They were united by their love for running; but, other than that, they came for all sorts of reasons. Some for the scenery, some to conquer the mountain, others to commune with mountainous pachyderms. But what almost all of them ended up doing on Saturday 24th September was to conquer themselves, yet again. Some did this by setting new distance and endurance records, some set new records in sheer obstinate grit and never say die attitude. In this, our biggest, and longest Ultra Marathon to date did not disappoint. It is impossible to capture all the stories of triumph and near disaster, in any case most of them have been much better told. But here is my small sample:
(AN ACCOUNT OF THE 2016 STOCKHOLM MARATHON)
This one started as a typical schoolyard fight between Hector and I. You know the type, where boys will fight each other to defend important things, like the following:
Hector: Mine is bigger
Ndungu: Mine is longer
Hector: Really? But I bet mine is more popular with the ladies
Ndungu: Oh, yes! Says who?
The upshot of all this was a truce, the famous school yard peace treaty:
Hector: I’ll show you mine if you will show me yours
Ndungu: Deal! (Imagine an electronic ‘pinky swear’ here)
(Plagiarism alert: Today’s piece is stolen from better writers than I, including: Rudyard Kipling, Haruki Murakami, Chris McDougall, Raoul Kamadjieu, Jack London and others. Can you tell what is stolen from whom?)
If you can take the worst that Otora can throw at you
The hills of Kajiado, the mountains of Iten and the marshes of Kikuyu
It you can do a 40K run, and wake up next morning to do a 10K recovery
If you can run long after your mind has said your body will die (it’s a lie)
If you can do this early on a Saturday morn, when normal humans are asleep
And suffer and still come back next week and do it all over again
Then yours is the craziness of the trail and the glory of the run
And, what is more, you’ll be a true Urban Swara, my friend.
Once you have passed the traffic choke points of Mlolongo and Kitengela, the drive to Maasai Eco Lodge, just past Kajiado, is a joy. The road is so smooth and traffickless that I am tempted to cruise all the way to Arusha, just for the heck of it. Then I remember I came here to run, not to drive. So I regretfully turn left, into the lodge at 1.00pm, ready to sample the best that Ajaa and Otora have cooked for us.