Thursday, December 5, 2013

Race Day

So given our terrifying boda ride of two night before smart girls that we are we decided to take another boda ride in the pitch black darkness on race morning. On our defense though at 6am you don’t have much choice other then to take a boda to get somewhere, and thankfully this one went much better. We arrived in plenty of time for the race start, and entered through metal detectors to get to the stadium where the race start and finish would be. Instantly we were surrounded by crowds of runners all wearing the yellow race shirts and visors. They had a main stage with music and a man encouraging people to warm up, which for many Ugandans consisted of dancing and eating popcorn at the start line. The race started on Ugandan time- 20 minutes late, but we were greeted by Stephen Kiprotich, Olympic and World Champion marathon runner from Uganda waving at the start. As the gun went off everyone started singing the soccer cheer “we go, we go, Ugandan Cranes we go,” it was quiet the festive start. I had received a race map at packet pick up, but considering I do not know Kampala very well I had no idea where I would be running, and still was confused about the water stops. I had heard that you were supposed to bring the water bottle the race provided for you in your race kit along with you on the run and stop to fill it up from a big jug at the water stops. Well, I did not want to carry a bottle full of water for 13.1 miles so I left the bottle at home, and hoped I would be able to get a drink along the way. Lucky for me the water stops were just like in America…sort of…They handed out bottled water and sponges (no Gatorade) every few miles. I quickly found out that this race would not be easy when in the first mile we ran up a massive hill, and proceeded to do so for the next 13 miles. I knew Kampala was hilly, but when you are running through Kampala you realize just how steep those hills really are. As I was running spectators and even men running next to me would say “mzungu!” and then “female mzungu! Wow, you’re strong.” During the race I encountered a few men who would abandon their pace as I ran past, and instead decided to stick next to me for a mile enjoying the fact that they were running next to a white female. At about the halfway mark spectators started shouting that I was in 7th place; I ended up passing two more women during the last half of the race, and then with a mile left many shouted that I was in 5th. The hills were endless throughout the race, but somehow the race officials managed to save the worst one for last. By that point my legs were screaming and each step was a struggle. I thought a small water stop up ahead was the finish, but once I got closer to it I realized I still had a ways to go. I had to turn a corner, and another corner, and another corner all uphill before finally arriving at the finish. Upon reaching the finish line I was given the number eight signaling my position, and did not think much of it as I was exhausted and just happy to be done. At the finish I was surrounded by Ugandans without another white runner in sight, but quickly a Ugandan man who had been running by me during the race spotted me, saw my position card and said that my place card was incorrect, instead I should have received number five. So my new friend, Joseph, proceeded to walk me around to all the tents trying to find out what my correct position was. Needless to say, this is Africa, and we never did find out, but we decided to wait for awards as the top five would get prizes. In the meantime we found Anne who had finished and then went to purchase food, the choices of which were meat on a stick, chapatti, or bananas. Apparently all the volunteers had a huge buffet of fruit and drinks, but if you were a runner you had to purchase your own.

As we enjoyed our food and drink purchases while waiting for the awards ceremony we stopped to talk with some new friends along the way. However, we then received a call from the Sisters saying that they had arrived back in Uganda (they were flying in from Ghana) and would be able to pick us up and drive us the five hours back to Kyarusozi. We had originally thought we would have to struggle with public transportation to get home, so we were happy to hear that they could take us instead. Unfortunately, this meant we had to rush back home to shower, change, and pack and therefore miss the awards ceremony. Oh well, I was excited to see our African family back home again, and did not want to delay them after there long night of travel already. Second race in Africa done. Now what’s next…

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