I was there to burn calories, celebrate life and demonstrate peace advocacy. This was a festival attended by more than 8,000 participants representing 50 countries and 6 continents. There were medal hunters among us running for glory and financial rewards but most of us showed up with zero expectations of finishing before the rest of the pack. Leading an active lifestyle does not necessarily mean achieving peak performance or attaining elite level athletic status. I couldn’t outrun those who do it for a living when I was 22. Trying to win as a senior citizen would be the most unrealistic goal ever.
More than 800 marathons are held throughout the world every year, with the vast majority of participants being recreational runners like me. I was neither battling other runners nor competing against the clock. If you bump into me tomorrow, don’t bother to ask how long it took me to cross the finish line because I have no clue whatsoever. I didn’t wear those sophisticated devices indicating distance covered, time spent, calories burnt and advanced analytics.
The first half of the route wasn’t as challenging as I thought despite the need to change gears on a steep hill right after Woodlands Supermarket and K Club. This challenge began and ended inside Amahoro Stadium. I ran to Gaculiro via Gishushu and Nyarutarama. Then I dashed back to Gishushu and proceeded to Kacyiru while maintaining the same pace, thanks to my Hilltop Health Club subscription, courtesy of BodyMarks. Join us at Hilltop Hotel and Country Club, start your fitness journey and thank me later.
I was overtaking slower runners while being overtaken by faster ones. Overtaking while being overtaken confused me a little bit. If runners I was overtaking were slower, how did they reach Kacyiru before me? Similarly, if those who were overtaking me were faster, how did I get there before them and yet we took off at the same time? Slower runners in front of me and faster ones behind me was a complex scenario. I guess I was the only one who had maintained the same pace. The rest must have been speeding up and slowing down at different stages of the course.
I kept piling up mileage one step at a time and eventually, the grind started taking a toll on my body. On my way back to Remera, I was running out of gas. This happened when a group of middle-aged men and women were running behind me getting closer and closer. They were moving as a single unit and singing motivational songs. Their steps were well coordinated and their rhythm was on point. I had seen similar groups before during the monthly car free days. This was a race but members of this group were running together and encouraging each other instead of competing against each other. I joined that group and my depleted energy was boosted all of a sudden. Sometimes it’s hard to find motivation and sometimes motivation finds me.
Amahoro Stadium’s towering flood light poles were getting closer and closer. We were approaching the stadium but before receiving our consolation medals, we had to complete the final stretch around University of Rwanda’s College of Education. Whatever was left in the reserve tank enabled me to survive the final push. I sipped more water hoping hydration would keep the threatening cramps away. If this was half marathon as I was told, then full marathon is probably not for me.
Crossing the finish line gave me a sense of satisfaction. My goal wasn’t to compete but to complete. I savoured the experience and took nothing for granted. Not all victories come with a gold medal.