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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:
Amazing scenes were witnessed yesterday in Olepolos when the Swaras descended on the sleepy town of Kisamis in a convoy of vehicles. No doubt the locals must have known that there was something major in the offing with wave upon wave of vehicles arriving bearing their unsuspecting passengers…
Although the run was to kick off at 7.30am, most had arrived well before that time and were huddled in groups catching up as they waited for the off. A chilly morning it was and we could barely make out Ngong hills, obscured by thick mist, in whose shadow the run is set.
(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)
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.
Yesterday Chairman’s run lived up to its expectations of being one of the most difficult runs in the Swara Calendar. It used to be the most difficult but that top spot has been taken by the Illovoto Run.
Swaras came with the intent of conquering the Magadi…. some were humbled and others conquered…. Some came seeking to redeem themselves after Illovoto and redeem themselves they did. It is at this run last year that Naibei fell ill while attempting a 40 km. Yesterday, he was back and he completed the full 40 km. Way to go Naibei.
a) you are a fitness freak and someone lied to you that running is up there with the best forms of exercise? 😉
b) you have some pent up steam from work during the week that needs to be worked off before the weekend can start?
c) you need to pay for Friday night’s indiscretions or perhaps make advance payment for the excesses that are bound to happen over the weekend?
d) you love the idea of trying to decipher chalk-marks on the ground and subsequently following them over all manner of terrains in all weather?
e) you really have nothing better to do on any given Saturday morning so why not do it just for kicks?
f) None of the above.
g) All of the above.
At first it seemed like the weather would not cooperate. It had rained most of the night before and the cold drizzle persisted into the early morning. For a minute I feared we would start in pouring rain, a terrible way to begin a long run. But then at some point mother nature looked down upon the shivering runners, many of whom had come to lend their talent by running for a good cause, and relented. A few minutes before the run started, the rain stopped.
Among the many refreshing things about Swara runs is the sheer variety of different places where the runs are staged. In fact, no run is ever like another even when set in the same locality and so for the most part when you line up at the start you really have no idea what to expect. And perhaps the best way to prepare for any run is to first do away with any preconceived ideas of what the run may turn out to be…
(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.