On Sunday I ran in the Accra half marathon. I had never ran in an organized race before, so I thought, why not try one in Ghana? Going into the race I knew it would be hot, unorganized, and probably dangerous. Combine that with my lack of proper training and I was a little nervous before the race. I have found marathons to be difficult to train for in Ghana for a number of reasons.
- You never know when you are going to get sick. Whether it’s diarrhea or a cold, getting sick is a more common and capricious occurrence in Ghana than America.
- It’s HOT. If you don’t start your run before 6am, you’re screwed and have to wait until tomorrow to run.
- I never knew exactly how far I was running when training. Even if the Internet were faster here, I can’t quite find my village on Google Maps to calculate my running distances. However, one day I was lucky enough to be in a taxi with a working odometer so I could peak at it and measure my running distances based on how far the taxi drove.
- It’s difficult to train by yourself. Most people in my village don’t know what a marathon is, so clearly I’ve been training by myself for the most part. However, a few months ago the schools in my village had a sports competition with schools in neighboring communities so I was able to train with some junior high students. Although, I was a bit demoralized when the students were running in “shower sandals” and still beating me. (As a side note, it was pretty amazing/frightening watching the students do the high jump without a landing pad during the competition.)
- Running is not that common here. People think it’s bizarre to run to a place for no particular purpose other than exercise. It seems everyone gets their exercise from working and/or farming.
Although I had all of these challenges going into the half marathon, nobody likes excuses so I wasn’t about to drop out of the race. Plus there are some advantages to training for a half marathon in Ghana. One is that I feel like I’ve been “carb loading” for the past eight months with the food being so carbohydrate heavy. In the end I didn’t train as much as I wanted to, but I was able to run an average of three times a week with my longest run being roughly eight miles. Not quite 13.1, but I was hoping adrenaline would kick in during race day.