Celebrating East African Writing!
My running mate ‘Kim’ and I, were looking forward to taking part in the 6th anniversary Standard Chartered Marathon dubbed Hesabika Tena on Sunday 25th October, 2009.
It was for a good cause as the proceeds go into assisting the less fortunate get corrective eye surgery to restore and prevent blindness.
So it made me feel philanthropic and having had an eye operation myself to remove a cataract on my left eye some years back, I knew only too well how this marathon would make a difference in someone’s life.
It was my first marathon and I was looking forward to it.
We had been training for the better part of the year by running in our neighbourhood and felt in top form, but nothing prepared me to what I was about to experience.
On the chilly morning of the 25thof October 2009, I excitedly told my running mate that we should move forward in the assembly area so as not to be left far behind by the elite runners who were in front of hao wengine (the rest of us wannabes).
Some participants would jostle forward and others would taunt them that they should be let through and perhaps that would make them win the race prizes.
As we waited for the police band to finish their thing before the start of the race, I took that opportunity to fasten my running chip which was secured in one of my running shoes.
The championchip for that was its name was meant to record how long one took to finish the marathon.
It also records crossings at the extremities of the course (proof of passage) by placing chip carpets at strategic points.
That way, it eliminated the chance of one cheating by not running the full course.
Also you had to return the timing chip after the end of the race; failure to do so would earn you a fine of KES. 2,000 and a ban from future Nairobi Marathon events.
They don’t call them international events for no reason.
Funny enough, some fellas had lost their chips even before the start of the race.
When the start-gun finally went off, the elite runners (some of them women) bolted and I tried to keep up with them.
My running mate had run the previous marathon and knew the folly of my decision to keep up with the seasoned runners.
He told me that he would catch up with me in a short while.
By the time we got to Uhuru Park from our starting point at Nyayo stadium, I had experienced burn- out and true to form, on my way to University Way round- about; he had caught up with me.
He took that opportunity to explain to me that the marathon was an endurance race and not a sprint.
We did the Kenyatta avenue loop back to Uhuru high way then Harambee avenue loop back to Uhuru high way then finally the Haile Selassie Avenue loop back to Uhuru high way on our way to Mombasa road and out of the CBD without any major drama save for some runners who had decided it a smart move to walk than run at this point.
On the incline of Uhuru high way going towards Bunyala road, I could see seasoned women runners ahead of us and that really challenged me to go on.
But that didn’t prepare me for what lied ahead. Just before the Lusaka Rd. junction, Ahead of us was an old man with grey hair running a good pace.
We decided that he was our pace- setter and that we would overtake him towards the finish.
When we got to Mombasa road, my running mate cautioned that I was edging him out of his lane, perhaps I was getting tired and I was looking for something to lean on.
Our turning point was adjacent to Panari Hotel, Mombasa rd. and it seemed like forever getting there and by now my left foot was aching from what I was to later find out to be blisters.
We finally made it to the Mombasa road loop at Panari and were now headed back to Nyayo stadium.
At some point, my pal cautioned me once again! That I was edging him out only for me to point out that Infact he was the one edging me out forcing me to run on the road reserve.
He was now the one looking for something to lean on, I thought loudly.
At Bel Vue point, Mombasa rd. I started looking up ahead to see if I could see the Nyayo stadium flood lights.
That was how tired I was and I could now start seeing red- cross tents pitched on the side of the road which looked rather enticing, but I chose to push on.
At one point my running mate asked if my magoti (knees) were aching, which I may add wasn’t motivating at all.
At last near the foot bridge at Lusaka road junction, I could now see the flood lights and bystanders were now cheering us on, telling us that we were almost there.
This encouraged my pal who did a Haile- grabesellasie which I tried to follow suit but my legs ‘refused’.
To get to the stadium, we had to turn left from Mombasa road to Langata road and turn at the junction near Kengeles restaurant on our way to the stadium.
At the final bend, I was so fatigued that as I was entering the stadium, towards the finish line, I felt like I was going through an out-of- the body experience; a rather surreal experience.
After crossing the finish line, my running mate who had finished a minute earlier came to congratulate me for having finished my first (half) marathon.
All in all it was fun and it made me salute and respect the Paul Tergat’s, Wanjiru’s and all other runners who bring back medals to our country and make us proud kujivunia kuwa mkenya.
Did I mention that we did not catch up with the old mzee (man) and I wish I had taken his race number so as to meet him and learn a few tricks from him.
PS: Everyone who participated and finished the marathon got a medal and a certificate to boot.
© Gitura Kihuria 2009
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