It’s 4:00pm in the afternoon of Stage 2 of the Roving Race and we're sitting in the finish line tent with Melissa Gosse. At the age of 22, she’s the youngest competitor in Madagascar and is musing on being in her first multi-stage race.
She tells us about the moment earlier today, when about one kilometer away from Checkpoint 3, she and her partner came across Dr. Mark Ellis who had been roving the course and become surrounded by children from the local village.
“When we came by Dr. Mark, we saw a ton of kids around him,” she says. “The kids started to run with us and we were surrounded by them. They ran alongside us almost all the way to the checkpoint. It was just so amazing! Most of the kids weren’t even wearing shoes. I love that running is a universal language and that anyone, anywhere can do it; it can really connect people. I thought I was a minimalist in these shoes, but the kids were the real minimalists!”
Gosse is here with her partner, Jonathan Sinclair, both wearing matching white shirts and their sponsor’s Xero shoes. On her head is a trucker-style cap with I2P logo—for the charity Impossible 2 Possible—blazoned across it, for which they are here raising awareness and funds.
It becomes clear that the people of Madagascar are making a huge impact on this couple. Gosse says she’s been very aware coming into the checkpoints, which are often beside villages, and being mindful of the people and the ways that they live without many of the conveniences we take for granted.
“The mental challenge is when you come up to a checkpoint that’s in a village and taking water [that’s being given to you at the checkpoint] while the locals around you barely have any water in their local supply,” she says. “And having to remind yourself that it’s okay to take it because you’ve been running in the heat.”
It was the indigenous people that also stood out to her on previous races such as a 100-kilometer race in Costa Rica. “Costa Rica was one of the most memorable because I got to meet the Tarahumara,” she says, referring to the native people who are renowned for their long distance running. “There were about 12 of them in the race and a few of them were named in the book, Born To Run.”
Of this Roving Race in Madagascar she says: “It’s amazing. It’s the perfect location. The locals are so humble, the scenery is breathtaking, and the crew for this race is awesome. It’s better organized and the staff is so helpful compared to other races I’ve done. It’s great meeting other racers from different countries and running backgrounds, getting to know where they’re from and learning from their racing experience.”
And for those tough moments out on the course, particularly with the heat because it is a lot hotter out here than back home in Edmonton, Canada, Gosse says she turns to some good old mind protection. Both Gosse and Sinclair are keen yoga enthusiasts, and Gosse says she’s bringing in aspects of her yoga practice into this 250-kilometer route—by mentally reciting the Gayatri mantra when the tough gets going. “I use positive thoughts and mantras,” she explains. “I repeat the mantras to quiet the mind.”
She may be the youngest competitor out in the race this week, but Melissa Gosse certainly seems to be an old soul.
By Clare Morin