August 12

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Expect hills and sweat when running in Abuja

I know running is not for everyone, but I have always loved it. I have found that running in new city is a great way to ‘reccy’ a place and get your bearings. Before I left England I heard there was a running club in Abuja, having just come off the back of running my first Marathon I thought I was in good shape to keep up with the seasoned expat runners – how wrong I was!

The run is a ~7km loop around Maitama district not far from where I live; which is at the top of the hill. So regardless of if you run clockwise or anti-clockwise you have to tackle the hill to get home – very different to my normal flat as a pancake run down the Thames river path.

We run before it gets dark, on fairly well maintained paths (bar a few stretches where the tree roots have lifted the tarmac so depending on where you are in your run and how tired you are it can feel like jumping over hurdles). The paths are nice and wide, which is misleading as I originally thought how generous taking into account how few people walk, but it seems they have been built purposefully wide to enable cars to mount the curb and drive along the pedestrian path if they don’t like the look of traffic. A few times I have come across a car (usually one of those green registered taxis I talked about in an earlier blog!) driving straight at me!

Running on the path on the side of the road means that I will breathe in whatever fumes are expelled from the traffic alongside me. If I feel I am struggling to crawl up a hill, I am usually not alone. Most of the time you can smell a vehicle chuntering up it too! This mixed with other unpleasant smells along the way mean all my senses are being challenged!

Bearing in mind we are in the wet/cooler season at the moment it is still extremely hot work. Incorporate the hills and I am facing the sweatiest runs I have ever had. Not the most pleasant for the other runners who stick around for a beer in a bush bar after!

Now this is not very PC, but I wouldn’t be sharing my complete running experience without mentioning it. One of the sights that shocks me every time are the men standing on the path having a pee (at least 4-5 each run). Baring in mind there is usually a decent grass/tree area just off the path, that they could more subtly use at their toilet, they still insist on standing on the path! I have even seen men doing the more obvious ‘school-boy wee’ as my male friends call it (trousers around the ankles)! Another gross incident I had was as I passed a man he turned his head, and without seeing me, spat. Fortunately it only landed on my trainer and he was apologetic!

In the other extreme, some of the people you run past are very supportive. I have had quite a few thumbs ups or “well dones”. One time a couple of traditionally clothed mothers walking towards me with a rabble of children shouted ‘go Oyimbo’ (foreigner), as I went past them there was a 3 year old girl trailing behind and when I waved at her she looked at me eyes wide and then burst out crying! I am not sure what frightened her – the colour of my skin or the fact I was dripping with sweat! However, my favourite comment so far has been from a woman who shouted after me “I love your shape, fine”!!

The runs expose me to all the sights and sounds of living in an African capital! I am sure by the time my 6months is up I will have many other stories from my runs around Maitama.

I am pleased to report the team are all back safe and sound from the 2 week field trip. I am avidly listening to all their stories and hope to share some of them with you soon.