I arrived in Accra for the half marathon on Friday. One of my Peace Corps volunteer friends was celebrating her birthday that night, plus I wanted to arrive a day early. Coming to Accra almost seems like coming to a new country – it’s more developed and westernized than the rest of the country. Plus, the people speak a different language than where I’m living.
On Friday night a group of us went to dinner at a bar/restaurant that had flat screen TVs, a pool table, and western food and drinks. I ordered the chicken burger with cream spinach and it was delicious. Sure I could have gotten french fries, but I can easily buy fried yam anywhere (which is similar) and it’s very difficult to find spinach Ghana. By American standards it was fairly inexpensive, especially when you consider the tipping, or lack thereof. However, there’s only enough room on my Peace Corps budget to go there about once every couple of months.
On Saturday night one of the Peace Corps’ staff members and his wife invited all of the Peace Corps runners to their home for a carb loading meal. We ate pastas, salads, and breads. Then to top it off we ate brownies with Dreyer’s rocky road ice cream. By the end of the night I put down multiple plates worth of food and was carb overloaded for the half marathon.
On Sunday the half marathon was scheduled to start at 5:40am. However, I learned a long time ago that almost nothing in Ghana starts on time. Most people in Ghana are on “African time” (meaning 1-3 hours late), as opposed to “American time” (meaning on-time). As expected, the shuttle carrying us to the start arrived late, which meant the half marathon started late. The main problem with starting late is the heat. Fortunately, we’re in the rainy season so the weather wasn’t too hot. Most of the course was along the beach and parts of it even gave me flashbacks of running along the beach back home. The rest of the course was on a busy street with many cars and pedestrians. However, I’ve gotten pretty good at dodging cars and people, so this part of the run didn’t phase me.
My goal for the half marathon was to finish without walking, but most of all have a good time. I’m happy to report that I accomplished my goals! I didn’t run fast by any means. In fact, I finished right in front of a guy who told me he “pulled a muscle in his calf during the first six minutes of the run”. The race ended at a very nice beach resort where all the runners were given food, drinks, and massages. After some serious hydrating I decided to make the three plus hour trek back to my village that afternoon. It was a painful ride being cramped in the back of a small bus with already sore legs, but I made it back safely and am thinking about how I’m going to train for the full marathon next year!