Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sunday, 5:30 am, I stumbled out of my bed. My brain, still in hibernation mode, couldn't process the excitement of my body as I tripped over the clothes I had set out the night before. It was Marathon time! … or so I thought. In true Rwandan fashion, 4 hours later the race commenced. The village brought 20 committed young runners to compete. 2 boys ran in the 21 km race, 4 ran the 11km relay (myself included), and 14 came for the 5 km "run for fun".

So, with the sun nearing its full peak in the sky I trudged up and down Rwandan hills, each one stepper than the last. Even the downward slopes felt like a slow descent to the gates of hell, the sun relentlessly beating on my back. Truthfully, I exaggerate, and however trying, the race was exhilarating! A cadre of runners in the 5 km race were chanting and clapping, setting the tempo for our runs. Slogans like, "J' TAIME, I LOVE YOU!" and "GO MAMA GO!" filled the air with encouragement. The full marathon runners zoomed past me like the wily coyote and left me questioning how some bodies are capable of such physical rigors. As I approached the finish line in the national futbol stadium, I thought my legs were going to give out under me. But the momentum from the crowd's cheers and my desperate longing to end my misery were just the push I needed, so I lengthened my strides and leaped over the line that separated me from relief and pride!

The runners were each given a t-shirt, a packet of biscuits, water, and a banana. After my heart beat caught its normal pace, I sat in the shade of the bleachers. François, one of our 21km runners came up to me and urged I share his biscuits. I insisted that I had just finished some and he should enjoy. "NO!" he said, determined to get me to eat. Then he said something that will stay with me for a very long time, "I got an extra packet and if we are lucky enough to have, we must share. That is humanity." I was so moved that I ate the biscuit. And as I watched him offer his remaining crackers to the strangers around him I was reminded how truly special our children are.