“In Flanders Field the Poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row, which mark our place; in the sky, the larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead. Short days ago we lived. Felt dawn, saw the sunset glow. Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders field” excerpts from John Macrae Poem on his memoirs of the First World War. One of the survivors of the horrors of that war was a humble steam engine driver, Vic Clapham from the town of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. To honor his fallen Comrades he created a living memorial, he started a run that would capture and embrace the spirit of fortitude, bravely and endurance. Comrades Marathon was born. The marathon is run annually between Clapham’s home town of Pietermaritzburg and Coastal City of Durban. The run starts interchangeably between the two locations. Comrades 2018, the 93rd edition, was a down run starting from Maritzburg. Don’t be fooled by word down run Comrades course remain almost the same, you still have to concur numerous hills on your way down.
I left myself several days to recover. I didn’t think my fingers could type, as the aches and pains from my legs had travelled upwards to my knuckles, but I also knew that if there’s one thing Swaras aren’t famed for, it’s sitting back and waiting. Enough photos have been shared and anecdotes bandied about, for an official, non-partisan and purely factual narrative of the weekend’s antics to be necessary unfortunately, dear readers, that’s not what you’re going to get. Far from it. You’re going to get an amateur runner’s, accomplished wine-swiller’s, recently (sort of) Kenyan’s account of one heck of a weekend, with all the subjectivity and personal colour she can possibly muster.
The titled marathon happened on the 20th day of May. Based on the info queued up for offloading on this paper, the actual run may take like 20% of the word count here. So in case you are pressed for time, you may take a by-pass to the relevant sub section. For the time-rich ones, here goes the meat and bone version…
The Going: Nairobi to Kigali
How do you tell a story, itchy as it may be, but surprised and fermented by time?
This story is about Moshi; the Kilimanjaro Marathon 2018. A villager’s journey to the big stage. Preceding this, there are three stories yet to be told, fire cracking, but words stuck; #Breaking40, #42@42 and #Breaking4.
Why do villagers sit on stories this long?
Moshi is a simple Swara Story, and therefore easy to tell. It’s about a villager who believed that to go further, company is essential. He went about and got a ragtag team to assault Kilimanjaro, bad an idea as that may sound.
Three years ago when I stopped working with the bright greens, I had just picked up a fancy habit called running. I was ready to move on with my life but running, I wasn’t about to stop. I needed a support group. A good friend advised me to join the Swaras. Now, I had done a run with the Swaras a year earlier, and I was sure I wasn’t ready to die, so I said emphatically “NO!! Those guys will kill me”.
In 2016 over the Christmas period, I did my first mountain hike and with Amai and Wesonga Victor, did a 30km run that ended in his home. On 15th July 2017, I crossed the border and ran in Mbale, Uganda.
An idea of sports tourism was then born out of these three events. The three of us, all from Western Kenya, decided to do a pilot with a few Swaras to see if our idea and dream could come to fruition.
When they said the New York Marathon ‘will move you’, I did not think it literally. It’s taken slightly over a month before I could get the right words to caption my experience. When I reflect back on my journey to the Big Apple, I realize this movement started way back thanks to role models like James Waliaula. When you have a dream to conquer the big races, one needs to make a move. So I balloted for the Big Apple but failed in the ballot process and my next move was to try the other several options available. My confirmation came through a sports tour company.
INTOXICATING! That’s the only way I can describe the euphoric feeling I had as I ran on top and yes … through Victoria Falls this week. The hypnotic sound of the water crushing through rocks is spellbinding and you may think a siren is calling you to try its wonders. Mark my words, running through the falls is dangerous with a lot of warning signs, and it is meant for people like me. I may not be the first of my name or ruler of nine realms, but I am certainly the breaker of rules, the one who colored outside the circles as a tot… because… honestly where is the fun in always following the rules.