Meet Manika Gamble, who is now the first Black woman to complete Namibia’s 155-mile race

Manika Gamble recently made history as the first Black woman to complete a 155-mile, seven-day self-supported stage race in Namibia. With twelve years of marathon running experience, Gamble said that her most recent accomplishment makes her feel fulfilled.

The 34-year-old told Essence, “I was inspired when I saw a video on YouTube that made the Namib race look so beautiful and challenging. It combined everything I wanted to take on myself, so I decided to go for it.”

Before the race, she told Windhoek Observer, “In middle school I was in my PE (physical education) class and my teacher told me how I ran so well and I should consider being on the track team. That was the start of a now lifelong passion for running. I went on to run from 8th grade through college as a hurdler/sprinter. After college I transitioned to longer distances like 30 minute runs, 5ks, and here I am now years later embarking on an international Ultra marathon, taking on a 155 mile ultra marathon in Namibia, Africa!”

She told Essence that it took her eight months to get physically fit, which included jogging, walking, trekking, and swimming. She also prepared herself psychologically and emotionally, reminding herself that the road ahead would not be easy.

Gamble explained that before the race, she trained in a sauna because officials had told them the weather would be around 100 degrees, but it turned out to be 135 degrees. She stated that one of the most difficult things she faced was blistering on her feet, which occurred early in the race due to her damaged gators, causing her unbearable pain.

The Hawaiin did, however, protect herself by using her Chirp RPM Roller and Wheel to roll out her calves, hamstrings, and feet in addition to stretching and drinking a recovery shake. She also lifted her legs when she arrived at camp and slept well. She further kept her water and nutrition levels in check, she said.

During the marathon, the trailblazer confessed to having second thoughts. She felt that her race was greater than her.

“So I tried to focus on the people back home who had been so supportive and who I didn’t want to disappoint. I didn’t want to disappoint myself, either. I tried to reframe my mindset to accept that what I was experiencing was temporary pain to have a lasting accomplishment and feel fulfilled and successful in completing the race. I just kept saying to myself, ‘You got this, you got this!’” 

Nonetheless, she stated that she would attempt something similar very soon. When asked what advice she would give Black women who want to do something they have never done before but are afraid to start, she said, “I suggest going for it. I recommend not putting too much thought into it because sometimes, you begin to overthink things. That’s the approach I took to this. If I had thought through, you know, everything at the very beginning, I would have been way too overwhelmed even to start.

“If you have any aspiration that you want to go for, just take the first step and go for it. Most of the time, it pans out that you have the dedication and the discipline to see things through. To anyone who wants to start running, it doesn’t have to be intense where you’re out sprinting for miles; instead, go outside for a walk.” 

Gamble attended college in North Carolina, USA, and earned a bachelor’s degree in human relations. She relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, following college and enrolled in a Master’s degree program, where she earned a degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Dollita Okine

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