Running Tales




How to take a technical shower

Picture this. It is the Lukenya run. I have just done a punishing 30K, which turned out to be 33. I desperately need a shower but I have no towel, no soap and no change of clothes. What to do? Simple. I undress get into the shower stall and shower, soap is often an unnecessary convenience. I then walk out, in the buff, sit on a rock and wait for the sun to dry me, which it does. Finally, dressed again (change of clothes, another overrated mzungu affectation) I innocently stroll back to the kibanda for more tea and mandazi, no one the wiser.

Of course it helped that, when I was doing the drying up, the only other intelligent life forms about was a herd of wild Swaras grazing in the distance and they looked singularly unimpressed with my state of dress or lack thereof. Probably thought I was one of them. Not so at the Ololua campsite, where taking a shower turned out to be such a convoluted problem that even Nyingi would have been stumped.

But I get ahead of myself here. First I need to tell you how the Chairman lied to us.

A curious citizen of Ololua Nation
A curious citizen of Ololua Nation

Running hard and partying harder

The run on Saturday 25th April was held at the Ololua forest in Karen, the home of the Kenya Primates Research Center. The run was followed by the Swaras annual party which was held in the camping ground in the same place. The Swaras have run from here before but I was never one of them. So I was excited enough to make the 40K drive from Kiambu County, aka mashinani, and show up.

I was not disappointed. Ololua is such a serene, beautiful spot that it is hard to imagine you are still in the city of Nairobi. Many others apparently felt the same and a big crowd of Swaras have appeared for the run this morning. We start a little late because there is a challenge in sorting out car parking logistics. But no one is complaining.

Soon enough the Chairman blows his whistle.

Two kilo shoes and a whopper

“Good morning Swaras. We have a beautiful run for you.” Which turned out to be very true, thank you Chairman and Otora.

“The run distances are 10K, 15K, 25K and 30K. You are encouraged to do the long run. It is the most scenic and you will get to run through three different forests.”

Actually I counted four forests and several grasslands and my 30K attempt turned out to be 26K. But let us give him this one.

“There are no hills on this run…”

Now there, right there, is a whooping lie. There were hills and inclines of all shapes and sizes. In fact I clocked one at 1.2K long.

Then it had rained the night before and, just to make things a bit more miserable for us, Otora started us off doing long jumps across two swollen streams. Many of us could not make the jumps and we started the run in water logged shoes. In fact Ameet was so unable to jump that he was forced to do his own run.

So imagine that you are negotiating a muddy trail in water logged, two kilo shoes. The trail suddenly becomes an incline, one that you would normally not notice during a dry run. A trail run has now become a slalom skiing contest; an ordeal of such difficulty that it has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

How did that make you feel? Exactly!

The Chairman, through interpretive dance, dramatizes how he conquered the trail
The Chairman, through interpretive dance, dramatizes how he conquered the trail

The monkeys are on the take

Otherwise it turned out to be a very interesting run. Long stretches in the different forests, it would be great to run this trail again in hot weather. But, with the muddy conditions, we run with our eyes carefully trained to the ground. A soil scientist would have had a field day here. I counted so many types of terrain – from the tarmac of Karen, to rocky drifts, red soil, sticky black cotton soil… and back to tarmac – that I can’t enumerate them all. Who knew that the ground could make for such interesting scenery?

I arrive back at Ololua at around 9.30 to find a lot of Swaras have already finished. My legs are hurting like crazy, from all the lactic acid. I start walking around in an attempt to recover. That is when I see a sign that stops me in my tracks. It is a suggestion box pinned on a building that I am told contains mostly the caged monkeys that are used for research. On it is written the following legend “Report corruption cases here.” Really?

Now I know corruption is a serious problem in our country. But surely it could not have got this bad. I mean, how much corruption could you have in a primate research center? Is there a market for smuggled monkeys in Kenya? Or, I know, the caged monkeys have been bribing their minders to…They have to be stopped!

This fellow must be guilty
This fellow must be guilty

From South Africa with…wine

The real action today turns out to be not on the trail but at the after party. Unfortunately I missed much of it because I had an engagement elsewhere. The Swaras Club management has organized an impressive spread of goodies, complete with a colored Mackie tent, fruits, food and assorted drinks of the stagger-inducing variety. Alas I left too early to sample many of these, although I had a taste of ‘Two Oceans’ wine, thanks to the generosity of our all conquering girls, Avani and Mbarire, fresh from Two Oceans, South Africa.

Avani and Mbarire modeling the 'Two Oceans' wine from Capetown
Avani and Mbarire modeling the ‘Two Oceans’ wine from Capetown

As for those nightmares, you will be having…

Oh yes, that showering story. This is what happened, honest.

It turns out that there are only two shower stalls at the campsite and two plastic basins. The ladies have commandeered both, with a warning to all men to stay away or risk permanent blindness or, worse, a lifetime of nightmares. Not my words, I am quoting Molly here.

So what is a Swara who desires cleanliness to do? I commandeer the ladies toilet, whose door doesn’t lock, perch carefully on two stones and proceed to break my showering World record (3 minutes, 45 seconds, set in the NYS 30 years ago, if you must know).

“Funga mlango!” A scandalized Swara (Otora?) yells out, on spying my unclothed rear, which is barred to the wide World (luckily the interesting bits stay well hidden).

“I can’t!” I desperately try to yell back an explanation. “The door doesn’t lock. It is easier for you to just close your eyes.”

I don’t know whether the visually assaulted Swara follows my suggestion, but he is probably half blinded by the sight anyway. Whoever you are, I promise to pay for one session with Dr Frank Njenga, should you ever need therapy.

As for the new record: 3.40, a new showering PB. Yes!

All the same, a fantastic start to the weekend. Thank you Swaras Club Management.

The party gets going
The party gets going