February 15th 2014 marked the re-emergence of Guinness as the official promoter of the Race of Hope in Buea, Cameroon. Guinness was the original creator of the race back in 1973 and managed the contest for many years before being forced to relinquish the rights to the government of Cameroon. It was a very welcomed homecoming for Guinness to be returning to the event they founded.
Most participants agreed that this year the race was better than ever and we had 10 Peace Corps volunteers who chose to participate. While the American runners did not match our Cameroonian counterparts in our speed up the mountain, we still had fun all the same. It is indeed a grueling endurance completion, but we had 3 PCVs who were able to summit before the time limit and complete the full course. While sadly I was not among them as I was turned around at 8,000 feet due to a leg injury. Our best finisher overall placed 12th in the female category and set a record time for a Peace Corps volunteer. Meanwhile, I slowly proceeded back to the stadium having spent almost 7 hours to cover only 18 of the 26 mile course.
While the racers were battling up the mountain, Mollie and other volunteers were busy at the stadium below managing the Peace Corps booth which was providing free HIV testing and promoting awareness among the spectators who had gathered to watch the finish. Almost 40 volunteers turned out to help spread the word, which was very good as the crowd was estimated to be well over 20,000 people who had come out to watch the race this year. The last volunteer arrived back at the stadium safely just before 6pm almost 11 hours after we had started the race. In spite of the struggles we endured it was an experience we all relished and one none of us will soon forget. As is customary at the end of the race once all of the participants have arrived back down the mountain in one piece, we all went out for beers to celebrate. Only this year, instead of the usual pilsner, we were drinking Guinness.
I may still be a little tired from the run, but I have already began training again for my next adventure. While I don’t expect I will ever run Mt. Cameroon again, I do hope to participate in one last race here before we leave. More details on that to come…
Running to Upper Farms; where the pavement meets the trail head.