Running with the Swaras after three months away is a bit like coming home to family (both the good and the not so good). There are the welcoming smiles and ‘good-to-see-you-backs.’ But also the faintly accusing half looks, ‘where have you been all this time?’ and the subtle guilt trips ‘you must have been running wherever you went’ (even though your body is practically falling apart from poor shape and it shows). Why do we call it, getting in shape, by the way? Do we start from a state of no shape?
Picture this. It is the Lukenya run. I have just done a punishing 30K, which turned out to be 33. I desperately need a shower but I have no towel, no soap and no change of clothes. What to do? Simple. I undress get into the shower stall and shower, soap is often an unnecessary convenience. I then walk out, in the buff, sit on a rock and wait for the sun to dry me, which it does. Finally, dressed again (change of clothes, another overrated mzungu affectation) I innocently stroll back to the kibanda for more tea and mandazi, no one the wiser.
I’ll keep this short, Bryan has already told the story way better than I could (what a write up!).
This was my maiden Moshi Marathon too, although I have been here several times, mostly on sorties either up or down Mt Kilimanjaro. Unlike Bryan I have no in-laws in the area, so I could possibly tank incognito. But, knowing some Swaras, I would probably never hear the end of it. So failure is not an option.
As some of you know by now, no marathon would be complete for me without some drama. Kilimanjaro did not disappoint. It was the night before and Jael had given clear instructions.
The run was supposed to start at 7.00 am. But the drive past Mlolongo was a nightmare. Total darkness, no road markings, no streetlights and hulking trucks every place you looked. It would have been a suicidal driver who would speed through that section to reach Lukenya. Luckily the Swaras are not known for craziness of the driving kind.
So I get to Lukenya. More drama. I am following this 4WD, which a helpful watchman has told me is a mzungu. We get to the top of the hill and the driver starts to brake. Something is wrong. So I tentatively approach, and realize it is Leif. He is lost, as I am now sure I am.
I have never done the Magadi run before, so I was not exactly sure what to expect. But, from what I had been told, the concept is fairly simple. They drive you halfway to Tanzania, drop you off in the jungle somewhere, point you vaguely north and say a quick goodbye. You are on your own.
I think someone had also mentioned that the run was likely to have a hill or two thrown in for flavour. So, if you are the superstitious type, like me, you take a good luck leak in the bush, say a quick prayer; set your Garmin and go.
It was billed as a scenic run, with hills, rivers and pipeline. Marked by a professional. It was certainly the first, but not the second. The area where we run, near Kiambu town, is truly scenic. But the marking left something to be desired. It was patchy and in some cases down right Hashy. In fact I began to suspect that, by being away from duty, this was Otora’s way of revenging for all the unchristian things I have thought, or written about him in the past. But who hasn’t?
If one day Kenyans decide to vote for the mother of Kenyan distance running, the winner will not be Mrs Uhuru, impressive as her recent London Marathon outing was.
It will very likely be our very own Joyce Nduku. Fondly known as Tata or ‘The road runner’ in the Swaras/Hash running fraternity, Nduku has redefined the meaning of the word determination and in the process inspired countless other people to join the running movement in Kenya.
Once you have passed the traffic choke points of Mlolongo and Kitengela, the drive to Maasai Eco Lodge, just past Kajiado, is a joy. The road is so smooth and traffickless that I am tempted to cruise all the way to Arusha, just for the heck of it. Then I remember I came here to run, not to drive. So I regretfully turn left, into the lodge at 1.00pm, ready to sample the best that Ajaa and Otora have cooked for us.
Ajaa keeps a mean pace uphill and the run from Serena to the corner of Mbaazi road was thirsty work. We were very happy to find the water guy waiting for us. But, wait! He was in the wrong place. His location, short of the planned corner of James Gichuru and Convent Drive, meant some runners would miss the water point entirely. Distance running is as much a mental as it is a physical event. Missing a water point when you expected one can destroy your spirit as nothing else can. Ajaa and I really felt it for the 25K runners. But the run has to go on. So we each grabbed a bottle of water, shook our heads sadly and ran on.