RUNNING THE STANDARD CHARTERED NAIROBI MARATHON
If I look at the start list of any one of the world major marathons: Berlin, New York, London, Boston and Chicago, I can easily guess a potential winner. It is always hard to make such predictions for the annual Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon that happened this weekend at Kenya's capital city. In fact, since its inception, no man has ever won it twice, and that is why I had my own target for the race because winning it was out of the question. All I wanted was to run a time good enough to qualify me as an elite athlete for the purpose of getting a seeded entry to a race abroad, just in case I'll get invited. I guess it was the same case for most athletes who turned up.
As it has always been in the last four times I ever took part in it, there was pushing and jostling at the start line, especially in the last five minutes before the gun. I heard an athlete in the masses complaining that the pushing was already making him hungry and I could not help wondering whether it was really the pushing or it was the tension that always happens whenever one is about to run a competitive race. Many times, I have felt hungry at the starting line myself. The last few minutes before the start gun goes off are always the times I hate in a race. I always long to get off.
The gun went off. Ahead of me, I saw an expensive sports watch fall into the ground and to my left an athlete was struggling to save his chest number from falling to the ground. I instinctively put a hand over my chest to protect mine too as I struggled to kick myself ahead of the surging masses behind me.
This year, I was closer to the front line than I had been in the previous years and coupled with a good move I made at the first bend by avoiding getting locked into the corner, I soon found myself breathing fresh air in front of about 7,000 athletes that had turned out for the half marathon event and running just behind the leading motorbikes that carried cameras to cover the event live at various TV stations. I could only wonder whether someone I knew was watching and recognizing me!
I was able to maintain the position for about a kilometer before feeling the pain and deciding that it was not the right pace for me to maintain if I was to finish the 21 kilometers and so began to slow down a little and a number of athletes began to pass me as we negotiated the third bend to Uhuru Park.
There has never been a timer at the turning point at Uhuru Park in the previous years, so almost the entire group of athletes that were running behind me had already turned back while I and a few others continued to run to the end. I reminded myself that even if I had to run alone, I was only after getting an official time at the end of it.
I started picking up a number of athletes again as we came back to the high way where I was startled to find a number of ladies already ahead of me, and we almost collided with one elite lady as she was moving again to the right hand side of the road to execute another shortcut.
I won't mention her name, but hope she gets to read this article. She is a multiple international champion, and yet was cutting a short cut in order to deny poor upcoming athletes the chance to win and get recognized. She should be ashamed!
I crossed the first 10km timer at 31 minutes and some seconds and knew I was still right on my schedule. The remaining part of the route was easy to strategize as it was a straight way along the Mombasa highway to a turning point that came back straight to a junction that let into the stadium. I expected the loop would be another ten kilometers so I started calculating the time I should arrive at the turning point, and to reaching the junction to the stadium.
Everything worked just fine. I hit the junction in 1:03:00, and smiled! I was predicting my finish time to be at most 1:06:07, but unfortunately the distance was not exactly as I had configured. But all in all, I still managed to run under my target and finished it feeling as strong as ever, even regretting that perhaps I did not use my energy to the maximum.
Or, could the remaining strength perhaps be an indication that it is now time for me to move up to the full marathon?
Well, I am considering doing the 42 kilometers next year.
The Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon has always been my favorite event and this year was even better than the previous ones.