The Comrades Marathon has a rich history dating back all the way to 1921 when the first Comrades was held with 34 Runners. To date, the ultimate human race attracts close 25,000 runners across the globe. It has a unique record of the world’s oldest, biggest and most famous ultra-marathon with a collection of past winners prizes from the early 1920s & the 1930s. photos of Vic Clapham the founder and other Comrades can be viewed. It brings together athletes from 80 countries. It is a symbol of passion, pride & perseverance, the comrades take all of you. It tests you; it defines you, it can break you but also it makes you. It brings close to being great and enduring, as greatness would allow. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE THE COMRADES!
I started training this year in January, for Mt Kilimanjaro marathon together with Kitengela Mbuni Runners and Run fit Club members under our mentorship of D.Thuo, J. Ndegwa and D. Munene who have been guiding and coaching the upcoming recreational runners. They have been role models to everyone. Mt Kilimanjaro is one of the races many runners use to qualify for marathon Races in South Africa, the race itself being organized by the Wild frontiers who are the organizers of the Comrades Marathon.
I had missed out registration for the race when it opened in October 2018 due to financial constraints I was going through. I did not foresee my participation come to the race in June. The registration for comrades sells out quickly within a month immediately after it opens up. So my chances so slim even though I still continued with my training in January and February. I then ran the Mt Kilimanjaro marathon beginning of March just in case, later on, I would register for comrades. Having run it last year the down run 90kms, Pietermaritzburg – Durban as a novice, this is a term popularly referred for the first time runners, then it meant I had to run the up run which is Durban—Pietermaritzburg, 87kms within two consecutive years. I would then earn the back-to-back medal.
During the month of April, the comrades usually have a window period of 2 weeks for those who do not qualify by then to be replaced, with people on the waiting list. I had decided that I wanted to register and go for my back-to-back medal. Therefore, when the registration opened in April I registered through Sports Tours and Travel. Unfortunately, after having run Mt Kilimanjaro full marathon and Beyond Zero half Marathon, I sustained a back injury, which put me down for the next 7 weeks and had to attend two physiotherapy sessions each week by the Nairobi Sports Injuries and Wellness clinic. By the time I satisfied them I could resume training, it was 5 weeks to the race. Everybody was worried including me about the short time to race, deep down myself, I would feel my inner spirit whispering that I will run the Comrades and finish unless something drastic happened.
Even though earlier on, during one the Runfit club training session D. Thuo had planned with Karen Hospital to have Runners undertake some Medical Examinations. After being examined, I was one among the Runners who were referred back for further investigation by the Cardiologist. He told me I should not run the Comrades before undertaking further examinations. All these involved monies which I was not able to raise. I confided these findings to my friend who quickly went online and read extensively about the conditions of Athletes. She came down with a consolation answer that it was a normal condition with some Runners. I then felt some relieve and ran even though later I would visit the Karen Hospital for further tests. By this time all my comrades’ colleagues who were doing the Comrades had extensively trained and had already done with their long runs of +60kms.I could only do 3 runs in Ngong 26kms, 35kms and 42kms.
I traveled to SA on 6th June, then the following day I went to the Comrades Marathon Expo and picked my running kit. I then went to the Coca-cola booth where I met the Asanda who took me around the Coca-cola expo booth. Coca-cola is one of the biggest sponsors of the Comrades Race which mans one of the hydration checkpoints, they were happy to see me and promised they would be they looking forward to ensuring they support me all the way to the finish line.
During the expo there is so much fanfare, different running clubs come singing SA National Anthem. Ecstatic mood is all over the place making Comrades running look much easier, one booth selling Maurten Energy drink which E. Kipchoge and other Kenyan Elite runners use, was branded with Kenyan Athletes Kipchoge, D. Wanjiru E. Kiplangat. B. Koskei. Everyone was excited to buy the drinks being taken by Celebrity Kenyan Runners who predominantly dominate world marathon running. Even though the Kenyan Elite are celebrated out there, back at home they would pass you in the streets unnoticed. It’s such a pity we cannot celebrate our own heroes as much.
After collecting my running kits I retired to the hotel waiting to do the 5kms warm run on Saturday 8th, where I met my Kenyan Comrades team led by Sandor, S. Muteti, P. Momanyi, Stella Hamisi, Giba, James. The other Kenyans took a rest, R. Kameadju, V. Kamau, Lebo, H. Muturi, Andu Adebe & E.Oonge. After the warm-up race I went back to the hotel to go through the drill of going through the checklist, timing chip, gels, road ID, warm clothes, etc. I always say this drill is like going to war, everything has to be ready and of the alarm clock crossed checked.
I woke up at 3am and went for breakfast. After breakfast, we were driven to the start line at 4 am. The place is lively, and I got to my seed F. Last year I got into seed D because of my sub 4hrs marathon qualification time. This year because of a technical hitch that occurred during last year’s 2018, Nairobi Standard Chartered Marathon where we’re made to run 43.3kms instead of the IAAF marathon distance 42.195kms I ended up running 4.06hrs instead of sub 4hrs which I had covered for the stipulated distance. This seed F is where you find slow runners and anyone who is running Comrades for the first time. It is a seed you have push and get enough space for running otherwise it is too congested. I fell twice before 25kms & 30kms because I had to jostle for space to run. After 35kms the crowds fizzle out then one can now run at their own pace or join the bus.
The halfway mark Drummond is very significant to all the runners. It is called Arthurs Seat. This year I paid attention because last year I did not know what was happening. I saw runners going to touch the grounds, but I paid no attention. The spot is refuted to have been a favorite resting spot for the Legendary Arthur Newton, five times winner of the Comrades Marathon in the 1920s. The Legend has it that runners who pay tribute to Arthur as they pass by will enjoy the strong second half of the race as they say. Drummond is a place of joy, tears as the halfway cut off time of 11.40 am approached more runners had made their way past halfway, but exactly 11.40 am (6.10hrs) the barriers went up and about 19,000 runners had gone past the halfway line leaving behind 4,000 who did not make it to the second half of the COMRADES.
I had earlier joined the bus(running group) of 10.30hrs but as the race progressed I developed muscle cramps after 60kms mark, making me slow down. I tried to put a brave face even though I was in pain. Along the roadside, you would see runners trying to seek medical attention while others were puking in the bush. At 65 km mark, I finally came to the Coca-cola checkpoint where I met Asanda and Coca-Cola crew who cheered me and ran with me for 100 meters. I was energized to see them and started jogging and walking; I had to stop at the medical station due to painful cramps. I was sprayed and after a few minutes; I got a relief and continued still on the bus for 10.30hrs. Comrades are full of fanfare. Along all the way, there are bands playing for the runners while other supporters are roasting meat and drinking. There were Students, Relatives, and Spectators, there was no kilometer covered where you would not get someone to shout your name and encourage you to the Comrades Marathon theme, Sizonqoba—together we shall triumph. All the way was pomp and color.
I continued running until again at 75kms where I got severe muscle cramps again. This time I stopped running and walked until I approached a medical station where they gave me some salt to lick. After licking, I got better and continued running until the finish line. I crossed the finish line after 10hrs 57mins 27 secs. Upon crossing the finish line and getting my finisher’s medal, as I walked to get my Back to Back medal I developed serious cramps again, the body shut down, and I could not walk. I sat down and the next thing I was carried on a stretcher to the finishers’ medical tent. It was my first time since I started running 15 years ago; I ended up in Medical Rescue Tent for further checkup. While I was on the stretcher, they helped me collect my Back-to-Back medal.
This finish line is so well organized that they will check on every runner whether they have gotten their respective medals. You will not go looking for your medal. At the medical tent, I was so exhausted that I could not even take water, an energy drink or a soda. They checked my BP, Heart Rate, Pulse and everything was okay even though I had not passed urine for 15hrs. I could see runners passing urine with blood. I remembered my earlier health scare at the Karen Hospital when the Cardiologist had warned me not to take part until he clears me. I wanted to be examined properly and not to leave anything to chance. After a while I recovered I walked to go get my warm clothes where I met my Kenyan Comrades and we sat for a hot cup of coffee while we celebrated and took photos.
Then came the finish time which is 12 hours cut-off, this one of the epicenters of the Comrades Marathon where families, runners, spectators gather to witness the last moments of the race. People watching from big TV screens, which are mounted, and everyone trying to encourage runners to go past the finish line.
The stadium is tense and emotional moments going through many people waiting for the gun to go off. This is the part of Comrades everyone waits around to watch, so I had gone near a TV screen to watch. After 12 hours when the gun went off, an Indian National K. Vartak 31 years old was disappointed after narrowly missing the cut-off by a few seconds. It was his second time unlucky as he did not finish last year’s marathon just 5kms from the finish when he fractured his ankle.
This year, cramps set in 30kms prior to halfway, which affected his race even though he said he would come back. Another runner was A. Mabena 70years old; he missed the cut-off at halfway when he announced his retirement from comrade’s marathon after taking part for 15 years in a row. This was the first time he missed the cut-off. Least but not last was Siyanda Majeke’s face as he was the last person to cross the finish line at this year’s Comrades before the cut-off. There was relief etched all over his face as the last runner 12.00.00 hrs. While many cried as they crossed the finish line, it was a bittersweet moment for many runners like N. Mongohhoane as she missed the cut-off by seconds. She tried to jump, but it did not work; she ran with a hip injury and after two years break; she was happy and promised to come back.
Steyn Gerda was this year, the woman who smashed the up run comrades record by 10 minutes of 5.58.83hrs from the previous 6.09.23hrs that was set in 2006 by Russian Elena’s record of 2009. She also won the Two Oceans Old Mutual Marathon while the 34-year-old Mothibi was this year’s winner at 5.31.33hrs spoiling Bongomusa’s attempt at the fourth consecutive title by only 25seconds with a time 5.31.58hrs. Emotional scenes of camaraderie encompassing the spirit of comrades as the sunset over Pietermaritzburg signaling the 12hr cut-off
The Robert Mtshali Medal: for the first time athletes who completed this year’s Comrades marathon in 9hrs a sub 10hrs were awarded this medal. It joins the other comrades medal collection namely: Gold for top 10 men & women, Wally Hayward men position 11 to sub 6hrs, Isavel Roche Kelly women position 11 sub 7.30hrs, Silver 6hrs—7.30hrs, Bill Rowan 7.30hrs—sub 9hrs, Bronze 10hrs—sub 11hrs, Vic Clapham Copper 11hrs, sub 12hrs, Back to Back; Novice runners who have completed 2 consecutive runs, up and down.
This year in April during one of our training runs which was a sendoff run for Team London Marathon; one of my running mates just overheard a conversation with another runner whom I was appealing to her to help me get Corporate Sponsorship. Upon a short conversation, she asked me to submit a write up about the charity I was fundraising for. She took up the conversation further with Keringet a Coca-cola brand together with D.Thuo.
The team receiving Keringets Contribution
Coca-cola agreed to support the charity and started hydration Keringet water for all my entire training for the Comrades and even up to date. After further consultation, they agreed a sponsorship package of ksh.300,000 for Air ticket, Accommodation, Branded Training kit and Ksh.300,000 Charity donation towards the shoe4africa children’s Hospital. They hosted two training runs one before comrades and after which brought together recreational runners.
NEW YORK MARATHON SPONSORSHIP: Additional sponsorship of Ksh. 100,000 Air ticket, Ksh.50,000 Training Kit.
After running the Comrades Marathon I had registered for the New York Marathon on November 3rd which is one of the 6th World Marathon Majors. Shoe4africa is one of the Charities accredited by the New York Marathon to fundraise for the children’s hospital. I applied to run, and got a marathon slot by the CEO and Founder of Shoe4Africa, Toby Tanser. My target is to raise Ksh. 2 million for the construction of the only Public Children’s Cancer Hospital sub-Saharan Africa, which requires $2 million for the construction and $500,000 for equipment. Last year I raised Kshs. 600,000 and this year I have raised Ksh.100,000 majority from Recreational Running Runners and our Friends; Hill Crest School whose students have been sacrificing their pocket money for this initiative. To all those who have donated their monies, Asante Sana. I have raised Ksh. 1 Million.
Shoe4Africa Childrens Hospital
I am still appealing for more sponsorship. I believe every child in Kenya deserves quality health care and cancer is disease many children cannot assess treatment. Therefore, by giving your shilling, a dollar or a pound will go towards the construction of the only Public Children’s Hospital Sub-Saharan Africa.
In April when the Comrades opened a window for registration replacement, I had to struggle to get cash for registration and eventually I registered through sports tours and travel. I was so excited even though the physiotherapist had grounded me during this period. After several visits to Nairobi Sports Injuries and Wellness Clinic, the pain persisted, and they referred me to take an x-ray. After going to the hospital they requested me to make payment of the X-ray. I checked my bank balance, which I had reserved to buy a ticket to SA. I realized my bank balance was not correct. I got a rude shock because my bank balance was not correct.
I proceeded to my bank, and I requested them to print a statement. When I perused through it I straight away realized someone had hacked my account while I was making payment for registration and accommodation and it was being used in SA. Someone was eating at the Mcdonalds, riding on Taxify, withdrawing money daily. In 12 days, he had withdrawn 100k. At that point, the Bank asked me to get a police abstract, which they would forward, to the Bank’s fraud and claims. I could not believe this, but after confiding with my friend, she assured me if I did not compromise my credit card I will get a refund but the refund would take one month. I did not have any other money to buy the ticket. I called another friend who bailed me as I waited for the claim to go through. I kept it a secret and prayed about it, asking God how can my money can be stolen while I was fundraising for children whom I do not know. Why is this possible? I had many unanswered questions. After one month, I called the Bank, and they told me they have already returned my money in my account. This was a miracle for me. After one week Keringet Brand, Coca-cola came on board for sponsorship. God answered my prayers and reminded me silver and gold belongs to him if he provides birds of the air food, why am I worried.
Special thanks to Recreational Runners & my friends, families, Keringet Brand, Coca-cola, Icon Sports, CEO & founder of Shoe4africa Toby Tanser, Hon. A. KIAI, L.Kiplangat, P.Makau, D.Wakiihuri, Hill Crest School, Bomas of Kenya, Nikita Resort, Sports City Resort, Fitness Rev Gym, Staff of Nairobi Sports Injuries and Wellness clinic, J. Kariakim, D. Thuo, J.Ndegwa, D. Munene, Pacers Kiplimo & Englishman, Mburu Taxi & Crew, Bachelor Kimani, Training Partners, Melita & Jane Olgivy, Nyanguthi, Mona, Girls and all those who continues to play a part by checking on me and ensuring I am doing my training, welfare, etc.
I still appeal for more funds,
You can use this link to send in your donations