With absolute lack of imagination, it was truly a tale of two cities . Unlike Charles Dickson’s version, which, focuses on the major themes of duality, revolution, and resurrection , mine focuses on two cities with similar topography and every runners nightmare (Kigali and Addis Ababa)
It was one of those days, where I had a 12 hour stopover in Nairobi before gallivanting between two countries and yes I ran in both.
Lets start with Kigali. Swaras, be wary of a country that brands itself as a Country of a 1000 Hills. Because that’s what I had to go through every time I ran and my mantra was, this is not about speed but just finishing the run. So dutifully I did my usual 10kms until one day it rained! And what went through my mind is Karma was, a b&^%c ! Well, let’s start from the fact that a few months ago Raoul had invited us for a run, and well, it rained that morning and I shamefacedly sent him a text message (yes.. I was one of the many…you know yourselves) saying I could not make it and manically tucked myself deeper in bed.
So what’s special about this rainy experience? It came with all the melodrama that you’d visualize if you read William Shakespeare’s Tempest (oh yeah I read LOL…). 1) Since I was street running, trees were sparse 2) The sky turned dark in minutes, not your typical Nairobi weather, where you can point out “it’s going to rain!”.3) Then it became windy, really windy… and I was still running. The few sturdy trees were bending in the wind, shopkeepers were closing their windows and giving me an either sympathetic or incredulous look. At this point the run was slowed to a crawl and it poured, with all its accompaniments, thunder and lightning. I was 3 kms away from my hotel and the only thing I could think of was, thank God this is a brand new country, because the drainage systems worked and I was not going to wade through water!
So I made peace with fact that I will be wet and I struggled the last 3kms,yes, uphill, against the wind to my hotel. So wet as a sewer rat, I get to the hotel and bless the concierge, as he asked, “ So what do you think of our weather?” A few unmentionables went through my mind but with a sweet smile and a firm nod, I said, “oh certainly not like Nairobi”!
Next city was Addis Ababa, despite the similar topography the cherry on top is that, it is the 5th highest city in the world. The air is thinner than Nairobi and running there feels like you just ate 3 plates of lasagna with lots of wine and you feel like you put an extra 10kgs. It’s amazing, how high altitude can do to your system when running. So after a long day, I got back to my hotel, which, happens to have a very good gym, looked at the street with longing and started running.
The sign was in the wall, or rather air but I dismissed it. The hazy pink color in the sky was not the sunset but smog, coming from traffic and dust (there is a lot of construction in Addis). I dismissed it as it was not as bad as the worst marathon in the world held this year in China. Then I had to battle with manic blue donkeys, that only belched volleys of jet black smoke, and, these donkeys are taxis that are reminiscent of communist era. Since my Amharic is as good as my Russian (pun intended), I did not quite understand the taxi drivers manic salutations as ordering me out of the road or waving me down for their services. 5 km in the run I gave up and went back to the hotel and in true fashion the chatty concierge said, “ good run eh?!”. Here I was panting and already tired thanks to the high altitude and all I could do was shake my head and he went on , “ You from Kenya eh?” “ Ethiopians better than Kenyan runners!” Well, I’ll say… I rolled my tired eyes and asked for directions to the gym.
The gym did not disappoint, it had one international timeless constant, the speakers were loudly blaring Boom boom boom by Venga Boys. Whoever decided that this song was the national song for all gyms, cross boundaries is beyond me . Running in those two countries was hard, next stop is Nigeria.