Here I am nearing the finish of the Mt. Cameroon Race for Hope on 17 February. I ran the veteran's race which was great except that it was shorter than it was originally planned to be and shorter than I wanted. (It ended up being 8 and some miles).
I ran well. The first half climb was rough and I walked 2 or 3 times. But I kept my eyes on my competition. I knew Eunyce would be way ahead and she was. She came in first. Then I could see the 2nd woman and then there was a 3rd who passed me, then I passed her, then she passed me again and I couldn't catch her on the climb. But I was pretty certain I'd blow her away on the downhill, which apparently I did. You can see in this photo that there is no one near me at all. When I hit the halfway point and they recorded me electronically I turned and started to fly down the hill. All because Emmanuel had said to me, "you have great speed downhill." Somehow because he said it, I believed it. I passed woman #3 after the first curve and never looked back (I was too scared to look back. I didn't want to know that she was right on my tail!)
I finished 3rd for the veteran women. And then later I learned that the #2 woman was disqualified because she was only 33 (or at least that is what her registration said, she looked older, but they are pretty wishy-washy about age here. . .) So I was the 2nd veteran woman. And because Eunyce is a year younger than me (at least that's what her registration said), we were in separate age groups. She was in 40-44 and I was in 45-49. So we each won 1st place in our age groups. We didn't win real money like the main race (or even the juniors, for that matter), but we got some sponsor prizes and 20,000 CFA ($40). The best thing was that we got an Int'l Women's Day pagne (cloth) which was on my list of things to buy anyway! And Benedicta was admiring it saying she wanted some of it, so I think I'll give it to her to make me an outfit and she can have whatever is left over. I also got plastic flowers and a wall calendar from a computer company that I left with Rao as a thank you for letting me bunk at his place.
And, again, I was on Cameroonian television! That's the 3rd time since I've been here. If you are an avid Cameroonian viewer you now know a) I like to each achu; b) I work with the North West Association of Dev't Orgs and c) I run and not too badly for an old lady.
Our team didn't do too badly. Charles also ran the veteran's course and came in second in the 35-39 age group. Benedicta came in #5 for the women and won 300,000 CFA ($600) which is worth a LOT to the family. She said she'd come in the top 5 and just made it, despite falling twice during the descent from the summit.
On the bad news front, Emmanuel lost his shoes -- the started to fall apart -- but luckily another guy from Bamenda that he knew traded shoes with him because Emmanuel was pacing Benedicta and the other guy was just (rather slowly) making his way down the hill. Emil's shoes also started to fall apart (and his mother had just bought them for him the day before because we told her he couldn't run in the plastic sandals he had). And, worst of all, Ernest's shoes completely fell apart. The soles came off totally and he had to run barefoot for a couple of miles. No one would help him until finally a spectator gave him a pair of flip flops.
I was thinking about putting out a plea to get Ernest some real shoes and now I really am going to do it. His problem is that he has flat feet that are a bit wide. He doesn't overpronate, though. There is a model of Brooks shoes that are designed for people like him (flat-footed but not in need of support). I really want someone to find it in their hearts to donate one or two pairs of these to him. You should have seen him after the race. At first he was okay, mostly in pain. But after about an hour or so, the tragedy of it all hit him hard. I've never before actually seen an African man cry. After training so hard with a lot of devotion for months and months, Ernest was actually in position to be in the top 10 of the juniors race when his shoes disintegrated. It was heart-wrenching to sit with him as he cried. All because he doesn't have money to buy proper shoes (and has feet too big to fit into mine. . .)
Sometimes life really sucks.