My club 42 debut was never supposed to be on the slopes of Kili but as fate would have it, the gods of the trails had conspired this to be it. Calf injury last October delayed the inevitable. Fast forward March 1 2015 at around 10.26 (EAT) I pick a hamper, peep inside; a medal, white Tshirt and a bottle. Is that all?? I ask myself as I look around to see whether anyone else shares my sentiments. I stagger outside the stadium where I had left a few familiar faces and sit down supporting myself to the wall of the stadium. Sorry I am a terrible liar, after I realized there is only one bottle of water I walked back picked a few more bottles of water, sorry as many as my feeble hands could carry and stuffed them in my “hand bag” only for a guy to pass by me sipping a beer (I haven’t indulged since boxing day in readiness for this) and I ask the attendant, what happened to my beer since I saw none. He points me to the tents where they are but not before letting me know that I will have to part with TZ shs.2,500.00 to enjoy the company of one. I mutter a curse word to myself and leave.
The following events led to the above.
The day before we had set out to Moshi, typical me I hiked the last bus, I am a firm believer that good things come last. Sure enough the bus is almost empty and there is enough space for everyone to catch a nap. But Ashok with his tales won’t let us. A few Kms to Namanga the earlier bus has broken down, I told you about last things. We all board “our” bus and head to Namanga but not before stopping for lunch at some joint where the price of madondo (beans for those who have never stepped into a French class) and chicken is the same. Across the border the ride hikers get another bus and off we are. The rest of the journey is uneventful and we land in Moshi at around 5. Room/Hotel allocation plus other post arrival rituals and its already past 6 when we get to our hotel. As the cliché goes bongo people are cool guys but after my experience over the past weekend I tend to disagree. More of that later. First question at the hotel is, do you have anywhere we can watch football?. Look I am this kind of guys who’d miss dinner just to watch football. I love Manchester United. Sorry I digress, we are shown a place outside where there is a gadget that resembles a TV. We switch it on; surprise, surprise, there is a football match going on but the commentary is in French, not the one I referred to above. Ok, commentary in French in a country that guys can’t speak English to save their lives. To cut the long story short, we mute the TV and do our own commentary after all those guys are paid to give opinions on what you are watching, what a plum hustle. Game over, United win 2 nil. Its Dinner time and another shocker, rice and spaghetti; where I come from those are starters. We shall overcome, I mutter to myself. Off to bed at around 10.00 pm after all the big day is just hours ahead.
I am sharing a room with elite who is kind enough to share his experiences and the nerves are building. I have a thing in sharing a room with elites, I did the same with one James Waliaula, remember him?, the flying Swara, during the Naivasha Relay( congratulations mate, you are all I wanna be, well when I start running). By 2 am I’m already up and so is my roommate, we are to be picked at 5.30 am and breakfast is at 4 am. I help myself to the two bananas given to me by Millicent after I complained about the rice and spaghetti, God loves you Millicent. When I get to the restaurant at around 4 am, kanini has been there, she also couldn’t sleep. Fast forward we leave for Lutheran and Pick other Swaras and off we are to the start point. The party is just about to begin, music is booming and we gyrate to it as if we are in a carnival in Copacabana beach. The man on the PA knows Urban Swaras, this is a big brand I kid you not. The team for half marathon is here now and they wish us all the best and at 6.30 am, out we go.
It’s still a bit dark but as we leave the stadium, the last Swara I see is Hector. He would later on go past me and there is nothing I could do about it. Last Swara cheers are from Ameet as we go past the 21km homestretch and out we are. Locals have queued along the way cheering us on. First five kilometers am easy, and first jibe from bongo guys land on me not so long after “Bonge jikaze mwanangu” loosely translated it means big guy strive on, which I gathered was not working since marathons are not for the well built. I’m now starting to pick the pace and on exactly 10km I meet with elites on their way back. Am running alongside a Tanzanian and he curses “Angalia wakenya washenzi hawa”. I even do not know how to translate that. Does this guy know that am a Kenyan? Ok he was complaining how fast Kenyans are. I accelerate and leave him behind just to spite him. Turn and start going back and meet Swaras along the way and we exchange pleasantries, “strong” as we eat up the kms. 15 km mark and still feeling fresh and another one from the cheering guys drops a bombshell. Look, there is this guy running along their wife/girlfriend and a guy shouts “wewe jameni kimbia bibi tuachie” (my guy run along, leave the lady for us). I told you these guys are not as cool as advertised. 18 kms and a guy catches up with me and kind of enquires, “are you an Urban Swara?”. I say yes, not paying so much attention. He asks, was Ciku doing the full or half. I almost stop, ok that’s a lie, I pretend not to be hearing. Dude we are 19 kms en-route and some 23km to go and all you care about is what distance Ciku was doing. Seeing am not paying much attention he says, she must have been doing the half since he hasn’t seen her. I kind of nod and I can see from the corner of my eyes his face light up. Whatever plans he had for Ciku is anybody’s guess. Ciku if you read this please introduce this guy to Urban Swaras, we can channel his energy into the right direction and make him a greater runner. After all he has a lot of it if he can think of you during such circumstances unless he is the suicidal type. Sorry I do not know what happens but Mr eehm and I lose each other, were are now on the homestretch for the 21 km and the elites for half are trickling in. From far I can hear the church bell my guess its around 8.00 am, that’s 21 km in around 1hr 30 min. Repeat the same on leg two and may be swaras have a new entrant in their folklore, little did I know what was lying ahead. Fast past the stadium and now Mt Kilimanjaro is on my forehead. Whoever designed the route to be like this must be sued. 23 km and I am starting to feel exhausted and I need some water, I normally don’t take water but I knew today it would be inevitable.
At 24 km, the water point is right there and I stop, the PA is playing Sauti Sol’s “sura yako” but I guess whatever they had in mind while composing the song is nothing like a sweat soaked amateur marathoner trying to commit suicide on the road. Onwards, refueled it starts all over again and now its run 1.5km walk 500m run again 1km and walk 500m and another water point. Next water point and the song on PA is “roho yangu” by Rich Mavoko and I almost stop to dance along but there are still 15km to run, so move on. The above of run & walk again until 29 km water point where Aqua’s “Am a Barbie girl” is blasting. That takes me far, far back, omega 1 during agricultural shows, story for a another day. The course changes to a rough road and motorbike oozes past me playing Solomon Mkubwa’s “mfalme wa amani”. Now those are the kind of songs you wanna listen to at this point. The course now is full of cooling sponges and at 31 km we are back on tarmac and now its free fall to the finish line. Anyone who has not run this course might think, 11km downhill, easy peasy, but everyone who did a full will confess that all you wanted was to get to the finish line. Nothing interesting happened after that although there is a lady who boarded a motorbike like three times and once she passes me she could alight, then when I pass her she would take a motorbike again. I was tempted to ask her how old she is but I remembered it was Sabbath and asked Lucifer to get behind me. At 39 km I start feeling my calf and Hector eases past me and as I stroll to the finish line, Swaras are along the way encouraging me. Eventually crossing the line at around (now confirmed) 3.55 hrs and a sigh of relief. I have finally joined the class of running “Immortals”.
I take a motorbike back to the hotel, not that I could have walked anyway, a shower and move to Lutheran Hotel (HQ) follows. What happens after that is, we share a sumptuous delicacy that goes by the name “Kiti moto” (roast pork) as the plethora of Swara talent share their wisdom on conquering trails. Honestly that was the most insightful session I have ever had on running.
After that a breakaway team decamps to Malindi Club in Moshi town to nurse our throats and nurse we did. From around 3 pm we watch 3 football matches back to back and later on we are joined by a bigger group led by MC herself and the party starts. After 10pm, we decamp again and bar-hop to another pub whose name I can’t recall (blame the ndovu I had consumed), and we dance until we can’t do it anymore. We get to the hotel around 1 am and catch a nap and jump on a bus at 6.30 am on a journey home.
This is a team of champions; we went to Kilimanjaro, saw and conquered.
I sign off with a bow and a hats off to the organizers and the entire CRE for the dedication and sacrifices you make not only for organizing participation in this run but all the runs we have every Saturday that prepares us for challenges like Kili. We really appreciate and keep up the good work
……this was the debut for me in club 42 and more to come……..roll on………coming soon