I ran the Swakopmund marathon last weekend. It was sponsored by Etosha Fishing There was however no celebratory post-race dumping of canned fish over your head like the winning coach at the Super Bowl. That turned out to be a rumor. You did get a complimentary can of Lucky Star pilchards when you paid your N$40 entry fee. My time was 3:33:24; pretty good for the first time. The point was to beat George W. Bush’s time. I am also faster than Oprah and P. Diddy. The race was pretty uneventful – the course is between the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. There are dunes on the right side and the Atlantic Ocean on the left. It looks a lot like a Microsoft Windows screensaver. During the race we disturbed some flamingoes around 7am in Walvis (pronounced “WAL-VISH”). You also pass Langstrand, which is where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had their baby. Prior to 1994 the race would have been an international one: Walvis Bay wasn’t ceded to Namibia with independence. For three years, WB waited it out on the sidelines; remaining, Hong Kong-like, a lone South African city in the middle of Namibia.
Along the way there were many rest stops. I think it might be a local thing, but I wasn’t familiar with Coke-Cola as an energy drink. Although I thought it was a bit funny around 24km I didn’t argue if the race usher offered me the brown liquid, I spilled most of it anyways. One guy started throwing up right in front of me but I’m not sure if it was the fact he was drinking carbonated drinks and trying to run a marathon. I got angry only once. That was when a whole contingent of elderly South African men who were doing a half-marathon wouldn’t let me pass. Worse than that their spouses kept pulling up and snapping photos from their Volvo X70s. I could tell they were proud of themselves when they temporarily pulled ahead of me. I wouldn’t let that stand. When they were taking a bathroom break I went ahead and they didn’t catch up. No more Afrikaaner soccer moms.
There were all kinds of people with running outfits, belts laden with water bottles and special sunglasses. The kids were mostly running in China shop boxer shorts. I managed to smuggle my iPod onto the course. One of the other volunteers ran afoul of the race organizers after deciding to remove his shirt for the last 10km. There was also a simultaneous relay race going on with local schools. It was something else to see these kids running without shoes. Disheartening that they kept passing me though. I remember seeing the ringers at the beginning of the race. You could tell by their full-body suits with the Visa sign.
After the race it was mutually decided among the Peace Corps contingent to smoke a pack of cigarettes “to celebrate.” After breakfast I went to sleep for five hours.