Runner’s World recently ran an article on what you should wear to run. It even had a handy dandy calculator thingy that you could plug in the details of the weather where you are and the type of run and it would spit out what you should be wearing. I gave it a whirl with Dakar weather. It said shorts and a sports bra.
Senegal is different when it comes to running. Fortunately, exercise (even for women) is seen as a good thing here and is encouraged. But there are still some unique challenges and things to be aware of, whether you’re a newbie or experienced runner.
I asked some of my local runner buddies for their advice (and then pulled pictures from their Facebook pages without asking) and compiled the list below. Happy running!
1. Stick with it. With the heat, humidity, and most importantly the dew point levels being as high as they are, it is easy to want to quit and give up. Just keep telling yourself it will make you stronger. With consistency, your body will adapt.
2. Invest in nice running sunglasses and a viser to keep the sun out of your eyes/off your face. That sun is HOT :)
3. The dew point in Senegal is a killer. When planning your week’s runs, look at the upcoming forecast and the dew point. On days when the dew point will reach 79 or higher, try to use those as your rest days.
4. Find a place to run where you feel safe, but also don’t feel like a spectacle.
5. Run early mornings if possible.
6. On one of my first runs, I bought attaya and sugar at the buutik and gave them to the villa guards as I passed and said hello. They all remember me and watch out for me extra now.
7. For women, be mindful of what you wear — longer T-shirts and longer shorts. Yes, people are used to seeing women exercising, but to dress as you might in the US can make you more of a target and is less culturally sensitive.
8. Pay attention! Lol
9. Remember to drink LOTS of water. It is hotter AND much more humid than pretty much anywhere you have run before.
10. Guys should always wear a shirt; even though some toubabs don’t wear one. It’s just inappropriate and abnormal not to.
11. Carry a drop wallet, a small wallet with a couple thousand franc in it. If someone tries to come after you, drop the wallet as a decoy and then RUN.
12. For running in the races in Dakar, do NOT to expect it to be like races anywhere else. They start late, are not very organized, it is easy to get lost on the routes, but it is STILL so worth the experience.
13. Wear baggy shorts, not tight fitting for cultural reasons, and also stay aware of your surroundings.
14. The best time to run is Sunday morning at 7.
15. It’s probably safe to run on your own, but running with a group gives that piece of mind, and you’ll perhaps venture into neighborhoods that are off the beaten path. We run up through Ouakam, and have seen a number of the different (read: uniquely Senegal) things while on a run.
16. In Senegal, running is not a solo sport. You may be joined by little kids and cheered on or encouraged by on-lookers you pass. Give them the ‘thumbs up-thanks’ and keep going!
17. Do not run at night on the Corniche.
18. Running outside is ALWAYS better than a treadmill. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
19. You can teach your body to work more efficiently in the heat, but it may take some time. Well worth it though.
20. Senegalese runners have have told me to be off the Corniche road in Dakar before dark, by 7pm.
21. Do not run in cotton. When cotton gets wet (which it will) it will become heavy and cling to your body. Always run in dry-fit materials.
22. A nice place to run outside of Dakar is Bargny, out towards Diamniadio.
23. It helps to run with a group, especially if you’re a female.
24. A handheld water bottle is a must. Nathan makes a great one with a strap that makes it effortless to carry, and it comes with a zippered pouch to hold your phone and a little emergency CFA. Portable water is totally necessary in a hot land with questionable street water!
25. In rural towns, women can run in loose fitting t-shirts and capris. Below the knee, cover your butt and shoulders.
26. Try not to get killed. Hehe.
27. The nicest place to run is the Petite Corniche (ocean road) in Almadies.
28. You can buy running clothes at the Monday market by the Orange stadium. I wouldn’t buy socks or shoes there, but shorts, capris and tops.
29. Watch your feet! We’ve had a lot of tripping incidents, twisted ankles, broken toes (they were pre-fractured so not technically the fault of running). But there is a lot of really interesting things you see all around you, too, so you have to look around, too.
30. Be sure to pre-hydrate 15 minutes before running and then drink every half hour.
31. We run early morning, so we definitely need our flashlights.
32. Clothing that would normally be considered too fitted/short may be more acceptable when you are doing sports.
33. Look at the heat from the positive side – you sweat a lot easier and that makes you feel like you’re working out a lot harder. :)
34. The one thing you really need to run here is to be alert because inevitably you’ll be splashed or end up behind some vehicle or people or a bus will cut over right in front of you, or whatever. It’s not really a place you can run and zone out.
35. There’s a French running club (Les caimans) and also Dakar Hash Harriers.
36. Take a friend with you when you go. That way you have company as well as safety in numbers.
37. Be sure to take in the beauty of where you’re running, especially if you’re near the corniche. This is a beautiful place; take a minute to take it all in!
38. Put 1000 franc bill in your shoe – just in case.
39. Focus on heart rate, not speed or distance.
40. Specifically on the weekends (Saturday morning and Sunday morning) I enjoy running on the VDN. It is always very clam and clear, like having Dakar to yourself… while the Corniche is way too packed on the weekends.
41. Choose loose-fitting clothing that cover shoulders, mid-section and thighs.
42. If you’re in an area where women don’t exercise in public much, when possible, run early in the day when less people are out.
43. My favorite place to run is on the Corniche…big surprise! Starting from one either end and running to La pointe des Almadies is always a good long run.
44. If you need to buy running clothes locally, ask where to buy “un jogging”, which is the term for outfits that the girls wear here for gym classes.
45. Running on the VDN, away from downtown, to Diamalaye (Yoff cemetary) brings you right onto the beach where tons of people go to exercise. There are also restaurants on the beach, etc.
46. Try to run before sunrise or after sundown.
47. Running in Dakar’s heat and humidity can be rough but the increases the physical stress on the body increases the intensity of the run, which results in a higher heart rate. So it’s not all bad news when it gets hot.
48. For guys, regular running shorts are fine (Dakar has become Western enough for short-shorts, haha), dry-fit apparel is a definite plus all year around.
49. Running with an iPod is generally safe.
50. Greeting while running is not necessary, however acknowledging the Talibe boys while running at least on a semi-consistent basis is always awesome. They eventually see you as a friend who doesn’t just ignore them. They might still ask you for money every once in a blue moon but more importantly, they actually look forward to seeing everyday, which normally brightens their little mornings.