Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Places I've Run: Niamey, Niger

Here’s one for the Mollie Does Ridiculous Things list. (This “list” has been in my head for a while, this is its first appearance on my blog - so don't get confused.)

I do kind of a lot of ridiculous things, mostly of the running/endurance variety (e.g. when I was working at a summer camp, a friend asked at 11pm if I wanted to run 15 miles the next morning – starting at 4am. My response? Sure!) Basically I’m a compulsive volunteer – just ask, I’ll say yes to anything. So far this has worked out pretty well…knock on wood…

Anywho, back to this particular incident. You may already be aware that I lived in Niger for a semester, and that I ran while I was there.

So there I was on a morning in November, running my laps of Le Stade, when another runner came up beside me to chat. I was psyched to have company - I had been running by myself for 2 months – I can only spend so much time alone with my thoughts! So this guy and I started talking. Note, this conversation was in French, and I was running in around 100 degrees weather…so I didn’t really get all of it. But here’s the gist.

-       Turns out this guy is the best runner in Niger, and the coach of their National Team (which practices at Le Stade).

-        I can’t remember his name. It started with a Y and was long and involved a few K’s and L’s – so basically I have no idea…let’s just call him Y.

-       Y wanted me to “join” their team and run in a big competition in late December (not because I’m a great runner, but because they only had 2 women total on their team). There was no way that was going to happen, because a) the competition was in Tahoua, a very long bush taxi ride away, and b) it was after my fly-home date.

So Y asked me if I wanted to run with the team sometime. He said they would show me places to run other than Le Stade. Obviously, I said yes.

At 6 am on a Saturday morning I met the team. They all seemed very nice. We went through the usual greetings – Hello, how’s your house? How’s your family? How’s your health? How’s work? Ça va, Ça va, Ça va.

Followed by the usual semi-serious jokes about getting married so I can bring one of them back to America with me…

Then Y was like, Ok, allons-y (let’s go)!

Turns out, this run was going to be just me and him. Not what I expected, but okaaaayyyy…

We started running at a relatively quick pace, no problem, hooray for company! We ran out the main street heading out of the city. (By that point in the semester, I was pretty familiar with the area.) And we kept going…and going…and going…

Eventually we turned left onto a dirt road. This road seemed to go on forever. Soon we had left the city behind. I could see houses around, but we definitely weren’t in a populated area…And then I started to wonder, was this such a good idea? How much did I know about this guy? And where the hell were we going??? 

A mangy looking dog started to follow us and my wondering took a turn for the worse, if this dog bites me, what will happen? What if I can’t walk? Who will think to come find me? How will they know where to look???

(Don’t worry kids, this story has a happy ending.)

We finally turned left again, and headed in a direction that looked more city-ish (or at least outlying suburb-ish). I was tired. I was hot (note that I had to wear pants for this!). And I was cranky – Y said it was going to be a 45 minute run, but we had been running for over an hour!!!

The best part of this whole run was when we saw Le Stade up ahead, and Y said to me, “See, I told you that you could run a half marathon!”

WTF??? I did not sign on for that! I guess when you agree to do things in a foreign language, key details can get lost in translation…

Retrospectively, perhaps going on a long run with a man I just met in a foreign country was not my brightest idea ever. But we made it back, an I lived on to do more Ridiculous Things…