International Kigali Peace Marathon

June 5, 2010

By Barrie Adleberg, Art Enrichment Program Volunteer

unday, 5:30 am, I stumbled out of my bed. My brain, still in hibernation mode, couldn’t process the excitement of my body as I tripped over the clothes I had set out the night before. It was Marathon time! 20 eager, committed young runners from our village joined thousands of others in Kigali to compete in the 6th annual International Peace Marathon. 2 of our boys ran in the 21 km race (half marathon), 4 children and 4 staff ran the fourth marathon (myself included), and 14 came for the 5 km “run for fun”. A cadre of runners in the 5 km race chanted and clapped, setting the tempo for the run. Slogans like, “J’ TAIME, I LOVE YOU!” and “GO MAMA GO!” filled the air with encouragement. The full marathon runners zoomed past me like the wily coyote and left me questioning how some bodies are capable of such physical rigors. As I approached the finish line in the national futbol stadium, I thought my legs were going to give out under me. But the momentum from the crowd’s cheers and my desperate longing to end my misery were just the push I needed. Annette one of our Senior 4 kids was the first female competitor to finish the 5 km race! Even with the sun relentlessly beating on our backs, we all finished in stride with a real sense of personal accomplishment. The runners were each given a t-shirt, a packet of biscuits, water, and a banana. After my heart rate caught its normal beat, I sat in the shade of the bleachers. François, one of our 21km runners came up to me and urged I share his biscuits. I insisted that I had just finished some and he should enjoy. “NO!” he said, determined to get me to eat. Then he said something that will stay with me for a very long time, “I got an extra packet and if we are lucky enough to have, we must share. That is humanity.” I was so moved that I ate the biscuit. And as I watched him offer his remaining crackers to the strangers around him I was reminded how truly special our children are.