A work assignment has brought me back to Ghana, the friendly country in West Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea, and neatly tucked between the French-speaking countries of Côte d’Ivoire and Togo, with Burkina Faso straddling its northern border. Last year, I visited Big Ada and had the amazing opportunity to run in this rustic town, absorbing the vibe, energy and vibrant colours, and always finishing on the sandy shores of the Volta River.
This time our work is in Atimpoku, a small town in the Eastern Region of Ghana. As we arrived past 10pm on Saturday, we had to spend one night in Accra, Ghana’s bustling and fast-growing capital with a population of over 5 million. Although we planned to leave for Atimpoku quite early on Sunday, I couldn’t pass up this wonderful opportunity to run in Accra.
I had read and my friend Sandra had shared that the best place to run in Accra is on the University of Ghana campus and the Legon Botanical Gardens. The univeristy is known for its serene campus with quiet roads and paths, and a gorgeous green canopy. But being a bit of a history buff, I was keen to visit the Black Star Square which is a huge public square, commissioned by the revolutionary leader Kwame Nkrumah after he became President, to celebrate his nation’s newfound independence from Great Britain.
I had it all planned – from my hotel in Airport City, I would hop onto Liberation Road, then Castle Drive, and finally Starlets 91 Rd. My main worry was that this out-and-back would be about 16km in hot and humid conditions where I had no clue about the roads or the terrain. At 6am, I grabbed a 500ml bottle as well as my waist bag with a gel, my phone, hotel card and some money, just in case I needed to taxi back! The gate guard gave me good directions to Liberation Road. I now regret not asking more questions about my overall route.
The humidity hit me as soon as I exited the hotel but the occasional breeze made things easier. Liberation Road is a huge motorway with a wide sidewalk and at that time of morning, there were not too many people about, but the trotros (mini-buses) were already hustling at full speed with the conductor soliciting business from the open window. Exactly like Gaborone!
When I came to a huge intersection with the most epic pedestrian bridge, I panicked. On the map, the intersection hadn’t seemed this huge. I decided it wasn’t worth crossing over. So I turned right and found myself in direct line with Accra Mall. I turned right onto Spintex Road where there was some bustling action as people set up stalls and a man was selling something very enthusiastically over a loudspeaker. I continued and turned onto Airport Bypass Road. At this point, I knew Black Star wouldn’t be on the cards today. This road didn’t have a very comfortable shoulder. I was forced to run on the yellow line so as soon as I got the opportunity to hop off it, I did. I then found myself facing the Accra Polo Club.
I continued until I reached Liberation Road again, took a small detour onto Airport Road, and then back onto the main road. I decided to pass my hotel so I could bring my mileage to 10km. What I didn’t know then but found out when I got back to the hotel was that I’d been wrong from the start of my journey. When I first got onto Liberation Road, I should have gone left instead of right! So I was right not to cross that huge intersection by Accra Mall. But never did I think or even imagine that I was headed in the wrong direction all along!
So it wasn’t the run I’d planned! But nonetheless I got a great workout – the hills and humidity actually made for good training and I’m happy I got to explore a new city. I appreciated the wide sidewalk and I got to see some of the city’s modern architecture. I also loved all the bill-boards, some of them funny but many of them very family-focused – a laughing or hugging older couple, a young family and one that read, “Always on point, just like mum!”
One day I will take you to Black Star Square but it wasn’t to be on this run! As I write this, I’ve arrived safely in Atimpoku and I’m planning my week. I can’t wait to bring you all along with me!
I hope you enjoyed running with me in Accra! Where did you run this week? Have you ever gone right instead of left?