The Journey to Berlin started in 2016 as a journey to London. I balloted for the 2017 London Marathon, held my breath, was rejected, exhaled, and balloted for Berlin in the next breath. On 30th Nov 2016 I got the all-important email. I was in!
The Months Before
Berlin Marathon is a special race. Touted as the fastest World Record (WR) eligible course, it is the World Record (WR) and Personal Best (PB) destination of choice for elite runners and regular folks as well. I too was keen to make Berlin worth its while, sub 3 was my goal, a project my mind neatly christened ‘breaking the sound barrier’.
The first time I ran in my life, apart from physical education in secondary school, was in October 2016. It was actually a slow painful jog that lasted about 10 minutes, most of which were spent walking. My friends ran and planned their lives around running and so to spend time with them, I decided to run as well.
I jogged two to three times a week, never able to do more than fifteen or so minutes per run, and had no idea of distance. I do not know the number of kilometers I covered per run, but looking back, I estimate them to be between three and four.
Date: September 17th, 2017
Venue: Cape Town, South Africa
One thing I have discovered with running is that it is a happy addiction. The wave of endorphins you get is better than any high. The crazy injection of energy at the end of the run, is just out there. This cannot be described until you done it. At 30 KM you curse yourself for doing the run, you doubt your sanity, your body is in pain, you can do better things, wondering what you have been doing on a strange road for the last 3 hours plus (that’s for slomos like me) … at 42, you have this “feel good” feeling that you are good for another 10km.
Aarrgh Africans. That’s it! Our concept of time and distance is relative, nay notorious! Well, before I get ahead of myself, let’s start with our cultural practices. So I am Luo, and we children of the lake are known for one thing, well, at least according to the author, Evans Pritchard- Tough, resilient, deeply democratic, easily aroused to violence and immensely proud. Oh! We strut about as the Lords of the earth, which indeed we consider ourselves to be (If you have lived in Kenya you will get the gist and giggle). But what he failed to note is that we have deeply rooted cultural practices, which is humorously related to my tale- night running.
Saturday 26th August 2017 brought the Swaras into uncharted territory, that of the Mua Hills. Chairman had classified the difficulty level in his introduction as “fairly tough by Swara standards,” and had encouraged participants to go heavy on the breakfast intake. I was in two minds as to whether to follow his advice and fuel up for a lengthy run or go moderate and eat light therefore. My mind had settled on the latter, as the one and only time I ate “heavy,” I had to squat away from prying eyes, mid-run.
My gym instructor is the antichrist and his idea of talking to me is shrilling like a crazed harpy on steroids.
How did I get here, well, I fell and injured myself in May. A running injury is the bane of any runner, a sprained ankle, wounded ball of my left foot and sore knee had me grounded for two months. While I hobbled about with a walking stick and enjoyed the privileges of the disabled parking in Nairobi, I had two concerns, how soon do I heal and when do I begin wearing high heels again. Yeah, I do have my shallow moments.
The run took place on 29th July. Third time for me. First was back in 2015 as a newbie swara still cutting teeth in matters running. Fluorspar humbled me then. I went back in 2016, wiser this time and managed to conquer the tarmac to tarmac.
My plan for 2017 was to re-conquer tarmac to tarmac faster than in 2016; for comfort that I was improving as a runner and as a training run for a marathon I have in September. Then injury happened.
Its 4am on a random weekday, my alarm goes off and I drag myself out of bed wearily. The morning cold hits me in a rush as I push the warm blankets away. The temptations to go back are higher than getting out to fulfill my marathon training schedule. I am lucky this time, the latter overshadows the former. 30 mins later, I’m on the road to the gym with music playing in the car stereo to get me in the mood for my morning Run. The same routine is repeated every day, with speed runs and hill reps being my nightmarish days.
The 50 seater bus ferrying the Mount Kenya blazers and their Swara guests left the Nanyuki Simba Lodge at 8.00am towards the starting point of the 21 Km super half.
At 8.40am, the timers signaled the start from an altitude of 2079 M above sea level. The finishing point Old Moses is 3381 M above sea level creating an elevation gain of 1.302 M
From the starting point Mt. Kenya was clearly visible in all it’s grandeur, and one could guess where the elevation of 1,302 M would be. Below is the elevated route to Old Moses as captured by Swara alias Masika.
This man Otora is either a genius or a sadist, or both! (Mensa & BDSM Anonymous, anyone?) Loved and loathed by Swaras in about equal measure: usually loved before the start of a run and perhaps during the early stages when all is smooth, then loathed when the going gets tough usually way into the run when the end is nowhere in sight and support is faltering, and then loved some minutes after the run when each person’s equilibrium has been restored.