October 20th is a public holiday in Kenya also known as Mashujaa (Heroes) Day, dedicated to those who were part of the independence struggle or dedicated themselves to the service of this great nation. For runners this was a perfect day for a good run (preferably a long one!!), FWD (Fitness With David) had the perfect antidote by organising the virtual Mashujaa marathon.
On 1st January 2020 (New Year), FWD organised a run dubbed Ignite 2020, this run did not disappoint, it was well organised with multiple distances 5kms, 10kms, 21kms, 30kms, 35kms and 42kms. This was a run organised by a passionate recreational runner (David aka Captain) for runners, awesome it was and well attended (pre-Covid times). I was fortunate to participate in this run and must say it literally ignited my running in 2020, went on to post a half marathon PB of 2.07 at the first lady marathon in March 2020, which I smashed (but do I say!!) during the Mashujaa virtual marathon and also managed my first ultra of 51kms during my 47th birthday in September 2020.
Captain shared in the running forums that FWD is organising a virtual Mashujaa marathon with 5kms, 10kms, 21kms and 42kms distances. When I say organised for Captain it means exactly that, the marathon was complete with a Strava account, gorgeous medals (very important for runners as badges of honour), customised running bibs (mine was Agui 047, those who know know) and training tips. I reluctantly registered for 21kms, my body had taken such a beating during the 51kms in September and wasn’t sure I would have the energy to run (how wrong I was!!). As the race day drew close, Captain shared that there will be a marked course in Karen on the said day (but only for a few runners due to Covid protocols). Captain shared the route map for the respective distances that outlined hydration stations, spectator zones, race officials, support crew, and assembly and start times, giving the run quite some stature, least I forget also included was an ambulance, security/traffic police (that I said hi to and thanked along the way), official photographer and an OB (outside broadcasting – Facebook live) van (pardon me!! BMW X series) in command was designated driver (engineer) Anthony and commentator Victor.
Race day was finally here, I arrived at The Waterfront Mall in Karen (start and finish point) at about 5.30am just in time to meet the courageous (Shujaa) 42kms runners setting off, got a chance to wave/shout out to a few Dagi, Humphrey and Sir Nick. Registered for the event at the desk managed by Peace and went off for a warm up run in the parking area along with Linah and Njagi (designated pacer). Whilst warming up, we detoured into the mall for a pit stop (health break!!), on return were shocked to find the start area empty and were told the 21km was started off at exactly 6.00am as per schedule, it was 6.03am (thought we were on African time, wrong we were). Vincent the race manager was kind enough to give us (Njagi, Linah, Winnie, Nina and yours truly) a late start, off we went. I had requested my running mate Njagi to deliver a sub 6 pace (specifically 5min and 50 seconds – 5.50 per km), the start pace was within range but after 2km our pacer (Njagi) decided to go rogue and deliver a 5.30 per km pace which certainly Linah and I couldn’t keep up but followed closely (about 50-70 meters!!) behind.
As the run progressed we got to the 10km mark and according to Garmin we had done this in about 57.xx minutes, this was quite quick for me (surprisingly my wheels-legs hadn’t come off!!) I was now motivated to keep pushing (rather chasing our pacer whose speed governor needs recalibration for sure). On this run I didn’t carry my hydration bottle as I wanted to be hands free and focus on my sub 6 pace, fortunately there was plenty of hydration (water and coke-soda not the illicit one!!) along the way at the designated points and the weather was perfect (cool with a little drizzle).
The route was well marked and easy to follow except at one point on Bongani road, where the 21kms was to turn left whilst the 42kms continue left (which would be straight for the 21kms) with a very big red arrow marking that was irresistible and some 21kms runners such as Maurice, John B and Nina fell for the temptation and were generously rewarded by FWD with plus 2-5km extra (what a treat!!). I kept up the chase with our pacer, all was well until 19kms going 20kms and my gas ran out but soldiered on to the finish with 46 seconds shy of hitting a sub 2-hour half marathon and having shaved my March 2020 PB by about 6 minutes (and yet I was reluctant to run this race!!), thanks to our pacer-Njagi, Linah, Captain and the entire FWD crew for making this race possible and above all God for the good health and his continued blessings.
After the running it was great seeing the 42km crew coming to finish, starting with Kama (Kifaru), then the 4.30 pace pack of Dagi, Terer, Humphrey, Wakili Edward (wonder if he now finds the courtrooms too small since he started running ultra’s!!). Finally, the race director (Captain) was home too, after running 44kms (why? Because it was his 44th birthday and wanted to do it in under 3 hours!! Did I say the coke at the hydration points was soda?) he managed an impressive 3hours 2minutes, marginally outside his target time. Well done Captain, Happy Birthday to you and indeed you are a true Shujaa to the recreational running community in Kenya, through the runs you have organised as FWD, Runfit, solos, zoom talks/presentations, workshops and general mentorship to fellow runners (I included) you have made a big difference, may God keep blessing you abundantly. Kudo’s to all the strong lady runners (Sarah-Headmistress, Racheal, Sly…) who posted impressive times in the 42km.