Monday, October 15, 2007

Worldwide Half Marathon Challenge

"I haven't adopted a child amid controversy and haven't recently adopted an esoteric faith. I haven't recorded albums, altered fashion tastes, or demonstrated the sort of talent that people pay money to see. But I know what it is to set off a frisson of excitement in every town I pass through.

I have even become known to strangers by a single name: "mzungu." The word, in Swahili, means "white guy," but let's not quibble over details. I'm huge in eastern Congo."      Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor 15 October 2007

I can totally relate to Baldauf's comments. When I'm not totally annoyed by being typecast by the color of my skin, I feel a bit like a rock star. Running my version of the Worldwide Half Marathon Challenge through the villages that comprise the suburbs of Kampala surely made me the talk of the day, if not the week, for many a Ugandan community.

I am in Kampala, Uganda rather than Cameroon, so I ran my half-marathon here. I used a familiar but hilly course (because every direction from where I am staying is hilly!) and this turned out to be a very good thing as my Garmin 205 lost power just before the halfway point.

I started out late but was blessed with a mostly overcast morning, so the temperature was quite comfortable. Being a Sunday, there was less traffic than usual, except for people walking to church. I ran alone accompanied only by small children all along the way shouting, "Mzungu, mzungu" (white man, white man).

At the halfway point, I turned around to see a young Ugandan man running behind me. Unlike the occasional child or teenager that runs after me as a joke, this young man seemed seriously running -- t-shirt, shorts, sneakers. I said hello to him and continued on my way. Within a few minutes, he was running at my side. He stayed with me for another three miles, including spurring me to endure the longest hill on the whole route, which I greatly appreciated. As he turned in to his compound, he received a heroes welcome from his family, and I realized that he must have been running behind me for 3 miles before I saw him. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ask his name, but I felt blessed by his company.

Despite the 17 hills along the route, I managed a PR and now I'm interested to see how I do next month when I run the PMUC half-marathon in Yaounde, Cameroon which is a 3-loop course with only one hill (well, one hill that we go up and down three times).

I miss being pushed by my club, but it's also been nice to run on my own these past couple of weeks. Kampala is much drier than Bamenda and my fancy wicking technical clothing actually works here to keep me mostly dry. In Bamenda it's hopeless, I'm totally drenched in sweat within 30 minutes and the technical clothing just cannot keep up in the high humidity. Of course, Kampala is full of dust, so I'm a different color when I return to the guest house than when I left!

In speaking with Fr. John, who is from my Diocese of California and met me here to assess a group that we want to assist with a loan fund, somehow we ended up on the subject of God's love. I told him, in all honesty, that I don't really get the "God is love" thing. I don't feel or experience that God loves me very often, especially these days. The next day when I was running, I reflected on this and it occurred to me that this was one of those things like gratitude or happiness -- that my experience had a lot to do with where I put my attention. Did I pay attention to signs of God's love in my life?

And suddenly I realized that, for me, doing something like a gratitude journal just isn't very powerful. However, I was quite interested in investigating God's love in my life. So, I haven't created the structure ofr this yet, but I think I'm going to spend some time every day reflecting on where I've seen God's love in my life.

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