It was easy to play “Spot the Kenyan.” In the crowd of participants milling around outside Amahoro Stadium, waiting for the Kigali marathon to begin, the Kenyans were the ones that looked like it was causing them physical pain to be walking, not running. Everyone else looked like they were repressing the thought of the physical pain that they were about to inflict on themselves by running. As I leaned against the wall, admiring set after set of well-defined calf muscles, I reminisced on how I, a dedicated couch potato, found myself in this precarious position.
Mostly, I came to ogle the ex-pats. Kigali is an excellent place to white-watch, and last year’s marathon had no shortage of eccentric European, avid Asians, and questionable Canadians. There was team Greece, named both for their nationality and the state of their slicked-back hair. We knew they were Greek because of the Greek flag emblazoned across the front of their none-too-flattering spandex tanktops. Had they actually moved faster than a casual Mediterranean saunter, they no doubt would have been weighed down by the pounds of gold bling around their necks and on their fingers. They did not participate this year.
Also not making an appearance was the Flashing Fauxhawks, named for their speed, hairstyle, and lack of supportive undergarments. Whatever styling product they used must be a state secret, because they all finished without ruffling a single hair on their painfully metro heads.
However, this year did feature the grand redebut of Naked Girl, this time with pants AND a shirt. Perhaps, last year’s ensemble of a sports bra and booty shorts convinced her that there is never a proper public context for showing that much skin in Rwanda.
I participated in the relay. In a perfect world, this would mean that each team member would run 1/4 of the marathon. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances beyond our control, by the eve of the marathon, team White Rightning found itself reduced to only two runners. We must have angered Thor with our blasphemy. Still, we decided to persevere. After all, we got a t-shirt. Literally, A t-shirt—each relay team got one shirt to share between its four members.
Sunday morning dawn bright and hazy with the implied threat of afternoon showers and afternoon self-medication. Sometimes the universe sends you little warning signs. For example, being tired after walking thirty minutes to the stadium. But sometimes, you choose to ignore those little warning signs. For example, running in a marathon despite being tired after walking thirty minutes to the stadium. Sometimes, you get what you deserve.
Caroline and I, the two remaining members of White Rightning, surveyed the track and discussed the possibility of each running half of the marathon. We knew we were lying. Instead, we ran the first two legs, then hobbled back to the Peace Corps office to take hot showers before the rest of the contestants finished. We both agreed that this was a good life choice. The best part about running in a marathon? You can spend the next week lounging around without feeling even the slightest twinge of guilt. And sometimes the weeks become months…but that’s okay too…