Running with Kenyans

Kenya takes running very seriously. In particular, this part of Kenya is home to the world-famous, marathon runners. International coaches and agents come here to scout for the globe's best long-distance talent, and athletes from around the world come to train at high altitude with these elite athletes.

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Obviously, I am neither an elite athlete nor a Kenyan runner. Every day, I am passed by real runners, who whiz effortlessly by me on their gazillionth mile as I slog slowly along.

Despite my regular running, I have never had the slightest desire to participate in a race. This seems to surprise to those who view me as an over-achiever, but the idea of devoting more hours to running seems both agonizing and impossible to fit into my schedule. Moreover, I prefer to run alone. And, unless a really good book is involved, I do not have the least desire to run further. None of this makes me want to sign up for a race.

I do not love running, but what I do love is an adventure.

This weekend, Eldoret hosted the Kass Marathon, with 5km, 12km, and 42km races from Kapsabet into the center of downtown (a center that is reached by a steep uphill incline, I might add.)  As my friends and colleagues began to discuss competing last week, I began to contemplate signing up for my very first race.

After all, if one is going to run in an actual race, why not sign up at the last minute for a race that is:

1)   Held at high altitude

2)   Taking place in hot Equatorial sun

3)   Being almost exclusively run by the world's very best runners?

How could this not be an adventure?

I signed up for the Sunday race on Friday, along with a great group of runners from the AMPATH consortium. Here is our "before" photo before heading to the race start in our shuttle:

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As it happened, we missed the official start of the race. How this happened, we are not sure. Either we were told the wrong starting time (possible), they changed the starting time (possible), or they just had a bunch of people gathered at the starting line and decided, why not go ahead and start? (possible) So, we headed out alone! After all, we had no expectations whatsoever of record-breaking times.

This ended up being great fun. Spectators lined the entire race route, with crowds and crowds cheering at the final uphill kilometer. A race is also serious business here, it seems, with relatively few people signing up "just for fun", but we actually had a great time - as evidenced by these photos. (Note that phone camera selfies takenwhilerunning are not known for their high quality, but it was well worth running with my phone!)

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Even better, I ended up running most of the race in the same manner that happens with my daily runs - surrounded by bare-footed children effortlessly keeping pace with me for kilometer after kilometer! A friend who was watching from the sidelines said I looked like the Pied Piper as I ran into town. These are my kind of Kenyan runners!

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The girls ran with us all the way until the finish line, in dresses and with one of them carrying her sandals the whole way. We triumphantly reached the finish line, where our exciting prize was a much-needed bottle of water.

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Truly, a great adventure day in Eldoret. I'm so glad I did it.

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Posted at 01:24

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