Tag Archives: Marathon

Half Marathon Part II

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!

Four half marathon and five 10k runners from the WATSAN group that arrived Feb ’12.


Half Marathon Part I

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.