Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey Trot - Running with the Chickens

As many of you may have done, I participated in a 10k run this morning.  Thanksgiving brings out the fitness in some of us - the idea of consuming all those calories I suppose makes us feel guilty.  Or is it the sense of goodwill to help the food bank or whatever non-profit is sponsoring the run?

While the weather is not crisp, you cannot see your breath here no matter how early you rise, we still were pleased to find out about a Turkey Trot here in Conakry!

Organized by an avid competitive runner who is working here with her family, we caught wind of this run through the "bush telegraph," questionably the fastest way that word spreads in West Africa. 

So, this morning at 6:10 a group of nearly a dozen of us wiped the sleep from our eyes, tried to smooth the sheet wrinkles off our skin and stumbled into the cafe area onboard the ship to load up.  In the dark we left the peninsula, to view a gorgeous sun peeking out behind the clouds.  A violent thunderstorm whipped through last night and the effects of that include potholes full of mud this morning, and also a beautiful cloudy sky.

As we arrived others were also getting to the starting line.  A vehicle from Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) arrived full of competition fellow endorphin junkies from various countries.  There were locals, there were businessmen from the mining company (Did I mention that Guinea is the world's leading exporter of Bauxite, the raw material that aluminum is made from?), expats, missionaries, children, adults, and elders.  A herd of cattle came to check out the event, but lost interest after several minutes and retreated to their grassy knoll to spectate from a reclined position. After a brief explanation of the course, we lined up on the START line, spray painted onto the partly washed away rich red clay road. 

a few of our spectators waiting for the event to begin!

before the sweat began

I've run plenty of 10ks in my running career (well, career makes it sound like a profession, rather than just a good excuse to burn some extra calories in order to be able to consume them in various forms of chocolates and carbohydrates), but this was a first on many levels:

  1. First 10k race in Africa.  I've run further than this distance before in Africa, but this was the first organized "race!"
  2. First time I've had to consider if I need to slow down for the chicken to finish crossing the road.
  3. First time that G4S security guards have been employed to help mark the course with white flags (and even with six of these guards, someone still lost the course, and with that, his victory prize. :( )
  4. First time I've seen prizes like this! 
In an event like this, or any event really, I learn to hold my expectations loosely and know that anything might happen.  Despite the uncontrollable environment, this was a very well organized event - course map, safety pins and paper bibs so we all have an identifiable number, water and gatorade stations at the 2.5, 5, and 7.5km marks, a finish line with a timer and a clock, and dance music blaring from the car speakers for the post-race celebration.

And Mercy Ships did not disappoint in the winner's circle!  Borgi B. from Germany took the women's championship!  In the last 100 meters Cody S. quietly overtook the leading man, a Guinean who held the lead from the start, but this competitor was not going down without a fight.  When Cody passed him, this leader kicked it into high gear and managed to pull off the victory after all.  Akbar K. represented us well with a strong race through and through and he took home third place.
Race organizer in front - Cody in the turquoise - as the victor pulls away from him a second time.
the top three males - from Guinea, the US and Sierra Leone

What were the prizes, you might ask?  I am so glad you asked!  Drum roll please....
Third place: all the raw vegetables you would need for an American Thanksgiving (carrots, potatoes, cabbage and a squash/pumpkin/calabassa). 

Second place: a live chicken! 

And first place: a real frozen turkey (I think shipped from America, as I've never seen this in Africa before).
So, among the three we acquired a frozen turkey, a live chicken, and a bag of vegetables!  Cody and Borgi decided to give the frozen turkey and the live chicken to local runners who might not have the privilege of a galley team who cooks amazing food for us throughout the week - even when it's Thanksgiving! 
We returned to the ship sweaty, stinky, pink faced, and invigorated. 

Hope all of you out there have a wonderful Turkey Trot wherever you are - rain, shine, snow, sleet, or mud, cattle and chickens in Conakry!

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