Six Maasai warriors from Tanzania will run in traditional red robes at the London Marathon to bring attention to their drought-stricken country.
The men adorned in beads and carrying shields will be among the professionals and amateurs competing tomorrow. They will run to raise money to dig wells for safe drinking water in their village.
A 40-year drought parched the nomadic people's land and led to the death of many of the warriors' elders, children and cattle.
A discussion during an English language class led to a conversation about the London Marathon. They realized they could raise the $39,400 needed to drill each well for their Eluai village.
"They asked, 'What is a marathon?' " said Paul Martin, a worker with the Greenforce aid agency that has worked with the Maasai for three years. "I explained to them that many people run every year in the London Marathon to raise money for various causes and charities. They found it quite incredible that you can generate funds just by running because this is something they do every day, anyway."
The six lean, leggy warriors -- Isaya, Kesika, Lengamai, Ninna, Nguvu and Taico-- entered the marathon to raise money through sponsorship for their village of about 1,000. Geological surveys of the area found tributaries underground that can be tapped to provide water.
The Eluai villagers roam about 19 miles from home each day with their cattle and run between houses, which can be as far as six miles apart.