Running in Kenya .. 6 weeks to go! by Julie Dowd

Posted on May 18th, 2011
Categories: News

Kenya is renowned for having so many world class running athletes who are breaking marathon records on what feels like a monthly basis so what is it that makes a married mother of two children think she can possibly achieve in the world of running? Well, I am definitely not breaking any world records but I am breaking my own personal goals – gradually.

The current race it seems half of Nairobi are training for is the Lewa half (21km) marathon http://www.lewa.org/support-lewa/safaricom-marathon/ There is also a full (42km) marathon and this is the 12th year of this annual event.

I first ran the Lewa half-marathon in 2008. The furthest I had run at the beginning of my training was 5km. The half marathon at 21km is slightly further! What made me decide to do this?  Two things: I was getting bored exercising just for the usual weight loss and being healthy reasons and secondly my husband had signed up for Lewa so being slightly competitive I thought if he can do it so can I! I forgot to say I also made this decision about 8 weeks before the race so didn’t allow myself much time for training. Anyway, I cobbled together a training plan gradually increasing my distances and lo and behold I completed the half-marathon in 2 hours and 22 minutes, which I was really pleased with. Especially so, when the following week I discovered I was pregnant…

So, here I am again training to race on the 25th June. I should add at this point that I have run the London Marathon for the past 2 years so I am more than beyond those early runs of 5 km now.

My training programme started last week and when I was out running around Langata on Saturday I passed 4 other friends who are also training. I don’t know what it is about this race but the amount of non/social runners who get drawn to this race is quite amazing. A huge number are married mothers like myself and I’m still not really sure why we do it! The training can be quite time consuming and you find yourself turning down evenings out because of your long run in the morning. Your children ask questions like ‘Are you going out running AGAIN?’ and then my 2 year old always helpfully tells me when I get home ‘You’re so sweaty’. Thanks!

Runs have to be timed early in the morning before the heat gets to you or the traffic on the roads gets too heavy. A friend this weekend was showing me his war wounds on his legs where he had to jump into a bush to avoid a collision with a matatu. My husband also had a near miss with a matatu when his arm was hit by a wing mirror – huge bruise but luckily no broken bones. And there was me thinking running was a nice safe sport to get into!

So, 6 weeks to go and I really must get myself out running up and down some hills. For those who haven’t been to Lewa it is incredibly hilly and tends to be very dry and dusty as you run on tracks through the conservancy. If you’re lucky you should get a great view of Mount Kenya but if you’re anything like me, you are just focusing on the ground ahead of you!

I am aiming for a quicker time this year so fingers crossed I can stay healthy and injury free. Watch this space for updates!

As a footnote I just want to acknowledge the loss this week of an amazing Kenyan runner, Samuel Wanjiru who sadly died on the 15th May.  At the age of 24 he had won an Olympic gold medal in Beijing in 2008 and in 2009 set course records in the London and Chicago marathons.  A young man with great achievements ahead of him who has died far too soon.  RIP Sammy.