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Maasai Warriors Run London Marathon to Raise Money for Water


The London marathon is a yearly opportunity for runners to raise money for one cause or another. This year, the fundraisers are joined by an unusual group of runners trying to raise money for a life and death project: a well in their drought-ravaged village in Tanzania. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.

The closest most Londoners have come to a Maasai warrior is in travel brochures and travel documentaries on television. On Sunday, they will have a chance to see six warriors who are taking part in the annual London Marathon. The Maasais will cut distinctive figures, running in their traditional red toga-like wraps and sandals made from old car tires, carrying cowhide shields and sticks.

Those close enough will not only see the warriors. They will hear them chant as well.

The Maasais are participating in the marathon to raise money for a well in their village, Eluai, in Tanzania. Changing rain patterns and successive droughts have not only killed their cattle.

Isaya, the group's spokesman, spoke to reporters before Sunday's marathon. "This problem is from long time, because like last year we didn't have rain for ten months and we got problem of losing our elders. They die and children because they can't move far away and they can't walk far away. The elders die because they can't go where the water is and the youngest children, they can't go to school because teachers they cannot be around because there is no water," he said.

Isaya said wild animals move closer to the villages when the land is parched. And that compounds the problem, exposing people and livestock to attack from dangerous animals.

He had a message that could disappoint those looking forward to the Maasais breaking the marathon record. "We are not running for breaking record. We are here to raise enough money for helping our culture, so we are running dancing and singing and we are carrying all our stuff. We are hoping to finish maybe four hours," he said.

Isaya, asked if the runners are experiencing culture shock in London, said "It's a good question. Actually it is very different from the start we get to aeroplane (airplane) to here because where we are nothing compare to anything. We live without anything like this, so everything is different, complete different."

Isaya and his teammates are hoping that by the time they cross the line on Sunday, they will have persuaded enough people to give $120,000, so the well will put their water woes behind them.

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