News

Urban Swaras 25th January @The Forest, Kimende, Kereita Forest

It’s fortunate that your MC doesn’t need her legs to type, or this Starting Line would never have seen the light of day…after the hills, hills and more hills on Saturday’s Matasia Loop run from Ngong County Office, my legs are ruing the day they ever came into existence! But boy was it worth it. The scenery was breathtaking, as breathtaking as the hills, and there was a huge crowd of Swaras to tackle them, with some very welcome new runners from Team Jasho in the mix!

Our apologies if anyone didn’t get the level of support they expected, as our Trail Fox and Swara Support vehicle were busy re-marking certain sections that had been washed away by overnight rains. Though we always advise carrying some small change or water/supplies with you if you’re doing a long distance, we also strive to get at least water to every runner on the trail on our Saturday runs. We look forward to seeing you all again soon!

We’re on the lookout for Swaras with stories to tell for the upcoming Swara newsletter. We know everyone loves it, now YOU can be a part of it! Reach out to Jerusha with your ideas: usrc.editor@gmail.com 

Next week’s run

Did you know that there is the forest and then there’s The Forest? Well, this Saturday, we’re running from The Forest, the adventure playground for grown-ups set in the dreamy Kereita Forest. This run was first introduced to the Swara calendar last year, and it caused a bit of a stir: the hills are legendary, the grass is as green as a porcelain doll’s eyes, and the effort is rewarded with the greatest sense of satisfaction and one of the best buffet and breakfast selections this side of Limuru!

Date: Saturday 25th January, 7.30am (please note the later starting time to allow travel time, and please allow extra travel time due to ongoing roadworks on Naivasha/Nakuru Highway)

Venue: The Forest, Kimende, Kereita Forest

Distance: 10,15, 20, 30 and 35km.

Run type: almost 100% trail, this is one of the most beautiful Swara runs on the calendar, so bring your trail shoes and your camera

Breakfast: Breakfast, brunch or lunch can be taken at your leisure at the on-site restaurant.

Google Maps link to the venue: https://goo.gl/maps/Hq6tNp4drWMysXtr8

Directions to the venue: BE CAREFUL! Google Maps will try and direct you a different route, so be sure to follow these instructions: follow Naivasha Road towards Nakuru past the Limuru exit and past Uplands, then take a left at the Kimende Total Petrol Station (the turn is just to the left hand side of the petrol station, and then follow signs to The Forest’.

Facilities: plenty of parking, toilets on site, restaurant, many activities to enjoy after the run including zip-lining, archery, mountain biking. Why not make a day of it! All activities at your own cost, check out the website for more details.

Registration: Registration is required, please fill out your details here: https://forms.gle/zxVhxZ3P4gDk2SgE8

Please pay for entrance using M-Pesa.

Go to M-Pesa, Lipa Na Mpesa, Buy Goods and send Kshs 200 per person to Till Number 912957 Recipient: Kereita Wilderness Ventures.

Important: Save the transaction message for proof of payment.Please pay this in advance to ease the entry logistics process.

Guests: As always, guest fees of 500ksh apply. Please share the following link with anyone interested in joining the club for the first time: http://urbanswaras.co.ke/new-members/

There were so many photos to choose from for this week’s Starting Line, we didn’t know where to start! Check them out in this week’s Starting Line: https://sway.office.com/l14X1yGweg4Ljm9c?ref=Link

#TheOneAndOnlyForest

News

Urban Swaras 18th January @Ngong County Offices

For one day, last Saturday, Karen became awash with fluorescent yellow, as Swaras hit the road again after a holiday break. We also had some new runners in the mix, eager to see what all the fuss is about! In total we had almost 100 people running from Club Legend, with a good number of takers for the longest distances, the 25km and 30km. Who knew Karen had this much off-road trail: we went through overgrown fields, forests, and only glimpsed the bypass a couple of times.

Breakfast was in plenty as people caught up after the holidays, and plenty of stretching happened, round our new Treasurer, Ranu, as he made sure everyone had all the information they needed on 2020 membership, etc. Rumour has it some people stayed well past breakfast time, clearly they had a lot to catch up on! Well done to everybody who ran!

We’re on the lookout for Swaras with stories to tell for the upcoming Swara newsletter. We know everyone loves it, now YOU can be a part of it! Reach out to Jerusha with your ideas: usrc.editor@gmail.com 

Next week’s run

We know Ngong has become one of the most popular local running destinations of late, so let’s all head there together and discover an alternative trail from the County Offices. Distances are building up as many of us are training for marathons, or just building up our endurance, so you’ll have from 5km to 35km to play with. This time there WILL be a 5km route, so bring along a friend that wants to try their hand at running!

Date: Saturday 18th January, 7am

Venue: Ngong County Offices , Ngong Town

Distance: 5, 10,15, 20, 30 and 35km.

Breakfast: Breakfast can be taken at your leisure at the cafeteria on site or in Ngong Town at one of the local restaurants.

Google Maps link to the venue: https://goo.gl/maps/39GQLk3HFzsdbGAF7

Directions to the venue: Get onto Ngong road and follow it all the way up to Ngong Town.

Once at the T Junction in Ngong Town take a right turn and carry on straight (ignore the immediate first right turn road that goes to Kibiko) proceed with the road that will bend towards the left and get you to the venue which will be on the left, opposite the Ngong Police Station

Facilities: plenty of parking, and toilets on-site. Parking fees of 100ksh payable to the office on duty.

Registration: registration is not required for this run, just turn up and run!

Guests: As always, guest fees of 500ksh apply. Please share the following link with anyone interested in joining the club for the first time: http://urbanswaras.co.ke/new-members/

This week’s Starting Line is jam-packed FULL of information, so be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, and some of you might even see your faces! Link to Starting Line: https://sway.office.com/j1M3EZGVHgnbZBP5?ref=Link

#NgoingNgoingNgong

News

Urban Swaras 11th January 2020 @ Club Legend, Karen

We did indeed go into 2020 with a bang, and a bit of a wiggle as well, as the video below shows! Let’s keep that momentum going, into this week’s run. Even those who got lost because they were going too fast and either beat the marks or were going too fast for them to be visible, keep at it!

This year is going to be LEGENDARY, I can just feel it. So get on down to Club Legend, Karen, for a run with a twist this Saturday 11th January…for the first time in living memory, the Swaras are offering a 5km trail! So bring along those friends who quiver at the thought of a 10km but have been meaning to get their running shoes on on a weekend morning. And there will also be a long of 30km to shake off the cobwebs after the holidays and get prepping for the Kilimanjaro marathon 2020! See this week’s Starting Line for full information on this week’s run.

Date: Saturday 11th January, 7am

Venue: Club Legend, Ngong Road, Karen

Distance: 5, 10,15, 20 and 30km.

Breakfast: Breakfast is 400ksh, payable to the treasurer in advance or on the day.

Google Maps link to the venue: https://goo.gl/maps/v8cN3caGR4DP68g88

Directions to the venue: Take Ngong Road all the way down to the entrance to Karen, and about 300m before the Karen roundabout you will see Club Legend on your right. You may have to go down to the roundabout and do a u-turn to access it.

Facilities: plenty of parking, and toilets on-site.

Registration: registration is required in advance, by Thursday 5pm, to allow for planning, so that everyone has breakfast after their run! You may pay for breakfast in advance, (M pesa to 0740912116) please indicate so in the registration form: https://forms.gle/66dHYCdpK7C51L1C6

Guests: As always, guest fees of 500ksh apply. Please share the following link with anyone interested in joining the club for the first time: http://urbanswaras.co.ke/new-members/

Check out this week’s Starting Line for a staggering line-up of news, and a video treat for your enjoyment! : https://sway.office.com/qDaFa40UWqYt9ei8?ref=Link

News

Urban Swaras 4th January 2020 @ Arboretum, off State House Road

That’s a wrap folks! Another running year has come to an end and we can now start setting goals for 2020…2020km in 2020? A 20km PB for 2020? Learning how to run backwards? Running your first 15km? All dreams are valid, and we just hope you’re excited for all the adventures to come: Mount Kenya Ultra, Graceland Upcountry Run, charity runs, relays, out of town runs…you name it, we’ve got it. So 2020 will definitely be your best running year yet, and we can’t wait to get started! 

So to start us off with have run number 1 of 2020: Arboretum! As is tradition, we will run from Arboretum and start the year off with a bang. This is always a run with a BIG turnout so be sure to turn up early, and why not pay your annual subs upfront so that you can enjoy 52 runs without worrying about membership or payments??  More info below. Keep scrolling, and keep running!

Date: Saturday 4th January December, 7am

Venue: Arboretum, meet at the car park off State House Road.

Distance: 10,15, 20 and 25km. Mostly tarmac, with some trail.

Breakfast: Optional, to be taken at your leisure at any of the affordable kiosks around the car park, or at Charlie’s at Kasuku Centre! Parking fees of 50ksh per vehicle apply, payable by m-pesa.

Google Maps link to the venue: https://goo.gl/maps/RqwqH1R8KXPdHVTw6

Check out this week’s Starting Line for more info, a heads-up on next year’s membership and our member’s survey!

#HappyNewRunningYear

News

Urban Swaras 28th December 2019 @ Karura Forest, Limuru Road

The Christmas run happened last week (don’t worry folks, you didn’t miss Christmas, just the Swara Christmas run)! The turnout was huge despite so many being away on holiday, or being too busy knocking back eggnog and nyama choma. Thanks to all who came and got into the festive spirit for the second to last run of the year.

Next week’s run will give the opportunity to combine Karura Forest trails like you never have before. Do the 10km and 5km? Do the 15km and the 10km backwards?? Up to you! Meeting place is at the car park on the Limuru Road entrance, (before you reach the payment gate). Look out for the yellow Swara t shirts, you can’t miss them. Bring cash/m-pesa as forest entry fees apply to all, with different rates for citizens (100ksh), residents (200ksh) and non-residents (600ksh) plus fees for cars if you take your vehicle in. Be aware that no single-use plastic bottles are allowed in the forest (hurrah!) so bring along a refillable bottle, and there will be an opportunity to fill it before you run. If you have a hydration pack, we advise you bring it, ready to hydrate yourself along the way. Link to this week’s Starting Line (the last of the year!) with full details of this week’s run: https://sway.office.com/s1MlzDnG4zoYPI5u?ref=Link

Date: Saturday 28th December, 7am

Venue: Karura Forest, Limuru Road entrance car park

Distance: unlimited! 5,10, and 15km trails within the forest, feel free to mix them up and combine them (you can also incorporate the Sigiria side).

Breakfast: Optional, to be taken at your leisure at the Java House down the road with your fellow Swaras.

Google Maps link to the venue: https://goo.gl/maps/R8Ey87jZ5mVY4on4A

Check out this week’s Starting Line here, and Happy Holidays to all of you!

#LastRunButNotLeast

News

21st December 2019 @Arboretum, State House Road

Venue: Arboretum, meet at the car park off State House Road.

Distance: 10,15, and 20km. Mostly tarmac, with some trail.

Breakfast: Optional, to be taken at your leisure at any of the affordable kiosk around the car park. Parking fees of 50ksh per vehicle apply, payable by m-pesa.

Google Maps link to the venue: https://goo.gl/maps/RqwqH1R8KXPdHVTw6

Directions to the venue: The car park is at the end of Arboretum Drive. You need to get to State House Road, then if heading from town you turn right onto Arboretum Drive, and if heading towards town (from State House), turn left onto Arboretum Drive). Drive past the new Radison, then hit the dead-end, where you’ll find the car park with the kiosk to pay for parking.

Facilities: plenty of parking, and toilets on-site.

Registration: no registrationn necessary! Come one, come all, and bring a friend!

Guests: As always, guest fees of 500ksh apply. Please share the following link with anyone interested in joining the club for the first time: http://urbanswaras.co.ke/new-members/

Be sure to check out the second edition of the all-new Starting Line (Swara weekly news) here.

Running Tales

A Long Voi-age Uphill

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.

Now I’ve been Swara-ing for long enough to have had two babies, or run one and a half rounds of all the great marathons (in other words, around a year and a half) but this was my first time to attend the legendary Voi run. Friends (Rosemary, I’m looking at you) had told me about the succulent tangerines. Others (Saxo) had warned me of the heat and the after-parties. Some (I forget the names as they were gone in a blur of overtaking) had told me the trail was to die for. And so it was with excitement, trepidation and slightly wobbly legs from lack of any real hill training, that I set off, in a full car (four adults and two children), one grey Friday morning. Hold up! We weren’t skiving; it was Madaraka Day. So, to celebrate, I let the Kenyan do all the driving – who am I, as a wanton muzungu, to take away a Kenyan man’s independence at the steering wheel? Masika, our able chauffeur, wasn’t fazed by the ladies and children singing ‘Frozen’ Disney songs, Ed Sheeran, and Taylor Swift at the top of their lungs. Although we did notice he sped up once we opened our mouths for the first high notes…

Weary travellers like ourselves trickled into Afrika Lodges over the course of the afternoon, happy to see familiar faces, and familiar white chalk arrows outside the entrance gates, a promise of what was to come. Credit to Wahome, our phenomenal host and barman, for providing the most comfortable of beds for naps, night-times and who knows what other shenanigans. But this is a family-friendly publication.

The first run, the ‘warm-up’ got pretty heated, in the late afternoon Taita Taveta sun, throwing up red dust over small ravines, through expansive fields of dusty green vegetation that perfectly reflected the dappling sun that was getting us nice and ‘warmed up’ as we eased into our 13km. Some Swaras, with names that may or may not rhyme with Pond and Saoul, barely broke a sweat, and warmed our seats back at the hotel bar once they were done. Our muscles looked at the hills in the distance with longing; little did we know what was in store for us the next day.

First though, back at Afrika Lodges, there were of course refreshments aplenty, and Swaras got busy carbo-and caffeine-loading, swiftly followed by copious amounts of dinner and, to our delight, more carbs. I’m not ashamed to say I took some of my carbs in liquid form, which I assured everyone makes me run better, but only Cheruiyot (whose fault it is that I’m the scribe of this newsworthy adventure) joined me for something cold and slightly fizzy before everyone got a rather sensible early night. I would never claim that Chairman had anything that wasn’t water so let me end this first chapter here.

I feel like I can allow myself to shake things up a bit. Fast forward to 24 hours later, all Swaras (except for a handful of die-hard runners who are also very good at running to the bar) were safely tucked up in those same beds, with the memories of their 20, 30, 35, or even 48km accomplishments cradling them to a deep, peaceful and well-earned sleep. But how did they get so tired, you might ask? Swaras are die-hard athletes who can tackle anything and go on to be productive, social human beings in the big wide (normal) world!

It all began with an early morning wake-up call from Ferrah, who had sequestered Chairman’s whistle but couldn’t quite figure out how to use it. Luckily for me I was bunked next door to her so I got the full blast of her attempts as I was emerging from my dreams of marrying a prince and having my designer dress broadcast across the kingdom.

Then there was, you know, the Andean, Alpine, ten-times Mount Kenya-esque range of hills that we conquered, bottom to top, with varying degrees of intensity and speed, but always with confidence and panache, because that’s how we roll.

A brief breakdown of how this run works: the dirt road starts when you take a turn off the tarmac a few kilometres outside of Voi town. From there, it’s 48km to the end of the road. As long as you carry on straight, you’re on the right track, and will be rewarded with views that will take any breath you have left in you completely away. For those who aren’t made of superhuman material, you can be dropped further along that same road, cutting your total running distance down to 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, or less. I was the only one doing the 35km, so I was able to sing to myself and skip and make all manner of noises and expressions as I went, with only the monkeys to judge me. I thought the 48km gang would never catch me up, but of course Benja and Otora broke that rule 7km in, and overtook me, uphill, in a leap and a bound. In fact, the 48m cohort was the biggest…at the start line. Let’s not talk about the end line until later.

The air was balmy, with an early morning briskness about it, perfect for starting an uphill climb. The day warmed slightly as we got higher and our blood pumped a little more vigorously. Then I realised that Chairman wasn’t lying when he said the climb would only end at the end. The hills were relentless, twisting and turning through what felt like a hidden universe of villages nestled in between ranges and dips that even Safaricom network couldn’t reach. I wasn’t completely alone though. Because I have a fear of being alone, (psychoanalysis to come in a later write-up) I sped up to try and catch up some of the 25-ers, and came across a few, nice and sweaty and in spirits as high as the crest we were heading for. There was Chairman with Martha, and a steady-paced Rebecca; then I caught patron and his son as they approached an uphill climb. Of course, I had to pretend I could tackle that hill with ease, otherwise Patron would have seen me as a disappointment. Good thing he couldn’t see the writhes of pain on my face.

Now, I’m the first to admit my errors. But taking a wrong turn is not a mistake. It’s a deliberate challenge to oneself. I found myself getting lost on the route that Otora had said was ‘so easy, you just follow it straight’. So I turned left. And cruised downhill for 4km before smelling a fish and hitching a ride back up on a boda, feeling ashamed but also proud of my extra 4km. Just 5km and approximately 300m of elevation later I was at the top. And, by gosh, it wasn’t half bad. We discovered a hidden viewpoint and a natural spring to wash the slick from our faces and the grit from our throats. Of course, many selfies were taken, then we dutifully headed back down to join the others and have our neatly packed picnic lunches. And this is where things started to go wrong. We met the Masika/Cheruiyot gang who had snaffled away all the beers we had ordered the night before for a celebratory post-run ‘cheers’. Yes, ALL of them. They were heading upstream, we were heading back for dry land, so we let them go. Then came Otora, with my champagne. That’s an offer no lady can refuse, so back up we went, followed by James ‘barman’ Wahome, Raoul ‘birthday boy’ Kamadjeu and a motley crew of long-distance troopers. In fact, everyone followed us up the hill to finish the gruelling challenge in style.

Let the party begin. Beer and bubbles flowed, as did the good times and the risk of falling 300m down the rockface with all the tomfoolery and danger-selfies we were attempting. Thomas Bond and Katara Wawa guarded the buses and lunches down below as we let 2600m of total elevation, five hours of blood, sweat and tears (of laughter) and body-loads of adrenaline wash over us in a cascade of unbounded joy and relief.

Several naps were had on the bus back, but someone whose name may or may not rhyme with ‘Catia’ was calling for more beer at every shop we passed.

And so, dear reader, you have a better picture of how 23 Swaras ended up exhausted, elated and fast asleep, several hours later, after yet more (recovery) carbs, a giant cake to celebrate Raoul-48-years-but-doesn’t-look-a-day-over-21-Kamadjeu’s birthday, and enough speeches to win an election. I guess we all knew we still had one more run to come.

I’m not sure if it’s fair to call what I did the next day ‘running’. Sure, I transported myself from one spot, back to the same spot, with some movement in between, but it was by no means elegant or athletic. But at least it meant I didn’t completely fossilize ahead of the long drive back to Nairobi. Again, some people, whose names may or may not rhyme with Pond and Rara, don’t seem to be able to slow down. Maybe they thought we were chasing them, zombie-like and blood-hungry. I guess that’s just me before my morning coffee.

For the journey back, Daisy, Marylyne and the children and I found a new chauffeur, none other than the one and only Joe Black, who we also pushed to his limits with bad karaoke (Whitney and Mariah even got an airing) and girls’ trip shenanigans all way down back to western Nairobi.

Whilst the aches and pains have now dissipated, the memories of this kaleidoscopic running extravaganza of a weekend are fading much more slowly, partly thanks to the deluge of Whatsapp images that have been inundating our smartphones since that day, and partly due to the fact that this running club, it has to be said, is one-of-a-kind. With Swaras, there’s no a-Voi-ding hills, and all attempt to give up are null and Voi-d.