Running Tales


I have never done the Magadi run before, so I was not exactly sure what to expect. But, from what I had been told, the concept is fairly simple. They drive you halfway to Tanzania, drop you off in the jungle somewhere, point you vaguely north and say a quick goodbye. You are on your own.

I think someone had also mentioned that the run was likely to have a hill or two thrown in for flavour. So, if you are the superstitious type, like me, you take a good luck leak in the bush, say a quick prayer; set your Garmin and go.

Of course it is much more complex than this. For instance, figuring out how to get all the runners to the starting point proved to be a problem of Gordian complexity. How do you drive a car and run at the same time? Believe it or not, Aja and Annabelle have it all worked out. Don’t ask me to tell you how. I got dizzy simply listening to Annabelle explain the process.

Back to that hill, or two. And, what a hill! In fact it was just one, never ending incline.  Imagine if God, in one of his prank making moods, had taken a stretch of tarmac road and decided to lean it against the sky. It would be called Magadi road.

The Magadi run elevation. More than a kilometer gain over a 30K distace
The Magadi run elevation. More than a kilometer gain over a 35K distance

Here is what some Swaras had to say about the run elevation:

“The gain in elevation is 970m from the drop off point of the 35K till 31K…Conclusion, Magadi remains one of the toughest Swaras’s run (Roul)

Leif begs to differ though:

“Mine [gadget reading] was 1047 m in elevation gain in 29K. I still think that Masai Eco Lodge was tougher though, as well as the Flour Spar run.”

At one point I caught up with Lillian. It was at one of those crazy inclines around 25K. She still had the energy to smile when I complained how tough the run was – I was fishing for some sympathy. Didn’t get none.

“Next comes the mother of all hills,” she told me sweetly.

I remember that mother of a hill; just past Kisamis, up the southern slope of the Ngong hills; the road gets steeper with every step and walking, leave alone running, is an ordeal that would put the Boer great trek or the Chinese  long march into the shade. Somewhere near here I met Leif who had just decided to pack it in, in disgust no doubt at stupid hills that never know when to end. As for me, I decided to slog on, to my cost as it turned out; I was to develop sever muscle pull, just at the point when every support car was conveniently out of sight.

35K runners at the start. Luckily the weather was very kind this time
35K runners at the start. Luckily the weather was very kind this time

Now the support was something to behold! I think Magadi is the best supported Swaras run, bar none. In fact no other than Aja himself was on water duty this day. Knowing our run crazy Chairman, I am sure you realise just what a sacrifice this was for him. But lets listen to Franklin:

“The weather, the scenic beauty and the run itself had it’s effect while I ran yesterday…Thanks to the ones who were driving up and down to help and support the runners with the Bananas, water and Soda, made such a difference, am sure it was not easy doing that either.”

I completely echo these sentiments. I noticed many non-Swaras – spouses, friends, siblings, sons, daughters, even neighbours and colleagues – who had been pressed into service this morning. In fact they are the ones who enabled this run to take place. They drove the runners to different starting points, evacuated those who could not finish and tirelessly drove up and down to keep us all watered, encouraged and fed. Thank you very much.

Nyingi has an interesting theory about these supportive non Swaras.

“Half of them probably think most of the Swaras are mad.”

To which I answer; why only half? Why even think?

I am sure they all know we are crazy. But they love us enough to wake up at an ungodly hour and drive off into the unknown, to help us do, God knows what. What more could we ask for?

And so ended another memorable Urban Swaras outing. I had planned to do 30K but ended up doing 35K. I left feeling very pleased with myself, until I read this:

“I did a whole 40km in 8 hours whatever the elevation. Was tough but most fulfilling.” (Katwa Kigen).

Now if that does not redefine the word determination, I don’t know what does.

Thank you Chairman. As always it was great.