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Maasai warriors run London marathon

  • Story Highlights
  • Warriors aim to raise money to bring permanent water supply to their village
  • Six Maasai will run in full traditional get-up
  • As well as completing the race, the six hope to meet Queen Elizabeth II
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By CNN's David McKenzie
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Six Maasai warriors have journeyed thousands of miles from their remote village in Tanzania to compete in the London Marathon. Their mission is to raise awareness and money for their village of Elaui, where two out of three babies die of water borne diseases.

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The Maasai warriors travel on London's tube network.

"We are losing a lot of younger brother and sisters," says Isaya Oleporuo, 24-year-old leader of the group, "we thought that we can get people to help us."

When they heard about the marathon from Greenforce, a non-profit travel company that works in Tanzania, the young men decided to enter the race. They saw it as a way to try and raise the nearly $120,000 needed to set up a permanent water well in their village.

"It's an absolutely amazing experience," says Paul Martin, a Greenforce Expedition Leader who helping the runners. "They were enthralled and amused by the idea that money could be raised by running, and as the Maasai pride themselves on being strong runners it was not long before they asked me if they could take part." See and hear audio slideshow of Maasi in London »

But it wasn't enough just to run in the marathon. They are doing it in their full traditional getup-a heavy buffalo hide shield called an Elongo and their Shuka robes. Standard wear in Northern Tanzania. Watch Maasi exploring London Video.

The traditional outfits have lead to more than a few fascinated stares around the capital. In fact, they have become the toast of the town, taking part in numerous photo calls and spending time with British journalists. Of particular amusement to the English is the guide that they were given for London -- including a warning that if people frown they are not necessarily angry.

The London marathon organizers have reveled in their celebrity runners, given them the honor of officially opening the giant expo that will be the centerpiece of the marathon that draws nearly 40,000 competitors a year.

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But for Oleporuo and his fellow tribesman, other than completing the race, he wants just one thing, " I would like to meet the Queen of England."

And if they complete the race and raise their money, perhaps they just will. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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