The thought of running 100km crossed my mind early this year. This route had never been done before at least by then. Most avid ultra-marathon runners had done the famous all-by-passes route which is equivalent to 100km. This route was to begin at Kitengela and go towards Ongata Rongai using the southern part of Nairobi National Park (an area that is sparsely populated). From Rongai we would run to Kiserian off the main highway (Kadisi-Rimpa road) and get onto Pipeline road that runs from Kiserian to Isinya. From Isinya we would head back to Kitengela. Straight forward, right?
This year’s plan was to run my last two marathon majors (London and Berlin) and hopefully in 2021 enter into the ultra-marathon world. However with COVID-19 happening, plans were altered. After all marathons were cancelled by mid this year I had set my mind to run 100km at least to check the box. To gain the confidence that I badly needed, I cycled the route and not once but twice. I also ran the first 30km of the route and back (total 60km) as part of my training. The furthest run I had ever done prior to this was 56km, this was back in 2015 (story for another day). The section between Kitengela and Rongai is not that straight forward because of its numerous trails and therefore one can easily get lost. However, the route makes it worthwhile for some wildlife adventures. If one is lucky, you can come across zebras, giraffes, impalas, wildebeest and monkeys. I scouted this route one final time, the weekend prior to the day of the run and I was satisfied, I knew it like my back of my hands.
15th November was the D-day. To say I was nervous, would be an understatement. I tried not to think too much into it, but my mind failed me. Some of my thoughts would be, what will happen to me after 60km (the furthest distance I had run)? The run started just before 6:00am flanked with my neighbor Dr. Wachira an avid runner as well. To console myself, I knew I had a medic running beside me. A rare occurrence in my short running life experience of six years. The strategy was to keep to a pace below 6min/km which worked perfectly. We breezed through the trails between Kitengela and Rongai without any hesitation and within 2 hours we made a stop just 5km shy of Nazarene University. It’s at this point we were joined by Michael. We exchanged the usual pleasantries of runners and without much further ceremony, we started to make our way towards Kiserian. 2 hours later we had covered 40km. We took stock of what we had achieved. We were well within our pace and time and we knew we had covered the hilliest part of the run. We were now at 2,000asl from 1600asl. According to the initial plan, this is where Wachira and Michael were to disembark. However, after refueling at a lovely coffee house –Delta Petrol station Kiserian, Michael and Wachira mentioned they would continue running. Michael ended up running for another 36km to Isinya. A total distance of 55Km. As for Dr. Wachira, you will have to continue reading the story to find out where he stopped.
We were joined by Ngatia and David Waweru at Kiserian who were our support crew in a Vehicle. 10Km later, Waweru decided to hop off from the car and join the three of us running. He had planned to run an easy 20km and ended up running 42.2km (I’m truly blessed to have such weird friends). The heat was getting the better part of us at 50km but with a well-motivated and stocked up support crew we were well covered. We hydrated well and doused ourselves with extra water to cool our bodies. We arrived Isinya town at Km77. The body was now fatigued. I could hear voices in my head “that’s enough Davis” and another saying “we can finish this Davis”. The legs were tired and my chest had some sharp pains (not sure why). We had only 23km remaining to complete this odorous task. The motivation had not died, we had to finish what we started. It’s at this point we bade Michael farewell while Dr. Wachira and Waweru felt they could continue.
The refueling stops had become more regular by now and we were hydrating much more than before with solid items being frowned upon. As we covered the Isinya to Kitengela section, we faced strong headwinds and temperatures started to decline. The going got tougher as we approached 90km. By this time my watch started warning me the battery was low. Dr. Wachira’s watch battery had died and was relying on mine to notify him of the distances covered. At one point he suggested we needed to run faster so that we can ensure our achievements are not erased from the watch. Great idea, right? Wrong. We attempted to increase pace but our efforts were thwarted by the extreme pain to move the legs faster. At 95km we did our last refueling and upon resuming my run, the watch beeped again. Warning me I was sufficiently low on battery. I’m not sure where the strength came from at this point. It must have been the redbull that I sipped at the last hydrating point. I took to a sprint averaging below 5mins/km and I kept on moving faster and faster until I clocked the elusive 100km. I was lucky, the watch battery didn’t die and neither didn’t I die on the doctor. It was a Sunday evening, a few minutes past 6pm when I finished the race that started 12 hours ago. From where I had finished, I could tell people were enjoying their lazy evening stroll, while others were in bars overlooking the main Namanga road. I could also tell there were occasional stares from the side of my brows as I attempted to keep my face down as I soaked all the excitement, pain and thoughts of what I had achieved. I was ecstatic as I walked back to cheer on Dr. Wachira who had planned to run 40km and ended up doing 100km (who does that?).
I finished this run, reflecting on many things about the aspect of life and our bodies. If you asked me to run 100km ten years ago, I would absolutely have declined. Not because, I was younger and more energetic which make all the valid reasons, but I was not in the right mind frame. We can do anything if we set our minds to achieve.
Acknowledgments to my family who helped me plan for everything from getting my running gear clean to packing all the stuff I needed for this run. To Wingkei who I first contacted when I first thought about this route. He validated to me three days later by running the route (not that I had asked him to do so). To those who have run such distances and more before, it’s because of you that we mere mortals believe “our dreams are still valid”. Last but not least to the support crew Dr. Wachira Magondu, Michael Nawari, David Waweru and Ngatia (aka Villager) Thank you very much. You made the whole journey easier than I would have imagined.“If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” African Proverb.
The actual preparation for this run begun in late August. Unlike, my preparation for running a marathon where I focus on speed, this one I wanted to focus on how long I can keep my legs moving. Without any written program, my goal was to come up various challenges, which would keep me on my feet up and running for the longest time possible. I started with long run during weekends of between 30km and 60km. It’s important to note here that 60km was my longest and the only one I did. I had a couple of 30Km, 35Km, 40km and one 50km. Another challenge was trying to run 30km every day for a week. This I failed miserably on the second day I started. I opted to scale it down to 20km for a week and this did not materialize for 5 days. I therefore opted to listen more of my body with long run attempts of 20km plus when I was well rested. I would use short easy runs of 10km to recover from long runs that I did the previous day. Other than running, I also invested about 30mins after a run in strength training. I did leg, back and chest/shoulder workouts once a week. Each workout was done separate days (Leg- Monday, Back –Wednesday, chest & shoulders –Friday).