What a day!! My alarm went off at 3.15am this morning and I jumped out of bed without hesitation, not that I needed to rush to the airport to catch an early morning flight!! Today 5th September 2020, I happen to be turning 47 (yes, years old!!) and together with some friends we were have planned a special run to celebrate our running club mate’s 50th birthday.
How did I get here? About two years ago during a club run, Linah said she is turning 50 in two years and would like to do a 50k run to celebrate this key milestone and would like some few friends to join her. Being the typical African man with an ego to boot, I quickly said count me in, forget I was struggling to keep up with her on that run. I forgot about it, last year December during my debut run in Ngong, she was kind enough to ease me into the famous Ngong descends and ascends (from the order you can tell which one I preferred), the 50@50 came up again and this time I asked her when is her birthday and she said 6th September and I said mine is 5th September and I will be turning 47, so you can count on me until 47km. To put things in perspective on the Ngong debut, I did 15k and was proud of myself, what I didn’t realise Linah had cut back on her run, after we returned to the start point (Berra Hotel, Ngong running veterans know it well) she went on to look for an additional 6kms to make it 21kms. At the point it was clear to me that I had no choice but to keep the promise.
Fast forward 2020, Covid happened for the last 5 months or so no club runs or key races around the world. 2020 has been a good running year for me, starting with Ignite 2020 run on 1st January, club runs and Beyond Zero (where I posted a half marathon PB with an average pace of 6min/km, but do I say) this was in early March before Covid showed its ugly head in Kenya and everything went haywire including running. During Covid I kept running with my LA (high altitude) running mates Njagi and Rosie (don’t get me wrong we strictly observe set Covid prevention protocols), but I must add Rosie later abandoned us on account of social distancing (we shall revisit), probably she must have thought our height (no pun intended) was a risk factor.
On account of Covid I thought the 50@50 run will not happen and buried my head in the sand like an ostrich, not sure of it was July or June a call came through from Linah and I knew am finished (kwisha mimi!!), again through my ego I assured her we are still on and am looking forward. After the call reality dawned me on, what have I signed up for? Then I remembered Humphrey (he of the beyond zero course is relatively flat) saying that it is easier to run an ultra-compared to a marathon, at this point this is all I had to clutch on and couldn’t allow myself to doubt him (was he right? We shall find out later).
I continued with my training but don’t get me wrong nothing close to our serious club runners such as Kama (Kifaru), Humphrey, Captain, Nick, Dagi (dangerous “bus” driver), Wakili Edward, Kagwe (not the CS), Terer (captain wa Kahara), these folks are in their own league both mileage and pace. Fortunately, Dagi always looks out for us ordinary running mortals and includes us in the Garmin monthly challenges, this keep us on our toes and also reminds us that we are not yet there (hatujafika Canaan), to get there or close we have to work hard least the crocodiles sort us (Kenyans can relate to this statement from a statesman not politician).
D-Day was fast approaching, plans were firmed up with excellent execution by the Captain (God bless this guy, he has given so much to the Runfit Club and made us all better runners in our own ways). Captain identified a suitable course in a leafy Nairobi suburb and ensured laid out protocols are observed. Mother nature as usual always throws runners curve balls, in the past few weeks it’s been quite hot and some of us bold declarant’s of 50k were not quite on the excellent pace scale and therefore chances are that we will run mostly under the sun and get finished literarily (chances of DNF were high!!). An early start was the only option but there was the limitation of the nationwide curfew that ends at 4am, we settled for a 4.30am start (that is why I had to wake up at 3.15am).
As I drove to the start line at 4am, everything looked different and I told myself for sure it is too early for me, then it dawned on me (had forgotten my spectacles) going back was not an option (Mrs had closed the gate and gone back to sleep), crossed fingers that the chapatti I had just eaten doesn’t ferment in my stomach and become liquor impairing my vision further. On the drive I asked myself we are going to celebrate a birthday by running 50km? Someone should consider starting a “Runners Anonymous - RA” to rehabilitate runners, these folks are deep into this addiction and just need a reason (or is it excuse?) to run, we need to save them before it’s too late. Got to the start venue and the few registered runners had begun arriving, the cold temperatures and nerves didn’t help (had to pee twice before start and twice in the first 16km) sema panic!!
We started our run at 4.49am and here I saw first-hand that peer pressure still has an impact on adults (Rosie convinced us that despite the arrows pointing left, we should go right, she was also supported by Kama who we got to learn later went left). This was a 3.5km loop area that we were do four times, picture this here we are going in the opposite direction, not sure what the rest of the guys thought of us (being Africans they will probably never tell us). In hindsight I thought it wasn’t a bad idea (why?), remember those serious runners I mentioned earlier, since we going in opposite directions in this loop we didn’t risk the embarrassment of being overlapped (thanks to Rosie for preserving our dignity, unknowingly though!!).
The run progressed well no issues at all (Captain kept his word, no hills just a few inclinations, Asante!!), now this is where I think Humphrey is right normally in a marathon trouble starts after 30kms, but today I was comfortable through past the 42kms (marathon distance to be specific), folks it’s all in the “mind” (I think). At this point I swallowed a GU gel to see me through to the end (ADAK, this is legit not doping!!) I got to 47kms (my age today) and motivation came through and decided to do 51kms for our mate Ridhu who couldn’t make it for today’s run. What a day? I hit a marathon PB of 4.30 and longest run of 51km in 5.29.55, about the same time it took me to run the Soweto marathon in November last year, in a way exorcising those “mademoni” and vindicating myself. Guys don’t be hard on yourself when you have a bad running day, there is always a next time, keep running and you will overcome the challenges and become better at it but certainly you have to work hard
A big thank you to all the folks who organised, supported and came out to run with us, the gifts too, we don’t take it for granted much appreciated. To the birthday boys and girls (Ridhu, Linah, Sly and Jack) Happy Birthday to you all and may God keep blessing you in every way. Linah well done for hitting your target and thank you for making it possible for some of us to break barriers. My adorable family (wife and children) for cheering me on and blessing my runs, “Asanteni Sana”. To God, I shall be forever grateful for the good health, keeping us safe in our runs and the energy to keep running.