Before, in between the start and the finish, and at the end of this year’s version of the Kigali International Peace Marathon, a couple of wonderful moments and memories were lived.
Importantly, an increment in the number of marathon tourists, those travelling to a marathon hosting city, was noted. We, as the Hikes And Runs East Africa community, grew from a figure of just two runners in 2016, to; 35 Tanzanians, 17 Ugandans, 7 Kenyans, 4 Congolese, 3 Rwandans and 1 Burundian whom we, as Hikes And Runs East Africa, either travelled with, or helped to register, or connected with on this same trip.
It was a joyous collection of enthusiastic runners who gave meaning to the International in the name of the marathon and illustrated the involving nature of the Kigali marathon. There were several kinds of new runners too, as some of them were either running their very first marathons or their first half marathons.
The tour of points of interest that we had, the moments we shared, and the people we interacted with while in Kigali helped us realise and savour the never ceasing beauty of Kigali, Rwanda.
The start took what seemed like rather quite a long while before we, the Half Marathoners, were flagged off, at 7:20AM C.A.T, by H.E Margaret Kenyatta, the first lady of the Republic of Kenya. She was to, later, cross paths with us as she, together with her host, H.E Janette Kagame, participated in completing the 7K that were the Run For Fun race. While at it, she, H.E Margaret Kenyatta, was, an invigorating spirit, one whose smile and wave – to me, on recognition of the Kenyan cap I was donning – were more effective than most of the day’s cheerleader’s efforts.
The finish was, like with most marathons, a test in itself. The promise of crossing the finish line, as resulting from the sight of the Amahoro Stadium floodlights quickly turned into a false one for we had to run – for what, on now much heavier legs, felt like additional kilometres – through the Kisementi/Remera surburb, then towards another named Kimironko, before running around the Stadium to finish within the stadium from whose belly we had started.
We never received a route map in what had been prepared for us as this year’s marathon kit for the Kigali International Peace Marathon 2017. That, eventually, did not matter. Those of us who have run Kigali before relied on past memory, while those of us who were doing it for the first time followed the flow.
Irrespective of whether they were new or otherwise, the infamous – for runners – Rwandan hills evidently took their toll on all runners. The marathon was tough enough to leave both classes of runners with either stitches, or strains, or collapsed on the route and in the need for urgent medical attention.
A Room For Improvement
The biggest room in the world, we are repeatedly told, is the one for improvement. We believe that the Kigali International Peace Marathon could, in the future, use some improvement.
We, for example, noticed that, just before we were flagged off, there was an unfathomable sense of disorganisation. There was, when some runners were trying to align themselves with the registration officers, no tent from where they could make their inquiries or be helped. Those who were helped somehow managed themselves to race cards originally prepared for other races.
Before we set off, there was confusion on which of the three collection points we were standing at was the assembly or the starting point or if one of the two banners was the finish line.
The starting time went beyond a 7AM we had anticipated, and resulted into us suffering under a scorching sun from the start till the end. With unprepared handlers at the first water point, which was at a point about 5K from the start, and no water at the penultimate water point, we were left to deal with our own hydration challenges which inevitably slowed us down. It was also rather intriguing that the 42K runners were set off after the 21K ones, even though that was the case in 2016 when they started at 8:15AM. The normal general rule of thumb, to say, of the 42K race starting before the 21K and any other is broken here.
Along the route, there were, apparently, no dedicated marathon marshals, no toilets, and no medical personnel. I chose to appreciate this handicap as a blessing in disguise for using well positioned mobile toilets would have meant that we lost much needed running time on our scorecards, that belief in medical personnel would make us go out in a quest for pampering, and that the additional numbers – to those availed by the organisers – given by the soldiers and policemen meant more protection for not only the two first ladies but us as well.
The finish was quite interesting as well. On the first moment of Kigali Marathon’s issuing of medals, some of us fought for ours, while others paid for theirs.
We all agreed, when were done, connecting, and heading home, that the Kigali International Peace Marathon is indeed a tough thrill. Thankfully, one we will always be glad to participate in as the years go by.
Certainly, I was not wrong when, in a 2016 Hikes And Runs East Africa blog post on the same, I described the Kigali International Peace Marathon as the most challenging marathon that I had ever done. Whether you were a gentle geriatric or a sprinting star, we all placed our right and left feet after the other, and repeated the drill till the finish.