Running Tales

My Account of Francesca’s Run

Urban Swaras LogoDate: April 27, 2013

It is often quite hard to get a decent long run in Juba, owing to the poor running terrain, although the 40 degrees heat sometimes helps to compensate for lost distance.

So every time I am in Nairobi I try to join the Swara’s long runs on Saturday mornings.  This is what I did today, although not without some challenging adventures.

First I had to find out exactly where the run was to take place, not easy for an intermittent mailing list reader like me.

The last email from the Chairman had been a model of such brevity as would make twitter green with envy.

“Whoever may get lost en route to tomorrow’s run may call either Francesca on 0722—– or MK on 0722—— for help.”

From this I have to guess whether the run will be at Francesca’s or MK’s place; or both, or neither, or somewhere in between. But then the run instructions had mentioned some road names that sounded suspiciously Kileleshwan.

So I toss a mental coin and it comes up Francesca. Sorry MK. A bit of dredging in my ancient memories brings up some vaguely recalled directions.

Two palm trees embracing a black gate. How hard could it be? Hard enough, as it turns out.

Next I had to call my taxi guy, the ever smiling Sam. He is the best taxi driver in the city of Nairobi.

Please pick me up at 6.30am, and please, please be on time, I beg.

Sure boss.

6.30am on the dot, Sam is waiting.

Where to boss?

To, er, ahem, to Francesc… no, Kileleshwa – imperious finger pointing vaguely north to cover my confusion.

And look sharp Sam. Drive me at 60!

Right boss.

OK, I am just kidding. Sam is not housebroken.

But he deliverers me to the vicinity of Mandera drive in 8 minutes plus change (I told you he was the best).

And then it starts. I can find no pair of palm trees framing a black gate anywhere, no matter how hard I look.

We must have approached from the wrong direction, I insist. Let us go to the police station and try from there.

Sam dutifully drives to the police station and makes an illegal U-turn.

Lakini wapi! No Francesca’s.

After another ten minutes of driving around in circles – and squares – I finally admit that I have no idea where we are going. And I never copied the two numbers that the Chairman insisted we keep handy, just in case.

Desperate messes call for desperate measures.

Time to call my guiding angel.

Hello, a sleepy voice answers my phone on the second ring.

Hi Lucy. This is Ndungu (again). I am lost, yet again. Can you please tell me how to get to Francesca’s?

Lucy, bless her sleepy soul, is calm efficiency personified. You could hardly tell I have just interrupted her beauty sleep.

Start from the police station, drive 600 meters, look on your left…two palm trees…black gate…if you hit Kenya High junction you have gone too far.

Thank you very much Lucy. I breathe a sigh of relief, and embarrassment.

Damn! we just drove past there.

And I think to myself, she must surely be getting tired of me constantly bothering her. I know I would.

And so, with 5 minutes to spare, we find ourselves at the venue. Many runners are already here.

As usual there is a full range of distances on the menu. Recalling my last, less than heroic Swara outing, when I hit the wall, I skip the 35k and chose instead to run the 30K.

After all, if Otora is true to form, I am sure this will be more like 40K anyway. It turns out to be 32, as accurate as you are likely get from our hard working route master.

Soon we are off. I don’t want to get lost so I shadow Aja and Amai closely. At one point we catch up with MK and I am left wondering how he got ahead of us so quickly.

He must be growing younger, I conclude. Unless…nah, he couldn’t, or could he? Take a short cut? Not MK. Becoming more Kijana, he must be.

When we hit the Valley road hill start, the Chairman lives up to his other moniker “King of the hills” he sets up such a punishing pace that poor Amai and I are soon cast adrift.

But it turns out to be a wonderful run. I arrive back in 3 hours 7 minutes, still with energy to burn. I should have done the 35K – or maybe not as it turned out to be closer to 38.

Another thing; there was plenty of food and drink.

Thank you Francesca for being such a wonderful host.

See you all again next Saturday. Inshalla!