Running Tales

Chairman’s Run – My Experience

Magadi run 2016It is said: Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make your own.

Well, yesterday I proved that I have lived long enough. First, I ignored all the tell-tale signs the universe was sending me- my running watch died last week, and I l forgot my music on the table in the house on the morning of the run. I am one of those people with an unhealthy attachment to my watch and my music while running.

Secondly, I ignored all emails breaking down in very clear terms what the Chairman’s run looks like and got myself to Magadi in such a hurry I was overtaking even the air itself on my way to Hekima to make it in good time to be ferried to the starting point.

Thirdly, at Hekima, God sent an angel in the name of Molly to share experiences from the past with me on the drive to the drop off point for the 40kms. I listened and made the sensible decision to do the 20km. Only that when the 25km drop off point came, unseen forces pushed me from my seat and I was soon on the road flexing my muscles waiting for the whistle to blow so I could show Magadi that 25km can be done with an injury and lackluster training.

That I am sitting here writing this goes to show that God forgives foolishness. The run started well enough for me especially that I managed to get hold of myself and do a very slow pace. Not those mad dashes I do at the start like a rabbit crossing the road. Things were going well, the air was crisp, the landscape amazing, cows were grazing and mooing, the smells around me were earthy and alive, mixed with wood smoke, traffic was nonexistent and life was just beautiful. I even spotted small wild animals and a baboon crossed the road in front of me giving me that look that showed that he/she knew that today, I was not joking.

Then the hills started. And I was like ‘I can do this’. I felt ok, and I was like ‘let me do it slow and as soon as I get to Olepolos, I will pick up my pace and do that beautiful finish- arrive charging through Kona baridi like I own long distance running’. I did arrive back at Hekima, many many hours later, and in such a state that I had the occasional passerby looking at me with pity. That stretch where I was supposed to pick up my pace at Olepolos is the exact place where my body lost the plot. That hill before Olepolos (is it a hill, or a mountain?) I walked. I looked up ahead. When that didn’t work I gazed at the tarmack. Then I turned my eyes to the skies. My aim was to look anywhere but the road/hill ahead of me. That I didn’t enter Olepolos is true testament that I have a shred of willpower somewhere. I did run/walk at this point with a gentleman with whom I shared my thoughts of how Olepolos was the true north for me. That I would be fine once I got there. Later I realized that he employed exceptional skill in responding to me- he kept my foolish dreams alive, while at the same time managing my expectations. Thank you sir. I didn’t get your name. I am that chick in orange, eating trail mix, breathing heavily sometimes, and almost not breathing at other times.

Somewhere my butt came alive. I felt so much pain in my gluteus maximus every time I took a step. Muscle cramps set in on my feet and I spent all my energy doing mental tricks with them. At some point-must have been 22km- I started to get a tid bit delirious despite all the water I had taken-about 7 bottles- and all that trail mix I ate. Not to mention the occasional melon and oranges from the support vehicles. It was hot.

Step by step, I covered the distance and zoned everything out. Magadi is TOUGH. I was told Ilovoto was worse but I was not there. Magadi is my painful experience. There is this guy who was ahead of me in the distance for forever-walk running. He became my inspiration because I somehow felt and knew that we were both carrying the same cup of suffering. If you are that guy, thank you for not stopping, because if you did, I would have stopped too. Our hero James also came to mind at various points of my grueling ordeal, not for comparison (for heaven’s sake, he did the Comrades in the time it may take me to run a full), but for inspiration.

In my own way, I conquered Magadi. Many thanks to the organizers and to the support team. You were simply amazing and true to the task. Every time a support vehicle pulled up beside me it had water to dish out and smiling faces asking if I was fine. Once when they asked if I needed a ride I pictured the temptation of Jesus in the desert with bread (it was bread, right?). Saying no to that ride must have strengthened a part of my brain.

Raoul in an email last week or so said that Magadi support vehicles drive up and down picking up dead bodies. They might still be out there collecting but there is one thing I left out there on the road which they shouldn’t bring back to me if they come across it: Fear.

PS: What really was the true 25km distance? Every person who passed me communicated different distances. At one point, I knew I had 9kms to go, and someone about a km later tells me 13km to go. I wanted to die.

Running Tales

Stanchart Nairobi Marathon 2012 – My Take

Date: October 28, 2012

Post marathon, I am nursing a flu that was steadily creeping up pre-marathon, and which saw me run with a jacket throughout in order to forestall the effects- it didn’t work. I am therefore a sneezy, nose blowing, coughing mess, and not many people want to hang around me. Left alone with my thoughts, reflections and lemon mixed with ginger-garlic-honey-vodka-turmeric-cardamom, and whatever else anyone suggests, I have a chance to reflect on the Stanchart Nairobi Marathon.

Every once in a while, something happens that defines a turning point of sorts, that gives an indication of greater things. I believe that the Stanchart Nairobi Marathon 2012 marks such a point for the Urban Swaras, in more ways than one. First, I was amazed at how the club has grown, to a point that I no longer know everyone’s name, and few remember mine. Second, the number of Swaras that made their full marathon debut was astounding, and lastly, the coordination that saw to it that we had food, refreshments and cheer at Abdi’s (with a banner to boot!) was laudable.

In the year God knows what (Need to ask Jael and Co. for the exact dates and facts), Urban Swaras, as a club, did not even exist. What existed were just a few fitness-loving Kenyans whose idea of fun was to tire their calf muscles and injure hamstrings by running long distances. These individuals attracted other individuals with inclination to similar madness, and soon, a size-able group could be identified.  The group then decided to take a name, emails flew around, some names were floated, and the name Urban Swaras garnered the most votes. Then there was the logo, then the T-shirts, then the membership fee and subscription, the constitution, then the elections, then the more seriously organized runs with the fruit and water, then the celebratory goats and music and other kinds of water. Then the mailing list and the website and google group, and finally me standing at Abdi’s on Sunday and looking at faces and wondering: how come I don’t know everybody? And I know several Swaras were asked by other runners along the Marathon route: “Where can we find your club? How do we join?”

Our own members; Fran, Eleanor, Kimmie, Ferrah, Loise, Nancy, Leif, Ajaa, Amai, James, Patrick, Ndichu and Raoul put themselves out there for 42Km. And we cheered them like crazy, and jumped up and down even though our legs were not quite steady after trying to chase personal bests in the 21Km league. Some of us mastered the art of escaping several attempts by Tata to dispatch us to the round about to fetch yet another full marathoner who had been sighted heading for the finish. I was rather comfortable in the camp that waited for them to round the bend before cheering them hoarse and running the little bit I could with some.  Meanwhile, my heart was bursting with pride. We were united in common joy and everyone’s achievement felt in every bit as though it was mine. Most of these guys’ faces at the last kilometre had an array of emotions which I tried to decipher without success. I leave each of them to describe in their own words (over a drink) what they felt in their hearts, minds, bodies, and especially, their legs in the last kilometres.

Then there was the coordination.  For most of us, when we pay up amounts we are asked to, we have done our part. Rarely do the behind-the-scenes activities cross our minds. But take time today to think of madam coordinator, a person whose terms of reference get expanded arbitrarily without any commensurate increase to her time. She is also adept at sniffing around for all kinds of opportunities for Swaras, and then goes ahead to make sure they happen, even at minimal notice (recall Naivasha Relay 2012?).  When I saw MC and Mercy  at Total in South C with (what was that? Juice or Gatorade?) whatever they gave me, I saw dedication personified, and I drank whatever it was, just out of sheer gratitude.

Today, take time to appreciate how far we have come both as individuals, and as a club in piling up our miles and kilometres, and also appreciate how far we still have to go. Take time to also appreciate the team at the helm, which really does a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure that things happen. Then take time to appreciate yourself. Each day you run, you increase your mileage, and you become better. So to all of you: I am proud to be part of this team. Let’ continue to up our game! ….And let’s have yet another introductory session.

Running Tales

Swaras are Gifted Beyond Running!

Urban Swaras LogoDate: May 19, 2012

Those of the Christian persuasion, and who regularly read the good book, will recall a verse in the book of Proverbs which says that the end of anything is better than its beginning. I have always found that statement questionable. But as regards Saturday run from Mutua’s place, I must say there is some truth.

The start of the run was largely uneventful, except that I saw some faces I have not seen in a long while( Mercy, Ndichu, Liz et al), and I remember that I was standing arm in arm with Mercy when Jael arrived and swept her sister in a bear hug, and in comparison, threw me a weak “Hi”. (Yawa, Jael! Show some love..). I digress.

As I was saying, the start was just the usual starts where a shout is given, or a whistle is blown, and the moment gets underway. Smiles start getting weaker by the time we round Brookside Drive, and once we hit the main road (I am poor with names of roads), it occurs to everyone that there is no turning back. Individually you brace for your 10, 16, 25, or whatever kilometres, all the while hoping that it is not Wahome who marked the route, because as he is gifted with marking with eyes, and since he is long sighted, your 10Km can be anything between a 14Km and 18Km run. But I digress again…

Back to the topic. The lizard that jumped from the high Iroko tree said it would praise itself if no one else did. So here I go: by all accounts, I ran beautifully on Saturday, thanks to my manager and coach Mutua. (But please note that Mutua’s calendar is full for the rest of the year, so he is not taking in any more amateurs).

Upon return, I cooled down for a while and basked in my glory (it is recommended that you do this every other time and boost your running ego) before heading to the bathroom, an act I looked forward to, since as you may all be aware, Nairobi has been experiencing intermittent water problems. So, when you go to a friend’s place and they have water, you give your shower a lot of dedication.

Well cleansed, I trooped out to find that I had missed dipping my legs into the ice bucket. From the testimonies I was hearing, the ice bucket seems to have gained popularity. However most importantly, I was to learn that I had also missed the spring rolls, the pork chops, the wings, and God knows what else. I spotted some kienyeji chicken and fell upon it with a vengeance. Several of our western comrades were spotted with mugs of hot tea and plates of ingokho side by side. I overheard them say that they had seen heaven, and the hand of God.

My eyes fell on the drinks table, and as I was taking in the intimidating scene before me, rumour went round that a goat had been seen walking in some direction, looking somewhat resigned to its fate. Avani disputed and said it was a big dog. But surely, recently a man  somewhere was jailed for slaughtering and selling dog meat!! Then, as if to bring all wandering thoughts to uniformity, Mutua stood up, and in a voice that confirmed to me that indeed he was promoted, proceeded to basically read the riot act to those who thought that they wanted to leave when the party was just starting. Threats followed from the host, and compliance and submission were received in return from citizens like me who were only too willing to ensure that the goat had not gone to meet its maker in vain.

And then there was that Chivas bottle. The very epitome of intimidation. Indeed one brave Swara took on the Chivas but soon learnt that just because you can do the by-pass, the crescent, and Magadi does not mean you can also do the Chivas.  Enough said.

The ever full of ideas, her highness Ms. Haks decided at some stage that we should introduce ourselves. A good idea that was taken up, though I don’t know who remembers whose name gauging from the drinks on people’s hands. My memory at that time tells me that Tata told us the origin of her name; Amai seized Chairmanship by association, an act Nyawira did not seem to mind; Allan the smooth operator gave his testimony of deliverance from the Hashers.

Haks had so many names I remember none, and Patyan was interrogated as to the dowry in Samburu, when all he wanted to do was to disappear back into the sofa from whence he had been pulled out. We also got to meet Nadine’s coach, who introduced himself as Allan. We don’t know if there is any other relation. Avani introduced herself and when she was pressured on the half intro, she stated that she was not the mouthpiece of one Neeraj. Many people said many things but as you cannot recall everything, please don’t expect me to do so either.

The real party started at around six when the music started flowing in earnest, womaned by a very capable DJ. Vivian rose to the occasion, and her mantra was “You people can defeat me at the crescent when gravity slows my progress, but hapa, on this dance floor, is where you will know that gravity works well for me. You cannot defeat me here!!”. And she did justice to the music.

Swaras, we have talent in the club; Ndichu left me mesmerized. He takes the dancing trophy to Mt.Kenya. Jael brought to fore memories of the serious choreography that was Koffi Olomide; the smooth operator kept demanding for Franco, and when Osogo Owinyo’s voice broke the airwaves, I saw Wahome smile and dance in his heart. Madam Coordinator who is so organized that she was having her hair braided, also threw in requests, and was later to be seen trying to overcome dance floor shyness. The host was in his element, and in the final moments, Amai could not resist, especially as Nyawira was doing such a good job.

The bash must have ended in the neighbourhood of 9.30pm. Indeed, the end is usually better than the beginning.

Congrats once again to Mutua on his achievements, and thanks for his graciousness in choosing us as the friends he wanted to share such happy moments with. Ubarikiwe sana! (Na ufiche hiyo Chivas mbali sana!)


1.Just to mention: When it is said that we should turn at the Vet Lab gate, it means just that. It does not mean you turn when you see the gate at a distance.

2. MK and all Swaras not present- We missed you!

Running Tales

Running with the Stars

Yesterday, 1st of May, I finally managed to shake off the cobwebs on my feet and made my way to the arboretum to join the fraternity. Please be reminded that my last run was Moshi, which if you recall, was a traumatic hilly experience that saw me cross the border back to Kenya quiet, subdued and limping, as opposed to the loud papparazi that I was on the way there. That is now water under the bridge as I have since seen the hand of God in the hands of Kariakim, and my injuries have been harassed back to form. Almost.

So yesterday I battled with the sweet morning sleep, and managed to arrive at arboretum just in time not to be left behind. Considering the large number of swaras, yesterdays representation was minimal, maybe owing to the fact that most of you must have been polishing up on petitions to hand over at Uhuru park as regards Uchumi na hali ya maisha siku hizi.

I fell in step with the crowd, and instead of the warm greetings I expected, given that I had been missing in action, all I got from several people was “How many kilometres are you doing?” Just like that, without warning, I was back. Guys!!Show some love.(Thanks MK!)

Avani did not miss a beat and declared the 15k to be suitable for me, encouraging me that we would run slowly. .just for the distance. Those words sounded very Moshi-like, so I gave her a suspicious look and strolled away. I soon found myself smiling with Mutua. Henceforth the saying “From the frying pan into the fire” came true;

Mutua convinced me to join him for the 10k. Reason: Having done very minimal running since Moshi, we were both out of shape. Of course it made sense to rebuild things pole pole. With no time to decide otherwise, we were soon trotting out. My little plan was to stick with Mutua until the bridge (Remember, a man always comes in handy near any bridge) and then let him go ahead. To my consternation, after the bridge, I realized that Mutua’s plan was that we were running together all the way.

As I was digesting this news, someone fell in step, and I turned to see Tata, who promptly declared that she would stick with us. Sweat trickled down my forehead-and it was not as a result of running. Tata and Mutua went ahead to tell me that I should pace and control their speed. That sounded comforting. However, what I did not realize is that these people would end up literally chasing me.

The thing is, they did not want to overtake me, so they pushed me-Not with their hands of course, but with their legs. And all the while, they were chatting!!I was panting and plugged my ear phones on to turn to the comfort of music. But it was not to be. It was like boot camp. Mutua would shout a direction, a change of pace, and Tata would comment, and they would say-“You are listening to Music! You can’t even hear!” I rebelled and still kept one ear to the music, if only to draw strength from Labbi Sifre crooning “Something inside so strong, I know that I can make it..”

These people never left me. They had interesting stories which made me run without realizing I was running; they humoured me into thinking that I was so good, they harassed me, they encouraged me; Mutua even took away my water and carried it for me, though I was reluctant to hand it over thinking he wanted to drink it.

Just as we came to the roundabout at Kasuku center, Mutua issued me a stern police-like command- “We need a fast finish! Roll down. RUN!!”

All the prayers I have accumulated over the years have not been in vain. Heavens released some providence and my legs found strength from wherever God had kept it. I literally flew, and even by-passed the entrance to arboretum. I heard a whistle, looked back, and it was Mutua redirecting me, saying- “Ah!You are listening to the Music!!”

Running with some of the Swara stars was exhilarating and a good way to come back to running after a long hiatus. I am tempted to put it on my CV!

In running spirit,


Running Tales

Kilimanjaro Marathon 2012

This is Monday, and as promised, follow the link at the bottom to view photos; right from departure on flight TPG something, something, something, piloted by the very interesting pilot Cockar, with whom Ndinda made a good acquaintance (I have no idea how the other flight was piloted); to the various stops on the way to Moshi where at one stop a good number of you disappeared into the bushes in a bid to reduce body weight ahead of the run, and at another some of you went behind the curios and ate and I had no idea people were eating!!! (though I identified myself with the Cameroonian contingent and had very sweet mandazis to show for it)

The photos will also have you reminisce on how you (am not naming names) hid from the nutritionist and ate ice-cream, only to regret it at the 8th Kilometer the next day. It is a pity I was not able to take photos at that spot because most of your ice-cream smiles were wiped out, and instead I saw painful, courageous smiles. (Listen to the nutritionist next time!)

Then there was this place where we stopped over for lunch and soon realized that you had to go to the kitchen and fetch your food. This is where I made a clear distinction between the well-mannered Swaras who waited patiently to be served, and the rest of you who took over the kitchen. Again, no naming names, though I took mug shots of all of you, and we can tell from your photo whether you were patient or giving the waiter those eyes….

It is evidenced here that we all picked our race numbers, though some were heard to demand for the goodies of the 42km that were reserved for Wahome, Raoul, Tata, and Katwa. The moral of the story: If you want a cap, run the full marathon next year.

At dinner that day, most of you were quite humbled, and only Raoul and Tata showed any real signs of life by going for an evening jog. Most went to greet Nakumatt and use their smart card points. The next morning all I saw were sleepy people, bracing for the run, rain and all. At this point the camera went to rest, though in retrospect, I should have just carried it and continued taking photos during the race because what I did at Moshi cannot be considered as running.

However, all is well that ends well because no matter where Swaras go, they find their own dessert. First you raided the tree with those fruits will small red sweetness(I forget the name), and the very next day on the way back you raided that Mango tree, yet you had been introduced as dignitaries when the driver radioed ahead for your lunch!! Is there a fruit deficiency in the club?

Congrats to Tata, Wahome, Raoul and Katwa for the 42k well finished. Congrats too to all of you who did your personal bests, Courage to all who really tried, and comfort to those of us whose legs disowned us at a very critical moment. There is still the rest of the year left to leaner, faster, better.

Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy:


Running Tales

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Last Saturday run from Ivangara ended with me screaming in the shower. And it is not what you think. Rather, it was the pain of water touching my raw wounds; while still on the first kilometer, right after crossing the road at James Gichuru, and waving thankfully to the driver who stopped to let us cross, I kissed the ground. Practically. I must have tripped on the protruding root of a tree, or something- I may never know. It seemed that everything went in slow motion and the next thing I knew was Avani et al helping me get up from the ground, serious concern written all over their faces.

There and then, I was faced with a momentous decision; to proceed, or to turn back: I hardly had time to think, for when I looked at my hands and saw blood, my mind told me to run. And so I did.

I must mention that every 15 minutes or so Avani kept asking me if I wanted to go back, or to shorten our distance. At one time it crossed my mind that Avani is the one who wanted to shorten the distance:-)

So, we ran, through a superbly marked route, sometimes downhill, but mostly uphill, as though we were training for a Mt.Kilimanjaro summit, instead of the Moshi marathon. As I zoomed through some section with long grass, feeling quite energized and whistling a tune in my mind, I was sobered up as soon as I came across a river to cross. Well, I may have
crossed many rivers in my rural Africa life, but never have I been faced with walking over a sewage pipe, with murky waters lurking sinisterly below, and absolutely no indication of how deep I might be sucked in.

In a matter of seconds, we found ourselves, a bunch of fine ladies, in great distress, by the rivers of ….(What is the name of that river?). We could have sat down and wailed, when we remembered several other routes antelope could have marked, were it not for the timely help of two valiant gentlemen.

Swaras, if anyone ever tells you that chivalry  is dead, please quote to them this story of the rescue that was done by Steve and Linus. I might mention here that we saw MK running high along the wall while looking down to the ladies steeped in the valley…..(That’s another story)

Anyway, Linus and Steve, who had already crossed and run ahead turned back when they heard our cries of anguish and patiently made sure that all the ladies were safely across. And it was no easy feat since they sometimes literally had to carry some people from halfway the pipe (I am not naming names). Thank you Linus and Steve, but chairman, could we avoid the pipe next time?

Then there was that section of the by-pass with a hill that looked like Calvary because seriously, it was like crucifixion getting to the top. I had such a muscle pull at the top, and crossing over soon into the familiar territory that is Waiyaki way looked like we had just entered the promised land.

Thanks to chairman and the team for a grueling but fun run, though I am already starting to re-think the wisdom of trying 42km this year. I was so humbled on Saturday! More so when I witnessed the pain with which veterans like Ameet, MK, Ndichu et al arrived.

Thanks too to my partner (running partner) Avani for giving me the psyche.Finally my wounds have softened enough to allow me to document my experiences. A few people I have met the past few days think that my injuries are from battering and have politely and skilfully given me the address to FIDA. Maybe I should take chairman there.

Have a great week.