Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Sunday stroll through Accra

I really should have gotten up to run at 5:30 when the sun hadn’t risen yet and there were no cars on the road. I also should have thought to bring along some water, and a small towel to wipe the sweat off my face.

I didn’t hit the road until a few minutes after 8, and by 9 I found myself inhaling diesel on a busy four-lane road, and it was close to 30 degrees Celsius.

I slowed to a walk even though I had only finished about half my run. Dehydrated, discouraged, I could go no further. Where was I going to find my second wind?

As it happened, there was a marathon underway in conjunction with Ghana’s Republic Day celebrations (the same day we celebrate Canada Day). The lead runner happened to be coming toward me around the same time I was slowing down. It turned out I was doing my run on the same road; I was just going in the opposite direction.

I stopped to watch him as he ran by. He was way ahead of the field; he seemed focused, with a lot of remaining strength and energy. I’m not in any kind of shape to run a marathon today, I thought to myself, but surely I can run16 kilometres, my original goal for today.

I just need some water, and maybe something to wipe the sweat off my face. Since I’d slowed down, I'd started to sweat profusely. It stung my eyes as it streamed down my face from my forehead.

At a roadside stand I asked for a bottle of water. The clerk wanted 12,000 cedis for it, which is about a $1 Canadian and three times the regular price. I didn’t care. I would have given her twice that if she had asked.

I drank half of it and used the other half to wash my face. Then I started to run again, and as I did I began to encounter the rest of the field. That I was running in the opposite direction was very confusing for the runners and the bystanders.

One of the runners called out as he passed by, “Are you finished already?!” A spectator shouted, “Obruni, you’re going the wrong way!”

The obstacles were many for me as I made my way up the road – oncoming cars, clusters of runners. Even a pack of goats crossed the road in front of me! One of them made it to the centre of the street and realized he wasn’t going to make it, so he turned around and was quickly followed by his buddies.

At the next water station I stopped and had a cup of water and a cup of Milo, a popular Ghanaian chocolate milk drink (Milo was the corporate sponsor). I grabbed an extra bag of water and headed off back up the road. A group of bystanders laughed as I ran by and asked for my bag of water. I tossed it back over my shoulder and smiled at them as they dove for it before it hit the road and broke open.

Something to consider for runners back home who pay a lot of money for the “right” shoe: I passed two people at the 29-kilometre mark who were running in bare feet! One was running in flip-flops! (Don’t try this at home kids.)

Amused and re-energized I was able to run all the way home. I may feel good enough to do my next run in bare feet, or in flip-flops at least.

- Mark


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,
I can't imagine running in the heat like you said. Your sisters would be proud of you. It takes real dedication to run in that kind of heat. It certainly is a good story. Take care. We love reading your blogs.
Love, Mummy and Daddy
Hope you had a great Canada Day

Barb said...

Hi Mark!

I really enjoyed reading this post.
In fact I now feel a bit guilty about falling off the gym wagon here for the last couple of weeks. This morning I headed back and I managed to run for a full 25 minutes instead of my usual 45min in an airconditioned luxury gym. How lucky we truly are here in Canada to have such! Perhaps I'll try it barefoot tomorrow morning!! You are an inspiration Mark!

Anonymous said...

That's quite a run, Mark. I'm so thankful that I've got both a car and a motorcycle. No need to walk or run. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

I went for 2 half hour walks yesterday. On the second walk it started to rain so I ran about a hundred feet. Then I got winded (seriously!) and had to switch back to walking. It truly is amazing- what conditions you ran in yesterday.

Take care,