Sunday, October 9, 2011

Birthday run in Kenya: Crows and first steps

I turned 52 today. I arrived in Nairobi after a 19-hour flight from Washington. After I walked into my hotel room in downtown Nairobi, I laid down on my bed and surrendered. I slept for two hours, and knew I had to get up. It was late afternoon. I had to run.

Birthdays are important and birthday runs must happen without exception. There is something in the joy about being able to run, period. There is something about staying fit, no matter your age. But best of all, there are the sight aches and pains in legs and joints afterward that remind you that nothing happens without effort.

I ran to an old Nairobi standby: the Nairobi Club, an institution that started in 1901 and still has the feel of being in a place at the turn of the 20th century. You can almost imagine British colonial aristocracy sitting on chairs around the edge of a large green, oval-shaped field, politely cheering on the cricket teams.

Around and around the field I went, eight times in all, two minutes, 30 seconds a lap. African crows swooped over my head. A family of olive thrushes hunted for food nearby. The most impressive sight, though, was of a determined father and one-year-old son as the boy tried to walk on his own.

The boy had the look about him of a miniature Mr. T, the old TV show character. He was chunky for a one-year old, and his hair was cut in Mr. T's trademark thick Mohawk fashion.

Every lap I saw the boy walk a little farther. The father laughed and laughed, and encouraged him with each step. He even smoothed out the bumpy grass a half-step ahead of the boy. Still, the boy keep tipping, sprawling, nose-diving into the grass. Still, he pulled himself up and kept trying. He even laughed at his falls. I couldn't tell who was more determined: father or son. It made me think back to earlier birthdays, my 33rd, 36th, and 38th, when we had one-year-olds learning to walk and how completely astounding that whole experience was.

There were some parallel moments today on the Nairobi Club's cricket fields: a boy learning to walk, a birthday boy shuffling around him. A boy taking all the time in the world to learn to walk, a birthday boy taking forever to complete a few laps. It brought back memories of earlier time when first steps were the most glorious thing in the world.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very belated birthday wish and thank you for sharing your writing. I love reading your running experiences.... I agree to be able to run is such a privilege. Can't wait to read more. Liz