Running Tales

Voi: A Journey Run

Africa Lodge - VoiSaturday 30th May 2015

For those interested in stats, the distance from Nairobi to Voi is 327 kms and it takes approx 5 hours. You drive through Mombasa road (highway). Most of us started early morning for our journey to Voi, reaching Africa Lodge midday onward.

We were welcomed with well laid out snacks; tea, coffee, sandwiches, mandazi’s, sausages etc, to name just a few of the items on the menu. By 1:00pm lunch was ready, laid out in hot cases, buffet style. Yummy. Even though the runners arrived at their own time, food and snacks were ready throughout the afternoon up to the evening. Most of us had a bite of the delicious food, enjoyed an afternoon siest, then got up at 5pm ready for a warm up run. The distances were 10k and 15km, with the trail well marked by our very own Otora, our Trail Fox. The day was cool and pleasant, perfect for an afternoon run; seems like the weather God had prepared the atmosphere for us. It was a flat run through the forest taking a circle back to the Lodge.

Robert, Niraj, Victor, and Amai were the first to start followed by Nancy, Avani Peter, Cris and myself. As we were coming close to the mark that showed the turn for 10k and long, I saw Victor from far and screamed go go go Victor. I did my 10k and met Victor later just to know he was planning to do a 10k and when I screamed he was so motivated he ran 15k. Victor is the new kid in the block, and has been bitten by the Swaras bug, has not run in the past and this was only his fourth Swara run, and was all ‘go for it’ attitude which was so terrific.

We all finished strong and enjoyed the warm up, not realizing the run was not the only warm up; Avani had planned something else. She had already told us to come with mats, and we would be doing stretches. Some of us took her seriously and came prepared with Yoga mats. She had taken the effort of carrying a DVD with Yoga stretching exercises. The open air restaurant was quickly  changed to a Yoga center for the ones interested to follow the instructions on the DVD. It was a great idea and the simple but effective Yoga DVD was worth it…thank you Avani. The fun element was also the kids joining in and trying to stretch the legs and enjoying the session more than the adults. After the Yoga session, most of us had a quick dinner and we were off to bed for the main run the next morning.

Urban Swaras in VoiSunday 31st May 2015

We all had to assemble for the run at 7:30am and drive a few kms to the start. Five of the runners volunteered to offer their cars to support the runners. So off we went, all stuffed in, driving to the start. This day was one of the best days for the run; weather was cloudy, approx. 15 degrees Celsius, slightly windy and rainy but not cold. The run started on a flat ground for 3kms and then a gradual climb which went on for 12kms and down again for another 10kms and flat for as long as another 30kms (maybe more). The men who conquered this were Benjamin and Otora. Otora being our Paparazzi running up and down taking pictures while we ran and then doing his run….too good.

The concept of the run was simple, run till you drop… So being proud of ourselves we all were ready for Ajaa to blow the whistle to drop dead and have the vehicles pick up the corpses.  As usual, everyone starts on a happy note, smiling, clean shoes, and clean cloths all ready like small boys and girls to mess up one selves running in the wild. Feeling delighted.

This time, for support we also had some really good little ones age groups 4 to 7 years to cheer us up. They sang for us  “don’t give up”, they too ran when we started the race. It was fun to see the toddlers run…puts a smile on your face. So everyone started on a slow pace except for Benjamin, Niraj, Ajaa, Amai , Munyao, Chris,  and a few more names apologies for not remembering their names….they took off from the beginning so fast a few seconds and they were gone. We had a few new members as well running with the swaras for the first time; MK’s family members.

Voi RunNow, just to go back a bit when Ajaa was giving the briefing on the trail path and the run, the expression was worth capturing, more like ‘Are you serious, is that what we plan to do coming all the way 300kms’ …To drop dead in the woods. What a Plan? But the best part, as I said everyone was smiling when the run started, some fast, some slow, but all ready, steady, go approach. The place was astounding, greenery, soft ground road (red sandy mud), forest area and peaceful.

Then we were slowly greeted by the hills, welcoming us with super weather. The rain more of a drizzle too welcomed us on the hills, just drizzling playing with the wind and the forest and the birds too sang along like cheer leaders cheering us as they had never seen such humans in that part of the world. The locals too looked at us with an interesting expression, especially when they saw me, as ‘What’s wrong with this guy why is he killing himself, he is in pain ..pole  (sorry) and I just said thank you and went on.

Ashok in Taita Hills trailThe plan was every 5 k, there will be a vehicle standing with water snacks and carry the corpses. The first 5Kms was tough and it was such a relief seeing the cars standing. I literally started jumping like a monkey with happiness on seeing the vehicles. I picked a water bottle and carried on.  The kids in the car laughed their guts out.

We all kept struggling going up the hill, the weather supported us though. I felt the wind on my butts pushing me up to go on. I kept cheering the others and that helped me cheering myself. Ohh I was enjoying myself. By the time I reached I think it was 8Km, I found quite a few Swaras crowded around one of the rescue cars. I immediately looked around to see who was hurt or needed to be rescued. It turned out the car was stuck in the mud and actually needed rescuing trying to go up hill in the muddy and slippery road, and Swaras were trying to find a way to get it back on track. Robert seemed to be the only qualified driver present to be on the driver’s seat. Mugambi happily handed over the car keys to Robert, after all, it was Mugambi’s car and he wanted to get the car back to where it belonged on the road.

It was very slippery; I’m not sure if you can imagine Robert sitting in the car and every time he tried to move it up or down, it only moved sideways due to the muddy ground. I am sure he felt it all the way in his stomach. But he had his moves working and his skilled artwork on the steering with the help of others giving confused direction (me included) the car was safe.

Abdi on Taita HillsSo off everyone went on with their runs; with me back approx. a km to tell the other drivers not to take the right turn and instead go straight. I too then resumed my run. As I passed Wahome’s brother a few meter’s ahead, a dog charged towards me barking, but fortunately he did not find me too attractive and stayed back. But for some reason the dog took a liking towards Wahome’s brother and there were three; all came towards him barking. I think one also snapped, almost getting his hand but was stopped by another dog. It was scary; Wahome handled the situation well by staying calm; he just stood there and then slowly kept walking. They let him go unharmed.

I was a little lucky ahead and found three lovely ladies wanting to be touch with nature due to the calling; I was on top of the world ( I am not going to mention names). Dear Girls next time when you are running with the Swaras never under estimate the runner behind you and find a more hidden place to be on your own for such matters.

I was give a chance to drive Mugambi’s car with clear instruction at 15K and then gave it to someone at 20k and ran to the 30 km mark which was slightly flatter. I reached the Lodge at 3pm and Lunch was ready. I felt high finishing strong and nothing like being served hot buffet lunch right after the run. I took a nap and at 6pm went for Avani’s yoga classes, which was a great stretching workout. Imagine we were on the road from morning to afternoon.

Right after that was time to party. MK and family had arranged a Karoga and cooked by MK’s wife, the chicken was delicious. The evening was just amazing, relaxed and easy, everyone just talking about the run. The die-hard party animals were up till 4am enjoying Voi.

Monday 1st June 2015

Next day morning, our Chairman was adamant to wake people up for the recovery run and was blowing his trumpet (whistle)  for at least 15 minutes and managed to collect 10 to 15 of the runners for the recovery run.

Wahome described the hills of Voi as the Switzerland of Kenya and it’s true once you go closer to the hills and enjoy the run on it. You don’t realize the scenic beauty when you are just driving on the highway, until you come closer and go up the hills. They also said this will be an annual event and each Hill the swaras conquers is better and more scenic. Super Plan.

What made a difference to this run? I rate this as one of the best runs I have run in the past two years with Swaras. It was not only the run, but the place we stayed, the service we got, the food, and of course the company of other Swaras who came for the run. Only the ones present will be able to comment on how well we were looked after by Wahome and his staff. We are grateful. Apart from being a Sport tourist event and a running extravaganza, the stay and comfort was just too good. Avani’s Yoga was an icing on the cake after the runs. The Karoga prepared by  MK’s family was a treat for the ones who enjoy Indian food.

The Chairman’s effort of taking time out along with Wahome and Otora to give us this running experience, which is like out of this world, is just outstanding. Thank you so much. Thanks for the ones who supported the run, the cost we paid and what we got was so much more, just cannot be expressed enough; value for money. The togetherness as one big Swaras family, like someone said, Home away from home i.e. the way we felt with the hospitality and the comradeship.

I look forward to many such outings and experiences. Thank you Swaras, we appreciate your effort of going out of your way to make this happen. Asante Sana. I truly felt ‘Running is Living’ in Voi.