Running Tales

Chairman’s Run – My Experience

Magadi run 2016It is said: Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make your own.

Well, yesterday I proved that I have lived long enough. First, I ignored all the tell-tale signs the universe was sending me- my running watch died last week, and I l forgot my music on the table in the house on the morning of the run. I am one of those people with an unhealthy attachment to my watch and my music while running.

Secondly, I ignored all emails breaking down in very clear terms what the Chairman’s run looks like and got myself to Magadi in such a hurry I was overtaking even the air itself on my way to Hekima to make it in good time to be ferried to the starting point.

Thirdly, at Hekima, God sent an angel in the name of Molly to share experiences from the past with me on the drive to the drop off point for the 40kms. I listened and made the sensible decision to do the 20km. Only that when the 25km drop off point came, unseen forces pushed me from my seat and I was soon on the road flexing my muscles waiting for the whistle to blow so I could show Magadi that 25km can be done with an injury and lackluster training.

That I am sitting here writing this goes to show that God forgives foolishness. The run started well enough for me especially that I managed to get hold of myself and do a very slow pace. Not those mad dashes I do at the start like a rabbit crossing the road. Things were going well, the air was crisp, the landscape amazing, cows were grazing and mooing, the smells around me were earthy and alive, mixed with wood smoke, traffic was nonexistent and life was just beautiful. I even spotted small wild animals and a baboon crossed the road in front of me giving me that look that showed that he/she knew that today, I was not joking.

Then the hills started. And I was like ‘I can do this’. I felt ok, and I was like ‘let me do it slow and as soon as I get to Olepolos, I will pick up my pace and do that beautiful finish- arrive charging through Kona baridi like I own long distance running’. I did arrive back at Hekima, many many hours later, and in such a state that I had the occasional passerby looking at me with pity. That stretch where I was supposed to pick up my pace at Olepolos is the exact place where my body lost the plot. That hill before Olepolos (is it a hill, or a mountain?) I walked. I looked up ahead. When that didn’t work I gazed at the tarmack. Then I turned my eyes to the skies. My aim was to look anywhere but the road/hill ahead of me. That I didn’t enter Olepolos is true testament that I have a shred of willpower somewhere. I did run/walk at this point with a gentleman with whom I shared my thoughts of how Olepolos was the true north for me. That I would be fine once I got there. Later I realized that he employed exceptional skill in responding to me- he kept my foolish dreams alive, while at the same time managing my expectations. Thank you sir. I didn’t get your name. I am that chick in orange, eating trail mix, breathing heavily sometimes, and almost not breathing at other times.

Somewhere my butt came alive. I felt so much pain in my gluteus maximus every time I took a step. Muscle cramps set in on my feet and I spent all my energy doing mental tricks with them. At some point-must have been 22km- I started to get a tid bit delirious despite all the water I had taken-about 7 bottles- and all that trail mix I ate. Not to mention the occasional melon and oranges from the support vehicles. It was hot.

Step by step, I covered the distance and zoned everything out. Magadi is TOUGH. I was told Ilovoto was worse but I was not there. Magadi is my painful experience. There is this guy who was ahead of me in the distance for forever-walk running. He became my inspiration because I somehow felt and knew that we were both carrying the same cup of suffering. If you are that guy, thank you for not stopping, because if you did, I would have stopped too. Our hero James also came to mind at various points of my grueling ordeal, not for comparison (for heaven’s sake, he did the Comrades in the time it may take me to run a full), but for inspiration.

In my own way, I conquered Magadi. Many thanks to the organizers and to the support team. You were simply amazing and true to the task. Every time a support vehicle pulled up beside me it had water to dish out and smiling faces asking if I was fine. Once when they asked if I needed a ride I pictured the temptation of Jesus in the desert with bread (it was bread, right?). Saying no to that ride must have strengthened a part of my brain.

Raoul in an email last week or so said that Magadi support vehicles drive up and down picking up dead bodies. They might still be out there collecting but there is one thing I left out there on the road which they shouldn’t bring back to me if they come across it: Fear.

PS: What really was the true 25km distance? Every person who passed me communicated different distances. At one point, I knew I had 9kms to go, and someone about a km later tells me 13km to go. I wanted to die.

Running Tales

An account of the Magadi a.k.a Chairman’s Run 2014

Urban Swaras LogoAs is required for the Chairman’s Run, we were on the road in the wee hours of the morning already having branched off Langata Road before 6. There was drizzle in the air but I thought that was the last we would see of it, imagining a hot and sunny Magadi Road awaited. As sometimes happens we were the first to get there, however I was in no doubt that cars would be streaming in very shortly. Annabel would have made it sooner had she not been driving her Subaru up and down that murram road until she found the place, presumably by seeing other cars at the gate from a distance.

Appearing that day amongst others was Ferrah; one of the next Swaras who’ll be doing the 56k in Cape Town next year, Waliula; whose running exploits are well known and someone who I feel a tingle every time I meet, Linus who I met later on and whose mileage I’ve heard has taken a sharp turn upwards- Watch him go I say; Ndungu whose both running and storytelling packs a punch and Wahome; both an excellent host and an admired runner with wise counsel.

Peter realized in an instant that he had left his keys in his cars ignition and the doors locked. His saving grace though was that his shoes were at hand, and wouldn’t even have to entertain the thought of doing the run in the slippers he was wearing. I quick call to Lina, perhaps waking her up and help was on its way with the spare key… mini crisis over for Peter.

A short deliberation and head scratching later, we managed to get people into cars with Ajaa having paired us together. In reality he could have had a piece of cake whilst doing so as it came out flawless. Still cool and overcast as we drove toward the start I continued hoping it would remain that way, but resigned at that point. It was going to be a challenge regardless. Minutes from the start point, there was the now familiar figure of Katwa coming from the opposite direction. His determination to run and unorthodox means cannot be imitated I don’t think. Don’t recall seeing him again that day.

So we got to the first drop off point which was a very approximate 35k distance, and the numbers lining up were breathtaking. Amongst others in that group was Raoul, Leif, Ferrah, Samuel and Ndungu. It did little for me apart from amaze me, so I wasn’t going to start from there. I had initially thought of doing a 20k distance but adjusted to 25k which was our next stop. I forgot to mention it was drizzling at the start, something I never expected. Ajaa might have been in communication with the weather gods and asked them to go easy on us.

Doing the 25k’s from what I can remember was Lilian whose slow and steady approach takes a lot of grit and determination, Buddies Alix and Eugenie, and Ashok; yet another inspiration in terms of the age he has taken up running and the progress he continues to make. A short while into my run, I heard voices from behind and then felt footsteps getting closer. I would soon discover they were Annabel’s. I didn’t know at what point she started, but she began pulling away steadily as I had expected. About 10 minutes later, there was a climbs distance between us and then some.

I wondered to myself, “Does she realize this is Magadi?,” and then left it at that steadily moving on myself. One climb later, I remembered Loise gasping at the climb just before we get to Kisame’s and thought that was it. But Kisame’s was nowhere to be seen as I reached a plateau, so I prepared myself for more to come with a bit of dread. Amongst others on Patrol was Chairman whom I was surprised to see not running but sacrificing himself, and on another hotter day I would have gleefully gobbled up his fruit offering. A bit later approached Linus and Mugambi, with Linus telling me he’d already done his distance. His maturity as a runner may be growing.

It’s past Olepolos I think that a snaking but relatively flat terrain comes, before the final climb, which sometimes feels like two or three put together. All in all a definite test of endurance is the Magadi Run. I decided to power walk that, and was glad I did so, as a kilometer later, I was able to break into a running stride again to the finish.

Mentions go to Alix who said she was determined not to walk her 25k’s and managed it and Lina who took up the responsibility of collecting and recording payments.

The usual hospitality followed back at the Home, after which we left at leisure.

As we were leaving, the 35kears were beginning to arrive, Raoul first I think, Ndungu was almost there despite his pull or something as I recall reading about, and Amai, who’d stopped meters short of the gate and seemed to be having a jolly conversation with the occupants of the car. Well done to all.

Have a great week all, and see you on Saturday.

Running Tales

The Magadi Run 2012 Summary

Urban Swaras LogoDate: May 26, 2012

Somewhere in the gated community in Kitisuru, off Kirawa road, Ameet must have woken up at about 5am, taken his power breakfast of cereals and milk and hopped onto his Hammer to pick up Otora in Kangemi and head to Eureka hotel in Kiserian. Otora was at Engen Petrol Station, Waiyaki Way, at 5.30am together with Albert waiting for a ride.  He did not find it necessary to refuel.

At 6.00am, Muyodi’s call interrupted my bread and black tea breakfast.  He and I agreed to ride together.  I swung by Tusky’s on Muindi Mbingu Street to grab 2 cans of red bull for the Magadi road hills, parked my car in town and got into his after picking Emojong the driver/waterman off Parliament road.

Gerald Mutua called me at about 6.30a.m. requesting me to hold the start until he arrives at about 7.30am.  Molly Ayiemba too called requesting for the same but was actually ahead of us.

When we got past Nakumatt junction, the bad news came in.  A matatu had rammed Ameet’s car damaging the entire front right side.  The driver was speeding while talking on his mobile phone when he inexplicably swerved onto Ameet’s lane.

I called Wahome to help.  He drove into the Ngong Police Station but established that the accident occurred within the jurisdiction of the Kiserian Police.

To Ameet’s relief, the officer in charge of Kiserian traffic police happened at the scene of the accident while on his way to the police station.  Nzansumuryimi, Ndichu, Avani and four semi-elite runners who had come all the way from Kangemi by matatu to experience the Magadi course were at the scene.

A breakdown was called by the police officer and it towed Ameet’s car to Nakumatt Galleria.  It was agreed that Ameet will unfortunately skip the run.  He had planned and trained for 35km. Avani and the rest of the runners squeezed into the two cars, Nsansu’s and Muyodi’s, and we drove to Eureka.

At Eureka, I flagged off Otora and Albert at 8.05am. They were going for 66km and so were to run one way for 36km then turn back for 30km, ending at Kona Baridi.  The two took off as if they were doing 10km.

The rest of us crammed into Githenya’s and Emojong’s cars to be dropped at 30km, 25km, 20km and 15km.  There were no takers for 10km.

I flagged off Ndichu, all ready with his tablet strapped on his back and one Semi elite at Ole Tepes Market to commence their 30km pain.

Soon thereafter, I flagged off Kones and his co-semi elite at the 25km.

Molly, Ferra, Muyodi, Wahome and I tackled the 20km.  Mr. and Mrs. JT, Avani, Nzansumuryimi (the name means “come to the lord”) and Ndichu’s workmate must have flagged off themselves because I begun running before them.

After 7.4 km of running uphill, molly started bending and stretching her back as she struggled to run while complaining of backache. I advised her to run off the pain, which she did. Soon she started walking and running and walking.

Before long, I put respectable distance between the four and myself.  When I looked back, I saw Ferra too walk for a while. 12 km later and as I neared Ole Polos, my fellow 20km runners disappeared.  The running became steeper.  When I got to the traffic sign warning motorists to beware of the possibility of toppling over and to engage lower gears, my pace dropped from a respectable 7.46mph to 9.21 mph.

By this time, Otora and Albert had run past us, flying but not before I had described the turning point to them.  Later I learnt from the waterman that on reaching the turning point, they were so famished that they stopped and took tea and bread in some Kiosk before embarking on the return journey.

At Kisames, some 6km from Kona Baridi, I met Gathenya.  Avani was comfortably seated in the car. She had revised her desired distance from 15km to 12 km and finally to 10km and then walked most of it before hiking the lift.  When I requested for my energy drink, I was told that some runner had drunk it.  This guy had not even brought water for himself and I wonder why he thought that an energy drink would be available for free.

Disappointed, I grabbed Muyodi’s bottle of water laced with honey and headed for the distant finishing point.

From a distance of about 1km, I could see Kones closing in on me.  I vowed never to be caught up by him and kicked in my low towing gear.  I averaged 7.3mpk on the kona Baridi hills.

At the finishing point, JT and Ndichu’s friend were all smiles and fresh having successfully completed their 15km.  They walked some though.  I stopped the clock at 2hrs 30mins.  My average speed was 7mins, 50 seconds. This was admirable given that I had not run at all for thirty days.

Kones who was doing the 25km arrived five minutes after me, annoyed with himself for having failed to catch up with me.

Muyodi wobbled in some twenty one minutes after me, tired, hungry and anguished.  He walked the Ole Polos hill.

Next to arrive was Molly, hardly moving her legs, ten or so minutes after Muyodi.  She then understood why I sent to her an sms the evening before begging her to come for the run.  Molly has sworn never to do Magadi again but I know that that was just fear borne of fatigue.  She will be back.

Ferrah Etyang clocked 3 hrs 11 minutes.  She must have walked the entire Ole Polos hill.

By this time, I had stretched, eaten a banana, drunk water and rested.  I paced around waiting for Ndichu to arrive. He arrived of course but in Githenya’s car.  He said that his  tablet read 17.4km when he hit the wall.  He has vowed to “heshimu milima”

The three semi elite surrendered to the hills at various stages.  None of them managed 20km.  One of them later told me that he usually covers 21km in 1 hr 20mins.  That this time, his watch ticked but the distance never reduced substantively, so the guy stopped running, sat by the roadside waiting for the stragglers bus and poured water into his shoes to cool down his burning feet.

The four of them want Magadi road to become their training base.  I am willing to teach them hill running as they teach me speed.

Unknown to me, Otora and Albert could not conquer the return journey non stop.  They were ferried by one of the watermen for about 12km.  They resumed running at the base of the Kona Baridi hill and ran all the way to Eureka.  The guys must have run for about 50km.

Of the Swaras that turned up for the Magadi run, only the chairman ran his distance, NON STOP.

Raoul was away in Somalia, Amai was down with a flu and Ameet got an accident.  Soon, I will take them  for their Magadi run.  Any swara interested in coming along?

Running Tales

My Magadi Experience

Urban Swaras LogoDate: May 26, 2012

We set off at 5.45am. Ameet picked me up and we were all excited to face the challenge. We picked up Mike, a few elites, and Ferrah, only to face an accident where a matatu hit Ameet’s car and ran away(chicken). Ameet saw a Hummer and thought we might have hit the PM. Fortunately we were all safe, and in true Swara spirit, all Swaras stopped to assist in all that they could. I felt bad leaving Ameet to sort out his car when he had been so kind to take a few of us to the Magadi Run. As they say the show must go on, so we had to depart to face the gruesome trail set ahead.

We reached Eureka Hotel, parked our cars and got into two cars, packed like sardines to face the challenge. We all sat in the car with different kms we all wanted to do. We felt tough and all agreed on a minimum of 15km. I sat with Gerald and Aida. We had to drive through the entire distance and drop people off according to the distances they wanted to run. Being the shortest distance runner we had to sit in the car and drive up to 30km mark where some super elites started from. As we were driving down we could see the hills steady inclines. Gerald and I were reducing our distance from 15 to 12.5 to 10km, and at one point Gerald went down to 7km. There was no way a Swara could do such a short distance- even though I had the same sentiments in mind. We finally agreed to 10km. Only to be dropped off at 15km mark and were told we would be picked up at 5km mark.

For those who missed Magadi run,

it is the mother and father of all runs.

I went with attitude only to face altitude.

I went feeling cool only to boil there.

This has to be the first time in my time with Swaras that everyone with the exception of Ajaa and few elites walked part of the course.

Magadi is hot, hilly and altitude. I managed 11km only at a time of 1hr 33min despite stopping to drink a soda, and gulping down an energy gel on the way. I saw the car and thought this is my last chance. If i say no and go ahead, i might just die.

It felt like I was highjacked and the driver decided to throw me out in the middle of nowhere and had to make my way back. Now I feel like an ultra marathoner to have run in extreme conditions.

On the other hand we had elites who completed 60km, hats off to them. Their legs are the size of my arms.

Another cracker has to be Ndichu who was full of steam as he set out to do 25km, and was on his death bed at 17km. He had not even reached the killer hill at Olepolos.

At the Olepolos Hill we waited in vain for Mike who was adamant to do 30km. Wahome decided to check up on him only to see Mike come up that gruesome Olepolos Hill – I mentioned to him only 12 km left at that point I think Mike could have strangled me. All he could see was a seat in the car. His last words in the car; don’t tell me how much is left, I am done.

Molly, another hardcore Swara – she can tackle hills without any effort- she’s amazing.

Final conclusion — all true Swaras must do this run once a year.