The penultimate run of the Swara Calender 2014 took place inside the Karura Forest (a place of tranquility and greenery amidst the increasingly concrete looking Nairobi). Long may it remain that way. Fortunately it was a dry morning as Karura in the wet is a totally different kettle of fish. I got there at about 6.50 and was taken aback by the sheer number of cars already there. Nairobians don’t sleep much it appears.
Already there amongst others was M.K aka Surinder who is finishing a perhaps turbulent year in fine running form, Ajaa whose passion for running has also taken him down South including to the Vic. Falls Marathon whose T-Shirt he is adorning, a newbie Swara and daughter of the Chairman i.e. Kanana who if she likes running can go on to achieve great things. Some of those who got in after me were Nancy Kinyua who belongs in the top echelons of the Swaras as far as running prowess is concerned, Melissa who never gave away much during her time with us but is quite an incredible person (happy to share in private) and for whom sadly it was her last Swara Run before she goes back to the U.S. Hope fate sees it differently.
The briefing was fairly straightforward because Karura is pre-marked though there were some murmurings of people who fancied creating their own routes. I don’t know if anybody actually broke away from the general direction of the herd though (pun intended).
The run began with that famous but steep opening climb. I don’t know of any other run where the breathing changes after about 100 metres. I reckon I was at the front at that point but had soon been joined by Mitch who has great lungs by the way and if you want someone talking to you when you’re running he is your ideal man amongst his other likeable traits. Soon to join us in what was now becoming a Swara stampede almost were Benjamin Chikani and Co., and then they were gone immediately after. It was also nice to see Otora pass and not with chalk in his hand this time. I think he has largely done sterling work this year as other years in terms of his marking. He ended up doing his 16k route in an hour thereabouts, but something HE wasn’t happy with. Ashok was probably getting a sun tan decked out somewhere topless where he was in Mombasa otherwise he too would have been great company.
Personally it was my first time doing the 15k route and the first thing I encountered after going off the beaten path was an uphill climb which took me somewhat by surprise but I decided to be relaxed about whatever was coming as it was my first time doing it. Through the run Swaras could be seen coming from the opposite direction, or coming from the right, such is the uniqueness of Karura Forest.
I got to a section where I could hear water in the distance but naturally began wandering if there was going to be any wading to be done at the end of an unsuccessful attempt at balancing myself crossing, just like M.K has pipe phobia when it comes to doing a circus act over them over flowing water. The first structure I saw, unknown to me at that time as something that had been discarded, was a series of sticks going across but something I could tell was slanting. My shoulders dropped, but then I saw a much sturdier one and one we were expected to use to cross, so they picked up again and I crossed no problem.
I was eager to hit the 15k mark hoping that I was going to have something to shake my head at; i.e. if after that we were still within the forest and off the driving path. It did happen that the 15k mark had been reached according to the watch I was wearing and I was still running in unfamiliar surroundings within the forest. It was at that point where I went past Ajaa and Kanana and after Ajaa had given a word of encouragement I shared with him that I thought I was lost. But then the familiar Ajaa laugh was heard and he told me to keep going as we were about 1 ½ ks from where we had begun, and true to what he had said it ended up being pretty much that.
After that we mingled around and then made our way to the Java Coffee House where there was a substantial of Swaras who gathered there. It was a pleasant breakfast and lots of things were discussed from athletes doping to why should we be having runs from the Arboretum directly before the end of the year and immediately after. I think that still stands. Vell, people left at leisure to go about the rest of their weekend.
Have a great week all and Merry Christmas too.