Running Tales

The Nomadic Urban Swara-RWANDA& ETHIOPIA

kigaliWith 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.

kigali 1So 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  donkey in addis ababayear 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.