Lesotho 23 October: Maseru

Maseru shares its peace with the runners

Day 4 of the peace run was a special experience as the runners passed through Maseru. The warmth and innate peace within the people and children that we got to meet could so genuinely be felt. Throughout the day we couldn't help but feel that we were receiving so much more than what we were trying to share. "Kgotso" meaning peace, is a word that the people of Lesotho embrace as a greeting to others which shows how intrinsic the quality of peace is to their country.

We were greeted by a perfect day filled with blue skies and the natural beauty of the mountains.

Our day started out at the Setsoto Stadium where we were joined by local runners.

Soon after engaging with them we realised that we were amongst real hero runners! Neo, the voice behind the local radio station is also a veteran comrades marathon runner having run it over 5 times. Fonti, an ethusiastic runner heard about the peace run from the athletics club. And possibly the highlight for us and the children, as we found out later, was that we were graced by the only commonwealth gold medalist for Lesotho, Thabiso Moqale.

Vemekao who works at the stadium was intrigued by the look of our running entourage and decided to join us there and then. The more the merrier!

Running from the Setsoto Stadium stirred up curious stares and a number of car horns sounding as the runners made their way through the main streets of Maseru. All the while, the local runners lead the way and at times even stopped traffic single handedly for us all to cross the busy roads. Slowing down at times to give onlookers bookmarks and saying, "We're running for peace", drew more crowds closer to the runners. We even had taxi drivers and cars pulling up along the side of the road, interested in what the bookmarks said. As the run progressed, it had an almost mesmerising thrill to it as the local runners got further into the spirit of the run with their voices ringing out the words, "Kgotso Lesotho Kgotso" in the air. The rest of the team couldn't help but join in to the almost rhythmic chanting. And along the way "Kgotso, Peace" would resonate harmoniously back to us from the local crowds as if in agreement for a peaceful Lesotho.

The flag of Lesotho flying proudly with the peace flag and peace torch.

Running through the busy streets of Maseru.

Michon with the local runners at the end of the run. From left, Neo, Thabiso, Fonti, and Vemekao holding the Lesotho flag.

The first school that the team visited was the Methodist Primary School with Abhijatri and Stacey introducing the run. As always playing the country guessing game with the children proved to be fun for all, most especially because the children had to guess where Thabiso was from. Hands were raised as soon as Thabiso took to the floor but started wavering once he gave them his country clue - the country to have only one won commonwealth gold medal. One bright boy raised his hand to ask a simple question , "What is your name?" suspecting the country, but wanting to confirm first. The reaction when Thabiso gave his full name was instantaneous with hands flying in the air shouting, "Lesotho, Lesotho." Obviously legendary in the school, Thabiso made the peace run a memorable day for the children.

The children loved Stacey and flooded around her to give her a farewell hug.

The second school that half of the team visited was St Bernadette.

We arrived at St Bernadette School to be greeted by the students who were all in the playground on break. We met with Sister Monica who called all the students together in the middle of the school to meet with us.

They all crowded around while we sang for them and spoke to them about the Peace Run. At the end of the presentation with a little encouragement from Abhijatri the students sang for us. Their clear powerful voices blew us all away. One student then came up to thank us for coming and sharing the Peace Run message with them. Before they all filed past and held the torch adding their wishes and hopes for peace.

Each student was given a bookmark before we all joined together to run around the school with them for a couple of laps. As we ran all the students chanted ‘Peace Run, Peace Run, Peace Run!” You could really feel and hear their enthusiasm!

The Peace Run was visiting Maseru at the same time that the Grade 7 students were writing their exams. We were able to visit the school, Ratjomose Primary School after the students wrote their exam and this seemed to offer a welcome break. Only half our team visited Ratjomose so that the other half of the team could visit St Bernadette's at the same time.

Thabiso and Balarka introduced the run to the children with Thabiso encouraging the students to keep up with their running since, for him he said, running makes him happy and he is always able to keep a smile on his face because of it.

Balarka explained that the peace torch is symbolic of the light and peace within the hearts of each person who has ever touched the torch and that as it is carried forward to other schools and other people, it carries with it the hope to inspire and ignite the peace-light in the hearts of others, so that one day everyone of us can have peace in our heart. The headteacher was particularly inspired by this and told the children to make sure that when they hold the torch that they should make sure that they keep the flame in their heart. She went on further to say that when we can always carry a smile on our face that others will know that we carry peace in our hearts. It was moving to listen to as she also reinforced that when the students run with the torch that they should all run together as a team and that no-one should be left behind. This is just what we try to do on the Peace Run!

Ratjomose Primary seemed to fully embrace that peace begins with each one of us. Their harmonious singing and rapturous chanting of "Peace begins with me" was inspirational. We left feeling that the light of the peace torch and the light within our own hearts got even brighter having visited them.

Steve playing the country guessing game...."G..G..Greece!"

Inspired teachers happily holding the peace torch that others before them, famous and civilians alike have carried.

The Grade 7 students forming a circle to hold the torch and make a wish for peace.

All the children eager to run with Thabiso.

Running as a team behind the peace torch.

The students of Ratjomose all eager to give Balarka high-fives!

Our last school that the team visited was the Maseru Preparatory School. We were joined by Ms. Moleboheng Mokobocho from the Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation who once again so kindly played a central role organising the Peace Run in Lesotho.

The children listened intently to the peace run presentation by Balarka and Stacey, and later enjoyed meeting the rest of the runners. Revelling also in Thabiso's achievement of winning a gold medal for the fastest marathon in the Commonwealth games in Malaysia 1998, the children were so taken aback and got Thabiso to autograph their arms. It was heart warming to see their local hero so dearly loved.

The country guessing game was another highlight with so many enthusiastic guesses as to which country each of the team came from.

To honour Moleboheng's warmth and openness to the Peace Run, Balarka later presented her with an art poster created Sri Chinmoy called, "Dream." The art, as he said would hopefully be a reminder to keep dreaming big and to strive further to inspire the hearts of others.