Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's been awhile

It's been awhile

So, I have been travelling and, although I have been running, I have not kept to my same schedule and have only had intermittent Internet access.

This past week looked like this:

Mon:    on the road by 6am
Tue:    on the bus at 6am
Wed:    Maga    7.08mi  1:05:57
Thu:    Maga    4.01mi  36:40
Fri:    Maga    Yoga 15min
Sat:    Maroua  6.4mi   55:47   Yoga 10min
Sun:    Maroua  20km (12.41mi)  1:52:41         Yoga    10min

It felt really great to do a long run this morning and I felt so good afterwards -- not tired at all, which amazed me since it has been weeks since I've run longer than 8 miles. All that rest must have done me some good. One nice thing about the run today is that I got far enough out of the town of Maroua so that people's reactions to me changed. And it felt much more like being back home in Fonta (except in French)--people looked and as we passed each other said, "Bonjour" or "Courage" or "Ca va?". In town, I get more hoots and hollers and "Nasara, nasara" which is Fulfulde (the local language) for "white person".

My pace has gotten much faster since I started travelling and it must be because it is flatter and, in some cases, I've been running on roads rather than just trails. 12.5 miles today at an average of 9 min/mile. Nice.

The human body is a wondrous thing. It's ability to adapt to different environments is really amazing. I'm up in the Far North Province of Cameroon now where it is very, very dry. I would consider this a desert, but they don't -- the "real" desert is farther north closer to Chad. But I have adapted with little problem.

        "God of wonders beyond our galaxy
        You are holy, holy."

I don't really get the issue so many conservative Christians have with evolution and science in general. I've always considered science to be humanity's quest to figure out how on earth God made such an awesome universe. It's been a few thousand years and we know a lot of things -- more by induction or inference than direct experience -- but I don't think we've even scratched the surface of the wonder God creates. I have a friend who is an astrophysicist and she also doesn't see any contradiction between her work researching black holes and her religious faith.

Today, I was running down the road by Maroua mountain and I had one of those mind-blowing moments of wonder -- I'm running, just like I have for years, just like so many other people all over the world, such an ordinary, ordinary thing to do, but I'm running in Cameroon, in Africa! How awesome is that?

After almost 45 years, God, life, the universe, can still blow my mind.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Work of Christmas

A friend just sent this to me and, because I love Howard Thurman, and I love the message of this poem, I just had to share it with everyone:

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.
                       
Howard Thurman

It has been a well-appreciated blessing for me to be here in Cameroon this Christmas season and so far away from the commercialism and peer pressure of Christmas in the U.S. Yet, to a very large extent, the work of Christmas here is the same as the work in America. The lost, the broken, the hungry, the prisoner -- they are everywhere.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bad day for the right foot

Today's long run brought to me by: Giamma -- his ComeUnion set, brilliant and funky which then seemlessly (thanks to my iPod's shuffle songs feature) morphed into Eric Sharp's Summer Fling set. Musically, it was an awesome run -- thank you gents!

This week:

Mon     Yoga 20 min.
Tues    Yoga 50 min.
        Run 5.04 mi. 46:40
Wed     Run 3.27 mi. 29:32
        Yoga 50 min.
Thu     Run 5.19 mi. 46:48
Fri     Run 3.08 mi. 31:11
        Yoga 50 min.
Sat     Run 3.15 mi. 28:52
        Yoga 60 min.
Sun     Run 11.82 mi. 1:58:45

Hmm, didn't even get on the bike this week. I would have ridden to Bambui today but I had to go to Bamenda yesterday early so I didn't do my long run then and we had a celebration lunch after church, put on by the families of the four people who were baptized and re-admitted into the church today, so I had to let that digest before I could go out for my run. But tomorrow I need to go to Bambui to pick up the vitamins I ordered and the yoga blocks I am getting made.

You should have seen the faces of the boys at the woodshop when I was describing to them what I wanted. Quite incredulous. "A box?", "No, not a box, just a block." "??? Okay". We shall see if they understood my funny American accented English.

Oh, about the right foot. Well, I woke up and the little toe on my right foot was really hurting. It hurt yesterday and I thought it was a hot spot -- a precursor to a blister. But this morning it was much worse and I realized that I had a jigger in it. I think I succeeded in getting it out, but it was a painful process and it still hurts. Then, whle I was running, the front of my ankle was hurting. My initial diagnosis was perhaps my shoelaces were too tight, but no. It kept getting worse and after about 7 miles I retied my shoes leaving a big gap in the middle. That didn't help. Around 10 miles or so, I tied the shoe higher up my foot. That helped a little. When I got home and took the shoe and sock off, I had quite a bruise on my foot. I have no idea why this got so irritated. Poor right foot. Today was not its day.

Sunday afternoon is a sweet time to run. I had one of those "all is right with the world" feelings. Bands of children were playing happily in many places along my route -- I ran through several football games. Adults were hanging around socializing and drinking. At the beginning of my run, this made everyone mellow, but by about 5:00pm some guys were getting rowdy. I ran past a bar and heard some guy yelling and I think he actually attempted to run out to the road when he saw me. But alas, too much mimbo (drink) kept him from his quest, whatever it may have been. But here, Sunday afternoons are just for BEING not for doing. People sit and talk; people walk and talk; people drink and talk; children play and talk. All is well. What a nice way to end/begin the week.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A quandary

So here's the quandary I'm faced with:

        Do I run in the morning or the afternoon?

You see, the mornings are cold and getting colder. By North American standards, they are currently just chilly, but *really* chilly and it's a bit harsh coming back to a cold shower. Some mornings I can get by with a short sleeve shirt and socks on my hands, but other mornings I have to wear a long sleeve shirt (of which I only have two).

By the late afternoon, after work, it is warm -- sleeveless shirt weather.

The advantage to the morning is that nothing else in my schedule can interfere ("I'm tired," drank a beer at lunch, didn't get back from Bamenda until dark, etc.). It also revs up my metabolism first thing and it's a great way to start the day, knowing the most important thing is done.

The disadvantage to the afternoon, aside from scheduling issues and the possibility of being a slug is that it is BUGGY. I spend the whole time wiping them from my face and have to squint my eyes and keep my mouth closed to avoid ingesting them (gotta remember to wear sunglasses).

The schoolchildren in the morning are also a great plus -- they think I am a riot. But I hate the cold. Really I do. The Swedish genes in me must have gotten damaged somehow. And we are just at the beginning of the season now. Everyone tells me it really gets cold in January.

Hmm. Well, a friend sent me a package that includes my running gloves and a couple more long-sleeve shirts, so maybe I'll survive the morning cold.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My strength is back

Just got back from my long run and I'm almost back to where I was before I got sick. Yippee!

This week:

Mon:    Run     3.4mi   32:21
        Yoga    45min
Tue:    Run     5.02mi  48:07
Wed:    Run     3.09mi  31:58
        Yoga    50min
Thu     Run     6.38mi  1:01:39
Fri     Run     3.11mi  29:45
Sat     off
Sun     Run     10mi    1:39:25

"His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."               Psalm 147: 10-11

I didn't know the Bible had much to say about running, then this morning, I read this. Nice to know God isn't only pleased by the fast ones. But of course, that makes sense -- God always has a preference for the poor, weak, sick and, now we know also the slow <g>.

At least once a week I wonder what I am doing here in Cameroon and if I made the right choice. Lots of reasons for my doubt, not the least of which is that it seems to be my nature. So, then I listen to Eminem:

        "Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity,
        to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment,
        would you capture it or just let it slip?. . .

        You better lose yourself in the music.
        The moment you want it, you better never let it go.
        You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow.
        This opportunity comes once in a lifetime."

Ah, okay, so maybe I can't see the whole picture. But, I've walked away from a similar opportunity once before in my life and it's one of the few decisions I regret. So this time around, I still have my doubts, but I also have Eminem.