Sunday, September 26, 2010

I run 10 kilometres!

Earlier this summer, a Tanzanian friend asked me to join him in running a local race. It was going to be the 10 kilometre (6 mile) race as part of the 26th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run & Walk. I was hesitant about participating in the 10K race. I never went running on my own or with colleagues. Eventually, I figured I would participate in the race just so I could finally say I'd run one and it was also for a good cause, I'd be supporting run4education. I finished the September 24 race in just over an hour. Thank you to everyone who donated, supported, prayed and urged me. #VIM! It was thrilling, tiring, fantastic and fun. It didn't happen without juicy events and stories though so here goes the narration :-)

I have never taken to running as a pastime because I knew I didn't have good stamina. I never bothered to do so. I almost didn't take part in the 10K race. You could say peer pressure 'barbed' me and spurred me to sign on. I nestled the idea of not going through with the race even two weeks before the run. When I realised I had to pay to join the race, I almost quit. Well, not quit, but decide that the race wasn't my cup of tea. Eventually, I really stuck with running the race just so I could say I've run one.

I do a lot of running on the football field, sometimes running 5 kilometres in an hour. If you think I am talking about American football here, you got it twisted. Running while playing football is not the same as running a marathon or a 10 kilometre race. You run and you stop and there's some standing around. In fact, you could do a whole lot of standing around while playing the sport. I thoroughly enjoy playing soccer (you happy now? :-D) and it does keep me fit. People encouraged me to run saying that if I played soccer, I could do the run. (they said) I looked fit as well.

I began looking into how much time the race would take. Yes, I wasn't concerned about finishing the race, I was pre-occupied with how much of my time it would take. "Yo chale, your paddy here did the race in about an hour". 1 hour didn't sound that bad. I had also promised myself that I would do the race if I had an iPod or mp3 player. I lost my iPod earlier in the year and it turned out that I was as broke as a broken promise to be able to invest in an mp3 player. So I went into the 24th without music.

I also went into the 24th with little training. Our ringleader, Fanuel, had put our Stanford group on a nice training schedule. I only attended one session. I was battling with not running so I stayed away from some of the trainings. A week to the race, my running compatriots had already completed 6 mile runs and were ready. Me? I was wondering at what point in the race I'll have cramps, hamstring injuries or a strong urge to just quit or call my medical school friends to come attend to me. My supportive friends assured me I'd do okay. I wanted to do one run two days before the race itself but that never materialized.

The 24th arrived and for some strange reason, I was beside myself with excitement. I am normally happy and smiling but I couldn't stop smiling from about 4 hours to race time. Maybe I was just ready to be done with the race. Maybe I was truly excited about finding out how fast I could run 10 kilometres. I spent a good minute figuring out what to wear. I ended up wearing my FC Palo Alto jersey (number 4) simply because it had my name at the back. Hey, 10000 reasons to remember the name. :-D I nicknamed our Stanford group the Selassies after Haile Gebreselassie. And then I thought of famous marching songs in Ghana, my Ghanaian folks would recognize this as jama, and how we should probably sing some of them as we run. My Nigerian friend suggested 'when the saints go marching' and I thought, "hey, we should call ourselves 'the Saints'". A few people had dropped out from our team and the Saints now numbered 8.

We got to the race start (and finish) point around 7pm and registered. My number was 2551. I have a thing with numbers, 2+5+5+1 equals 13 which equals 4. So far as, it didn't equal 2, I was fine. We'll revisit this '2' issue later. We were given free t-shirts which was tres awesome. My eyes light up when I get anything free. In fact I would have loved to have multiple t-shirts so I could give some to my family members. We spent the rest of the time, stretching and chatting. The race organizers put us through a nice 'dance workout' which I thought was 'hilarious' but I really appreciate it now. We were stretching to hip hop songs. Good stuff.

When the race began, I had thought our whole group would stay together. The East Africans, bar one, went ahead of us and didn't wait. I heard the trick was not to run really fast at the beginning, so I jogged. I run along two of my Nigerian colleagues, enjoying their company. And then I realised a multitude of white people running past me and that didn't sit well with me. At all! I decided, it's not when I finish but if I finish so turned a blind eye to this 'occurrence'. I kept on joking we all had 2 miles to complete the race when we were barely in. I love commentating. I used to commentate soccer games when I was younger. I quickly realised commenting would slow me down and tire me out. I had planned to sing while running since I didn't have my iPod. I realized singing would tire me out quicker too so I sang some songs in my head. I remember singing Tuface's Ebe like say in my head, amongst others.

After the 3rd mile, there were some folks nearby serving water. I couldn't believe rich old Palo Alto wasn't serving Gatorade as well. Tscheeeew (kisses teeth). It was after this mile and seeing an Ethiopian friend of mine come from nowhere to run past me, that I decided that I would 'abandon' my Nigerian friends and run my own race and pace. I struggled to keep up with my Habesha buddy though and around the start of the 4th mile, I started to get really tired. I stopped for the first time and then many more people passed me. This is where I figured my finish time is not as important. I proceeded to run, stop, walk, run, stop, walk till the end of the race. I used a couple of runners as benchmarks. "No matter, what happens, these people won't finish the race before me", I said to myself. So I'd run really fast, bypass scores of people, stop and walk and see them run past me. One security man observing commented, "let's get going number 4". Those I was running past must be have been wondering, why is this guy sprinting when we are all relatively tired. And then they'll see me walk and say 'haha'.

My finish time was 1:00:44. You can see the full results here. The winner (who apparently was a Stanford student) finished the race in 34 minutes. Our ringleader, Fanuel, finished in just under 57 minutes. I placed 614 out of 1037 people and 395 out of 532 men. Shyous! Now, I am bledyforkin pissed. I should have run faster. Or maybe trained harder. Don't mind me. I am just really happy I participated in the race, without injury. Because I did go partying after the race. In fact, I even wore my running number as part of my attire to the party and no, it wasn't Halloween. The top prizes for winners weren't even that lucrative for me to try hard. ;-)

I have already told anyone who had the chance to hear that I would not be partaking in anymore races. It's one and done. But hey, maybe if another opportunity comes along, for another good cause, with juicy prizes to win, etc, I might just run again. I run4education on Friday and I am never going to say never to running again. After all, if a cute lady was able to get me to finally watch a horror movie after I'd sworn to never do so, who am I to make such promises to myself. :-)

And drumroll........... pictures

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