Was it what I expected? Would I go back? Would I recommend it? More. Yes. Unreservedly! Mar Garvey, 2011 participant
Run the Sahara is Sandblast’s annual awareness and fund-raising event. It promotes the Sahara Marathon, a unique and inspiring international running event that takes place in aid of the Saharawi refugees. You can choose to run a full marathon, a half marathon, 10km or 5km. If you don’t like to run, but would like to join, you are welcome to walk instead.
As the official UK facilitator, Sandblast’s role is to take the headache out of organizing the week- long trip to participate in the Sahara Marathon. Along with providing logistical support, we organize a special educational/cultural programme to enrich your experience during your stay.
When you register to join the Sahara Marathon through Sandblast, it helps support our exciting Studio-Live project. This music initiative is providing skills training, resources and expertise to facilitate the creation of a local music industry from scratch in the camps and give the wonderful voices and talent there a chance to reach international audiences. Since 2009, close to 50 people have run for Sandblast and helped raised over £35,000.
2015: OUR GOAL
In 2015 it will be 40 years since the Saharawis were forced into exile. We would like to galvanize wider recognition of the long exile endured by the Saharawis and recruit 40 runners, one for each year of exile, to raise £40,000 to expand the Studio-Live project.
The Studio-Live project has been pilotted in the camps over the past two years and we are now ready to go to the next stage. With the funds raised we aim to set up a permanent community training centre in the smallest camp of Boujdour and also take steps to build a second centre in the Ausserd camp. This camp is known for having lots of great musicians. At the moment they have virtually no access to good music resources and because of distances we don’t have any students training as sound engineers from this camp. (The start-line for those doing the 21km race. ) These funds would enable us to:
a) build the centre from scratch and soundproof it
b) equip it with professional sound and recording equipment
c) give three training workshop in a year’s period and
d) provide salaries for a Saharawi coordinator and administrator as well as award 6 small training bursaries for the students.
So as you can see running for us will make a vital difference to us achieving this goal!
Not to be confused with the Marathon des Sables, in Morocco, the Sahara Marathon takes place in the Algerian Sahara in the Saharawi refugee camps near Tindouf. It is organized by the refugees and volunteers from around the world. The event was born out of a desire to find a way to help raise the visibility of the Saharawi plight as well as funds for projects to improve the lives of the long-term refugees.
The first Sahara Marathon took place in 2001 and every year has been attracting growing numbers of participants from around the globe. Since 2009, over 50 UK runners have registered through Sandblast to participate in the Sahara Marathon. The UK runners are joined by runners from all over the world from over 20 countries. Generally up to 400 or so runners join internationally. An equal number of Saharawis also usually participate.
The story of a freedom runner
Salah Amaidan, a Saharawi who grew up under the Moroccan occupation, is the local star who annually competes in the 5km and 10km races. He won 3 gold medals for Morocco but in 2003 became a political refugee in France and has been running for the freedom of his homeland ever since. A film about his life called THE RUNNER by UK- based filmmaker Saeed Taji Farouky can be obtained for screening on request.