One of the activities I’ve been keeping busy with this summer has been participating in a fabulous Run Fit training program for half and full marathon runners offered through Fleet Feet in DC. I initially considered the program last winter and was deterred by the thought of running every Saturday morning at 7am for 16 weeks. Thus far I would put myself in the fair weather runner category, I suppose that doesn’t count sweltering summer days in DC though. When the program came up again this summer I jumped for it, mostly because I didn’t want to be contemplating it again next winter!
In keeping up with my training program while traveling, I’ve had numerous great runs around the world. I’ve spent three weeks this summer in Oregon and run the esplanade in Portland, down to Sellwood from inner NE, through the Alberta and Irvington neighborhoods, as well as on the beaches of Lincoln City.
I actually ended up fitting in my first half-marathon in Southern Oregon, where I grew up, with the first annual Umpqua River Run. I finished right at two hours, or a nine minute mile. I finished third in my category, 11th woman, and 39th runner overall. It was a gorgeous run and it felt good to hit one of my first running milestones. I highly recommend this run for anyone looking for a half in Oregon next summer.
The training officially wraps up in a couple of weeks and I’ve still been contemplating whether I will do another race. I did a 5k in Georgetown the morning that I fly to Africa and finished with a 7.9 minute mile. While wanting to stick with training while I was traveling, I still wasn’t entirely sure how that might go. As it turns out I’ve managed to stick exactly to my training program and feel so good about that accomplishment.
Running in Bujumbura was relatively easy, with only the cobblestones to slow me down. The streets looked like they had been entirely rolled up and traffic was non-existent aside from some large trucks of soldiers driving along. I got encouraging comments like, “Courage madame!”, with the great French African accent to go along with it. I don’t get that when running in DC!
Moving on to running in Nairobi was a bit more challenging. I had a long run of 14 miles to accomplish last Sunday and I really wasn’t sure where in Nairobi I could do that without running out of the city, out of sidewalk (or what passes for it), or water. I took my usual tactic when I am looking for information while traveling. I asked everyone. Whether it seemed that I’d found a satisfactory answer, I just keep asking. This turned out to be a good thing, as some of the first routes I was suggested wouldn’t have worked at all. Even turning around at 11 kilometers I would have been all the way out on the Mombasa highway (people underestimate the distance of cities, they are smaller than you think).
Finally the best suggestion I got was at the poker party, to run in the Nairobi arboretum. When I got home and mapped it out, it was 3.1k to the park and then I ran around in circles for two hours and then back again. It was perfect. Even allowing myself to sleep in until 9am, it still wasn’t too hot on the way over and was beautifully shady throughout. It was hilly in just the perfect kind of way, building character as my training coach says! It was one of my first time trail running, as even in Rock Creek Park it is pavement. At times there were thick beds of pine needles or leaves, traversing from cypress to bamboo and back.
It was a lovely Sunday in the park and I got to people watch on the route that was a nice hilly loop, up and down again. There were people praying, churches nearby singing, someone doing a film shoot of a family having a picnic, a few Kenyan men running, kids and a master in karate exercising, another group working out, several other foreigners running, including a family of four with kids around 7 & 10.
I did love the note that I received from a friend back in DC that said, “Kudos for keeping up your running regimen in Nairobi! I don’t think of myself as a cautious person, but when you mentioned a 14 mi run just as the mall siege was ending, I was very tempted to say “what the hell?!” The Nairobi I know was dirty, noisy, full of traffic and ankle-turning traps, so I was not sure which of the many dangers might get you. But then it looks like you found a safe, quiet place to run, which is wonderful. :-)”
It seems that google would agree. When I tried to map my route by foot, for the run I just finished this morning, the advisement according to google maps was, “Use caution – this route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.”
Google wouldn’t have actually anticipated how far off the map I would end up. Starting out I hadn’t expected the rains to have come overnight and small roadside lakes had popped up overnight. Luckily I managed to avoid any mud sprays from passing cars. The road, crowded with pedestrians, was often strewn with fallen purple jacaranda blossoms.
I was getting towards the tail end of my run when suddenly I wasn’t sure if I should turn left or go straight. Straight would be the general direction I was headed, aside from the minor fact that it didn’t connect in to the main road that I wanted to loop around on.
So as I realize that the neighborhood I’m it may not connect through, I ask one of the guys walking along the same route. He says it connects through the forest just up there. As I head along I think “forest?” okay, this could get interesting. I see that the route will take me into side path and trust my instinct to go with it.
Suddenly I’m running through bushy grass on a muddy path alongside a roaring river in the middle of Nairobi, the same stream that runs through the arboretum in fact. I know that where I’m headed is on the other side of the river, which I figure will sort itself out over time.
I sense someone running up behind me, but don’t feel in danger. He comes along and says, in the typical African fashion, that he’ll show me the way. The next thing I know I am doing a balancing walk over a large pipe of some kind across the river and then straight up the stair step ravine on the other side. Even I’m trying not to be out of breath at 5,000 ft above sea level as I reach the other side, which is conveniently right on the street I stay on.
I’m back at home before 7:30 in the morning and still have time to relax and enjoy a nice breakfast before starting another day of meetings. Running the world feels great!