In my mind, I am a
This Sunday marked the 9th annual Kigali Peace Marathon. Each May hundreds of runners flock to Kigali to participate in the marathon, half marathon, and 5k fun run.
I had been toying with the idea of running the half, but I had pretty much talked myself out of it. I hadn’t been training regularly, partly out of laziness and partly because of the weather. Pouring rain and mudslides blocking the roads often made running in the morning difficult. However Saturday morning I had to go to Kigali anyway for a meeting, so I tossed my running clothes into my overnight bag, hoping to register at the last minute. Luckily, after several tries and run-ins with African organizational issues, I finally got registered, bib number 1026.
The morning of the race was beautiful, absolutely perfect race weather! As I left the house, the air was chilly, the air was perfectly clear, and a stunning rose-colored sky stretched out in all directions.
The race started and finished at Amahoro (Peace) Stadium, a hulking building painted in the colors of the Rwandan flag- yellow, blue and green. I met up with a few other Peace Corps Volunteers who were also running the half. It was great to meet some new volunteers and have someone to chat with during the race!
The race course was more or less an out-and-back, completed once for the half marathon and twice for the full. The route was really beautiful and wound through some really nice neighborhoods, so I enjoyed tallying the different embassies, ambassador’s homes, and NGO buildings, including some countries like Uganda, Japan, Sudan, and even the Peace Corps headquarters.
There were a lot of hills spread throughout the race, but from the tops there were some spectacular views of the city sprawled out below. I don’t go to the capital frequently, so it was a wonderful way to get the lay of the land!
I feel like people-watching at races is always entertaining, and Africa in general has some pretty memorable sights, meaning the two combined were great! All the wealthier runners and pros were decked out in snazzy running gear, but others were less well-dressed. I saw a number of men running in boxer shorts, since I’m pretty sure they have no idea we consider them underwear. One woman ran the full marathon in hot pink socks and no shoes, and other people were out in Keds and sandals. There were countless runners sporting yellow, blue, and green. Another notable outfit was a vet wearing a hairy gorilla costume!
Speaking of running gear, I was proudly running in a new top Mom bought and mailed to me. Janji is a company that makes running gear in the colors of various developing nations. Each purchase pays for aid to be sent to that country. Rwanda’s gear sends money to pay for a child’s malnutrition treatment. The shirts look really nice and are also very comfortable. (Picture to come!)
Two moments of the marathon particularly stick out in my mind. The first moment came about halfway through my race. The half marathon started at 7am and the marathon started 45 minutes later, so partway through the race I got lapped by the pro marathon runners. I was slowly battling my way up a hill, when I heard the rumble of a big pack of runners thundering past me. About 20 gorgeous African runners were gliding past me, barely breaking a sweat. I was totally in awe!
An even more powerful moment occurred after I finished. Towards the beginning of the race, my running mate, Heidi, and I passed a wiry man, chugging up a hill. This man’s right leg was amputated below the knee. I have yet to see any prostheses in Rwanda, and consequently he was propelling himself forward on crutches! I was blown away: running on two legs was kicking my butt and this incredible man was doing it on one! When he came around the track to the finish line, everyone in the stadium went crazy. Everyone was on their feet cheering him on. It was such a moving moment, and it made me teary-eyed. It reminded me of why I love running: everyone laces up their shoes, pushes themselves to do their best, and the rest of the community is overwhelmingly supportive. I was really proud to consider myself part of the running community.
There were some other PCVs there with students from their schools. Every year, some volunteers get together and write a grant to bring students to participate in the 5k and a healthy living seminar. All the Volunteers said it was a wonderful experience and that the kids had a blast! Some of them had never been to a big city, so staying the night in a hostel and going out to eat was a huge treat!
Overall running in the Kigali Peace Half Marathon was an incredible experience! I’m so glad I made the last minute decision to run. The other Peace Corps runners and I think the course wasn’t marked right. We all finished faster than we anticipated, so we’re thinking the race was more like 10 to 11 miles instead of the full 13. Even if it was short, I’m not too worried about it because I was just out there to have fun and experience this great opportunity!