Not many people run a marathon in their life. Even less run one in the heart of equatorial Africa. My sister, Gina, is a member of both clubs. Gina and her husband, Max, live in Arusha
, Tanzania. Beautiful, sunny, pot-holed, goat-fueled Tanzania. Home of the mighty Masai
! Today she completed the Kilimanjaro Marathon
. That means 26.2 miles through some of the finest lion country in the world. Or maybe that's former lion country... Luckily marathon runners leave little to desire for a creature with a lion's taste. The meat is far too salty.
Not only did Gina complete this marathon, she also completed the Tanzania Trifecta in the week before. For those of you not familiar with this little known event let me give a brief description. The Tanzania Trifecta is a three part event: the wreck, the recovery, and the robbery. Some struggle a lifetime, only to fall one part short. But Gina is blessed. It took her just one week to complete all three. In this short time she was able to wreck her car, overcome a childhood disease, and have a large portion of some very necessary valuables stolen at an incalculably inconvenient time. My incredible sister, who followed her heart and moved to Africa for three years to do missionary work, had a lot thrown at her on the way to the Kilimanjaro finish line.
First she drove into the back of a bus. Not only is Gina a competent and active runner, she is also an awful driver. Or so her driving record and the faces of passengers on a parked Tanzania multi-species transit vehicle (a.k.a. bus) would indicate. It's hard to hit such a large object at a standstill, but it is now proven possible. This last notch in her belt left the family car in the hands of a Tanzanian mechanic (surely struggling with a lack of parts) who guaranteed he would at least return most of her car in a period of time no less than three weeks and not to exceed three years. Which in Tanzania is pretty much a par.
But maybe that wasn't actually the first thing that happened on the way to this race. Maybe there were some confounding factors. I should have mentioned that she was also dealing with the return of her childhood asthma, surely brought on by the post-monsoon dust of eastern coastal Africa. It's hard enough just walking to your soon to be wrecked car, let alone completing a marathon, with asthma sucking on your much needed wind. Sometimes bad things have a way of just piling on and in Tanzania trying times call for true courage. They also call for random robberies...
On the way to the marathon with their freshly borrowed car (see above) loaded up with hard to come by marathon valuables (shoes, goo
, gatorade, etc.) some needy soul (surely a fellow marathoner seeking a competitive advantage) chose to lighten their load. Stopping for some last minute "marathon" shopping, Max and Gina stepped into a store, stepped out, saw their busted car door and began calculating how far a barefoot, dehydrated, carb starved Gina might be able to hoof it. This isn't the New York City Marathon
with volunteers holding caviar, crackers and electrolyte champagne every fifteen feet. Remember the lions? You're luckily to get a glass of amoeba-free water in the Kilimanjaro Marathon.
But life in Africa is all about overcoming the odds. Friends and family and an old pair of shoes came in for her and she was able to run in and complete the marathon. It wasn't easy. Particularly the 6 mile, 1000 foot climb
halfway through the race. Nothing a little puke and a pat on the back couldn't fix. Just makes the finish that much sweeter.
Congratulations Gina. We're proud of you and we're really glad that you're still in one piece!