Since arriving on this job in November i’ve gone out running at least three times a week across the Sahara. Its hot and sandy.
I was quite a decent runner in my younger days, but they really are a long time since, and the waist expansion that seems to hit men of my age has arrived. Men of my age who drink lots of beer, that should have said.
Whenever I go running here I’m accompanied by a truck with a few soldiers in, and one of them, Mohammed, runs with me. Mohammed is just under half my age, has legs taller than me and was the Niger Army cross country champion five years on the trot. Sometimes I run so fast and so hard that Mohammed has to take his track suit top off. There was one occasion that he nearly changed from a fast shuffle to a jog, I was going that rapidly. Before, during and after my runs I’m ridiculed mercilessly by the other soldiers, knowing that once again, on arrival back to our abode I’m going to resemble a mobile swimming pool rather than a human being.
Today though, today was different. I told my guards that I was going for my habitual elderly gentlemans shuffle with training shoes on, and was told that somebody else would be running with me today, as Mohammed was away on a course.
i set off at my usual slugs pace and started talking to Omar my new companion. 24 years old, not really a runner but did what he had to do whilst he was a soldier. Yes he was one of the ones who always laughed at me getting thrashed by Mohammed. Yes it was funny seeing Mohammed almost walking alongside the little fat white bloke who’s legs couldnt go any faster yet his speed didnt increase.
By now I was experiencing my usual pains, plus the dry mouth. May in Arlit is hot, regularly over 40 during the day, dropping down to early 30’s by the time I go running. My tongue resembled the skin of an iguana as always and the sweat evaporated before it had chance to trickle into my eyes.
4km’s into our evening jogette, I started to sense that all was not well with Mr Omar. He seemed to be lagging behind me, not far, only half a pace, but to an elderly ex competetive runner, I KNEW that sensation next to me. He was knackered.
Right, thought I, you’re having it. I started to run just a tiny bit quicker. I could feel him struggling to hold my pace. Just as I started to think the elastic was starting to snap he just ran past me like I wasnt there.
I was destroyed. Cruelly led on to think I was going to thrash someone but no, he was gone.
But wait, what’s this. In the space of maybe 100 yards, he had sprinted past me, but then slowed to almost a walk. He was done. I jogged past him, looked across but could see he was going no further. Triumphant I carried on with my route, and it was only then that I became aware of the noise. The soldiers in the back of the pick up were beside themselves. They were hooting and hollering, all pointing at poor Omar and laughing as hard as they could.
For a second I almost felt sorry for him and slowed down, but then my mind reverted back to the cruel mockings I’d received, so off I sped.
Best served cold? Not today mon ami, not today.