Running Tales

The Nomadic Urban Swara- Dubai and Rwanda: Of African Cultural Practices and Relativity to Time and Distance

Royally upset and tired
Royally upset and tired

Aarrgh  Africans. That’s it! Our concept of time and distance is relative, nay notorious! Well, before I get ahead of myself, let’s start with our cultural practices. So I am Luo, and we children of the lake are known for one thing, well, at least according to the author, Evans Pritchard- Tough, resilient, deeply democratic, easily aroused to violence and immensely proud. Oh!  We strut about as the Lords of the earth, which indeed we consider ourselves to be (If you have lived in Kenya you will get the gist and giggle). But what he failed to note is that we have deeply rooted cultural practices, which is humorously related to my tale- night running.

Night runners-Jajuok. According to Luo tradition, a night runner is every adjective that supports a character that is nefarious. According to lore, jajuoks ran at night, wait for it… naked! These guys were stuff of nightmares and the kind of stories I was told as a child was a warning if I was mischievous. (Mum to me: If  you do not behave  I will leave you outside so that the Jajuoks take you! Ahem… trust me the psychological scars still exist) So what they’d do is run about naked, preferably rub themselves in ash, and would make abominable noises outside ones’ house. Trust me, wore unto you if you are upcountry and you decided to pee and you had an outhouse instead of indoor civilized plumbing! Your imagination will run wilder than the after effects of watching a C grade slasher film.

Hehe, what has this got to do with Dubai. I am on my path to recovery after my injury, and the whole of last week I was in this 41 degree (and that was on a cool day) sandpit. It was so hot, every time I walked out of the hotel, my glasses fogged over. And I made a decision; I would run at night! I must admit on my first night, I was in a fit of giggles for the entire run as I had to leave the hotel at 8:00pm every day to run.

I was staying at the Arjaan by Rotana in Dubai City, 6kms to the Burj al Arab. So I would pass the Palm Jumeirah, Souk Medina, Knowledge City, and get to Dubai’s iconic building. Of course the city is well lit and I met a few night runners (pardon the pun). 5 days of night running and 12kms return led to 60 kms in total. Oh, for the record I was dressed! So I came back to Nairobi on Friday, rested on Saturday and Sunday, I was in Rwanda.

Hmm and this  leads to my exasperation with my fellow Africans. So as I am booking my accommodation reservation, one of my special requests was avail access to a gym with High Interval Intensity Training (I am addicted to it). My hotel had no such facility. However they were in partnership with a state of the art gym, which had these facilities.

So checked in late at night. The following day, I had meetings in the morning and since I had a late afternoon meeting, I decided to steal a couple of hours and hit the gym. So dressed in my gear, I ask the receptionist, how far the gym was from the hotel, and her response was… “oh, it’s just 5 minutes away”. “So I can run to it?” I inquire. “Sure, besides we notice you like running every time you stay with us” she affirmed. “You are right,” I said confidently. And I chose to run. Now, you see, it was a cold drizzly day and it was 12:30pm, so in essence I could hack an afternoon run. You see Kigali (the city of 1001 hills) is not a joke and then the ancestors decided to pull a fast one on me. It stopped raining and it got very hot! So when I looked at my Garmin I had done  5 minutes  of a hilly run and I was nowhere near the gym. 7km later, absolutely winded down, I reached the gym to  find a very enthusiastic gym instructor whose only statement,  was “do you want to  begin the session?”  “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and every possible profanity crossed my mind. However, I straightened myself and limply said , “yes.” Just like that, I felt like a lamb going to slaughter.  After one hour of the HIIT and brutal 7 km hilly run, I hobbled out of the gym, hailed a taxi and went back to the hotel. And bless the receptionist, “Did you enjoy your workout?” she asked, and all I could say was, “5 minutes eh, hmmm, right, err okay!” then quickly calmed down and said, “well it was quite an experience!” I hobbled into my room took a blessed shower dressed up and  went for my next meeting.