The Seven Hills Run

The only good thing about waking up at 5 this morning

This morning I ran the Kampala 7 Hills Run. Over the course of 19 very long kilometers, we conquered the seven hills that comprise the old section of Uganda’s capital city (the way it was when the Brits were in charge). After each hill we were handed a bottle of water and a little ribbon we to tie on our wrist. It was a legitimate excuse to stop and walk. It goes without saying that I will not be able to move tomorrow.

Someone being punished after today's run (wearing a toilet seat and drinking beer out of a toilet plunger)

Unfortunately, though, I think I will have to, because I somehow got myself into some crazy cult-ish endeavor called hashing and the next hash meeting is tomorrow. And no, it has nothing to do with drugs. It has to do with running and drinking and singing stupid songs.

A friend with her ribbons

Actually, according to the 1938 charter of the Kuala Lampur Hash House Harriers, some of the goals are: to acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer, and to persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel. So you can just imagine how a young woman (girl?) who doesn’t like fizzy drinks (beer included) felt during her first hash in Dar es Salaam. It was one of the strangest evenings I’ve had in a while.

The run itself was great and the dinner afterwards was, too. But everything else in between was just WEIRD. First of all, we ran through smelly slums full of wide-eyed children. I don’t blame them. A group of horn-blowing whites with purple socks and funny hats, dashing after shredded slips of paper is not something you see every day, and certainly not in the more neglected ares of Dar es Salaam.

At every intersection they would all stop, and then run in different directions in search of the marker, and no matter who I’d follow, it’d always be in the wrong direction and I’d have to run double. And they yelled weird things like “on, on”.

When we finally reached our drink stop, after forty tiring minutes of confusion and a high heart rate, I realized all there was to drink was beer. And we had more running to do.

At least we were going to eat, I consoled myself. But no. We had to make a circle and do stupid things for an HOUR. Everything involved beer, which I didn’t like, and songs, which I didn’t know. After standing and quietly pondering how much longer I could take this shit, I began complaining to my friend. Turns out you’re not supposed to talk in the circle.

And then I was punished. After about ten minutes of embarrassment and torture I began to think this was really a cult and that I’d be stuck in it for life. I wanted out. But beofre that, I wanted to eat. So my condition for doing all their stupid frat-house ideas (like wearing a shirt drenched in freezing cold water while kneeling on my knees and drinking beer/letting it splosh all over my face) was that we would eat dinner as soon as I did it. Eventually they felt sorry for the picked-on new girl and let me be first in line for food. I left very little food for everyone else.

But as soon as I got over my humiliation and shock, I saw I was surrounded by very interesting (and even nice) people. The majority were expats, working in public health or for foreign governments or overseeing huge construction projects. Within minutes, I’d made connections in different cities, and was already pegged down to join a big run the following week when I’d be in Kampala. And that’s where I was this morning, and depending on what my muscles decide, I may be at the weekly hash meeting tomorrow.

Someone being punished after today's run (wearing a toilet seat and drinking beer out of a toilet plunger)

Cult or no cult, I want to run and I want to meet people and I want to eat. So I think I’ll put up with the bullshit for now :]