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.
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.
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.
Zinekele: 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.
This run took place on 30th April 2017, three weeks back, but it is one timeless run so I’ll still give a bit of my experience.
Voi is the farthest swara run out of Nairobi, it is also one of the two 3 day odysseys; Day one you arrive, day two you run the main course, day three you leave. The other one such run is Fluorspar. Heading to Voi is a breeze, you can drive, carpool or take a bus. You’ll travel through the wildlife corridors where you’ll generally be able to spot an Elephant and other wildlife.
About two years ago, I was in my infancy of running. To me, running in circles at the Jaffery Sports Club was the height of achievement then. Doing about 12 laps which translated to about 10km, used to be the longest distance I could run.