They were united by their love for running; but, other than that, they came for all sorts of reasons. Some for the scenery, some to conquer the mountain, others to commune with mountainous pachyderms. But what almost all of them ended up doing on Saturday 24th September was to conquer themselves, yet again. Some did this by setting new distance and endurance records, some set new records in sheer obstinate grit and never say die attitude. In this, our biggest, and longest Ultra Marathon to date did not disappoint. It is impossible to capture all the stories of triumph and near disaster, in any case most of them have been much better told. But here is my small sample:
(AN ACCOUNT OF THE 2016 STOCKHOLM MARATHON)
This one started as a typical schoolyard fight between Hector and I. You know the type, where boys will fight each other to defend important things, like the following:
Hector: Mine is bigger
Ndungu: Mine is longer
Hector: Really? But I bet mine is more popular with the ladies
Ndungu: Oh, yes! Says who?
The upshot of all this was a truce, the famous school yard peace treaty:
Hector: I’ll show you mine if you will show me yours
Ndungu: Deal! (Imagine an electronic ‘pinky swear’ here)
The story of the Eburu run can be told as a tale in two movements
The first movement begins over 4 billion years ago (give or take a half billion years). On a cold Monday morning (it has to have been a Monday morning) as Scientific legend tells it, a rogue heavenly body of gigantic proportions wandered too close to the Earth and gave our planet a hefty wallop, one so severe that it was cleaved into at least two pieces. One piece later became the body we know as the moon, from whose lunatic inspiration are named most runners, the Swaras included. The other bigger piece cracked in many places, the pieces barely holding together and on one side left the giant gouge that became the Pacific Ocean.
At first it seemed like the weather would not cooperate. It had rained most of the night before and the cold drizzle persisted into the early morning. For a minute I feared we would start in pouring rain, a terrible way to begin a long run. But then at some point mother nature looked down upon the shivering runners, many of whom had come to lend their talent by running for a good cause, and relented. A few minutes before the run started, the rain stopped.
(Plagiarism alert: Today’s piece is stolen from better writers than I, including: Rudyard Kipling, Haruki Murakami, Chris McDougall, Raoul Kamadjieu, Jack London and others. Can you tell what is stolen from whom?)
If you can take the worst that Otora can throw at you
The hills of Kajiado, the mountains of Iten and the marshes of Kikuyu
It you can do a 40K run, and wake up next morning to do a 10K recovery
If you can run long after your mind has said your body will die (it’s a lie)
If you can do this early on a Saturday morn, when normal humans are asleep
And suffer and still come back next week and do it all over again
Then yours is the craziness of the trail and the glory of the run
And, what is more, you’ll be a true Urban Swara, my friend.
There are many good reasons to take part in the annual Osotua run. Let us start with the scenery. It is simply to die for. If you have not been, may I suggest you stop reading this and check out the photos that Roul posted on the Swaras facebook page. Or, if you like Victor more, here you go.
Go on and look. I’ll wait.
So finally it is official. All Swaras are crazy. But, my inspired breakthrough (from breathing all that mountain air) is that, of the Swara species, the female is definitely more crazy than the male. Sample herewith some happenings from a memorable outing, ‘Facing Mt Kenya,’ or rather sliding, ziging and zaging, all over it.
1. Katwa – ‘wild animals be damned.’ He demands to start his run at 4.00am in the morning.
“But there are elephants in the forest.” He is told.
“What elephants? I milk elephants for practice”
So he completes a 45K ‘short’ run, only to be told he missed a turn off to the 56K. He promptly declares he wants to do the full Ultra and does it. By the way 45K is an Ultra Marathon distance already, but who was counting!
THE RETURN TO REDHILL
It was a hard start. Heck it was an impossible start. Think of a run that starts with a mountain climb.
But, second things first. Sovereign Hotels Restaurant is a real hidden gem. Located off the road to Limuru the restaurants are set on three decks that float on a man made lake. The place is hemmed in by steep hills on all sides. They are still working on the concept but, from what we saw, this is going to be an important destination on the hideaway circuit. The large number of Swaras who had shown up on this cold morning seemed to agree.
ACCOUNT OF THE ‘Run2Gether’ RUN – KIJABE
Why our Chairman is like a prophet
The Man had set his phone to beep at 5.45 am, heeding the Chairman’s warning to leave early as the road to Kijabe was likely to be covered in fog. But it was not until 6:30 am that he managed to drag himself out of bed, another sign of his gradual slide to sloppiness, a process that had began three months back.
So it was a mad dash to throw in assorted running kit into the car, grab some sugar water (another recommendation by the Chairman, more on this later) and drive off.