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Nigeria, August 7, 2009

Running the Abuja Obstacle Course

Open sewer leg breaker
And no running too
If you're a runner, African can be a challenging place. There are few African joggers to be seen, as running is not really considered a sport to be practiced. Either you're a good runner and so do it as part of a team, or you don't run unless needing to for a specific purpose.

So I am often asked why I run across Africa. Here is my answer:

But don't think that quiet paved street is the norm. In Africa, any street that is paved, is usually high traffic, forcing me to run on the road shoulder. There I follow the well-trod path that others also take, being vigilant for the common leg-breaking hazards like:

Open Manholes & Sewers

While you and I see a manhole cover as an essential safety feature, in Africa (as in Russia) they're often seen as a cheap source of steel, and stolen for reuse or resale. Or just left askew. Also, curbside sewer canals are common, and commonly covered with cracked or missing concrete spans. Both are perfect to break a leg or a neck if you don't watch your footfall.

Anti-Parking & Loitering Obstacles

One way to keep people from parking in front of your building is to put large concrete blocks or stones along the roadside, or plant shrubs intertwined with barbed wire. These intentional obstacles, perfect ankle shredders, also include walls out to the street and armed guards who stand in your way.

Generator and Moped Exhaust

In Nigeria generator and moped exhaust for their own special running barrier. First, generators are in front of every house in large cities like Lagos and each exhaust pipe points out into the road, ready to engulf passing joggers in a cloud of diesel fumes. Next, in small towns, two-stroke mopeds are everywhere spewing their sickly oil/gas clouds right into your path for a coughing and choking conclusion to every run.

Crazy Moped Drivers

And its not just their exhaust that's dangerous. Mopeds themselves, as they're driven by Nigerians, are deadly to the errant jogger. In fact, they're so dangerous, I refuse to run on paved roads in small towns of Nigeria - Nigerian moped drivers are just too crazy.

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