Running Tales

The Nomadic Urban Swara-KENYA- Mt Kenya Run

With Hashers At Mt Kenya Run 2015“I run because it keeps me balanced as there is a thin line between spiritualism and sanity, which running places in check, plus I plan my day, all my To do lists and work diary and above all it’s a confidence booster.” “I get the same feeling when I wear a good pair of high heels and carry my favorite handbag and I just know I will nail that board meeting.”

Yes, Swaras, I do have a rather Chatty Cathy of an answer when I am asked why I run. And the response I get is always in the line of, are you always working or thinking of work, and that’s when I get a bit sheepish , shy and tongue tied. As I write this story, I have a confession to make; I am in my running clothes in Kigali, it’s 6:45am, I am sitting on the verandah with the beautiful view of the 1000 hills, about to have my breakfast, I just ran for 45 minutes and yes, I planned my days’ meetings. But what is going through my mind is not this weeks’ run in Kigali but my experience in the Mt Kenya Run last week, where I learned to live a little.

The hair brained idea to run up 10,000 ft in Kenya’s highest point came when I went through our Frenemies website the Hash Harriers and it honestly sounded like a good idea and besides I thought, “ I have been running up Mt Longonot for the last three weeks, so how hard could it be?” So one of the times I was in Nairobi, I was going for my usual 10 kms jog when I bumped into Ajaa at the Arboretum Forest and I told him I want to run up the mountain. His answer was very simple, “if you want to enjoy that run you need to do a long distance high altitude run, why don’t you try Ndakaini Half Marathon?” That found me fumbling at the last minute emailing Jael to find out if there was space for one, which I got and just like that I ran a half marathon on Saturday, went the following day to Naivasha at 6 am and ran up Mt Longonot. Yes, I was on a mission to conquer Mt Kenya, and continued running during the week. Then came the day for the Mt Kenya Run; I left Nairobi at 6am, I was very excited, and I was in such a chirpy mood, all I could see were the golden rays of the sun bouncing happily on the leaves and I remember raising my hands breathing in deeply, twirling and saying, isn’t it such a beautiful morning?”

And I got an absolutely undignified grunt from my fellow runners. Hmmm, clearly these were not morning people, none the less it was not going to spoil my mood as it was such a beautiful morning.

Driving down to Nanyuki, passing the Aberdares and seeing the looming Mt Kenya was really exhilarating until, the cops stopped us. So this policeman was trying to explain what law we had broken, until at THAT moment the clouds cleared from the sky and I could see View of Mt KenyaMt. Kenya very clearly, complete with the snow and I did the unthinkable and said, “Boss, just hold that thought for one minute.” I rummaged through my backpack and started taking pictures of the mountain, I mean it’s not every day you see the mountain this clearly and yes, we temporarily found ourselves as guests of the state. And as the policemen were trying to explain what we did wrong, which we finally understood, I could not help but look at the view they had behind them. The beautiful mountain. So during the entire-do-you–know–what–you-have-done–wrong-speech , by the cops, I had this goofy smile, because it was a such a bloody beautiful day. Okay so we were let off, with a warning and continued with our journey.

The run was planned for 1:00pm and we made it to Nanyuki at 10:30am , went straight to Naro Moru River Lodge, where all the runners were staying, opted to camp instead of staying in the lodge, yes, the camp was facing the mountain. Prepared breakfast at the campsite and just relaxed as we waited for the remaining runners.

By 12:00pm, all the runners had come and we drove to the base of the mountain and there were two running options, 12kms and 16kms. And I chose the 16kms, I was the only lady in the entire run who chose this and a fellow Swara called Nderitu, and we began. It was tough. My feet felt like I had added 5 extra kilos to them and I had to run 4km to the National Park’s gate in time for the call for the 12km run, though I made it I must say that was a forced warm up and I am glad I did it as not only did I catch up with the other runners but passed most of them. Now this was not only a beautiful run, where I saw wildlife, but it was equally well organized, there were water points in every 4km, clearly marked signs, showing how many kilometres were left for you to run, until it began raining. I was 12km to my destination and the heavens opened up and I must say, what was missing was shower gel and I could have taken a good bath with that rain. I had to be more careful as it now became a slippery run all the way to the end. I finished my run; I was very pleased with my performance. Bless the organizers, as they had prepared tea, samosas, mandazis and sausages, which I wolfed down with relish and they promptly sent me to the car that was carrying all the warm clothes with firm instructions, KEEP WARM!

It was when I was taking tea I found out one of our runners was 78 years old, she ran 12km, she was my hero, she entertained us with her songs and as we happily sang along all that could go through my mind is that God bless me with life and such strength.

After the run we picked all the rubbish we created on the entire trail, went back to the campsite, took a hot bath, set up the camp chairs and as I popped a bottle of Champagne, toasted with my fellow runners, we watched the sun set and looked at Mt Kenya, I breathed in slowly and I finally had a shorter answer as to why I run, “it makes me relax and live a little.” Truly that was indeed the end of such a beautiful day.

Running Tales

My Experience of the Mount Kenya Run

Date: September 3, 2011

On a warm Saturday morning, the tough hard-core Swaras set out to challenge one of the toughest runs in Kenya.  We meet at City Square. When I get there, violet is all set for the challenge. Next I see Ajaa, Ferrah and Mulinge who is always laughing and anything he says is always so funny.

We take off by 8.12am. First stop at Blue Post in Thika to view the Chania Falls. That was amazing. Next we fuelled up our tummies with  huge picnic that the cameroonians organised. They had everything sorted from ham, eggs, bread, sausages, ketchup, salad, you name it, they had it all.

Then we get to the start point where we met the Hashers. They saw us with our SWARA T-Shirts. I heard a guy saying he ran with us and couldn’t keep up and decided to join the HASHERs. Other Hashers that have attempted to run with Swaras have bowed down to us.

Ajaa gets all the Swaras psyched up to do the long run – 16km- The thought of going all that way and only doing short made me feel less than a Swara. We start by 1.15pm only to start struggling by the first 2km, half the people running, some attempting to walk.  This was only the start of the race, we had a lonnnnng way to go yet.

After 4 km we get to the main gate where 90% of hashers started the short 12km run. This was the time to quit – but we have the motto Swaras are not quitters. So carry on the gruesome track – of up, up and more up hills, most of us struggling, some of us walking or crawling, unlike Ferrah and Ajaa who ran the entire course– RESPECT we could call him Mr President from Chairman.

If you were quick enough, you were rewarded a bottle of water, the rest of us snails got no water. At this point, I was struggling only to see Alix behind me in the same condition, dying of thirst.

We pushed, pushed and pushed up up and up. – the track getting tougher and tougher – the incline gets steeper- only when things are at their worst – we hear thunder, only to get to 8 km and it starts pouring down. At this point you are tired, no water, altitude, and the rain – could things go any worse? Seriously questioning why we are doing this. Alix and I pushed and pushed, the rest of the Swaras Mulinge, Ajaa, Ferrah, and Violet were nowhere in sight. I could only visualise them with a HOT drink.

The track gets slippery you have water streaming down into your shoes; by this point we were completely wet. It was at mid point 8km we carry on or turn back. The thought of having a hot drink kept me going- if I was a hasher the thought of beers at the top would have kept me focused.

We get to the 14km mark; tea point, Ajaa there blowing the whistle go go go only 1km to go- my thought was only 500m up and 500down. Only to realise we were heading to the worst part of the run, it was 1km up hill to HELL- the steepness there seemed to lead us to a path straight to heaven. Then I see Ferrah going down, she’s cheering on not long to go. That meant 10-15 mins, Alix was way ahead by then. When we get to the top there is a steamed up car looking dubious, was not sure if they were there to record time or were there people warming up. Then the time keeper shouts name- and best bit was ARE YOU  SWARA? THEY EVEN KNEW that only Swara women reached the top.
Next Ajaa decided on taking a few carloads from the top of the mountain to the bottom.

As we attempted to drive down, we land in a ditch due to the slippery roads, By this time, Violet and I had chewed off our nails. I was about to bite my toenails.

Ferrah and Eugene franticly tried to get out of the car and the seat would not go down – Ferrah nearly lost all her hair- with the fright of being toppled over in the car.

Violet and I get out of the car and Ajaa shouting stay in the car we need weight in the car – That’s got to say something about the 2 of us.

Avenger – Karura runner took the wheel and got us down safely.

On the way back Ajaa tolds us interesting stories of his running experiences.


Running Tales


Date: September 3, 2011

The Mt. Kenya run is organized annually by the Nairobi Hash House Harriers.

For the Swaras, this run had been in the cards since early July when the Swaras calendar for weekend runs for the period July to early October 2011 was rolled out.  It is one of the more adventurous and difficult runs.  It was my fourth Mt. Kenya run.

The runners who decided to have their debut this year are Avani, Violet, Eugenie, Alix, Ferrah, Mulinge and the indefatigable MK.In the two to three weeks leading up to this run, MK had trained so hard, ever doing the long runs on weekends and sweating it out twice every week in Arboretum.

Unfortunately, fate decided to postpone his debut.  His wife was taken ill the night before and he had to be by her beside in the hospital.

When I broke the news of his inevitable absence to the participating Swaras, the sadness with which the news was received was palpable.  Avani wondered who will do the weekly write up and I promptly requested her to try and fill the big shoes of MK. This write up is meant to supplement her efforts.  Ferrah noted that the journey would be less interesting without the jokes of MK.

The point of assembly was City Hall.  By 7:50am, all the runners had arrived, all dressed in sports gear.  We therefore departed the City at 8:14am – destination Mt. Kenya.

Because of keeping time, I decided to throw in a treat for the runners.  When we got to Thika at 9.30am, I drove into the Blue Post Hotel so that we could refresh, stretch and have some tea.  I also decided to show our “foreign” legion the waterfalls sandwiching the hotel.  All of us loved the falls and Avani and Alix took many pictures of the runners with the falls forming the background.

At 10.00am, it was time to hit the road but not before the all-important matter of fuelling and carbo-loading had been attended to.  I had carried only 1 bottle of water.

For the first time since we embarked on the journey, I counted my blessings for carrying a trailer load of lasses.  My! They unleashed all manner of food, some of which was boiled eggs, broccoli, tomatoes, tuna, bread, ham, bananas, avocado, assorted vegetables water and juice.  So much was the food that it took us a whole thirty minutes to fuel and load to capacity.  Mulinge and I who had brought nothing ate the most.

We began the second leg of the journey at 10.33am and drove through Sagana and Karatina towns turning right to head towards Nanyuki some 10Km after Karatina.  At Naro Moru, we turned right to head to the starting point 9Km away.  The ran was scheduled to begin at 1.00pm, we arrived at 12.44pm.

The Mt. Kenya trail is one way, all up hill, getting steeper as one nears the foot hills of the mountain.  The long is 17Km and the short is 13Km.  The short distance runners begin at the KWS gate, some 4Km ahead of those doing the long.  The end is so steep that runners congregate some two kilometers before the end, to change and take tea.  The problem with this is that some runners get to the tea place and refuse to tackle the last 2Km, whoever does this “disqualifies” himself or herself because the times and names of runners are recorded  at the end.  For those who complete the distance, the 2Km roll down to the tea place offers some kind of recovery run because these 2Km are the only down hill in the entire course.

The Swaras peeled off their track suits in preparation for the start of the run.  To our pleasant surprise, no Swara wanted to do the short.  We wore our Swara T-shirts.

The run began at 1.25pm when Chilli Sauce (nickname) flagged us off.  There were four clubs, the Nairobi Hashers, the Original Hash, the Karura runners and the Swaras.

I ran from the back and slowly overtook the other runners.

At the 4Km mark (the starting point for the short), I was number three.  Not so far behind, I could make out the green and pink colours of the other Swaras.  One kilometer later, I caught up with number two and told him “On, on”, the Hash rallying call.  The man was so tired that it took him some five seconds to respond.

One by one, the runners doing the short fell by the trail side.  Most of them found the running uphill so tough that they opted to run and walk and run and walk.

I caught up with the number one exactly one hour into the run.  I could see that he was a fast runner who did not have enough endurance and hill training, (the Swaras need to introduce him to Kona Baridi, by-passes and Kahara).  Not being one to be overtaken easily, he made feeble attempts at keeping in front of me.  Six minutes later, he was down and almost out.

As I overtook the hashers, I could hear them say that those are the Swaras who ran every Saturday morning and their shortest is always 15Km.

Suddenly, I ran into cold weather and I started feeling cold as I ran.  When I got to the tea point, cold wind was blowing, mist quickly descended and ice cold rain fell.  I shivered as I tackled the last 2Km, energized by the shouts of “Swara” from the hashers who had travelled all the way to cheer the runners at the tea point.

I stopped the clock at 1:51:41. My last PB was 2:06:20. By then, my fingers and hands had almost lost sensation due to the biting cold and the lashing fridge cold rain.

To recover, I quickly descended to the gathering point, taking 9 minutes only to do so.  Then I met Ferrah at the tea point and told her that she had only 17 minutes (2Km) to go.  The lady could not talk. Then Mulinge flew by.

Changing took me more than five minutes because my fingers were numb and near frozen. I picked my umbrella from the car and headed for the tea.  Two cups and handfuls of mandazi and samosa later, Alix arrived feeling strong.  I blew the Swara whistle and encouraged her to take the last 2Km.  She obliged.  Hot on her hills was Avani Patel who was very nearly tempted to end it there.  The whistle did the trick and she charged upwards to complete the race.

The whistle was not so lucky with Violet and Eugenie.  Try as I did to get them to complete, they had no ounces of energy left.  Mercifully, there was tea and snacks for them.

The Swara girls did the club proud.  They claimed the 1-2-3 for the long on their debut.  Ferrah did 2:16, Alix and Avani were not more than ten minutes behind her and each other.  Mulinge was about number 7 and I was number 1 of the long and number 2 over all.

Driving down was quite an adventure.  Our car got stuck twice.  Avenger (nickname) from the Karura team and Mad Horse (nickname) from Rwanda helped us to steer it safely to the KWS gate where the other cars were packed.

All the Swaras were so happy with their performances and the experience.  Alix said that “ever since I met the Swaras, I never want to go back home”.

The Swaras, you were well represented.