It’s a sad admission for the 21st century but I hate running. We are all designed to run, we’re born to run but as humans evolve, lazy people like me are no doubt ruining it for everyone else and slowing down. The fact is, I find running hard. I hate the way that you can feel each flab of spare, accumulated flesh bounce uselessly as you jog along, reminding you that it shouldn’t be there.
The red face, the breathlessness, the flat feet, looking at hills and groaning, counting (no praying through) seconds before you can drop into a walk. For some reason I’ve failed to experience that rush of endorphin when the run is over – however other people love running (they are better people than me) and I admire them for that. Running can be solitary or companionable but above all it’s outside, which means you can get your bearings, see what’s going on around you, admire beautiful skies and take in the sights, sounds and smells. It’s me time, time to think, or even not think but instead concentrate on your breathing. Meditate.
Running in Africa
Anyhow, I used to run when we first moved to Tanzania, only because I could literally think of no other way of meeting people. I dreaded it every week. I didn’t have the kit. I barely had trainers. We ran 6k with the Hash House Harriers on Monday evenings at sunset and boy it was hot and sweaty (we lived in Dar). Having said that, I got fitter than I had ever been in my life at that time and have incredibly fond memories of that time.
We ran along all sorts of back roads and muddy tracks (often flooded in the rainy season), through villages, up sandy beaches and up busy main roads. It was liberating to feel so free in this group, since the rest of the time I was buckled in behind the wheel of my car. When we ran, there were no barriers. I enjoyed the bits where you could slow down to look at what was going on around, for instance when picking our way down a rutted track or between corrugated iron houses, peering in at hairdressing salons hidden behind lace curtains, between street food vendors and their charcoal fires, around a field of kids playing football with a makeshift ball. Kids running along side us and practising their English, chanting, “howareyou, howareyou!” And running is ageless. Back then I was still in my twenties and felt that, if other people in their 50s were coping with this running lark, then I really had no excuse, however hot, sweaty and uncomfortable I felt.
And there’s another thing that’s good about running. Taking part in marathons and events is an extremely effective way of raising money for fantastic causes. And by training and taking part, you can take the opportunity to travel the world.
Running for a cause – Street Child, Sierra Leone
At the end of last year, I was approached by the Street Child charity based in Sierra Leone to mention their major fund raising Marathon that takes place every May in Makeni (the country’s second biggest city after Freetown), Sierra Leone. Tom Dannatt set up the Street Child charity in 2008 in order to help children improve their living conditions and access education. Of course tragedy struck in early 2014 with the ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone and Liberia lost around 8,500 people due to the ebola outbreak and they estimate that this left 20,000 children orphaned by the outbreak. During the outbreak Street Child had to put most of their activities on hold: the schools were shut down for months, the teacher training program as well… But the team stayed on the ground and took advantage of our close links with the communities to develop awareness-raising activities and to deliver livelihood packages to ebola-affected families. After the outbreak a program was launched aimed at helping the Ebola orphans and their caregivers.
To find out more, check out the Street Child website and watch the marathon video below. You can choose run 5km, 10km, a half or full marathon but it’s bound to be a broadening and companionable experience. The Marathon will take place on 28th May 2017.
And if you are not ready to travel to West Africa for the incredible Street Child event, then you can raise money by running a marathon closer to home (see below).
In fact, all of this research is making me feel kind of bad that I’m not a runner now, but for those of you who are, perhaps you could consider drumming up some fellow running mates giving one of these a go? For those of you who have not run in Africa, it’s something very different, very humbling and very new. Meanwhile, I promise to jog around the block a few times to see if I’ve changed my mind.
2017 Africa Marathon Diary – Running for a cause.
- Kilimanjaro Marathon in Moshi, Tanzania – 26th Feb (register by 10th Feb)
- Old Mutual 2 Oceans Marathon, Cape Town, South Africa – 14-15th April (run from coast to coast)
- Mater Heart Run, Nairobi, Kenya – May 2017 (run in town)
- Street Child Marathon, Makeni , Sierra Leone – 28th May (run through villages)
- Uganda Marathon, UGM2017 -4th June (largest fundraising event in Uganda)
- Safaricom Lewa Marathon, Lewa, Kenya – 24th June (run amongst wildlife)
- Amazing Maasai Marathon, Kenya – 22nd July (run amongst wildlife)
- The Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, Kenya – 29th October
Featured image credit: Sierra Leone Marathon 2016
Related Post: Where on earth is ‘The Real Africa’