January 23, 2014 there was a race in Djibouti Town, 5km for boys and 2.5km for girls. Eleven girls met at Cintia and Fathia’s house (7 in town from Ali Sabieh and had spent the night) for lunch and to get their numbers, then Fathia’s father used his bus to drive the team to the starting line at the Port de Pêche where they met four more girls from Ali Sabieh. These four had crammed in exams at school in the morning, then drove the two hours to town for the race.
This was only the second time the Djibouti members and the Ali Sabieh members met one another in a race and they were joined by eight girls from another local team and one foreigner, an American and the youngest runner.
The race got off to a strong start but one by one the newest runners faded in the heat of a shadeless, Djibouti afternoon. Some slowed to a walk, one climbed into the follow vehicle, another crumpled on the curb in tears, and one girl fainted. But, all girls except the girl in the truck and the girl who fainted eventually finished the race.
Racing in Djibouti requires the added skill of being able to manage the incredible, relentless heat and girls who have only been running one month haven’t had the time for their bodies to adjust to the intensity of racing, the emotional roller coaster and the toll on their bodies. Coach Fathia and Cintia said they were really happy with how all the girls raced.
There were thirty-one girls total, nine of them in the lead pack until the final half kilometer when five and then three broke away as the road curved away from the port toward the finish at the People’s Palace.
Khadra, Sabad, and Choukri hit the parking lot at full sprints. Choukri faded in the final thirty meters and Sabad out-kicked Khadra, edging ahead for the win by less than a second in 9:39 and Khadra in 9:40. Choukri finished a strong third, followed by Madina in fourth.
The top ten finishers were from Ali Sabieh, the young American can in 12th place, and the new girls from Djibouti Town finished strong and ready for another race.