I started running about eight years ago. I found I needed a switch from the sport I’d been involved I graduated from high school- a break from the near constant ‘I am in training mode’, a break from the injuries… and I was feeling a bit like a one-trick pony. After nearly sixteen years, with big chunks of time off while living overseas and nursing various injuries, I needed a change. But to what? I didn’t take to team sports in high school. I was too busy working and besides, passing a small object around a gym or field filled with yelling people just doesn’t appeal to me. Those who know me, know that I prefer quiet to loud; that I’m more observer than entertainer, and that while I’m highly motivated, my motivation is internal- I supply my own carrots and carry a big stick. I choose for the most part to compete inside my own head.
It’s no surprise then, that running is a perfect fit for me. I’m not particularly fast or good at running, but it’s a repetitive activity that offers mental space for my mind to wander and ponder, and a chance for mental competition every time I lace up my shoes. I don’t really need any special equipment, though I do have a FitBit on days I want to track my distance and pace, music if I want it, and Greg brought back a nifty runners pack that’s designed specifically for women with a 2L water bladder and bite tube so I can hydrate on long runs. Running offers me quiet time, a chance to observe the world passing by at a leisurely 7 miles an hour (give or take), and personal fulfillment. I run when we travel in Europe and when we are in Cape Town. I run when we’re back home for the summer. I run when we’re sailing; I’ll row into shore to take a loop or two around an island. I run short and fast, I run long and slow, I run the occasion trail; I even day dream about running with my future dog…See Kim run. Run Kim, run. Nirvana, right? Well, yes, but no. Sigh. This is where ‘My Lagos Run’ comes in.
You see, running in Lagos is not quite like running in other places. Granted, I’ve managed to run in each country we’ve lived: Mongolia, Bolivia, Indonesia- and I even ran in Egypt, well before Greg and I ever met, though I didn’t consider myself a runner then. It’s clear from the laundry list of countries we’ve lived, that we don’t exactly end up in already developed countries. We tend to land in places that are still feeling the growing pains of playing catch-up with the Western world. This is a good thing, for us I mean, because we like an adventure and I think this blog might be terribly pedestrian if we were living in a small flat in say, London. I love living in the places we do, and I’m enjoying living, and even running, in Lagos. I just find there’s a bit more planning that needs to happen before going for a run in Lagos. An adventure, yes. A way to relax and unwind- not exactly.
What does a quiet girl from rural Southern Oregon need to plan for first? Traffic. Traffic is a nightmare and not just for the sheer quantity of vehicles on the roads, but the types of vehicles, and the utter lack of awareness around pedestrians. There are Okada’s (small cc motorcycles that usually carry WAY too many passengers) Keke Marwa’s (you know them as Tuk Tuk’s in Asia), yellow mini-buses, large city buses, in-between buses, large trucks carrying any number of items, and an assortment of passenger vehicles. Lagos traffic seems to trend to one extreme or the other; you’re either stuck in a go-slow (traffic is so slow guys run between cars with cheap items to sell) or you’re barreling down a pot-holed road at break-neck speed. When we drive to the airport, my Fitbit counts ‘steps’ because the ride is so rough. When I run, I’m on the look-out for random holes, missing covers over the drainage ditch, fallen wires from telephone poles, and other tripping-scraping-ankle-breaking hazards. On a bright note, one perk about running in Lagos is the lack of wild, rabid dogs. They would roam in big packs in Egypt, Mongolia and Bolivia; and unfortunately, a rabies is one vaccination I don’t have.
Another concern? Weather. Rarely is it cool in Lagos, and when it is, that usually means it’s Harmattan time. The Harmattan makes things cool(ish) for sure, but comes with limited visibility due to swirling dust storms that lasts anywhere from the end of November until the end of February. Sometimes the dust stays, the humidity drops, but the temperature rises, similar to what we experienced during a Khamseen in Egypt. During Harmattan, running outside probably shortens one’s lifespan, rather than adding to it, but I’ll admit that I still do it. The rest of the year it’s either really hot and humid, or really hot and humid…and also raining. That’s the season we’re moving into now, and I’m telling you, it’s hot. When I got back home this morning at 9:20 after running a (fast for me) 5K, my phone registered a temp of 86F and with the heat index, it recorded a ‘feels like’ temp of 99F with 79% humidity. Needless to say, I usually look like I’ve just stepped out of the shower by the time I finish a run, especially after my Sunday long run.
But, it’s not always a scorcher when I run. A couple weeks ago, I ran a local Cancer Run, a 6.6 kilometer fun run around Victoria Island. By the time they began the actual race (things always run a bit late here) we were in the middle of a massive deluge that dumped enough water to cause flooding up to my ankles on the dirt road where the race began, and a good three inches on the main asphalt road. I have to say that running through all that sewer-laden water was pretty inspirational- my goal became to finish as quickly as possible so I could get home to a shower with bleach to kill the sewage on my feet and legs. Bright side? It was the coolest I’ve been while running in Lagos, and I also finished with a killer (for slow-poke me) time. I love running in the rain.
Final thing to look out for? People. Now don’t get me wrong. My experience with Nigerians has been very positive; they’re out-going, friendly and deeply religious people that genuinely want visitors to have a good experience in their country. One of the reasons I make a point of running off campus on the weekends is to feel like I have some interaction with the ‘typical’ Nigerian, because Monday-Friday it’s all work and we rarely venture out. But, there are always exceptions, and I seem to uncover those exceptions best when I’m out running- this holds true in every country we’ve lived in, including the United States. In the States, it seems I can’t go on a run without someone yelling something vaguely harassing and certainly annoying. I’ve experienced this everywhere we’ve lived. In Indonesia, I’d occasionally run outside with a trio of guys from school, and inevitably, we’d draw stunned reactions followed by peels of laughter, finger pointing and general disbelief from the locals- harmless, but annoying. Same holds true here. I think the sight of a foreign woman running on the streets is just too much for locals that don’t regularly interact with foreigners to handle. I sometimes run with the guys after school, but I’m on my own on the weekends- in either case, there are many ‘helpful’ comments along the way. Often, people yell genuinely friendly ‘hellos’ and ‘good mornings’, or they’ll just yell out a general ‘Oyibo’ (foreigner) when I trot by. In general, I’m left alone or the interactions are friendly, but I always remember that I am, indeed, an Oyibo.
So that really sums up My Lagos Run. It has it’s challenges (traffic, weather, helpful comments) but I guess that’s what I like best about running here. Because really, once you’ve reached a certain level of fitness and proficiency, running becomes mostly a mental exercise. I know that it takes just a little more effort to put myself out there, mentally, when I go for a run in Lagos, then say, in Olympia. Don’t get me wrong, I sorely miss being able to run in Olympia, or better yet, on any number of islands when we’re out sailing on Journey in the summer. In fact, when I can’t sleep at night because I’m stressed or focused too much on work, I’ll visualize my Capitol Lake run, or my run from Swantown Marina to West Bay Marina; I see the Farmer’s Market and our Fish Monger along the way and it always relaxes me. Sigh. Nirvana.
But there’s something addicting about my Lagos run; outside of work, it’s my favorite part of living in Lagos.
This is a short video compilation from one of my Lagos runs. I shot it using my Go Pro while on a walk with a friend; less bounce.