Darlington Gacmadheere Foundation to provide university students in Somaliland with the funds they need to complete their degree programs.

Your donation will:

*provide a student with the money they need to earn their university degree
*fund my travel, security, translation, and safe housing as I race for education

Am I sure women are allowed and welcome?

Yup. This is the first ever full marathon in Somaliland and the directors are explicitly encouraging females to run.

Will there be many?

I have no idea. There is also a 10k, so I assume there will be women in that race, too. But a few or many, no problem. I’m used to running alone. I’m used to being the only female I see running and I’m even used to coming in absolute last place.

Will it be safe?

I have asked the director several questions about security. They are doing their best. Somaliland is stable and has been for years. There are never any guarantees. It will be hard, that's one guarantee.

Why do it?

I really want the t-shirt.

Also? What are some of the things I love most? Living in the Horn of Africa. Check. Running. Check. Education development. Check.

Education what?

The race doubles as a fundraiser. Each international participant is challenged to raise enough money to fund a full scholarship for an entire 4-year degree program for a Somaliland university student. This, along with completing the marathon, is my goal and you can help!
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Taper time!

Part of my last long run this morning included a 5k race with these girls, all members of Girls Run 2, a program that encourages girls in sport and keeps them in school.
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Today, a 17-mile run with 14 miles at my goal pace, felt incredible. Last night I ate local spaghetti with chicken, a 'real' training run, since that is probably similar to what I'll be able to eat in Somaliland before the race. Here's a video from my run this morning. Is it snow(?!) Okay, maybe not snow, though it was a cool 80 degrees by the time the sun rose. You'll have to watch to see what it is.
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Last week on my 17-miler, I ran past five Djiboutian women. They squatted on the side of the road, stunning in their bright magenta, yellow, orange, and blue scarves. One caught my eye and waved. Then she said, in Somali, “Can I run with you?” From the raucous laughter that broke the quiet morning after my response, I know she never expected me to say, “Haa, kaaley!”

I thought about those women for the next mile, wondering about their life, their children, their husbands, their homes. I wondered if they enjoyed sports, if they had played football when they were children, if they loved the way the wind felt in their faces or the way their toes pushed off dirt when they ran. I wondered about their access to education or to health care. I was eight miles away from the city, running toward the Somali border. Houses out here are built from scavenged scraps. They are far from clean water, internet, and consistent electricity.

I was running with an iPhone, a TomTom watch, an Osprey backpack, in Brooks shoes. I carried GU and homemade cocoa date balls. I had more money represented on my body than these women probably saw over the course of several months. And it was mostly in the form of gear for a sport, a hobby, a leisure activity – running gear.

I’ve noticed this before, when I run here. When I high-five a barefoot child or when an elderly woman who is bent over beneath a weight of firewood gives me a thumbs up. It is never an easy feeling, to see in such clear, physical evidence the reality of my relative wealth. I am rich in money but also in health and in time.

This is one of the reasons I am thankful for this opportunity in Somaliland. To run the first marathon ever there, in the country that first welcomed me to Africa, will be an incredible experience. But to couple that running with a fundraiser focused on giving back is even more incredible. Especially when that giving is in the sphere of education – the very thing we came to Africa to focus on.

A four-year degree in Somaliland costs $1,500. That barely covers books at an American university (as I am learning, with twins about to enter college)!

Imagine: if everyone who follows Djibouti Jones on Facebook or Twitter, or who receives my monthly newsletter, gave just $1, we would sent at minimum 2 students to college. That’s 8 years of university education. That’s a changed life, not just for the student but for their family and possibly their entire community.

Now, imagine: If everyone gave $10. Just $10, two cups of coffee! We could send at minimum 20 students to university. That’s a cumulative total of 80 years of university education that you can be part of providing.

So, yeah, I’m asking again. I’m saying imagine the impact a few dollars can have on changing the world, one student at a time, one step at a time. I will get to meet the students actually impacted by this fundraiser when I’m in the country for the race. Real young people, with real dreams and goals, real stories, real futures, that we can be part of.

You can get a free Djiboutilicious cookbook, a Girls Run 2 button, or your name written on my shirt or body during the race (for those who can’t run it yourselves, you can run it on me!) There are only about 20 buttons left. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

P.S. Another way you can help is that I’m trying to get Brooks Running and Veil Garments interested in supporting this venture as well. I’ll be wearing a pair of Brooks pants and shoes and a Veil shirt and a Veil scarf, more about these clothes including photos, coming soon. Tweet, share, link, pester these companies about how awesome it would be to have their brand advertised and to be a sponsor for this race and education fundraiser!

Click to Tweet: Support girls’ sports and education in Somaliland! Sponsor @rachelpiehjones. @brooksrunning @veilhijab https://ctt.ec/f8k0v+
photo by Jessica Gardner
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I always said I wouldn't train for a marathon in Djibouti. It is too hot, too hard, too monotonous. Well...this morning I finished my first 20-mile run. Ran it. Rocked it. Ran to some new places, like Djibouti's Golf Course and a brand new road being built.

I engineered my own homemade energy balls and also ran with a banana in my water pack, which caused no small amount of giggles from kids I ran past. This morning I received nothing but support from Djiboutians who were out and about as early as me on our weekend, Friday morning. Men wearing prayer caps and carrying walking sticks gave me the thumbs up, truckers flashed their lights and waved, kids high-fived me, women smiled and said 'bon courage.' It was a nice run.

When I got home, I compared my time to my times when I trained for 2 marathons in Minnesota in 2011 and 2012. Yes, I am that kind of nerdy runner who keeps, and rereads, running logs.

Incredibly, despite the heat and my heavy water pack that started as an ice block and melted (my dad biked with me in MN and carried my water and food on the bike, what a gift!) and my now slightly more advanced age, my time this morning was a mere 4 seconds slower than it was in 2012!

That was mightily encouraging. And now, my feet are tired, my stomach growling. Time for third breakfast.
my twin cities 26.2 training partner
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$3,175 of $3,000 goal

Raised by 69 people in 5 months
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