15 July 2012

back when

The first time I ever started running was in Rwanda. I didn't actually intend to start running. Every day around 5 pm I would lay off work and go for a walk.

I walked up the road behind my house and along the little dead end road that led to the high point of the peninsula on which I lived. 

Then I walked back down and around the long part of the peninsula out to the end where I would sit on the rocks and watch the sun lower itself into the hills of Congo, or the smoke rise from Mount Nyiragongo to the north. 

Little boys swam back from the island off the end of the peninsula holding the horns of the cows they had been tending.

Fishermen set off in their outrigger canoes.

Sometimes I would walk toward the bay instead, toward the birthday-cake hotel, where little kids would shout "Muzungu!" from the hillsides and run down to hold my hand as I walked.

"Si ni twa muzungu," I would tell them, "Ni twa M-a," and by the time I left it was my (Kinyarwand-ized) name they called from the hillsides.

Eventually, walking was not enough exercise, and one day I ran a little part of the trail along the peninsula, and soon I was running more and more without stopping.

I never set out to run. I set out to enjoy the evening. If there was something interesting to see, I would stop. If a storm was rolling in, I would sit on the rocks and let the fury of the storm kicking up waves frighten and thrill me. If I needed to think, I would sit somewhere pretty and think. If I had a guest, I would walk with them. S. and some other random muzungu - I can't remember who - and I once swam out to the island at the end of the peninsula. It was never about the running, and there was no pressure.

I am trying to keep that feeling of the absence of pressure as I add running to my life here. If I have only a little time, I run a little. If I have more time and I feel okay, I run more. I think I've forgotten until just now, though, writing this, that it is possible to stop and walk and watch the sky. I need to remember that.

(This whole story has been told in this spot before, but I do so love to reminisce.)

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