Running Tales

What really happened in Magadi on Saturday 1st Oct? My side of the story

Date: October 1, 2011

I could not tell which part of my body was most inconvenienced. I could still breath, but those short and heavy gaps were not enough to provide for the most needed oxygen; my muscles were aching and trembling, a big cramp was just around the corner; my feet and toes were on fire making me wonder if I had the correct running shoes. Ahead of me was Kimi, attacking Kona Baridi hill.  At that moment I was thinking loudly “What the $%^&*@ a Cameroonian doing in this road trying to run like a Kenya..?”. The Hummer slowed down besides me; the driver (I did not get his name); who has been nice throughout, yelled “umechoka??” (Are you tired?)  Without giving it a second thought, I opened the door and jumped inside the Hummer; I felt a cramp in my muscle thigh..!

Rewind… How did I get there?

I was the last to arrive at Eureka that Saturday morning. I noticed, without giving it too much thought that the group was abnormally thin: Mzee Kijana was nowhere to be found. Our elites James, Mutua, Nadine, our Francesca were missing in action. Nduku and Mrs Coordinator were off.  This should have rang a bell, but I was fully loaded to take on Magadi.

At around 7:45, the Chairman blew his whistle.  The small group of still indomitable Swaras congregated around him. Ajaa popped the usual question: “Who is doing what?”.

30K? Just two hands, Pinky (sorry still don’t have the name) and her friend.

25K? I enthusiastically raised my hand, looked around and notice that I was running in the league of Ameet and Amai. Niawera, in a last minute burst of wisdom, downgraded to 20K, contrary to the public claim she made on an earlier email. She blamed it on Amai. I will not interfere with this domestic affair.

The group allocation completed, the chairman, in his well established gentleman attitude, sent all the ladies to ride in the Hummer. I and the other guys (including few tough ladies) climbed on the back of the pick-up truck driven by Ajaa.

The ride to the dropping points provided an opportunity to enjoy the scenery, the cold wind and most of all, to experience the matatu driver skills of Ajaa.  After a distance that seemed unusually long for 30K, we dropped the first group. Pinky, with her camel bag full of water I presume (a lesson from her previous run with the Swaras “Don’t trust anyone to carry your water for you”) and her friend took off. I could not restrain my admiration for these two very tough ladies…!

Back in the truck and hummer again for the 25K dropping point. Ameet, in what I now see as a blink of wisdom, suggested that maybe he should do the 20K instead… I shouted: “Come on man…!”

25K dropping point: I, Amai and Ameet jumped off the back of the pickup truck. I looked around and notice immediately that this was not a good place to start a run, right at the foot of what looks like a very punishing  hill..! Too late for a second thought now.  Ajaa tries to give us some suicidal advices like “Maybe you should end at Eureka, adding around 6K to your 25K”; then blew his whistle. The small group took off, the others cheered. The two cars then zoomed for the next dropping point.

I usually have my most intellectually productive moments when I run; this time however, I could not stopped thinking about the hills waiting ahead. Ameet, maintaining a good pace, was already zooming ahead. Soon, his black long sleeves running shirt will just be a dot, disappearing on the hilly horizon.

Amai was maintaining a steady pace ahead of me, sometimes looking to see how I was coping; he too was soon to disappear on the hilly horizon. I was in no mood to try to maintain a faster pace. I just wanted to finish my 25K, dead or alive.

I ran and ran, gasping, breathing heavily, drinking as much as I could, and eating bananas. The top of one hill was just the beginning of another one. I listen to my body and pushed the limits, at 20K, I spotted Kimi ahead of me. Far ahead were Alix and Eugenie; I decided to catch up with Kimi, but my feet failed to respond; I could not run faster.  The Hummer was a relief, I jumped in; just to get off around 500 meters ahead, to walk with Alix who was struggling to take on Kona Baridi hill. The first thing she told me…”I saw Amai walking; I saw Ameet walking”.

We reached the top of the hill, feet on fire, generalized muscle pain, waiting for the sweeper.  Few minutes after, Pinki and her friend showed-up, still running; these ladies are iron..! Pinky asked “Where is the finish line”. I replied, tiredly: “Somewhere here…”

The scene at Eureka was devastating, the Swaras were in total disarray:  Amai was limping seriously, went to his car, folded the front seat and lied down, flat, defeated.  Niawera proposed later to resuscitate him with a coke. I don’t know if she succeeded. Niawera and Mulenge were conversing, quietly; I could sense that the conversation had to do with whether they should ever come back to Magadi. Ameet was having a philosophical conversation on what is the appropriate strategy in situation like Magadi; walk long strides or run short strides? I don’t think he got an answer.

It was a wonderful run. I would like to extend my thanks to the Chairman for the organization, Ameet and his driver for the sweeping, and all the other Swaras for the company.

Magadi is a tough run for sure, mentally and physically. I have just one last question to the Chairman and Mrs Coordinator: When is the next Magadi run?

Have a great week. Hoping for a rejuvenated Swaras next Saturday.