Friday, November 20, 2009

Running all over eastern Congo

Sorry I havent written for awhile. Ive been traveling for the past month and running in some very different places: Kalemie, Kabalo, Lubumbashi, Goma. I am very much looking forward to returning home to Bukavu tomorrow, even if it means running in mud.

Kalemie was great. Much warmer than Bukavu and drier, though it has daily whopping thunderstorms. Fortunately, those storms came rolling through around 4am and were gone by the time I wanted to go running at 6am. But it is quite an experience to see the thunder and lightning rolling across Lake Tanganyika and coming right at you! Kalemie is also very flat and the road that isnt paved is sandy, so running there was quite easy. I even ran barefoot on the beach one morning. That was interesting because it meant running through what are essentially peoples bathrooms. There is a womens section and a mens section and as I ran along people were washing their dishes, their clothes, their children and themselves jump in the lake and get wet, come out and soap up (Dettol soap is great for this, it really foams up and sticks to you), then jump back in and rinse off.

I was in Kalemie over a few weeks and so got to do a few long runs. On one I ran along the northerly road through village after village, past markets and schools and churches. The sandy road and lack of rock meant I didnt need to keep my eyes on the ground all the time and could look up and ahead, which was great. Another long run was straight east out of town and that road was much more red, clay dirt and small rocks. It also was straight into the bush. After a mile, there were few, if any, houses and rolling hills. Very nice and very solitary.

Kabalo is a small town on the Congo river which also has very sandy soil with no rocks at all. I ran one day in shoes and then one day in my bare feet, which worked really well, except that the ground was very hard packed, so four miles was as much as I could do.

Lubumbashi was a whole other ballgame. Flat, nearly perfectly paved roads moving out of the city like spokes. I ran a different direction everyday and only a few times did I make it to the end of the paved road. It was so different than the terrain Ive been running on for months. It was so much more like running in the US.

The bad news is that during my first week in Kalemie, my Garmin 405, the love of my life, died. No manner of resets or recharges or anything would revive it. Luckily, one of my colleagues was heading back to Bukavu and another colleague was heading to Paris. So I reluctantly turned over my baby and hope that it is by now on its way to the service center in the US where they will bring it back to life. Then it will get sent to another colleague in New York who is coming to Congo in January. That is a long, long time (end of Oct to end of Jan) without my Garmin and it is rather disorienting. I dont even have my Timex Chrono watch with me, just an analog watch. So now I can only run by time and even that is an estimate. I have no idea my real distance or pace. You may all sympathize! ;-)

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