Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Standard Chartered 2006 Nairobi Marathon

Who has the worst customer service, Cingular or Sprint?  I think most people would say Sprint wins hands down, but Cingular is giving Sprint a run for its money in my mind right now.   Apparently they're convinced that unless you're active duty military you can't suspend your service and billing.  Sure you can suspend your service, but monthly billing still applies.   Excuse me, but WHAT KIND OF F___ING MORON DISABLES THEIR PHONE IF THEY'RE STILL GOING TO GET BILLED FOR IT?  Never mind the whole common sense issue, they straight up told me over the phone when I set up the suspension that I wouldn't be billed while the service was suspended and now they're denying it.   Dillholes, all of them.


OK, enough of that.  I ran the Nairobi marathon on Sunday the 29th.  I took the 9-hour night bus to Nairobi on Friday, then waited in line for 4 hours on Saturday to get my race number and all-they-had-left-was-XL t-shirt.   Then the race itself was a pretty crummy course--basically running from the edge of the city to the airport and back twice.  Out-and-back is lame enough, out-and-back twice is only fun in the way that the movie Congo is so horrible it's kind of funny if you see it with a large enough group of friends.   It was actually sort of neat to get lapped by the world's best, and it was really cool to see the peleton go by like a herd of gazelles when they doubled back on a short spur at the very beginning.  I had big stomach problems and nearly had a brown-out.  Or two.  OK, three.  (For non-runners, that's code for "I nearly shat myself.")   So I just walked a big chunk of the race.  Then when I turned around to do the out-and-back the second time, the road was pretty much empty, because nobody else had actually turned around.   Then they opened the road (the major highway to the airport) to traffic after four and a half hours, so I was sucking fumes the last bit.  But I finished, and a Peace Corps chick gave me some TP, so I even got to wipe one of the three times I dropped trou.


More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.  Anyway, that sounds like a pretty bad experience, but if I'd remembered to put on sun-block and my forehead wasn't oozing yellow pus right now I'd be totally over it, because it was a really interesting learning experience to see how a developing country stages a major athletic event like that.   First off, it only cost 300 shillings to enter.  That's about $4.25, but I still got aid-stations, a t-shirts, a certificate, and a medal.   Races in the US cost $60 to $90.  It was cool that pretty much anyone that wanted could participate.  It was cool to see Masai men running in somewhat traditional dress (red skirts) and it was very cool to see the wheelchair competitors competing in their this-is-the-same-thing-I-use-every-day-because-it's-all-I-can-afford jerry-rigged solid steel wheelchairs.   However there were very few women running, which was kind of disturbing.  About 65 or 70 in the full marathon compared to 650 or so men.  I'm assuming that ratio is way off what it is in the US.   Finally, it seemed like very, very few people were out there to conquer their inner weakling.  I'd guess that in the US, the majority of runners finish in over 4 hours and are there just to prove something to the world, even in a top race like Boston or Chicago.   Here it was as if it wasn't worth doing if you didn't finish in under 2:40 and have some half-legitimate hope of reaching the podium.  A friend made the very good point that maybe Kenyans get enough conquering of their inner weakling working their shamba (1 acre or so subsistent farming plot) or walking 5km to school every day, if they're lucky enough to have money for school.   True 'dat.


So anyway, it was a good trip.  I stumbled into different groups of wazungu volunteer/development people on both Saturday and Sunday and went out to eat with them, which was a good dose of much needed variety.   We ate expensive fake western food, and I've been mulling over the deeper implications of the fact that I hate, hate, hate fake western food ever since.   More on that later.

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