Running Tales

Once Bitten, Run Back to Back

Comrades back to back“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.

Any lingering doubts I had that you watch only free to air TV have now been laid to rest. How else would you have missed the biggest piece of news in town? But since am cool like that I will break it down for you. I ran 3.454kms in exactly 52 seconds. Yes I did it. Before you start calling me names, here is how. There is an old adage that numbers don’t lie, why should they start now. Since am the one unravelling them to you, here they are. Comrades 2017; Distance 86.73kms time 9.55.05hrs. Comrades 2018; distance 90.184kms, Time 9.55.57hrs. Difference in distance 3.454kms, difference in time 52 secs. You see the reason I will go to heaven, I don’t lie. 3.5 kms in exactly 52 secs. Does mathematics gets easier than that. I know what you are thinking and trying to bring logic here but let me spare you the trouble, don’t argue with me. Last I checked we are not age mates. This is my story and I am sticking to it, make yours and sell it. You can’t blame me for the ineptness of your mathematics teachers and yourself. Probably results of free primary education, now on free to air consumer bracket, choose one struggle mate. Am also sure you’re wondering why I include millimeters in the distance, wonder no more, am petty like that. There you go, new sheriff in town, all the way from the hills of Mau with love. Take a bow so n. Now send all the gifts, we accept even the crypto currency called crates of beer.

Numbers don't lie
You can’t make up this stuff, can you? Numbers don’t lie; if you know, you know

Comrades 2018 lived up to the billing as The Ultimate Human Race, my training started in December and even after covering a total 1,941.72kms in the training which included over 14; 40kms runs, you still can’t help but feel like you have not done enough as you stand on the starting line on a freezing cold morning in Maritzburg. As they say show me your friends and I will show you the doors you knock at, that might not be the saying you know about but you know why? English is my 7th language well below sheng, body language and other ungazetted ones. Moral of the story I kept John Kuria as my training partner because last we did it together nothing was broken, why the hell fix it. Don’t be fooled by the numbers there on the starting line, 20k plus, once the cock crows you’re on your own. And whether you’re running it to win it in just 5hrs or just finishing in the allowed 12hrs you still cover the 90kms the rest is timing difference.

This was our back to back run having done the up run last year. You see the organizers have this funny arrangement that if you run your first and second comrades consecutively, on finishing the 2nd run you get two medals, one for that run and another for running them back to back, it’s a once in a lifetime chance. Reason? Your guess is as good as everyone’s, Comrades is brutal, people come here and get humiliated never to attempt it again. But as they say if Comrades humiliates you, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s just what the run demands, RESPECT. Armed with the most potent of weapons, experience. I set out to enjoy the down run and just worry about the cutoff of 12 hours. Yes, last year’s run did it thing on me. Most of training was done at a pace of 6mins per km and this was the strategy for the day. But as I would realize later, best strategy is no strategy. Not training doesn’t fall into the category. The following is my sidelines experiences on the run. Nothing much is related to running but sideshows, if you’re of short time you better stop here and move on swiftly.

Three for the price of two

Touch down in Durban is 2 days before the run, nothing much happens here as you can’t even breathe in too fast just in case you mess up the fitness levels. Just stock up with Carbo-loading food stuffs, water and the like. But true to my character, I am a visionary we need to stock up for the after party. Indulge your imagination on what figured most on the budget. The flight from Jo’burg creates the atmosphere that this is Comrades weekend. Everything in Durban comes to a standstill.

Saturday is a Dash to the Expo to pick the Race Number, on getting there first shocker, we have to queue with the rest of the South Africans since Rest of Africa is also Africa and Africa is South Africa. You can’t really blame them can you? After all an (in) famous person of public interest believes that Africa is in Namibia. The process takes 20 mins or less thanks to the flawless registration process. We enter the Expo but there was nothing much going on there and in exactly 2 hours we are out. Prices at most of this Expos are exaggerated akin to a Hawker in down town Nairobi on sight of a light skinned mortal even though some might have bleached. The rest of the afternoon is spent legs up and drinking lots of water in readiness for the big day.

Pre-race dinner and briefing is at 6, announcement that breakfast is at 2 in the morning, the bus to the start point (90kms away) leaves at 3 with or without you. That’s all the briefing, all this time everyone is behaving as if you are just up to a morning jog. So what to do, act Captain Cool. The menu is rich with anything you would need on the evening before the race and justice is served. Back to the hotel room but sleep is always a scorned in-law the night before the run. Power nap and at exactly 12.30 you’re wide awake after sleeping for a solid 189 minutes. 1 am its breakfast time, rush back to the toilet for 17 times within the hour before the bus leaves, oil all your essentials, because in a few hours all the talk will be over, it will be party time. We leave at exactly 3 and the 90kms journey is fast until 15kms to Maritzburg where part of the highway has been fenced of as it will be part of the course. We however manage to get into the city well before time. Long queues are formed on the mobile lavatories and one can’t resist the temptation to queue yet again just in case something has found its way down your digestive system. Another queue at the Tog bag drop-off points as my mate John has carried a Tog bag, I decided against it. Forgive my eyesight but there was nothing much in it. Actually the only thing I saw coming out from the bag in Durban many hours later was a beer. As to who consumed majority of the content on that can, I will take the Fifth or pushed I will just say what any serious liar in this town would tell you to say, I don’t recall. After all, isn’t that why National Security exists? So that people can maintain “sharrup” on things that less concerns them.

The air in Maritzburg is almost carnival, the streets are full of song and dance and people walk up and down to make their start corals. Its freezing cold as it had been predicted that it would be as low as 8 degrees. We are all tucked up in our corals by 5.20 as they close corals and the first movement is made towards the start point. As always the National Anthem of South Africa is followed by the famous “shosholoza”, if this song doesn’t move you then you must be a distant cousin of Chemical Ali. Beats to Chariots of Fire play until you hear the cock crow followed shortly by the gun and its party o’clock. The journey has begun. Destination; Iconic Moses Mabhinda World Cup stadium in Durban, Distance approximately 56 miles (90kms if you love The Queen that much), time; well does it even matter? You still have to cover 90kms.

Since its 90kms there is nothing interesting worth your note, I will stick to the highlights. The first 10kms are run in pitch darkness as within 3kms you’re out of Maritzburg. Never in my dull life have I imagined myself taking up night running (at least not on the spot) as a hobby, but here I was. Running along the main highway to Durban the trailers and cars are hooting and occupants reminding you, it’s your funeral with ‘see you in Durban” as if its 2kms away. The pace here is kept at the pace of runner ahead of you, I and John try to indulge in a conversation to try and forget what we are doing. The temperatures tend to dip as distance increases and the body can’t seem to warm up. First encounter is the Pollys, on the up run; these section a very steep hill which hits you when it hurts most 79kms. And they are always kind enough to remind you that Comrades up run is not done until you go over Pollys. This part is run with minimal problems although the cold can’t go away. I rarely run with a jacket but I kept my top until well over 35kms before it met its maker.

The 2nd of the big 5 hills is Inchanga and clearing it will leave you well over 35kms and approaching the halfway mark of the run, but calm down first the hill is almost 2km and once you are done and steps up Drummond, the 3rd in the sequence and almost after Inchanga that you won’t realize you’ve actually ran almost another 2kms in between. Drummond is a nasty hill and at the top of that seats the Arthur’s seat. If you’re wondering what the heck that is, Arthur Newton is a Comrade’s legend who won the run 5 times in the 20’s. Runners stop there to say “hi” to him drop some flowers and hope it brings good tidings for the second half of the run. 150 meters from Arthur’s seat is Comrades Wall of Honor with the names of many comrades’ runners past and present who have gone for the great ultra-marathon up above. Of course you stop here to waste a few minutes. Needless to say I never saw the two during last year’s up run but since this year was a leisurely stroll, I wouldn’t miss it. What follows is almost a flat that leads to the bottom of the 4th hill. Botha’s hill and on top of it there is a huge crowd, the hill is almost a km or so and at its apex you are staring at the Devil’s Valley of 1,000 hills. At this point you already have 60kms on your legs and only liars will say the body isn’t tempted to give in. A boy stands on the side of the road with a big placard “Fresh legs on sale” on it. It’s one of those moments where you clearly know that the devil is a liar but you still want to ask what lie is in stock today. There is no time to gaze on the scenic hills; after all you could have gone to the Aberdares for that.

The Comrades down run starts after 60kms where you have to run almost downhill for well over 20kms. If you ever thought running downhill is easy, try it with 50+kms on your feet, it’s damn painful and it’s no surprise that I slowed down to the 7mins per km bracket. The initial strategy was walk-run on the hills and recover on the flats and downhills. I know better now as I couldn’t wait for the next uphill so that I run. The bones are almost falling off your quads and you can only just spend the next 20kms stopping at every water point, enjoy the soft massages on your legs, take more water, energade, bananas, oranges laced with salt(pathetic taste) and everything on offer. Before you know you are staring at the last of the 5 hills, Cowie’s Hill and you ran up it, on top there some lasses are holding a “what the hill” poster on their hands and when you are just about to stop and appreciate the Almighty’s handy work on them, they be like “no walkers on runner’s shoes”. At this point you can only pray that their souls be blessed. Scratch that, I lied. I waved them the one finger salute in my head. The end is near but even the mind has given up. With some 15 or so kms to go I meet a guy who had been running with his crutch, I was later to read his story of how he had planned to run with his prosthetic leg but his leg had developed some wound and he had to do it with a crutch. The organizers had allowed him to complete the run in 16 hours which he did. There was another guy who ran on his wheel chair with the assistance of his long term friend but am not sure whether he finished. Even in one’s tiredness you can’t help but stop and applaud these heroes before leaving them to their battles as you fight yours.

The last few kms are uneventful but most of the water points are deserted as it has been a long day even for the supporters along the way but everything you need is available. 2kms to go the finish point can be seen from a distance and the crowd and noise is getting louder as the runners summon the last ounce from their reserves to get to the stadium. At 1km to go you can see the face of the stadium full of splendor and you can’t wait to embrace its grace. There is a big bill board with “ASIJIKI- There is no turning back now” just before you enter the stadium and for sure where can you turn back to.

Once you get to the stadium there is a huge cheer and on crossing the finish line you get your medal and you are led into the tunnel, we are made to walk another long 200 (k) meters before getting the desk where I collect my back to back medal. You can imagine the number of times I asked around where the desk is just in case I missed it. That distance was very long. In between there were tents offering soup, but in my mind I was just wondering, Soup for who? My mind was fixated on one thing and one thing only; the 18 beers waiting for me in my hotel room. Actually that’s what I had been thinking about for the last 30kms if not more. The walk up those stairs is torture and once we sit outside the Stadium waking up to walk to our transport was another 90kms. We find ourselves in the hotel room and the party starts. You don’t sleep after comrades rather you roll for a few hours in bed and then catch a beer. That happens until sunrise. And for another 24 hours.

Moses Mabhida StadiumThe Monday after comrades is always World Penguin day in Durban. All funny walking styles are on show and even the mighty do it. A few stretches helps abit but all in all every part of the body is aching now. But we are well reminded that’s what this run is all about. Respect. Not that our bodies are weak or there is anything wrong with us. If Comrades teaches you nothing else, at least it serves humbleness in appropriate portions and hence its name, The Ultimate Human Race. Or as they say it there. Izokuthumba, it will humble you. Every finisher has their Comrades story and One of Tata Nduku who completed it with more than an hour and a half to spare at the tender age of 60+ captured the spirit of the comrades. Not forgetting the other senior citizen James Wahome, who is always all eager and ready to remind you he is on retirement holiday during this runs. Unlike some of us who ran comrades to get capacity for more beer they did it for very noble causes; support them in whichever way you can. All I want to do in my life is run like them at their age. Comrades is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They represent this spirit in every facet.

With back to back now in the bag, I will not say never, but it’s not happening again any time soon. Focus now shifts to more fancy sports like, yachting, canoeing, fishing and bird watching and may be learn how to use Instagram while at it, not this running after the wind shenanigans, which even the good book warns us against. May be I might have to wait for slay queens to start wearing Vitenges to weddings and stop dancing Kwangwaru on table tops with their heads on their tails or tails on their heads, may be then we can have the conversation. Now that’s for sure is the beer doing the talking. See you when we can’t avoid, most probably on the trails although I prefer it to be in a bar.

My Favorite meeting point right now; tell me you like the head, or better still, when do I see you?

 

 

Running Tales

100 Ways to Commit Suicide; No.87 Run The Comrades

comrades 2017 bannerZinekele: It takes all of you to become a Comrade’s runner. It isn’t lack of better words that the organizers of the Comrades use this catch phrase for the go luck running the Comrades. The meticulous planning, immense discipline, focus, sheer gritty determination and perseverance might not be enough to even get you anywhere near Pietermaritzburg, also known as the City of Choice that sleeps easy on Sunday evenings. But I guess hardly many were sleeping easy on the Sunday of June 4, 2017, when the Gun goes off at 5.30 P.M to signal the final cutoff after 12 hours of toil and pain.

Tears of joy and sorrow are shed as lifetime dreams are realized and crushed in equal measure. The number is in thousands of the wounded soldiers who have fallen along the 87km treacherous route to get here. The numbers that lie down here numb is uncountable.  It’s a good omen that this happens in semi-darkness, as its winter down south and days tend to be shorter as many would not live to tell the horror stories of the past twelve hours. I had gotten there 2 hours earlier and I couldn’t stay long enough at the finish line at The Scottsville Racecourse. When I got there, the finish point was busier than the casualty section in a National Referral hospital during a National disaster as you can hardly walk 5 meters before meeting another wounded soldier on a stretcher; the fact that I can walk at a speed of 10 steps per minute is such a solace. I haven’t even gotten started with the horror stories so relax.

Running the Comrades is a life changing experience, which captures the incredible human spirit. Before venturing into it, make sure you are biologically useless; I doubt they give guarantees/warranty/insurance of your viability after a Comrades. How I know? Ever heard of don’t ask don’t tell? It’s your point to note (on the house).

My journey to the Comrades started after rather comfortably finishing Two Oceans last year; I entertained the thought of running the Comrades, and looking back I’m glad I never listened to one King James of following the OMTOM with Comrades. My obituary pages could have long been edited and published. After I limped out of the Nairobi Stanchart last year at 18kms with a shin injury, I took a long 7 weeks break that reduced my running only to the one on bar tables; here biceps are built and bottles down miles really count. Ooh yes, it was a really jolly good time. Be wary of the friends you keep, when I asked one John Kuria whether we should attempt the Comrades, the answer was a resounding, hell why not. But the good thing is we ran toe to toe every step of the training and you can imagine the mutual satisfaction when we toasted that beer on our bus ride back to Durban on the evening of June 4, 2017.

My first training run a mere 7km, was in the Archipelago that is Ssese Islands in the beautiful Banana Republic, and ended a month before Comrades with a 70km run in the revered Fluorspar, in the picturesque Kerio valley. In between, the Kantaria Hill in Limuru had become my every weekend butter and cheese. Other Highlights in the training include the dust biting Naivasha Relay trail from Kikuyu to Suswa, and another 60kms in Flourspar. In between, an uncountable number of 40kms plus runs which used to start earlier than 6 am. One that it can be unfair not to mention was the run on Easter Saturday that I combed the very scenic Kiambu-Limuru road through Ndumberi road in the search of the magic 70km mark. If you thought Otora’s support work was bad, try that support team called Wife. First, you will get a list of requirements for the support team that stretches from where you are reading this from to eternity; of course it’s longer than what the runner needs. Along the way, they will forget you and remember all the long lost extended family relatives and friends too. They’ll leave you for the dead and show up smiling, but since you need them more than they need you, you will curse and smile back. They will drive ahead, not the agreed 5kms but almost 7kms, and blame it on everything including a malfunctioning odometer, the very odd topography, road safety that doesn’t allow one to pack less than 500m from the last corner, selective amnesia and of course the devil. One thing that this run has taught me is patience. Be patient with all mortals, your body and even the distances. All this left me feeling positively confident that the challenge ahead of me will never be bigger than the strength inside me.

(L) Eden Tea Estate, Kariirana in Limuru, the highest point on my 70 km training run (R) How your shopping basket looks like when headed to Kerio Valley for a 70km Run
(L) Eden Tea Estate, Kariirana in Limuru, the highest point on my 70 km training run (R) How your shopping basket looks like when headed to Kerio Valley for a 70km Run

Touchdown in Durban is two days before the big day. The entire city is abuzz with the Comrades; this is the event of the year in Mzansi land. The following day is spent at the expo, but nothing of interest is going on here apart from the “party on” atmosphere to note. The “bus” leaders are all song at the Modern Athlete Magazine Stand. Comrades doesn’t seem to faze these guys. At the Novice Comrades stand, there is a 40 comrades marathon medals veteran. Yes you heard that right, four and zero, no space between them medals. You can’t help but admire this battle-hardened warrior. Outside the expo, a string of mobile bars are open and guess what? hundreds are “carbo-loading”. Stop right there. If your doctor told you that beer and running don’t do well together, perhaps he went to the same medical school with Mugo wa Wairimu, which is not very good news or else you told yourself that you can’t enjoy that drink and run. We spend the rest of the afternoon with one James Wahome and a walk to his hotel was our pre-run acclimatization run. We have a pre-race dinner and briefing and we call it a night. Not before watching the climax of the European football season that is the Champions League Final.

At the Expo. Far Right with the legendary 40 comrades medal runner
At the Expo. Far Right with the legendary 40 comrades medal runner

Big day June 4 is upon us. Breakfast is at 3am. We have to leave to the start venue at 4am. Comrades “up run” starts just outside the City Hall in the City Centre. As you can guess, the city is jam-packed at that hour. The atmosphere is electric and before you know it, it’s 5.00am. Before the start, Comrades Veterans including past winners give pep talk on where to run and where to walk if you were running at all. Key words is don’t run or push yourself too early. At 5.20am the commentator declares no more talk. Action time. Four songs are belted back to back. Queen’s We will rock you, South African National Anthem, Shosholoza, and the beats to the Chariots of Fire. One of the things no one will ever tell you and you wish someone told you; carry your own tissue to wipe the tears as Shosholoza is sang. A passionate crowd of 20k plus singing in unison to declare the battle is on.

At exactly 5.30am, the gun goes off and the party is on. The big snake that is 20,000 runners starts snaking its way up to Pietermatizburg. When they tell you it’s the up run, they mean exactly that. We have hardly run 1km, yet the gradient has started to rise. It’s very dark but that hasn’t deterred the crowds who have turned up to cheer the runners. The running culture in South Africa is just out of this world. Support on this run is more than adequate; 45 water points means every 1.8km there is water and energy drinks, massage teams. This doesn’t include the hundreds of volunteers lining up the entire way with homemade food, others cooking food just to make sure you never lack on this journey. It’s their journey as well. I can hardly remember a km I ran without finding a group of volunteers saying a word of encouragement.

I will stick to the highlights from here on. One thing I can never fail to notice is the great literature that litters the whole way. The crowds are great artists. The terrain keeps at almost flat and gentle long climbs until the turn to the Devil’s Valley of a thousand Hills. First up, Cowies Hill is at 17km and is one of the five major Hills; too early to walk it, so it’s dealt with without much problems. The same applies to the Fields Hill, which is steep and unforgiving. Up next is the mother of all Hills on the course, Botha’s Hill. It’s the Steepest according to the literature for the run but by my own assessment, that distinction should go to the Polly Shorts at the very end.  The hills leave us with well over 35kms covered.

Along the way, the crowds are chanting all manner of motivational words; you can run this. I couldn’t fail to notice one yellow yellow who said Timothy my Man. I momentarily stop and give her a smile. At least I have a reason to go back and do the down run next year. At the halfway line, the Inchanga climb looms intimidatingly and this coming at the half way mark you need something special to encourage you. What can do that more than a big placard written “you run better than our government”, how I relate with this. This was my first point where I got tempted to stop. Not that I had ran out of gas but rather the crowd was a spectacle. A string of size 8 ladies were all dressed in purple, or rather my eyes told me it’s purple, and they would rhythmically flash open their cover shawl uncovering the whole body, revealing their underlings. Ooh, what else could you ask for if that’s what awaits you up at the end. The run was said to be easier in the second half of the run, but to me it became tougher as the kms worn on. I cross the full marathon point at a commendable 4hrs 10mins mark. But the Inchanga hill does its magic on me such that as I reach the 60km mark, I’m already well inside 6hrs.

At 61kms, all hell breaks loose and a flash thought crosses my mind that my Comrades ends here. A sharp pain in my calf which goes all the way up the thigh to the groin. I stop and can’t even step with my left leg. Surprisingly, I don’t sit down but endure the pain. The next water stop is like 50metres away, so I hobble to it. Cramps have set in. In my short running life, I have never had cramps, but today it’s happening! Thinking fast, I ask for salt, and get Oranges laced with salt. I take a handful standing there, and mysteriously now I can step with my left leg. I walk to the massage team on the opposite side of the road, and they spray my leg before working on the muscles. I am advised not to run until it clears up. 27 kms to go but the good thing is I have over 5hours to do this. Question is, will the body accept this?

I am reduced to a walker for most of the remaining run, with bouts of runs in between. An average 5mins/km runner reduced to walking at a pace of 10 or 11 mins per km calls for a lot of patience with your body. At some point the pain is too much and the thought of throwing in the towel is more than entertained, but with the clock very much on my side, I kept pushing. The “buses” pass me one after another; the agony is multiplied by the number of people passing me. It’s almost a flat terrain, but focus is to get to the finish line. I vow to soldier on until the body completely says no. I stop at every water point and get a little massage and spray until I start running in bits.

Sheer determination and refusal to give in take me through 60-70kms, and now the real deal of the run. Little Pollys is on my face as the sub-10hrs bus catches up with me. I decide to run with it a bit. The good thing with these buses is that the leaders know where to walk or run. Just as I am about to let the bus go, the leader shouts we will be walking in 3..2…1. The entire group of 50 plus runners stop and break to song. A few meters and it’s pep talk time. The leader shouts we are on course, only you can mess this one. What follows is he counts 1-30 and the group run, brisk walk for a minute then run as they count 1-30 and before we know it, Little Pollys is done. At the top of the hill, a big poster is held; Zuma flattened the Pollys. The Up run is never done until Polly Shorts is done. The short distance between Little Pollys and Polly shorts is not manageable with my dead legs and cramps, so I stop and have my legs massaged. I let the bus go, but the only people who run up the Polly Shorts are the ones trying to win the Comrades or the ones trying to beat the second last cut-off at 11hrs 10mins at the top of the Pollys. The Bus is walking majestically up the Hill and I run-walk a bit to the top. At the top, its 81kms covered and Pietermatizburg is in the horizon.

6kms to go! A glance at my watch shows 9hrs 10 mins; even if I crawl I will get to the finish point now. Last prayers are said and I start jogging slowly, managing a 7 min split for the next 2 kms. The atmosphere is becoming lively by the meter and before I know it, I am running again. I even manage a sub 6min split and now the sub 10 bus is walking singing victory songs as they know they will do it. I’m not sure whether they intend to sprint the last 1km, in which case I would not keep up with them. Thankfully they never catch up with me.

On crossing the line I look to the heavens and say a little prayer, sign of the cross, and I couldn’t help get a little emotional. I had defied the odds and covered the last almost 30kms in pain. A look at the medal is so heartbreaking. It’s the smallest I have in my collection but none had left me a wreck like this one. I walk to the bag collection point and I have only one thing in mind. Go to the international Hospitality Tent and take my beers and walk to the bus for the long drive down to Durban. The scenes are horrifying, people lying still without moving. You can hardly walk five meters before seeing someone being attended to. I meet John Kuria and we decide this is too much and we need to leave. The walk to the bus is the longest I have taken. Back in Durban, the only thing I was able to do was to take a shower and get to bed. Sleep was not forthcoming, appetite was zero, and basically the entire body was in a shut down.

(L)That small piece of metal can literary cost you your life. (R) a beer can ignite the dullest of days, otherwise nothing to smile about
(L)That small piece of metal can literary cost you your life. (R) a beer can ignite the dullest of days, otherwise nothing to smile about

The long night passes and you can only limp to go and get breakfast. A few stretches and a shower help ease the pain but nothing more. The entire Durban is awash with people with funny walking styles. The Great people of the Limp Republic are out and about in the orange Comrade 2017 T-shirt written in bold at the back. The Ultimate Human Race. Some even got an upgrade; they have crutches. If you find a more humbling experience, do tell. The rest of the day is spent in Ushaka Beach with a beer in hand and body submerged in sand. Life is a beach. I have run and finished all the crème de la crème runs on the Swara calendar, and apart from Kajiado where I haven’t finished the longest distance, nothing prepares you to run the Comrades or gets anywhere near running the Comrades.

(L) Life is a beach (R) Inspiring the potential which may one day become kinetic
(L) Life is a beach (R) Inspiring the potential which may one day become kinetic

My journey to become a Comrades Marathon finisher has cut my body weight by double digits and basically changed my life. But you know what? I will be back for the down run next year. Any takers? But after that, I can’t promise I will do it again. It’s an experience that every recreational runner should have at least once in a lifetime. The break is on before I embark on other adventures. Next up, the small matter that is the great debut into the Majors awaits me in Chicago in October. In the mean time, I can find someone who can Vera Sidika my toe nails; I lost 3 in the process BTW. This reminds me of a big placard along the route that read “Toe Nails are for Sissies”. Go figure!  To all those who encouraged us, even followed our progress online every step of the way and sent congratulatory messages.  A big thank you. If you want a more detailed account, you can buy James Wahome a few gallons of wine, or better still, ask John Kuria out and don’t forget he prays facing a crate of beer. Kiss and don’t tell is a Greek vocabulary to them. I’m sure they have tales to tell. Keep running good people. See you when I can’t avoid. This will be soon. Am out.

Running Tales

Beauty Lies in the Eyes Of The One Who Runs The Two Oceans

Two Oceans 2016 img1Now that the dust is settled, the oceans are calm and wine is out of the system I can finally recount the rollercoaster events that made The Two Oceans Ultra Marathon a lasting memory.  There is nothing that I can say that that have not been said about this run. But at the risk of repeating it one too many times, the run indeed fits the tag the world most beautiful marathon. I will keep it simple. I ran the ultra and came home in 4.53 and really enjoyed the scenic route and will definitely go back. I would recommend the run to all Swaras and may it be up there in your bucket list. It’s worth every ounce of pain and every dime spent on it. That’s the official statement. I have read the accounts of all the other Swara participants and since they decided to be mainstream. I will take the opposite direction and go all tabloid.

Keep reading for a recount of all the events on the sidelines of the main event; the red carpet, the after party and anything ratchet that caught my attention. I landed in West Cape two days before race day, Visa issuing authority in tow, sometimes they insist on seeing firsthand what is done when we are on “tour” and to make sure that the “visa terms” are not violated. The training journey was done with words of one James Waliaula echoing in mind that, the joy is always not on the race day but rather during the training in build up to the main thing. For this reason, my two long runs, a 45km and 50km were done in hills and scenic tea plantations of Tigoni; throw in a full marathon in Kilimanjaro (at 3.38) and a 40km in the simmering heat of Osotua and I could be forgiven for feeling cocky in the run up to the 56km. Ajaa kept insinuating that I’m over-cooked for the challenge. If you thought running on a marked trail was a challenge, try running on your own, especially when your watch decides to behave like the Chairman (never trust him on distances; a 10km can easily translate to 17.673km). You have to carry your own water and bananas if need be. It’s a big task but I guess at the end of the day it’s a sacrifice worth it.

Two Oceans 2016 img3We visited the expo, which runs for 3 days in run-up to the race, and on show were all manner of running gear; it’s a one-stop shop for anything running. I pick my running kit on day one. Day two, it’s the International Friendship run (a run for all the international runners). A 5.6km run officially but turns out to be just shy of 7km and guess who are picking the Kenyan flag; Swaras of course. The acclimatization run is done and we are all ready for the big day.

Saturday 26 March is here with us and breakfast is at 3 am since we have to leave the hotel by 4.30am. By the time we get to the starting point, the heavens have opened up and torrential rains are coming down heavily. Yours truly is on a singlet and it’s a very cold day in hell. The pre-race antics are breath taking. The “shosholoza” and South African National anthem are belted out in a nerve-wrecking manner. The Ultra has a field of 11k runners and only 2k are internationals and that just tells you how people love running down under. 6.30am and the gun is off and off we go. I must say the meticulous organization of this run makes the like of Nairobi Stanchart resemble poorly organized village run-arounds. The cheering on this run is something I haven’t experienced before. From the school kids on the road, the Johnny Cash doing a one man show, singing country music from the balcony of his house, the all green trumphet band at the peak of Chapman’s Peak, the all orange squad (resembling the Holland football fans). It’s fanfare for all and sundry. I ran the first 20 something kms at a very comfortable pace of 4’40”s and things get thick as you start to ascend the Chapman’s peak in the mid 20s which take you to the 30th km.  The sub 5 hours group catches up with me at almost the peak of the hill and these guys sing as they run and you can’t help but join in. After the hill, it’s rolling down until 42kms. There are billboards all along the route; living my dream, running for more than yourself, one ocean down one to go, just to mention a few.

I get to the 42km mark just below 3.30 and that’s where this ultra starts, exactly after the marathon ends. The Constantia Nek Hill starts almost immediately, an unending 4km or so of hill. The public address guy is all over our ears, unrelenting in a song that goes “like 4 up and 10 downhill, you can roll down all the way to University of Cape Town (UCT)”.  Bad lie. There was nothing like 10 downhill. On that hill my pace of under 5mins per km for all 42kms fell to almost 8 min per km and a guy cheering on the sidelines catches me on my walk and shouts, “no walkers big man, keep running” at the peak of the hill is a guy calling the name of each runner and encouraging them. The PA system is blasting Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”, and clearly at this point it’s all you can feel for yourself. I start to roll down but it’s not all down hill as advertised. At around 50km, there is a granny on the sidelines with a big placard “run faster, I just farted”. With one km to go, yet another billboard “see you next year”. I glance at my watch its 12 mins to top 5 hours. I smile knowing that I will beat the sub 5-hour barrier. I come home at around 4.53 and the cheering at the finishing line, one can’t help but get a bit emotional. I stick at the finishing until they close at 7 hours and Swaras come streaming in one by one.

Two Oceans 2016 img2Evening after a run is always a time to enjoy and reward the body. I hook-up with one John Kuria and set forth to Join Jack Ndegwa at the waterfront. The heavens have decided to bless our work well done. This has to be one of the longest waits I have ever endured to get a beer. First at the Malls at the waterfront, we are told to wait for at least 40 mins before we are allocated seats. Not us. We can’t get out to the street bars since it’s raining heavily. We decide to hit town, first stop is Cubana; bad idea yet again. Jack cannot be allowed in. Reason? Not in the right attire, a track suit. We try to convince the “bouncers” we are these super humans who ran 56km earlier in the day but all he can ask is, what the hell is two oceans, who cares. They can never have any of it. Jack has to go and change. He never came back; I never would have either. Another hustle is to get allocated a table. You have to go and sweet talk some yello yellos at the entrance who ask for your number, they will send you the table number; too much trouble. Silver lining is that you can order at the counter and we all agree let’s have a one each at the counter and head out. As we leave, another Swara is joining us , one Lilian Onduko. She was over the moon; she made it under the 7 hrs (congrats Lilian). We relocate to Long Street and finally we can drink in peace. We leave just as it’s starting to happen on Long Street at around 1. Evening well spent after a very successful day on the road.

Sunday is spent on the City Tour bus, visiting the wineries (such a  boring affair to me, may be am still too young to appreciate wines), up the Table Mountain, and drive up and down Constantia Nek hill. Monday is another day spent on the Robben Island, and again I can’t wait to be done with the tour as it sounds like a literature class nothing much to talk about here.

Tuesday is a journey back home but before that, the most active day for the Visa Authority, it’s a day to go shopping and the pain (on the wallet) is more than running up Constantia Nek Peak. I had to feign tiredness and insist on us leaving otherwise the damage may have been too much to bear. Finally it’s time to say goodbye to the Mother City and head home.

Thanks to many who played a part in one way or another to enable us go to Cape Town and run and carry the Club’s flag up and high. Notably to Tata Nduku for setting up a WhatsApp group for the runners even though she was not participating. Be blessed. Mr. Chairman for always keeping in touch and always eager to find out how we are doing and faring. Hats off.

Thanks to the CRE for the many challenging runs set up to prepare us for such challenges.

Did I hear King James call for Comrades power? Well, thanks but no thanks James. All the best mate. May be in a year’s time.

As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder and I saw it in Mother City and I will definitely go back to run this one.

Running Tales

The Tale of Two Marathons in 28 Days

urban swaras imageLet me start by pointing that no one “fixed” me to do two marathons in less than one month. I had set a target of three marathons in this calendar year. After debuting in Kilimanjaro Marathon in March, I missed a sequence of marathons mid-year because of business and pleasure; that target was reduced to two. I settled for MTN Kampala for my second marathon. But on learning that there was a 4 weeks gap between Stanchart and MTN I decided to attempt both. I knew this was a near death wish but what the hell, I decided to go for it.

I started serious preparation in September and built up the mileage as the days wore, peaking in early October when I clocked around 150 km in one week when I was on leave. The biggest challenge for an amateur recreational runner is getting time for running especially for the 8 to 5 employees since you neither run for money nor because of money. That is a tag line used by a running mate we run with in Karura who opines that there only two groups of runners, the run for money group for whom running is a profession and run because of money type for those seeking to extend their shelf life (who when they ask for their bank balance in the bank the teller scribbles the digits for not less than 3 minutes instead of whispering on your ear before calling the security guys because you are a walking financial tragedy waiting to happen.) I don’t fit into any of the two groups. I don’t know why you all run, but for me, the reason I run so hard is to make sure that I can have my beer. I am dead serious on this! When a marathon gets to the 35 plus km, all those who have been there can attest that it’s more of a psychological battle than a physical one. When noble people would be thinking of things like life after death, global warming and such like life changing ideologies, my mind is always fixed on the cold Tusker Malt waiting for me on the other side of the finish line. That’s what keeps me running after 30 km. Too much story telling.

Stanchart 2015 was an almost perfect marathon for me; I was feeling great before the marathon and preparation was good enough bar for the last stretch on Mombasa road when I started getting stitches and had to significantly reduce the speed and affect my overall time, but I knew that I had attained the target of 3:30 so it was a no worry situation. Each marathon run gives a runner a new running experience, and after the hill in Kilimanjaro gave me a thorough thrashing on the backside and dehydration wore me down like a fresh tomato plant in the Sahara, I came here armed with “loads” of experience. I started hydrating on the Museum hill climb and as a result, Davies whom I had run with for like 6km left me behind, but once bitten twice shy. I was never going to run on an empty. Another golden rule for any long run is always “run your run” never get carried away by the crowd else you will run to regret it. I hit the 21 km in 1.35 and started the solitary Mombasa road stretch on a very clear road. I met the elites just past the South C fly over and before I got to the turning point, they sped past me. You only appreciate how good the elite runners are when you meet them on the course, and especially on the second leg of the marathon; they are so easy but remember why they are running “they run for money”. I don’t, so they have to earn It. Otora and Nyingi were always on the opposite side of the road ahead. I meet with majority of the Swaras on my way up the first time and as I head down the final time and as always “strong” echoes are all over. The final stretch for me is a bit of a struggle, but I run it and as I get to the stadium, majority of the 21km runners are coming in. The support on the second half was on point and tons of thank you for all who were in the support team. I came home in now officially 3:22:03, well below my target of 3:30 (I need to reduce the running and have more beer). It could have been lower but I would take that all day long.

The challenge now was how you prepare for a marathon in one month after running one; you need a minimum of one week for recovery, and another for tapering down. That left me with two weeks! I planned to have two 35km runs by all means. All this planning and you have other ills to contend with. The devil is a giant liar. And he comes in all forms and faces. I don’t know if it’s only me but I always have these friends who always have very good “plans” and “plots” on Friday afternoons on eve of Saturday when you want to do a long run. There is a limit to the number of times you can say no and I fell for these evil ways on one of these Fridays when I had planned to do a long run and couldn’t make it. I had to run on a Sunday to make up. I have lost count the number of times that I have had to make unannounced exits from social places to avoid questions like “kwani wewe hulipwa kukimbia, kwani ulirogwa na hizi mbio zako”. And sometimes since it’s the Tusker doing all the talking, I won’t quote some of those funny questions I get. I always take beer sabbaticals when preparing for a marathon for a minimum of two weeks, so when I enter my locals and I ask for water, you always get that weird look. One waitress actually this time round had the audacity to ask me “kwani umesota?” (That’s Chinese for a malnourished wallet).

MTN was here, November 22. I would be lying if I said I was cocky for this one. I had done my two 35 kms on tarmac in a space of 3 days, one of which was an el-nino soaked Wednesday morning, for the better of first 20 km. I only bought the air ticket after the second run, which I had decided would determine whether I will run or not. Despite cost implications (I don’t run because of money), I had resisted the temptation of taking a bus ride to Kampala. My calf had been aching and two visits to Kariakim’s soothed it a bit and I was ready. I left on Saturday afternoon and was in Kampala by 5.30 pm. Registration had been facilitated by Ashok (thanks a lot for that; a bucket of biryani or whatever poison you partake on me when we meet), and an Olubayi in Kampala. I meet with Peter Njuguna and pitch tent in the heart of Kampala. Peter Macharia passes by later to pick his kit but I don’t see him because am watching a Chelsea football game (hoping they lose). We have supper with Njuguna over a well prepared fish and Ugali as we witness the massacre at the Bernabeu (Real being thrashed by Barcelona in the El-classico), and Man city being annihilated by Liverpool. Peter throws in the towel before the matches are over citing the long ride to Kampala, by the way traffic in Kampala makes Mombasa road look like a free way, it’s terribly bad. The running kit for this run is almost perfect with a fancy singlet, labeled water bottle, a hand band, a cap and a timing chip. But that’s the only positive about this run.

This was a crappy marathon in terms of organization. It was excellently poorly organized. Period. And I hope the other participants can give their accounts confirming this observation. Let me not waste a lot of space writing about it. It’s not worth the name. Let me summarize it like this. Despite our efforts to get the start time for the marathon, it proved unfruitful and we decided to get to the stadia at 6.30am. By the time we get there, aerobics are on and we join in, not knowing the marathon had started on the other end. Kololo independence ground is the Uhuru Park there. When we get to know about it, its 6.40am and we are a minimum 10 minutes late. We start running and not surprising we are not alone; a lot of people didn’t know about the start time. After a km, I let Peter know that I didn’t bring him to Kampala and so he has to run his run… ha ha! I leave him.

At around 3 km, one Simamisha is on the back of a motorbike heading to the start point; he is taking the 21km. At around 8km, a Swara t-shirt is up ahead, its one Peter Macharia and we run-talk for like 50 meters before he politely puts it across that it’s as if am running for money, and as I leave him, we wish each other a fruitful run.

Ugandans don’t close roads for marathons. Runners simply decide what is more important, their lives or running; you give way to cars as you are running. There are more motorbikes in Kampala than the population of the city. Don’t ask me who rides the extra motorbikes; I guess its ghosts! One section of the run was so bad that you had to literally stop running to give way to boda bodas. Some sections of the roads were half closed, meaning you have half a lane to run and matatus being matatus even in Uganda, your guess is as good as mine on what takes priority, a spoilt “rich” runner trying to burn calories or them picking passengers. This run is so bad! There were stewards along the way showing you where to turn but it only worked until the first 25km, then I think they decided whatever they were being paid was not worth waiting for laggards who laze on the trails for more than 3 hours. They went missing and we had to stop to ask for directions.

The course is far much tougher than Stanchart, with heart breaker Hills at around 16 kms and 30 kms. As the run gets back to the city, another big blunder; the 10km and 21 routes join the full marathon. No problem if the distance remaining is the same and the marks are clear, but for this, each run has its turns. For me what followed is total chaos, I get lost twice between km 34 and 38 and the problem is that you are just circling the finish point as I can hear the music blaring from the PA system in the grounds. I finally find my way and I’m feeling abnormally tired and I guess I added a Km or more. Peter Njuguna gave himself a bonus of plus 2 Km in the melee of getting lost and found.

I finally came home in 3:48 having lost not less than 15 minutes in the late start and confusion on the trails. As I cross the finish line, I just curse and mutter; it was never worth the trouble. One consolation though, beer in a normal Ugandan bar is KShs.125. Yeah? I asked that last night to prepare psychologically. Now here we will have revenge.

The Kampala Hashers have set up tent just after the finish line, 100% percent are in the running gear but I can bet 70% of them ran last in 2014. Ugandans can’t organize a run to save their lives but you have to give it to them when it comes to partying. I know a few faces here and one Simamisha is running the show; he always does J. They laugh at me when I complain about the organization. One guy asks me why I think they flock the Stanchart marathon; it’s an open secret that MTN is the joke of Marathons.

I get one “hydrating” drink and head back to the finish line with a few bottles of water and wait for the other swaras. It’s a long wait, but eventually Peter Njuguna comes and when he confirms he never saw Peter Macharia on the trail, we conclude that he may have lost his way and he may be stuck at the immigration in Busia border point headed back to Nairobi. The organization of this marathon is total chaos and in as much as I won’t discourage anyone from participating, I would urge one to seriously try other options. For me, its not worth it. The less I write about it the better.

This has been an epic running year for me and as I sign off, kudos to the CRE for the excellent routes we have covered this year. For me marathons aside, Fluorspar “tarmac to tarmac” and the Magadi ”death run” stands out as runs that pushed me beyond the limits. Kajiado is a must do in 2016 as I complete the swara “pilgrimage”.  I can imagine the huge amount of work and effort that goes on behind the scenes to make sure we have these runs. Keep up the good work. I am taking a well deserved break for a few weeks before embarking on new targets next year because as the chairman always says, those PBs no longer mean personal best rather they are previous best. Perhaps a sub 3 marathon is in the offing in 2016.

If we don’t meet before then, to you all and yours its Merry Christmas and Happy Running new year 2016.

Time for me now to enjoy the sweet things in life and maybe I can also learn how to take selfies and creating a collage like those instagram babes who run for two kms or walk from the kitchen to balcony of their half bed-roomed (read the same room) “apartment” in Muthiga (no pun intended) and sweat, creating all manner of clueless hash tags like #fitnesstingz#runningmanenos#godspeed#healthyliving.

Did I just write that, no, now it’s the waragi doing the talking and the writing of course.

I am out.

Running Tales

My Account of Conquering Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro 42km teamMy club 42 debut was never supposed to be on the slopes of Kili but as fate would have it, the gods of the trails had conspired this to be it. Calf injury last October delayed the inevitable. Fast forward  March 1 2015 at around 10.26 (EAT) I pick a hamper, peep inside; a medal, white Tshirt and a bottle. Is that all?? I ask myself as I look around to see whether anyone else shares my sentiments. I stagger outside the stadium where I had left a few familiar faces and sit down supporting myself to the wall of the stadium. Sorry I am a terrible liar, after I realized there is only one bottle of water I walked back picked a few more bottles of water, sorry as many as my feeble hands could carry and stuffed them in my “hand bag” only for a guy to pass by me sipping a beer (I haven’t indulged since boxing day in readiness for this) and I ask the attendant, what happened to my beer since I saw none. He points me to the tents where they are but not before letting me know that I will have to part with TZ shs.2,500.00 to enjoy the company of one. I mutter a curse word to myself and leave.

The following events led to the above.

The day before we had set out to Moshi, typical me I hiked the last bus, I am a firm believer that good things come last. Sure enough the bus is almost empty and there is enough space for everyone to catch a nap. But Ashok with his tales won’t let us. A few Kms to Namanga the earlier bus has broken down, I told you about last things. We all board “our” bus and head to Namanga but not before stopping for lunch at some joint where the price of madondo (beans for those who have never stepped into a French class) and chicken is the same. Across the border the ride hikers get another bus and off we are. The rest of the journey is uneventful and we land in Moshi at around 5. Room/Hotel allocation plus other post arrival rituals and its already past 6 when we get to our hotel. As the cliché goes bongo people are cool guys but after my experience over the past weekend I tend to disagree. More of that later. First question at the hotel is, do you have anywhere we can watch football?. Look I am this kind of guys who’d miss dinner just to watch football. I love Manchester United. Sorry I digress, we are shown a place outside where there is a gadget that resembles a TV. We switch it on; surprise, surprise, there is a football match going on but the commentary is in French, not the one I referred to above. Ok, commentary in French in a country that guys can’t speak English to save their lives. To cut the long story short, we mute the TV and do our own commentary after all those guys are paid to give opinions on what you are watching, what a plum hustle. Game over, United win 2 nil. Its Dinner time and another shocker, rice and spaghetti; where I come from those are starters.  We shall overcome, I mutter to myself. Off to bed at around 10.00 pm after all the big day is just hours ahead.

I am sharing a room with elite who is kind enough to share his experiences and the nerves are building. I have a thing in sharing a room with elites, I did the same with one James Waliaula, remember him?, the flying Swara, during the Naivasha Relay( congratulations mate, you are all I wanna be, well when I start running). By 2 am I’m already up and so is my roommate, we are to be picked at 5.30 am and breakfast is at 4 am. I help myself to the two bananas given to me by Millicent after I complained about the rice and spaghetti, God loves you Millicent. When I get to the restaurant at around 4 am, kanini has been there, she also couldn’t sleep. Fast forward we leave for Lutheran and Pick other Swaras and off we are to the start point. The party is just about to begin, music is booming and we gyrate to it as if we are in a carnival in Copacabana beach. The man on the PA knows Urban Swaras, this is a big brand I kid you not. The team for half marathon is here now and they wish us all the best and at 6.30 am, out we go.

It’s still a bit dark but as we leave the stadium, the last Swara I see is Hector. He would later on go past me and there is nothing I could do about it. Last Swara cheers are from Ameet as we go past the 21km homestretch and out we are. Locals have queued along the way cheering us on. First five kilometers am easy, and first jibe from bongo guys land on me not so long after “Bonge jikaze mwanangu” loosely translated it means big guy strive on, which I gathered was not working since marathons are not for the well built. I’m now starting to pick the pace and on exactly 10km I meet with elites on their way back. Am running alongside a Tanzanian and he curses “Angalia wakenya washenzi hawa”. I even do not know how to translate that. Does this guy know that am a Kenyan? Ok he was complaining how fast Kenyans are. I accelerate and leave him behind just to spite him. Turn and start going back and meet Swaras along the way and we exchange pleasantries, “strong” as we eat up the kms. 15 km mark and still feeling fresh and another one from the cheering guys drops a bombshell. Look,  there is this guy running along their wife/girlfriend and a guy shouts “wewe jameni kimbia bibi tuachie” (my guy run along, leave the lady for us). I told you these guys are not as cool as advertised. 18 kms and a guy catches up with me and kind of enquires, “are you an Urban Swara?”. I say yes, not paying so much attention. He asks, was Ciku doing the full or half. I almost stop, ok that’s a lie, I pretend not to be hearing. Dude we are 19 kms en-route and some 23km to go and all you care about is what distance Ciku was doing. Seeing am not paying much attention he says, she must have been doing the half since he hasn’t seen her. I kind of nod and I can see from the corner of my eyes his face light up. Whatever plans he had for Ciku is anybody’s guess. Ciku if you read this please introduce this guy to Urban Swaras, we can channel his energy into the right direction and make him a greater runner. After all he has a lot of it if he can think of you during such circumstances unless he is the suicidal type. Sorry I do not know what happens but Mr eehm and I lose each other,  were are now on the homestretch for the 21 km and the elites for half are trickling in. From far I can hear the church bell my guess its around  8.00 am, that’s 21 km in around 1hr 30 min. Repeat the same on leg two and may be swaras have a new entrant in their folklore, little did I know what was lying ahead. Fast past the stadium and now Mt Kilimanjaro is on my forehead. Whoever designed the route to be like this must be sued. 23 km and I am starting to feel exhausted and I need some water, I normally don’t take water but I knew today it would be inevitable.

At 24 km, the water point is right there and I stop, the PA is playing Sauti Sol’s “sura yako” but I guess whatever they had in mind while composing the song is nothing like a sweat soaked amateur marathoner trying to commit suicide on the road. Onwards, refueled it starts all over again and now its run 1.5km walk 500m run again 1km and walk 500m and another water point. Next water point and the song on PA is “roho yangu” by Rich Mavoko and I almost stop to dance along but there are still 15km to run, so move on. The above of run & walk again until 29 km water point where Aqua’s “Am a Barbie girl” is blasting. That takes me far, far back, omega 1 during agricultural shows, story for a another day. The course changes to a rough road and motorbike oozes past me playing Solomon Mkubwa’s “mfalme wa amani”. Now those are the kind of songs you wanna listen to at this point. The course now is full of cooling sponges and at 31 km we are back on tarmac and now its free fall to the finish line. Anyone who has not run this course might think, 11km downhill, easy peasy, but everyone who did a full will confess that all you wanted was to get to the finish line. Nothing interesting happened after that although there is a lady who boarded a motorbike like three times and once she passes me she could alight, then when I pass her she would take a motorbike again. I was tempted to ask her how old she is but I remembered it was Sabbath and asked Lucifer to get behind me. At 39 km I start feeling my calf and Hector eases past me and as I stroll to the finish line, Swaras are along the way encouraging me. Eventually crossing the line at around (now confirmed) 3.55 hrs and a sigh of relief. I have finally joined the class of running “Immortals”.

I take a motorbike back to the hotel, not that I could have walked anyway, a shower and move to Lutheran Hotel (HQ) follows. What happens after that is,  we share a sumptuous delicacy that goes by the name “Kiti moto” (roast pork) as the plethora of Swara talent share their wisdom on conquering trails. Honestly that was the most insightful session I have ever had on running.

After that a breakaway team decamps to Malindi Club in Moshi town to nurse our throats and nurse we did. From around 3 pm we watch 3 football matches back to back and later on we are joined by a bigger group led by MC herself and the party starts. After 10pm, we decamp again and bar-hop to another pub whose name I can’t recall (blame the ndovu I had consumed), and we dance until we can’t do it anymore. We get to the hotel around 1 am and catch a nap and jump on a bus at 6.30 am on a journey home.

This is a team of champions; we went to Kilimanjaro, saw and conquered.

I sign off with a bow and a hats off to the organizers and the entire CRE for the dedication and sacrifices you make not only for organizing participation in this run but all the runs we have every Saturday that prepares us for challenges like Kili. We really appreciate and keep up the good work

……this was the debut for me in club 42 and more to come……..roll on………coming soon