Running in Karamoja
As many of you know, I enjoy running to keep myself in shape. In the States, I would get up before work and run down my street, along the asphalt road, up and off sidewalks and loop back home. Living in San Diego, there were very few obstacles or excuses to prevent me from my runs.
The reality in Karamoja is different to say the least. Karamoja is located on a plateau about 3,800 feet high, which gives my lungs a workout every time. I typically run a 1/3 mile loop around roads on our compound. The path itself is an obstacle course of cow dung, ruts, mud and tufts of grass. This is cross-country running!
Most days when I want to run, I obsessively check the sky for signs of rain clouds to gauge the best time. Here, rain means mud and puddles and no running for Chloe. But it also means clouds and relief from the equatorial sun. The perfect time to run is just before the rain begins to fall when the sun is hiding, wind is blowing, but the road is still dry. Often during my runs, I will look west out across the plains and see rain falling on another village or the sun’s rays shooting down through a crack in the clouds.
Often along my circuit, I’ll encounter livestock. Herds of cows and goats are shepherded down the road. At first I would keep my distance and slow to their pace until I could pass. I’ve since learned that they will get out of your way lickety-splickety should you be brave enough to follow hot on their heels.
In Karamoja, the shepherds are young boys with long spindly sticks. Many of them will gather along the road, water their flocks at the nearby river or seek shelter in our church. Every time I loop past, there is one more to ask me where I am going, what I am doing and if I can assist them (give them money). I’ve taken to taunting them into running with me instead. They usually get quiet about half a lap later and end the loop with a huge smile on their faces!
Every run in Karamoja is an adventure of its own.