Sunday, January 23, 2011

Finding my place in the pack

The senior men line up for the Discover Kenya 12k X Country event in Eldoret yesterday - Mzungus stay clear

After 20 minutes of jogging from the house on Thursday morning, the girls and I arrived at a junction between two main trails. As per the usual, I had little idea of what was on the cards for the morning.

The conversation over dinner the night before had gone something like this:

"What are you running tomorrow morning?"

"We run 1 minute fast, 1 minute easy, for 20 times."

"Is it ok if I come with you?"

"We run with a group. Yes. Maybe you can run behind with the ladies if you have energy." (not helping my already diminished confidence level)

But the girls hadn't explained that 'the group' consisted of half of the population of Iten! At best guess, there were two hundred local runners gathered at the corner, rearing to go. And then there was me - questioning whether I should have instead done my own thing on this particular morning.

One guy stood on a fence and unhelpfully (from my perspective) gave instructions to the 'group' in Kiswahili. The smiley curious guy standing beside me quietly greeted me and asked me whether I was feeling strong today. I told him that I was feeling unnerved.

After a countdown from the apparent leader, the group took off. Happily, it was 'easy' first. After 60 seconds, the sound of footsteps got louder, and a gap started building between me and the runners in front of me. I quickly found my place in the pack - near the back, where there was much more space, fewer fellas, and most people around me looked like they had eaten something dodgy for breakfast. It wasn't so bad.

I took it steady, pacing myself carefully because the mid-morning sun was beating down and I had a long way to go. The good thing was, that there were a few people behind me.

Madness ensues after the starting gun, as 400 of Kenya's top senior men descend on the bottleneck at eye watering pace

After twenty minutes, I had that comforting thought of knowing that I was closer to the end than I was to the beginning. I had run 5.2km on undulating trail. Half of it hard, half easy.

At this point I started picking people off! It was just like the second half of Berlin Marathon, except this time I was only passing women, and it wasn't lashing with rain. I kept pushing until eventually I could see my housemates about a hundred metres ahead. Then all of a sudden after 37 minutes, everyone within sight of me stopped and started walking home.

In fact, we walked four kilometres back to camp. They seem to like walking home here.

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