On Sunday, October 30, 2016, fourteen marathons were held around the world. One of them was the 14th Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, held in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
By any and all means, it was as organised as expected. Even better, the organisers introduced, for the first time, new convenient ways, like the phenomenal, impressive step of enabling registration online.
Personally, I sat in my Kampala and successfully registered for it that way, and, in an email, was detailed on when, where, and what I would need in order to collect my kit, and what steps I would need to take if I could not be able to do so in time by myself. Impressive, indeed!
A couple of inquisitive, encouraging, and congratulatory messages – both before and after the Marathon – later and I was standing amidst fellow runners who were waiting in the assembly area of the half marathon. A colourful, detailed, visual, and, importantly, simple Runners Guide, one which had been well thought out, had done well in directing us where to be and at what times we were needed there.
In our newly designed apparel, we – the participants in the half marathon – started on the route that had been prepared for us. If you have run a half marathon in Nairobi before, you could ably borrow from the extended stretches of the two possible routes to appreciate them as either the Forest Road or the Mombasa Road routes. For this particular half marathon, we took the Forest Road one.
The turns which take runners through the City’s streets, of Haile Selassie Avenue, Harambe Avenue, Kenyatta Avenue, and University Way, the ones on the earlier parts of the routes may, and they do, take a toll on the unprepared mind and body especially of the City’s new runners. They may be likened to jumping through a set of never ending hoops, but that is only until the route eases and stretches up as runners approach Museum Hill. Thankfully, the route, the entire length of it, is properly marked, by branded barricades, and attended to by heedful guides.
I have always maintained that runners are very important people who deserve as much catering as possible. Like they share(d) the same sentiments, they came through in massive numbers, and categories.
There were ambassadors, like that black gentleman who warmed up while carrying the Union Jack, and myself, Uganda’s ambassador of sweat; newbies, like Anne and Ruth, the two lovely ladies whom I met just before the start, who were running their very first half marathon; “celebs”, like the US ambassador to Kenya, and the Governor of Nairobi, Mr. Kidero Evans, who flagged us off. I did not see Prince Wassaja, of Buganda Kingdom, this year, but I hope(d) he ran as well as he has done before.
There were pacers, like the balloon bearing Race Runners, who started off their run with a really fast paced team effort, before losing steam or concentration as they approached the other tough part of the route – the hilly terrain of Upper Hill and Uhuru Park suburb of Nairobi. Whether they moved fast or otherwise, they did draw attention with their colourful balloons, and resounding tambourines.
The enjoyers, like the white gentleman who ran by my side for most of the route with his video documenting gadget in tow, and the sufferers, like Felix Ombura, my Kenyan running buddy, who needed some TLC – Taylor Swift Lyrics Care – to Shake Off a troubling stitch, and the cheaters, too, like that one, or were they two boobs, who bent and went under the barricades, much to our disgust, shared their company as well.
The seniors, or rather seasoned runners that I was lucky to make friends, connect, and interact with, and had done at least one marathon in another East African country were united by conversations enriched with memories of past events and preparations for the upcoming ones that they would be interested in, like the upcoming Kampala and Tigoni Marathons.
While Claire Baker, from England, was reflective on the recently held Ndakaini Marathon, Muranga, a Kenyan Mzee, chimmed in when he caught the whisper of the words Kilimanjaro Marathon, before Obua, an Urban Swara, joined us to share his fears of the Kampala Marathon’s 21K, as Felix Ombura did what he did best; making more necessary connections for concerted efforts while running or hiking in the East and Horn of Africa.
We might have all smiled to take photos with our colleagues from the 10K – they are not awarded finishers medals, so they borrowed ours, but I was even more elated as I had beaten my personal record having posted 01:53 on the board.