Locals rally around runner headed to ultra-marathon

Greg Cowan

Published on: May 31, 2019 | Last Updated: May 31, 2019 6:21 PM EDT

Andy Foster leaves Saturday for South Africa to run in the world’s largest ultra-marathon in support of the nomadic Beja people who she lived among for parts of 15 years working with non-govermental organizations and not-for-profits in northeast Africa. Photo submitted.

It’s an 89-kilometre race at least 15 years in the making, perhaps a lifetime, for one Owen Sound woman.

“It felt like a calling,” Andy Foster said. “I think I am supposed to run this.”

Foster leaves Saturday to race in the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. It’s the worlds largest and oldest ultramarathon. There are 25,000 people expected to run, and the entirety of the race is broadcasted on the nation’s largest television network.

“It’s the Boston (marathon) of South Africa,” said Foster.

Foster lived in Africa for 15 years originally working with the non-governmental organization Samaritan’s Purse. It was there she worked and lived alongside the Beja people, a nomadic group who live primarily in the Eastern Desert crossing the borders of Egypt, northeastern Sudan and into Eritrea.

In support of the Beja, Foster has raised nearly $10,000 from local businesses and sponsors that she will donate to the Al Germaniah hospital in Aswan, Egypt. The money will help pay for corrective eye surgeries.

“Because they live in the desert they (the Beja) get something similar to cataracts, even in the children, the dust and the sun and just having no protection. The surgeries can be very expensive,” Foster said.

When Foster first arrived in Africa a war broke out in northeastern Sudan. She was relocated from the southern part of the country to help provide aid.

“It just happened the Beja were the people in that area. They’re nomadic, and that was sort of their area. All the sudden you have all these rebel soldiers and now the Beja can’t move. We saw a lot of death and a lot of really hard things,” Foster said.

Over time Foster and her husband moved on to other not-for-profits and lived in other African nations, but the Beja remained a constant in her life overseas.

“They just always were where we were, and because they’re nomadic they don’t get the . . . they are not high on the priority list,” Foster said. “They literally live in the middle of nowhere. Medical needs don’t get met.”

Foster said she grew a lot and learned much more during her time in Africa. She said the Beja were very kind and patient as she became accustomed to the different cultures and way of life.

There was a young man named Ali. Foster was surprised to learn he was married with children because he never seemed to spend any time at home. Ali was surprised to see Foster’s husband help with the dishes at camp. One morning Ali took Foster’s light teasing about helping out more with the family chores to heart and decided to make the morning coffee. He told his wife to stay in bed while he started the hours-long ritual that included roasting the beans from scratch. In that time, his wife had gone to her extended family complaining that her husband had gone crazy.

There were the Friday afternoon meetings to which the Beja always arrived late. Foster assumed this was in order to send a message, when in fact, the mostly Muslim community were at prayer.

And there were the jogs. Foster would head out among the conservative Beja people in shorts thinking nothing of the reaction to her immodesty. When a Beja man told her husband he should suggest she wear long pants his response was “why don’t you tell her.”

Foster had a number of stories ready in a moments notice when asked to describe the impact living with the Beja had on her. She learned to speak the language and later was able to apologize and laugh about her small transgressions as she learned the Beja way of life.

Years later when someone asked if she knew anyone who would help raise money for the Beja she decided to take the task on herself.

The decision came to her in the middle of a November run. Now, a mother living in Owen Sound, she asked her family and partner for their blessing. She then asked for help from running coach Tim Wood, and has since spent much of her time putting sneakers to street-top.

Over 1,000 miles since January. Most days she wakes up at 4 a.m. to train.

Foster entered Ottawa’s Winterman marathon to qualify for the Comrades and ended up winning the women’s division in weather quite unlike she can expect to endure running between the South African cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Training for an ultramarathon in the dead of a Canadian winter provides a host of challenges unlike the ones Foster will navigate over 89-kilometres or less in South Africa’s Comrades Ultramarathon. Photo submitted.
Training for an ultramarathon in the dead of a Canadian winter provides a host of challenges unlike the ones Foster will navigate over 89-kilometres or less in South Africa’s Comrades Ultramarathon. Photo submitted.

At first, Foster wanted to raise $1,000. Then $3,000. And now she is nearing her new goal of $10,000 as she embarks after the months of training and fundraising. She has been blown away by the response of local businesses and people who helped her along the way.

“I’m not originally from Owen Sound, but it’s been so amazing,” she said. “I think people know it’s beyond even what I can do myself. I’m not an ultramarathoner or someone who has done this before. I’m a mother. I just felt really called to do it, and I really believe the Beja need help.”

The Comrades Marathon will run on June 9 beginning at 5:30 a.m. local time.

Link to web article.

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Year End – Water for the Sudan’s

We have reached the end of our fundraising year on 31 July 2018, and what a year it was! Below you will find a breakdown by profile of all funds raised for the water project for the 2017/2018 fundraising year. We will publish a separate blog for each project.

We would like to give special thanks to each and every athlete and organization who made an effort for the people of the Sudan’s.

You guys have been awesome, thank you from a grateful and humble SSNET team. We give God our Father all the Glory and Praise.


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Extraordinary commitment

3 May 2011

It does not really make sense how a blind woman would run willingly AND joyfully in soaking rain for more than 5 hours. Yet, recently with the Forever Resorts Loskop 50 km / 31 mile ultra marathon, Louise Jacobs did. Amazing testimony that is part of an ever increasing fascinating journey, all for God’s glory.

This run for Louise was part of the build-up to the 2011 Comrades Marathon taking place on 29 May. She was supported by our very dear running friend Roald le Roux.

Roald and Louise has just completed the Lopskop ultra marathon – soaking wet, yet with great joy in their heart. They are running for a great cause: to raise funds for the spread of the Gospel in Sudan.

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Extraordinary camaraderie

2 May 2011

Deeply moving! No other way to describe what happened today in an amazing display of team spirit and camaraderie when one of the Sudan4Jesus runners qualified for this year’s Comrades Marathon.

Today was the LAST chance for Willie van Staden to qualify for this year’s Comrades Marathon at today’s Wally Hayward marathon. The Sudan4Jesus run is about a group of ordinary men and women used by God in amazing ways to run the Comrades Marathon AND raise funds for the spread of the Gospel message in Sudan.

In the picture, from left to right: Louise Jacobs, Roald le Roux and Willie van Staden.

Willie’s team members were well aware he HAD to qualify today. They RAN with him, ENCOURAGED him, MESSAGED him when cramps got hold of him. Even more amazing: wait for it…on the LONG last uphill, his blind team mate, Louise Jacobs, pushed him from behind, on his back, while he was slogging that uphill. A blind woman, pushing her friend from behind to conquer that hill… what phenomenal testimony.

Thinking of Louise… a while ago during another race, she and another team member Roald le Roux ran together. During this race Louise and Roald each held onto a rubber cord, for Roald to help Louise with the run. Because Louise is a STRONG runner, she often was slightly ahead of Roald. So, while running, the two overheard someone saying: “Look how that woman is helping the blind man!”” The two nearly screamed with laughter. Although a blind runner, Louise has an amazing sense of humor and so does Roald.

We thank God for the privilege to be part of such an amazing story…His story!

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Whatever happened to…Extraordinary giving: the wedding, the garter and the auction ?

On Monday, May 9, 2011 we published an amazing story of how God released R2,000 for the S4J fund at a wedding. Does that sound familiar? Jesus doing miracles at a wedding? That story just had another remarkable turn of events. Read all about it!

Here’s the link to the 9 May 2011 article.

The article had the following introduction:

“On Friday afternoon I saw yet another amount paid into our banking account for the Sudan4Jesus fund.Through the reference I could see this was via Elane, one of the runners. This pushed up the total raised through her to a phenomenal R25,490. I contacted her so that she could thank the “fan” contributing in this way. Elane told me: “You’ve got to hear this…” and then told me the story! I asked her to e-mail the story to me. What a testimony of the amazing things God is doing through the Sudan4Jesus run!”

Wonderful news received today, September 10, 2012

Arrie just got married!

Elane send this update:

If you have heard or read about the Wedding and the garter story, you will recognize the guy in this picture! Yes, this is our groom! What a handsome chap, hey! J

About a year and a half ago Arrie Herbst was the friend of ours who gave up the garter after catching it to auction it and give the contributions towards the Sudan4Jesus. And he is the exact same guy to buy back the garter at a whopping R2000! And he stood his promise proud and not only paid over the contribution, but also marrying Bianca, the girl of his dreams! J

They got married on Spring day (1 Sept) near Louwna in the North West region. It was a lovely wedding and our friend, Arina, the minister, gave a beautiful sermon about the Love of God who ties people together in Love! Friends and family gathered from all over to attend this joyous day and what a day it was! Great music, tasty food, and even a sweets table with candy floss hanging from the trees!

The bride looked beautiful and the groom equally handsome! We pray the God bless them in the life they plan together and may they be living testimonies of the Love of God that brought them together!

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