What happened on August 29th 2015 in the simmering hot weather in the hills of Kajiado is something that has taken me one whole week to comprehend and attempt to explain. When the Kajiado run came up, there was little talk on how tough it was. Probably I might have listened to those who talked about how scenic it was than how tough it would be. What follows is my ordeal in Kajiado while attempting to run 30km which changed to 20km.
When I set out for Kajiado with my son, I was cool calm and collected with no expectation of a difficult run. My aim was to complete 30km in approximately 3 hours and dip myself in the pool. A few minutes upon arriving at the lodge, I notice Raoul with the family reversing out of the car park and he mentions how he has to miss the run because the son is not feeling well. (I hope he has fully recovered). The Chairman blows the whistle to signify the “run” is about to begin, but a few latecomers (no pun intended) delay the start of the run as the chairman needed to sort out their accommodation (a true leader he is). The delay helps, as we take this opportunity to do some last minute stretching and pick as much water as one could carry.
When the run finally begins, the first 2 kilometers is on tarmac before we are directed off tarmac to a dusty road with a slightly steep but long climb. I catch up with Amai who by this time I notice he is sweating profusely, thanks to the scorching sun, which was out with its brothers, sisters and cousins (simply put, it was hot). Never mind, I was also sweating like him and the three bottles of water that I had struggled to carry were now down to two as I cooled my head with the already warm water. Amai points to a hill on the left, which he mentions we are going to climb. What he does not explain to me is how we shall get to the top (my thinking was will go round it). We suddenly divert to the left at the bottom of the hill and the long vertical climb begins. This was the start of a climb that never seemed to end. I walked, stopped, tried to “run”, walked, stopped, and nothing I did seemed to signify I was getting closer to the top. “What was this”? I asked myself.
I finally got to the top. By this time I felt like I had done 15km. Getting to the top felt good as I met with two other swaras who had slowed down to a halt maybe to cool off or just to enjoy the scenery from the top. We did not enjoy for too long before we started to take the downhill which was equally challenging, due to the rocky terrain and the thorny bushes. This slowed us down to a walking pace as we dodged the thorny bushes and the loose rocks. The bushes were that of Acacia and other thorny types of which Ndungu would have explained better in their scientific names if he was around. I had to stop at one point to remove a thorn which had gone through my shoe. Luckily it had not caused any injury to my foot. So thorny and rough was the terrain, while back at the camp I noticed Ajaa return with a torn t-shirt and a few swaras had some scratches on their hands and legs.
So far, I notice the markings have been done with a close spread, which was helpful as the rocks/terrain camouflaged the chalk marks. However, this posed a new challenge for me as I am short sighted and it was difficult to differentiate the chalk marks from the white stones. As I continued with my run (half walking, half running), I got to a homestead where they had poured ash around. I literally stopped as the ash confused the direction I was to go. After a few minutes of trying to locate Otora’s marks, one swara who was behind notices my dilemma and quickly points to an arrow up ahead which leads me out of the maze. I decide its best I stayed with him at this rate. However, this did not last for long as I was too slow for him.
By this time, I have no recollection of how many Kilometers I had done and what time it was, if this is the idea of “running Zen” according to Ndungu, not a good idea in such a harsh environment. My energy levels had been depleted and I was down to the last bottle of water. The tough terrain made it difficult for use of a motor bike to pace up and down to distribute water. So the remaining water had to be taken sparingly. As I continue to attempt to push my beaten body, I arrive at a remote village where I am touched with the abject poverty all around the surrounding. I come across kids smiling and saying hi! (I guess the joy of seeing foreigners around brings joy to their hearts). I notice a group of kids seated just next to the trail and they offer me water. I am tempted to reject as I do not know the source, but I quickly learn they are in the same packaging as the water we picked at the lodge. I pick the water as I wave asante! and disappear to the nearby bushes which leads to another steep hill. “That was clever of Otora, to leave the water with the kids”, I tell myself. As I climb the already exhausting hill, my thoughts turn to the organizers of this run as I question, why would one want to punish someone like this. The hill was another killer, never ending and as steep as a “wall”. Who comes up with such a course?
Finally, I get to the top where two donkeys are grazing. I know of some swaras who use motor bikes to get back to the finish point when the run gets tough. With no motorbikes on sight, my thoughts were on the donkeys. I quickly dismiss the idea when the donkey gives me a mean and hungry look and I continue with my struggling “run”. After a few minutes (2-3 mins I guess), I am elated to see the 20km split and without much thought I knew I would be back to the lodge soon. I later learnt this was a detour for many swaras who were attempting a longer run.
I might have used another one hour to get back to the tarmac. I struggle to the tarmac walking and running with my last drop of water (warm) getting finished. As I get to the tarmac, I was sure one could see the sign post to the lodge from the dirt road where we branched off at the beginning. This time one cannot see it and I’m thinking am I in the right direction? Should I have taken a left and not a right? “The markings were clear, let me continue and ask the boys seated ahead” I muttered to myself. The boys confirmed it’s up ahead not too far.
I finally get to the finish point at the Lodge where I meet up with Ameet who notices my anger and frustrations. He politely asks “how was it?” I retort back “what was that!” It takes a while before a few more swaras arrive back. At 7:07pm, we witness a beautiful full moon just before James Walialula arrives looking like he was in a fight. He can’t talk for a while as he tries to catch his breath. He finally asks, “what time is it?”. Ameet responds and asks him how many Kms he had done, which he responds by saying he estimates 45Km but he was not sure as his Garmin went off. Other swaras arrive and the reaction is the same; “What was that!”`