Drawing from the experience of last year’s inaugural Old Moses Classic, the organizers, Mt. Kenya Blazers, resolved to set a sub 2hr target for both Swaras and Blazers to conquer the 21km trail. The challenge was widely broadcasted with yours truly pledging a 15yr old John Walker Gold Reserve to the first sub 2 arrival at Old Moses.
At exactly 8.00 am on 30th June, 51 Swaras and Blazers congregated outside the Old House, a serene and exclusive riverside hotel by the bank of Nanyuki River on your way to the Fairmount. A 51 seater yellow bus was revving nearby waiting to ferry the runners to the starting point, about 13kms away from Old House.
At 9.15, the organizer, Wanjohi Macharia announced that all was ready – the game rangers were ready, the wildlife along the trail were ready and more importantly Old Moses was ready to receive us. Two MPs, the Hon. Kiai of Mukurweini and the Hon. Mariru of Laikipia West were also ready. So were the Swaras best hope to subdue Old Moses at sub 2; Jackson Ndegwa, Victor Kamau, Daniel, Sara Wawa and Claire Baker. And so was the vertical elevation of 1300m!
My best bet Joshua Cheruiyot was in the group, this time as an observer since he was nursing an injury.
The takeoff was smooth, a gradual uphill of 3km before hitting the Sirimon route turnoff. Victor and Ndegwa slowly created a gap and I lost the yellow t-shirts 5km later.
George Kamunya from blazers chased the two, carefully though. Having been the winner last year at 2.47, he knew what lay ahead. Daniel and Masika built the chase at 7km with no intention of chasing sub 2.
Chairman Ajaa was ahead by a Km, leisurely admiring the pedigree ahead, which Urban Swaras have nurtured under his watch.
Among the ladies, the fast pacing Sara Wawa lead the onslaught, followed closely by Monica Gichuhi and Claire Baker. Wanjira pursued the trio with an eye at the prize. Sara was later to abandon the chase in favour of a musical walk in the park.
From a warm equatorial sunshine, the weather started cooling at 13km just as the gradient picked.
By this time, Victor and Jackson were kms away. I glanced at my Garmin and it was exactly 2hrs from the start, the now famous sub-2 threshold set by Nike for Eliud Kipchoge to conquer the full marathon. Considering the gradient uphill, I had my doubts whether any Swara can break Sub 2, doubts that were confirmed by the 2.09 achieved by Jackson Ndegwa. Victor was behind him at 2.19
As I approached the 3km stretch to the finish, I spotted Wanjira at the winding as she negotiated the last corner. The view of Old Moses from my point of despair was magnificent, made more beautiful by three Swara shirts I could spot from this distance. Suddenly, I reached for my phone to capture the moment. As I was about to click the camera, soft clouds descended upon Old Moses, covering him from any view. It was like a pack of nuns rushing to protect Mother Superior from rape. No photo taken and next thing I was fighting hailstones, thrust upon the trail by a furious Old Moses who felt disturbed by the running activity.
After 3.11, i arrived at Old Moses, same time as last year, No haircut but at a respectable 12th position. Claire was the top lady finisher at 2.39 followed by Monica Gichuhi and Wanjira, both at sub 3.
The fun was at the finish point. Ice cold rain showers welcomed the late comers as the heavens opened. Live cooking of tea progressed. With no one to claim the whiskies, Saxo and Hon. Kiai bid for the double black at the top and it was widely shared among the group.
Back to the Old House at 5:20pm after the yellow bus got stuck in the mud at the Sirimon gate. Dinner was served at 6:15pm and it was a very lovely evening spiced by both Ronaldo’s and Messi’s exit from the World Cup. Hon. Kiai sponsored a happy hour with a 10K contribution, thanking God that he survived the vagaries of Old Moses.
Whereas next year’s men’s target remains at sub 2, it was felt that the ladies target be adjusted to sub 2.30 for them to have a realistic stab at the prize. Next year’s prize will be reloaded to excite the Swaras and Blazers.
A big thank you to Mt. Kenya Blazers and their captain Wanjohi Macharia for organizing what in my view was a run to die for. Why lie, when some of us almost died!!