Saturday, October 17, 2009

Village Fun Run

Let me start out by providing you all with some sage advice. If you are going to Africa or some other remote place in the world, I highly recommend doing a full overhaul and check-up on your laptop before you go. It’s been almost three months since I took my laptop to Pretoria to be fixed and it is likely to be at least one more month before I get it back. The first place I took it to was unable to fix it, and although the second place can fix it, they have to wait on the parts. So in the mean time, I’m dependent on my internet phone and infrequent access to rather pricey internet cafes. Thus my long absence here. But I wanted to give you an update and let you know that I am still alive.

So alive that last Friday, I participated in the Mmametlhake South African Police Service (SAPS) 5K Fun Run. For those of you who are fans of “The Office,” yes, there were many similarities to that remarkable episode, but with a South African flare.

The race was scheduled to start at 7am that morning. Graciously a few other volunteers who stay in villages near me came to run. (Thanks again, Laura, for sticking it out.) Being Americans, we arrived at SAPS at seven. Several of the officers and the superintendent seemed to be in a pre-race meeting, so we hung back until Constable Ngobini—one of the officers who works closely with my organization and a friend—came over to tell us that they were running late and would be starting soon. This was expected and as we seemed to be the only participants, we sat down to wait it out.

Eight o’clock passed and a few other participants began to arrive. By 8:30 there were about fifteen of us, and there was no putting it off anymore. The plan was to start by our in-progress domestic violence shelter (still roofless) and run back to the SAPS offices. Six of us climbed into the back of an ambulance, a few more into a squad car and the remaining into a taxi. The ambulance drove to the shelter, and…we waited. For some reason the other vehicles did not arrive for another fifteen minutes.

Finally, we all arrived at the starting point, and Laura and I were ready to go. (Anne and David, neither one feeling well, had by this point gone back to my place to cook us cinnamon rolls as an after race treat.) Before starting one of the officers organized us into lines of four. Strange, but I thought, “Okay that’s logical. There’s only a few of us running on a tar road. It’s a safety thing.” Oh, no. Not a safety thing. The officer began leading us in stretches and a, well, 1980’s aerobic style warm-up. Laura and I, deciding that we had already done plenty of warming up, stepped to the side to, umm, observe.

After a grueling warm-up the lead car set off and we finally started the run. Besides my self and Laura, there were two other guys who were actually runners, and I should point out much better runners than myself. The rest of the group was a hodge-podge of employees from the various government offices in our village most of whom admitted to the fact that they had not run in years. Laura and I did fairly well coming in a respectable forth and fifth overall and first and second among the women. When I checked my watch to see our time, we had run it in a remarkable 25 minutes. I know I’m improving and getting back to my pre-Colorado departure pace and I know we were running a little faster than normal pace, but 5K in 25 minutes? That couldn’t have possibly been a full 5K. I’m running between a six and seven minute kilometer on a regular basis, which means we should have been running for five to ten more minutes. When we checked it on Google Earth later, we discovered that our 5K fun run was probably just over 3K. Oh, well, “E” for effort.

Overall it was an enjoyable time, and I’m all about promoting exercise and healthy habits in the village. I’m also looking forward to the opportunities that will come out of it. I’ve been asked to help plan the next run which I am hoping we can turn into a big community event for World AIDs Day on December 1st. I also have a new running buddy out of it, Constable Connie, one of the officers who helped plan the run. If interest continues to spread from here, there might also be an opportunity for creating a running club. But that’s all to come…

So six and a half months into my service—more than a quarter of the way through for those who are keeping track—I am still finding my groove in my community and contributing where I can. It’s never easy but never unbearably hard either. I’m looking forward to the return of my computer and posting the many blog posts I’ve been saving. Until then…

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