I ran very well and had a personal best of 1:57:26. That was great news. Unfortunately, for our team, our best runner, Benedicta, collapsed from heat stroke with 200m to go. She was in second place and quite close to the woman in first place. Very, very disappointing. And then, a bit scary, because this is Africa and there is NO medical attention available, even at an organised race sponsored by the Federation. So there were about 4 of us making suggestions and doing whatever we could think of to help here. When I finished and reached the tent where she was, she was delirious and had stopped sweating. We tried to get some liquid inside her, which she took after a bit, but then about 5 ninutes later she just threw it all back up.
Fortunately, she did survive. She went to the hospital later in the day and the doctor told them she needed salt and she bravely got on the bus and threw up all the way back to Bamenda (6 hours) because of the fumes. Not her best race. . .
I did much better. I started the race way, way, way, way too fast. I think there was some point on the downhill at the beginning that my pace was around or under 6min/mi which is just insane. They seem to have a penchant for starting races downhill here in Cameroon. Not my favorite kind!
The PMUC semi-marathon is 3 loops of 7km each that go right through the main market area of downtown Yaoundé. There is a map, but no markers telling you where to turn. There are no volunteers directing you and there was definitely no one stopping traffic Particularly not on a Saturday morning at the Marché Centrale!
There was a portion of the race where I was running in the middle of the road between the lanes of traffic coming and going. There were two water stations along the route which was good and I happily used the sponges of cool water they offered. It was hot. The day was quite sunny and the race started at 8:30am, when it was surely already in the low 80's F. And no shade along the route.
I did the first loop pretty well, but with the killer hill near the end of the loop, I realized how much the fast start had taken a toll. A few hundred meters into the second loop, a guy came up alongside me and started talking to me. At first it seemed like chit chat and I was *so* not interested, but then he changed tack to supportive runner talk ("ah, relax here on the downhill," "now shorten your stride", etc.). In French. He kept asking, "Ca va?", "Oui, ca va." And he ran with me. The whole rest of the race. That was amazing. I'm pretty sure he clearly could have gone ahead, but he chose to stay with me. I've never been paced before and it really, really helped. I would have slowed much more if he had not been there. (He's the one who taught me to take and use the sponges.) He did sprint ahead of me right at the end, but that was fine.
When we came through the corral at the end, I was given a slip of paper. It looked like it had 8V on it, but then I realized that it was probably a sloppy French 18 (they swoop up on their 1's). So I was the 18th woman. Not bad. Of course there were probably only 20 women in the race!