My mum hates Paula Radcliffe. I never really can understand why, but she does, and often vents her ‘Paula-fury’ with some vigour. She isn’t the only one. The English press shower her in the very stuff that Paula herself, has a tendency to produce, during her marathons.
Athens, summer 2004. Paula Radcliffe breaks down during the Olympic marathon, exhausted, and clearly in distress. Cue the tears and the trauma of a failed attempt to win gold. Loser. Failure. Briton hasn’t got talent.
A quick look at the BBC website weather section and Athens is currently about 32-34C daily. This is roughly the same as Ouagadougou right now, although it is a lot more humid here. Furthermore, from what I understand, Athens, like Ouaga, is quite a polluted city during the summer months.
Now, if you allow me a little bit of modesty, I think I am a semi-decent runner. After a few days of settling in to Ouaga life, I decide to brave it and go out for a run. This is more out of necessity since I am running the Berlin marathon next month and my training has been akin to a three-legged elephant with gout.
I go out for 12 minutes up and down the street and back. The next day, 17 minutes around a football pitch. This isn’t very long for my modest self. There are stares, shouts and hissing from the locals, presumably because they think I’m a lunatic, but I can deal with this and on the whole; it is all good fun and banter (except for the kid who threw a pentanque ball at me – I’ll get you next time - punk!).
The heat, however, is unbearable. And this is at 8am. Honestly, if I was on the menu and you ordered me, I would come back ‘char-grilled’. Perhaps my decision to leave the water behind was slightly naive, but if after 12 minutes you’re running top turns from ‘traffic light red’ to ‘dark mauve’ through pure sweat, there is a serious health issue to be addressed here. Plus, I probably breathed in enough soot and ash from the bikes to make my lungs look like that of a ’60-a-day’ smoker.
The point of my ramble, and there is one, is this;
1) Running in Ouaga is not healthy.
2) Mum, go easy on Paula.