World Class Runs Vol. I: Bamenda, Cameroun

Pat, Julie and I jogging high above the town of Bamenda, Cameroun

I love running in foreign countries. I've had some of my most memorable runs in places like Mykonos, Zurich, Kampala and Montevideo. If you get it right, when you run in a foreign country, your endorphins can give you the perfect disposition for traveling: a mix of optimism, happiness, curiosity, with a dash of nostalgia.

I had a world class run in the northwest Cameroon town of Bamenda. The town is surrounded on all sides by steep, lush, green hills. To the east a large waterfall juts out from a rocky mountain face. The hills are so steep that the brakes of many of Cameroon's poorly maintained old vehicles can't handle the downhill and give out. To limit the damage, at the bottom of one of the biggest hills there is a huge sand pit lined with tires.

It is up this hill that I run early one morning with a few colleagues and one of the participants from our program. We got a few encouraging hoots from the cab drivers assembled at the bottom of the hill, who were waiting around to take soldiers and others up the steep switchback roads. I was impressed with the number of people out running on the hill. There were young, ambitious racers, and women who looked like they had done this run every day for years. We also saw whole families walking with baskets of potatoes being carried into town for market.

There is nothing like cooling off under a nature waterfall. I was feeling the steep gradient in my calves, and as the equatorial sun began to rise, I was happy to make a sharp turn and see a waterfall emerge from the thicket of green. After about 20 minutes of this merciless hill, the road began to level off, and we reached a crossroads with a military base and some small shops. This was a good place to stop, stretch, and begin the jog down. Luckily, Julie was smart enough to bring a camera, and we got the above wonderful shot from a massive rock that jutted out from a hill over the entire town of Bamenda.

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