Monday, May 21, 2007

Up, Up, Up, Upstation

I don't think of myself as competitive, but when Eric told me yesterday that he'd run to Upstation, I felt challenged. Eric doesn't run. He doesn't play football. Sure, he's probably 20 years younger than me, but he doesn't really do anything athletic on a regular basis. To hear that he just got up one Sunday morning and ran up there made me think I really did have to give it a try.

Upstation is the area above Bamenda, which is where the Germans and later British and now the government all had their offices and houses. Then there is basically a huge cliff and Bamenda is down in the valley. For 8 months of the year there are 4-6 waterfalls that come pouring off the cliffs from Upstation.

[This seems to be a typical Cameroonian thing. First, to just get up on a Sunday morning and go for a run because you feel like it. Even the really committed people generally only run on the weekends. And also, they seem to have this thing about running up mountains. There are a lot of nice places to run around my neighborhood, but everyone runs up to Upstation. In Yaoundé it is the same, everyone there runs up Mt. Fèbè. And then, the big race in Cameroon is the Mt. Cameroon race in February, 17km straight up and 17km straight down Mt. Cameroon.]

I was up early this morning and could see out my window the traffic wasn't too bad (to get to Upstation requires going through the intersection at Cow Street which is the cause of all the traffic jams on my street), so off I went. It was pretty hard, I won't kid you. 1.7 miles straight up and most of it very steep. About halfway, the slope is less steep for a couple tenths of a mile which is a welcome relief.

But it is so beautiful. After the Cow Street junction, I ran past Nkwen market and up to the Baptist Center (aka Finance Junction) after which there were very few cars or people. About 5 or 6 small busses passed me coming into town, the night busses from Yaoundé and Douala. Up past the Handicrafts Market (a wonderful place where they let you browse with no hassles) and then it was just tree-lined cliffs on either side. The views of Bamenda were great. At one point I had a perfect view of all three major churches, the Baptist Center, Ntamulang Presbyterian and Bayelle Catholic (the one right behind my house). They each sit atop their own hill and have large complexes. I so, so wish I had my small camera (it was stolen at the train station in Yaoundé last week, grrr), I could’ve taken great pictures for you! My butt was starting to drag as I turned the corner on one of the switchbacks until I saw a guy pushing his motorcycle and thought, “gee, it really could be worse. That’s gotta be tough.” So, I kept going and made it all the way to the top without either stopping or walking.

Then, of course, the reward was to run the 1.7 miles straight back down! This was also a bit of a test as I had hurt my knee a couple of weeks ago. Because I travelled up to Maroua for a meeting last week, I had several rest days from running and thought that really helped the knee. And sure enough it must have because it didn’t bother me at all on the run down from Upstation, and it is all on pavement. I passed a couple dressed in workout clothes who were walking down the hill and wanted to tell them they were missing the fun part, but I went by too fast <g>. I had some fun dodging taxis and potholes and people as I went back through Cow Street junction and added a bit by running all the way up to the intersection past my apartment to make it an even 3.5 miles. Well done!

So now that I’ve finally done it, I definitely think I have to add that run to my regular repertoire. One good hill workout a week, I think. After all, I’m hoping to find a team I can join to run Mt. Cameroon next year.

Someday, I’ll have to do that on my bicycle.

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