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Date : 15th November, 2016
Time : 58’ 45”
Total distance run to date : 890 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1458666356
It is a truth universally acknowledged that one’s own back problems are endlessly fascinating. Who amongst us back sufferers could not talk on the subject for at least an hour without fear of repetition or tedium?
However, it is also a truth universally recognised that listening to other people’s back problems is less than captivating. In fact, it might fairly be said that none of us would do it were it not the price we have to pay for having an audience for our own problems.
With this in mind, I shall attempt to be brief (which is something of a shame as I have an almost never ending supply of amusing and fascinating back stories!)
From my teens until my thirties (i.e. until very recently…) my back would go on a regular basis. This resulted in weeks in bed, much walking round doubled over and a healthy hatred of socks.
There didn’t seem to be much I could do about it except rest and submit myself to the brutal ministrations of an ex American football player called Mike who excelled at grinding his elbow into your nerve endings. (Mike, if you’re reading this, you were a godsend!)
And then I discovered Pilates, and strengthening the core, and my back problems went away. Until recently when, for some reason, they returned. Which was not a good thing I mused as I shuffled along the roadside in Dakar, Senegal’s enormous and vibrant capital.
But it’s a funny thing about running. Although it is probably the root of the seemingly endless physical problems that you have to read about it my blogs, it is also a short term cure. There’s nothing like a few kilometres of jogging to loosen up the body.
Which was just as well because, after about 6km, it was time to climb the steps to the African Renaissance Monument – the tallest statue in Africa. A monumental 49 metre high (higher than the Statue of Liberty) statue depicting a family grouping pointing to the sky and, presumably, a brighter future. In term of European points of reference, think Soviet era socialist realism (it was built by a North Korean company.)
It is commonplace to talk about these kind of monuments in developing countries in disapproving tones because of the costs involved. And certainly you could do a lot with the reported $27 million cost in a country like Senegal where per capita income is $1000.
To make matters worse on the cost front, there are religious elements within Senegalese society who think that the woman’s skirt is too short and has to be lengthened. (You can judge for yourself in the photo above.)
However, as a friend once pointed out to me, we’re still admiring the Colosseum, Versailles, Buckingham Palace et al – all of which were built at great expense at times when the vast majority of Europe’s population lived in what would now be considered appalling conditions.
Whether the African Renaissance Monument will be viewed similarly in centuries to come, remains to be seen. As does the rest of Dakar, at least for me, as my attempts at sightseeing after my run were mostly scuppered by endless traffic.
What I can tell you is that there’s a long corniche with, literally, hundreds of metres of exercise equipment. And road vendors selling an extraordinary and bizarre array of not obviously useful or attractive goods.
There is also a Place de l’Independance. And more cars, trucks and taxis than there is road space. And a whole lot more besides – but that’ll have to wait for another trip because I never got there.
Finally, in a new feature for these blogs, please find below some stats about Senegal from the World Bank. If anyone gets this far, please let me know whether or not this data is helpful / interesting!
Population 15.13 million 2015
GDP $13.78 billion 2015
GDP Growth 6.5% 2015
GNI per capita $1000 2015
% below poverty line 46.7 2010
Life expectancy at birth 66.4 years 2014
Primary school enrolment 80.9% 2014
Most, if not all, these stats have improved dramatically since 2000.