Climbing Mt.Kilimanjaro 7th-13th August 2016-a Different Kind of Tough
October 18, 2016

My Journey in the Running World

We had finally come out of the difficult period of settling with our little new born baby boy and he was starting to be independent so we had a little bit of extra time in our hands. Well I think that’s how my Wife suddenly realized that there was need to do something about her newly acquired frame thanks to the pregnancy. “I need to workout” She said one morning..We had discussed this before but our routines would not allow. Having resumed campus with baby only one month old and commuting to school every morning and rushing home in the evening to relieve the helper and get a bit of bonding time with the boy, there was simply no spare minute then.

We hit the road checking for gyms around us..Did I mention that I had just started working and there was always more month than there was money? This gym hunting didn’t go too far, the reality that gym can be some form of luxury item for some people dawned on us and we had to retreat to the drawing board. Of course there was the usual mtaa gym with cement in paint tins and a bar in between but we quickly dismissed that. We had seen enough guys who didn’t look symmetrical as a result of cement imbalance on their weights.

With not many options left, my wife decided to give running a try and asked if I could join…Let me take you back to my high school days and the compulsory weekly cross country. I hated running. I could do anything in this world to escape from running. I had after trying with many doctors managed to get one who issued a letter to the school to exempt me from running due to a nose-bleeding problem I had. There was no way I was going to now start running. The nose-bleeding problem had however long gone but I still used it to dodge this proposal to run. My wife was however determined to shed off this excess baggage. I gladly offered to take her to toy on Saturday morning to purchase running gear and bingo… her running journey had begun. Come next Saturday and as soon as the alarm went, she was up and out for her maiden run.

I’m a light sleeper so I was left tossing and turning. After a few days of being tossing and turning, I decided to give running a try. After all, she left me awake and all I did was toss and turn.

The next run session, I armed myself with some bata bullets, knee length shorts, an old t-shirt and a pullover and out we went obviously looking forward to show her that I was still man even on the track. The first one-kilometer went well until I broke into a sweat. I wasn’t sure if it was the pores that were unblocking or the sweat burning the pores. Whatever it was, it gave me this bad itch all over the body. I wanted to scratch everywhere all at the same time. The legs, the glute, the stomach, the head- Name it. What was supposed to be company ended up being baggage I slowed down had to be helped to scratch and there was the obvious urge to say, “You see, I was never meant to run. Now see I got this bad disease”. Anyway I soldiered on. After some ten more minutes of running, it eased off and eventually disappeared. We must have covered seven or more kilometers by the time we got back. I was not as tired as I would have expected and I resolved to join her in the next run. That one was easier. I guess the pores were less clogged or the sweat was not too toxic. I scratched a bit but not for long. The one that followed had no scratching which to me signified my acceptance into the running world.

Fast forward to now, the journey has been interesting. Though we now can afford to pay for gym, running still takes 80% of our workout. The distances increased, gear changed to proper running gear, we have professional help. We are more informed on how to train, what to eat and many other does and don’ts. Every other time there are unique experiences- running stomach in the middle of a run, being chased by dogs, encounters with cops on patrol, running away from your own shadow, bolting when a polythene bag is pushed on the tarmac by the wind when you have lost yourself to the running steps, Urine in blood ooh..Blood in urine after a long run with inadequate hydration etc..

Of all this experiences, one stands out for me. Kilimanjaro Marathon 2012.This was our first out of Nairobi Marathon. There was a team from our gym taking part and they were leaving early in the morning. We had a class 8 meeting in my sons school so we left at 2 pm, ate sandwiches on the way and got to Arusha late. We ate dinner late and didn’t get enough sleep since we had to wake up at 4am to head for our start point in Moshi. All went well though we started an hour late. The course was tough for us at that point in time because a half of the 21 kms course was uphill and the other half downhill. I was running alongside Ronnie who was our gym instructor then and though we had not declared it, each one of us was hoping to out do the other.

In addition to the poor eating, not enough sleep and rest the previous day, I made two additional mistakes. One was running with my jacket. This was a trend we had because all of our training runs were very early in the morning (from as early as 5 am) and a jacket was always a requirement. I didn’t factor in the fact that the run was going to get into the early morning sun. The second one was that since I never hydrated in my trainings, I skipped all water points to avoid getting a stitch despite the sun warming up, and the oven that was my jacket which for whatever reason I never wanted to remove. Maybe it had something to do with Ronnie leaving me by too many meters if I slowed down to remove a sweat filled jacket.

At 17kms mark, I started feeling dizzy. After running what to me was like three kilometers I saw a distance marker showing 18kms.I almost collapsed. My speed was dissipating really fast and I asked Ronnie to carry on.

Suddenly I was staggering and then I slumped to the ground. The world started spinning and some guys with what looked like big faces were surrounding me. I thought to myself, Jesus, I came all this way to die? To kill myself. Is this how one feels when life is squeezing out of your body? I was so helpless. The guys carried me to the side of the road. I wanted to get up..I couldn’t move my finger leave alone lift it. Thats when I realized good health is a basic need. The next time I came about I was in ambulance. The first thought that came to me was haiya..if I fainted and I consider myself fit, my wife must be dead. “Look for my wife. Her name is Ann” I shouted but wasn’t sure any sound came out…The guys were just looking at me so emotionless. The Ambulance got to the stadium, I was removed, laid on a mattress and was given some isotonic water and glucose. Life was coming back. I could move my finger. I Could actually move my hand. I had never appreciated life that much. Thank you good Lord. I prayed inside my head.

Then there was a vibration. It was the phone in my jacket. I remembered we had agreed with my Wife that we would meet at the entrance since I was “supposed” to finish before her just incase network jammed like it does during graduations back home. We had it all planned out. (Other than the issue of me finishing before her).I got up and asked the guys if I could leave and they let me go. I couldn’t however locate the exit and was moving away from it. Someone shouted ”Mzee ni pande hii”(Old Man its this way).I assumed I had aged in that one half marathon.

I finally got to the gate and my wife screamed, what happened. I had soil everywhere even on my cheeks. I twisted the story and said I had collapsed after finishing.(Actually I never untwisted it till now). There  was the concern whether I was strong enough to drive back but as always I put a brave face and drove back. Later on after talking to various people I learnt how all the mistakes had compounded into the fainting situation.

Many years, many marathons, many experiences and injuries later, these experiences have informed my preparation and that of others and we are always looking forward to sharing other peoples experiences so that we do not make the same mistakes they made. Running has become part of my life and when people ask when I intend to stop, I tell them I don’t intend to. I will reduce the intensity but will run for as long as the body can manage it.

Of course running comes with many advantages. Other than the usual, fitness, good looks and feeling good, there have been a number of other benefits. Through running, I have met some awesome people some of who have become another family in my life. We train and share experiences together and are constantly pushing each other’s limits and looking forward to achieving new targets. To see each one of us working hard at the next goal has kept me going stronger and stronger.

Looking forward and having run 3 full marathons and some half marathons in 2015 an year after my debut full marathon, I have added the Ultras to the bucket list. I am researching and seeking for advice from those who have been there before. Even here I believe there will be many arising experiences and difficulties. But like the others, the most important thing is the lessons learnt and how they shape our running moving forward.

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