When I first found out I was coming to Kenya pretty much the first thing I did was buy the guidebook. I was reading it in bed one night when I stumbled across a description of a marathon on Lewa conservancy, a private reserve just north of Mount Kenya. Being a bit into running after completing my first half marathon in 2013 I read with mild interest until I came to the bit that said that elephants, zebra and giraffes decorate the route as you ran! At this point I jumped out of bed and ran up to my flatmate, Morven’s, room. As my main running buddy I was pretty sure this was just the ticket to convince her she needed to come for a visit…
Now, with just over 3 months to go until race day I sometimes slightly rue my early enthusiasm. But not much!
Training in Nairobi for my first marathon – and a marathon at an altitude of 1750m where temperatures soar to mid-thirties by late morning – has been no mean feat. When I first arrived I couldn’t even run 5k without being exhausted! Battling the broken pavements, chaotic traffic (that frequently drives on aforementioned pavements), heavy fumes and children laughing at me I gradually increased the distance I could run to something resembling that of a beginner. But I simply couldn’t work out how I was going to manage to cover the distances a training regime would require.
Luckily I have some rather excellent colleagues including one who organises a small running club a few times a week before work. So a couple of months ago I started a gruelling regime of getting up at 5.30am (again, my flatmate’s can attest that I am NOT a morning person), travelling the hour it takes to get to work on the bus, then going on a run with a group of Kenyan men far fitter than me.
At first, it was all I could do to stay awake during the day after these morning sessions. But now, I positively love them. In fact, I now skip the bus journey and run all the way from home to running club dodging traffic and the rather terrifying Marabou Storks as I go.
While running in the UK might have been easier, nothing compares to when we are running through the Arboretum, a little oasis of green just north of the CBD, and a troop of monkeys will bound past us. I’m even sort of growing to enjoy the “body work” sessions one of the group forces us to do, including lugging truck tyres across fields and an excessive amount of sit-ups.
There’s still a way to go before I can imagine I’ll possibly be able to manage 26miles at the end of June. But at least now the training has become a unique and constantly surprising way to explore the city – rather than a dreaded chore!