Area: 30,221,532 km2
So I haven't run a marathon in Africa yet, but I have run in Africa and my runs there were some of the most meaningful and memorable runs of my life.
In August 2010 I went to Ghana as a part of my Master's in Public Health to work with the Ghana Health Mission. The first morning we were there I dragged myself out of bed at a 6 am feeling sorry for myself because I was jet-lagged, hot and sweaty, and hadn't slept well on my little cot in a room full of people. Then I stepped outside and saw a line of at least 100 people starting at the door to our building. People had started lining up at 2 am for the free clinic we were offering. Though they'd been waiting in the street for hours they were singing a song of praise for the rising of the sun. It was the first of many minutes on that trip where I realized how incredibly lucky I was.
As we started to run Ben and Lawrence, two of the community health volunteers we'd met the day before, came up behind us and fell into stride with us. The had beautiful form and ran like gazelles, but were nice enough to slow to our plodding pace. And thus began a ritual.
Every morning at 6 am we ran as the sun was rising. Ghana is right near the equator so the sun rises and sets at the same time every day. People were emerging from their houses and standing on the side of the street in various stages of nakedness, brushing their teeth or bathing with a bucket and a cloth. We were chased by naked children, chickens, goats, and dogs. The road was uneven and rutted, and I had to pay close attention to my footing so I didn't fall into a hole or step in sewage. On the left was the open Atlantic ocean. On the right were crumbling buildings and shacks pieced together out of scrap metal and cardboard.
But as we ran past the Ghanians smiled and cheered. One day an old man dressed in a suit and laden down with bags ran up beside and urged "faster, faster" as we ran. Always by my side were Ben and Lawrence. The many stark differences in our lives fell away as we worked side by side, gasping for breath, but smiling.
And then we'd be back at the clinic. Ben and Lawrence couldn't resist and would break into sprint the last quarter mile. I couldn't begin to keep up, and I'd huff up the gate a few minutes behind them. The people waiting in line to be seen that day would laugh at my red sweaty face. I'd go inside, dump a bucket of water over my head, and get ready for a long day of witnessing heartbreaking injury and disease in the clinic.