Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Oh, la honte*...

Nearly three weeks ago, my life came full circle, as I sat in a taxi in the midst of a horrific traffic jam. A traffic jam very like the one that kept my family from arriving on time at mile 16 in Miami. Caused, fittingly enough, by the Dakar Half Marathon. Which, you, my very smart readers, will have noticed I was NOT running.

The guardian for the woman next door, however, did run it. In about an hour and a half, if he's to be believed. And although I barely remembered meeting him, he earnestly invited me to come cheer him on. I think. I'm not always clear on what people are talking about—not because I don't understand the French, but because people so often seem to be doing things I find completely unexpected. (And now that I've gone running with him, does he think I'm his girlfriend? So hard to tell with these Senegalese boys...)

Anyway. He invited me to come watch, which I couldn't do, but in the process of the conversation I revealed my incredible sporty-ness, my deep abiding love for running, and the incredible feats of endurance of which I am capable. Which is to say that I bragged about having finished two full marathons.

It seems that Malik, for thus is his name, runs weekly with the teachers at the French high school, and he invited me to join them. Tonight was the first time I was able to go.

I knew full well that I'd fallen pathetically out of shape these last two months. The stomach flab I could handle, and the tighter clothes haven't reached crisis-level yet. But what really makes me sad is to feel the atrophying muscles in my legs. Run two marathons in a year, and you develop some pretty rocking calves, quads and glutes, and they were a constant reminder of my accomplishment. Those muscles were the direct result of my hard work and long hours, and I was damn proud of them.

But if it takes 20+ mile weeks to build those muscles, it takes far less effort to lose them. And my irregular half-hour runs seemed to be doing the trick nicely.

So I was excited for tonight's run—which, from what Malik said, sounded like it'd be 8-10 miles—even knowing that I'd probably lag sadly behind. Lena, my good friend and regular running buddy, joined us as well. Before tonight I would have sworn I ran faster than her (NOTE! Foreshadowing!)

We met at a little restaurant parking lot to the north of the city, right on the beach. It was a low turnout—besides Lena, Malik and me, only two others showed up. They were both seriously nice, even though, as Lena noted, they are French. (Heh.) We ran a short out and back—so that they'd get home in time for a big soccer match, they said, but it was fairly clear that they ran a distance and a pace designed to make Lena and me comfortable. So off we trotted, in the late afternoon sun, as the day's heat was starting to dissipate.

We jogged along at a very comfortable pace, along a road, then cutting through a construction site, scampering over some rocks along the beach, and running for about 200 m on the sand.

And then. There is exactly one hill in all of Dakar. One. Everybody knows about it, and it's where you go if you want to get a good view of the city. And that, of course, is where we headed. City-level, and thus the main road and where we started, is about halfway up the hill. The beach, being sea level, is all the way at the bottom. So first we ran all the way to the water's edge. And then we climbed.

About halfway up, we reconnected with the road, but for the first bit, we ran up a narrow, rocky trail that wound steeply up the hill. Or rather, they ran. I tried. I probably walked about half of the hill—I'd catch my breath and start jogging again until the pounding in my chest and the heaving gasps forced me to stop again.

I can make a million excuses (and you'll note, I've already woven a few in... it was hot! it was on a trail! there were rocks!), but there's only one reason I couldn't make it up that hill, and that's because I am out of shape. And the worst part? Lena didn't even get winded. Horrible.

But you know what? This is good news. Because now I have a goal. It may take me a while, but before I leave Dakar, I will race up that hill.

And in the meantime, I'll have some good company while I train.

*** La honte: Shame


Blogger susie said...

You know, that hill is a goal. And what an accomplishment you'll feel when you can run up it easily. It won't be long.

5:54 PM  
Blogger a.maria said...

sounds awesome.. sounds a lot like when i run with... oh.. ANYONE!! ;)

you'll rock that hill. i can already hear (or read) the triumphant post!

9:31 PM  
Blogger Scooter said...

Humble pie - nothing better when you've earned it. Do women play soccer there? (good training) And you probably haven't been walking enough. Work hard, beat Lena!

1:02 PM  
Blogger Rae said...

Sounds like fun! When are you going to share some pics with us!!

7:07 AM  
Blogger jeanne said...

no shame, no blame! (or is that no pain, no gain? i always get them confused.)

yay for company, and yay for a big hill that you can't run up yet! a goal!! and how do you cope with the heat? does it cooler at night?

8:15 PM  
Blogger JustJunebug said...

Its always great to have a goal!! You can do it! I'll be checking in to see how you are progressing. Again.

Are you planning to run more now during the weeks?

8:50 AM  

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