I received what I considered to be a great compliment the other day. The woman at the checkout at New Life Grocery said she recognized me from running ("doing sport" as they say here in a direct translation of the French) in Ndamukong -- one of the main streets in my neighborhood. Then she turned to the man who checks bags at the door and said, "she does sport every day!" In a world of weekend warriors, it's impressive to them that I actually exercise every day. That made me feel good.
One benefit of running on poorly maintained dirt roads is that it forces me to stay present -- I have to keep my eyes on the road and look where I am going or else I am in danger of falling, especially now when the road is often wet and muddy.Yoga offers the same benefit. Since I have a natural tendency to always want to be elsewhere, these are good practices for me. And it helps to make each run, each day, new. Even though I have a small variety of routes to run, the weather changes the terrain enough to make me very aware of the differences. This is something that is much less apparent when you run on the road. When I bike, the road appears very differently to me because I am going past things so much more quickly and the things I need to be aware of on the bike are somewhat different than when I am running.
Because I am living and running in the city now, I do not say "good morning" to every person I pass (I'd have no breath left to run if I did!). The further away from my apartment I get, the more rural it becomes and there are fewer people, so I do greet people more frequently out there. Nonetheless, being the only white woman who runs -- and whom I think many people have ever seen run -- makes me quite recognizable. So far, after only a couple of weeks, I've met two people in other contexts who said they saw me running in the mornings. Bamenda may be a city, but in many ways it still has that "small town" feeling.