What I Learned from Running With Masai
A travel running story
By Jessica Varda
Newly arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I put on my running shoes and set out on a run. As people warned me about the high level of thefts, I made sure I carried nothing with me. Running while enjoying nature and the world around me was something I had been experimenting with for some time. Specifically I appreciated the sounds of the world around me more than any music coming out of ear pods. However, nothing prepared me for what I experienced on this particular morning in Tanzania.
As I ran along the dirt roads — there were very few unpaved roads available in any case — I ran past a restaurant with Masai guards in front. It is typical in Dar es Salaam for businesses to hire Masai as guards. They wear the typical Masai shuka, torsos exposed, and each carry a spear. On this morning, they smiled and laughed as I ran past. “Marekani!” they yelled after me, using the Swahili word for American. Then they started running behind me. Still smiling and laughing, they caught up with me and ran with me for a while. I laughed as well, greeting them in Swahili and enjoying the situation.
Photo by Sneha/Unsplash
They ran in their shukas, each swinging his spear at his side in rhythm with his steps. They were fast and efficient runners, and I noticed their strides and footfalls seemed flawless. It reminded me of what I have learned about running form, and that running joyfully and freely like a child often encourages the perfect running form: head in proper posture gazing naturally ahead, full body relaxed and pointing forward with the arms swinging naturally, landing lightly around the midfoot and then rolling to the toes.
It was also a great reminder that not only is running an enjoyable undertaking, but the barriers to entry are much lower than just about any other sport I can think of. All you need is a desire to run, and some running shoes and gear that protects you from the elements and also keeps you safe by making you visible to cars and others.
No matter where I travel, I always pack my running shoes. It’s a great way to explore, and you might even meet some people and make memories to last a lifetime.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, & StayRunning!
Photo by Ezekiel Garrido/Unsplash