Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tigoni Trails

Though it's about the hardest running I've ever done, I'm enjoying running in Tigoni, Kenya -- about 30 minutes NW of and 2000' higher than Nairobi. There's just something special about running in that cold, thin air in the dawn fog. The altitude is not bothering me nearly as much as I thought -- I guess 3 years of steady running have put me in shape.

This morning, I was later going out. We didn't have to leave for church until 10:30, so I hit the road at about 6:30. Kenya roads are dirty and there's a permanent film of dirt and stuff on the roads around Tigoni. When it's wet, it's not really slick but I'm aware that I don't have perfect traction. Of course, my shoes also have 300+ miles on them so they are beginning to wear.

After about 3.5 km (2.1 miles), I've just come through a small valley where the air is always a bit cooler and am heading up a short, but steep, hill. At the top is a dog! Looked like a Collie/Alsatian mix. It wasn't barking at anything and didn't seem particularly stirred up and looked like it had a collar on, still ... after getting bit while running about 6 years ago, I'm pretty dog-shy. But, turning around would have been just as hard (physically) as going on, so, I headed to the far side of the 1.5 lane road and kept going. My heartrate increased significantly. But, the dog just watched me go by -- turned as I passed him but never barked or made a move toward me. Whew!

I added a bit of extra mileage this morning. At one point, took a left up a hill rather than right down. When I turned around for the final 2-3 km, I heard someone running behind me at a faster pace than I. I had seen a friend when I first started out -- he was about 75 yards ahead of me and took a different route, so I figured he was ending his run in the same general vicinity as I and was just catching up to me. In a minute, though, a young Kenyan man passed me -- I greeted him, with no response. Fine -- he's one of the famed Kenyan runners getting in his mileage and he's just focused. Well, after a few dozen yards, he slowed and let me catch up to him. Turned out that "he" was a "she". I almost ran off the road because in all my years of living in Kenya (since 1987), I have NEVER seen a Kenyan female running on the roads -- obviously, with their stars rising in the world of distance racing, they're running somewhere but I've not seen them in that area at all. I tried to ask her where she had started and where she was headed, but I couldn't get a response out of her. Language was not the issue -- maybe the hoovering (anybody reading this old enough to remember Hoover vacuum cleaners?) of my 52-year old lungs was the problem; maybe she just wanted some company for a few hundred metres; maybe she wanted to be sure this old man didn't die on the road; who knows. After a few minutes, though, she asked me where I was heading. So, I told her. She said she was going on. Kwa heri and off she went.

Anyway, 2 kinda' neat experiences this morning. Never a dull moment when living in Kenya.

Got to attend the worship service of a church that we had helped start 8-9 years ago. That was fun. We saw lots of long-time friends and came into Nairobi with some of them for the best Indian (Asian) food I have ever had. There may be excellent Indian food in Richmond, VA, but we haven't found anything to rival the Open House in Nairobi. Good food; good friends.

We're going to hate having to leave and head back to the US on Thursday, but we go where God calls and Richmond is that place for now.

Run well,
Bob

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

High Altitude Running

It was with mixed emotions that I anticipated running today. A bit of background. Until mid-2002, we lived in Tigoni, Kenya. Tigoni is in the highlands of Kenya and sits at about 7500' above sea level. Back in 1999, I had run fairly regularly in Tigoni but there was one hill that I had never conquered -- always had to walk a bit on it -- and another that I had never tried because it is a 0.75 km steep uphill. Around that time, I was running in Tanzania one morning and was surrounded by a pack of garbage heap village dogs, one of whom decided my leg might be a great protein supplement for his daily fare. He took a bite and, fortunately, decided he didn't like my taste. But, that experience sort of dampened my enthusiasm for running and a couple of months later, I quit running in East Africa until I took it back up in Nairobi in 2003.

We're about halfway through a 3 week trip to Kenya and DR Congo and staying at the Baptist Conference Centre in Tigoni (Brackenhurst Baptist International Centre) -- at the top of the hill that I had never tried. So, this morning, my plan was to run down that hill, run my old route which includes the hill I had never conquered, and then back up the hill to the conference centre. I was excited about trying but a little afraid that I couldn't do it.

So, about 5:40 this morning, I headed out and 35 minutes later I had conquered BOTH hills! I felt good about that. Without being too philosophical, this morning helped me realize that in many, many cases, the anticipation of a difficult task is worse than the task itself.

I'll do it again tomorrow. It is really good to be "home" and to be running in very cool weather -- it was probably around 52º this morning.

Live well,
Bob

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Running in DR Congo

Well, I've run in my 5th African country in 2006. Got in about 4.25 miles in Kinshasa, DR Congo this morning. Interesting run. A lot more hills than I expected -- long and fairly steep and the downhills aren't just an easy jaunt. So, I was pretty tired by the time I finished.

At one point, I was running along a ridge, overlooking downtown Kinshasa, the Congo river, and Congo-Brazzaville. That was pretty neat. It's a huge city of about 10 million people but it feels more like a lot of moderate-sized African towns just crammed together. I just pray that the gospel will penetrate this whole city.

The really interesting thing was the reaction of the people on the street to me while I was running. The only people who initiated any kind of greeting with me were young men and they invariably greeted me with Bonjour. It's assumed that white folks here speak French -- I don't, except for a few phrases excavated from high school memories. I also don't speak Lingala except for the single word of greeting, Mbote. Anyway, other people would generally respond to me if I greeted them first with either Bonjour or Mbote. The look on the faces of a lot of people was one of amused confusion -- Why is this white guy running?

All in all, a good run.

Yesterday, we spent the day with a new missionary couple (one year) and a group of pastors with whom they are working. One of the pastors had just returned from a trip, with another pastor and a layman, to the "interior" and gave a report. A 3 week trip turned into about 3 months and they had clothes and other things stolen at one point, but he was excited because a number of people had given their lives to Christ and several churches had started. I had been asked to share a devotional thought, so I chose Hebrews 12:1-2 which uses a running metaphor to talk about being a follower of Christ. It was a good day.

Perhaps more later about the rest of today. For now, run or waddle well.

Bob

Friday, September 1, 2006

Ahh. Back Home

If I don't post more regularly, I'll never have anyone reading this. But, then, this is more for me than anything else.

It is soooo good to be back in Africa. I got to run in my old haunts in Nairobi on Wednesday. After 15 months of running at about 250' above sea level, I was dreading the "hoovering" at 5700'. What a pleasant surprise to run 5 miles and be tired but not gasping for breath. I think it hurts my legs more than my lungs. The same thing happened in Johannesburg in March. My theory is that once someone is in good aerobic shape, the lower concentration of oxygen affects muscles more than lungs.

Tomorrow, Saturday, I hope to run in Kinshasa, Dem Rep of Congo. That will be my 5th African country to run in this year.

Live well, y'all.

Bob