It’s a common misconception that all Kenyans run. They don’t.
There are the Wesley Korirs or Rita Jeptoos. They are the epitome of a Kenyan runner.
Then, there are the people loping along a Nairobi street, their legs moving at a steady rhythm. But they’re not just running. They’re going somewhere, and running happens to be the fastest method of transportation.
What I didn’t realize was those ordinary Kenyans who do run for recreation endure the same scrutiny I do as a blond mzungu pounding the pavement.
“Enda wapi? Where are you going?” They might hear that many times during their runs – in those moments, they’re not much different than me in the eyes of Kenyan passersby.
The search for motivation
Marathon training can be a lonely endeavor. At least, I’ve found it to be.
Maybe you’re part of a marathon-running posse, but most of us don’t have hordes of pals to go out and blow through 30 kilometers with.
In some ways, I love the times of self reflection a long run provides. In other ways, training runs are similar to the process of pulling teeth. They’re not meant to be wonderful times of refreshment; they’re meant to be painful so that the final outing isn’t.
And that’s what mystifies the Kenyans and Sudanese I’ve encountered. If you don’t have a specific destination, why on earth are you barreling down the road – and going nowhere to boot?
Those of you who don’t do distance running are nodding your heads: “Really, Rebecca, they have a point.”
To which I say: That’s beside the point. Back to the topic at hand.
So, it’s been with fits and starts I’ve plunged into training for the June 29 Lewa Marathon. I knew it was going to be different from previous training programs.
Why? It’s amazing I even get to run in Kenya, as I shared earlier. I trained for the Pittsburgh Marathon on roads. In the few years since then though, my loathing has increased exponentially. Now, I can honestly say I hate road running.
No, really. I’m not sure I can quite convey how much I HATE road running.
I HATE IT WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS.
Get the picture?
Speaking of pictures, see the one above? Wouldn’t you rather run through that gorgeous tea field than along a congested Nairobi street? Wouldn’t you?
But I digress.
There are others! And they run too!
So, clearly, I had a problem: I needed to get long runs in, but I wanted to find green places to do them. I needed to do this.
After asking some questions and doing some online digging, I found what I was looking for: Others who run, a lot.
They are a motley crew. One group runs and then drinks afterwards. I climbed a mountain with them a few weeks ago – and can confirm they’re a crazy bunch. But they ain’t no lightweights. The day after they climbed the mountain, they ran 16 kilometers. I settled for a measly eight-kilometer recovery run.
The other group sets up long runs on Saturdays, of varying lengths, oftentimes on trails around Nairobi. They do high altitude running at Eldoret, the training grounds for many of the world’s best distance runners. A number of their members are off running marathons around the world. Never fear though: there are fairly average runners like me who join in too.
It’s during one of those running days I learned that these Kenyans get just as much – if not more – grief from their peers for what they do. Despite that, they still lace up their shoes and go running.
We have a common purpose. Thank goodness – I have a feeling it’ll help give me motivation on the days I’m struggling to find it.