I had heard about the Lewa conservancy and the annual Safaricom marathon but I didn’t know much about it. Google being my friend I decided to do some research about the conservancy and this is what I found out. The Lewa conservancy was once a cattle ranch, the ranch was managed by the Craig/Douglas family who came to lewa in 1922 and managed it for over 50 years. The family valued the wildlife that shared the land with their cattle and developed wildlife tourism as an additional activity. In the early 80’s they decided to set up a sanctuary for rhinos which were being overwhelmingly poached, they started with black rhinos with the white ones added later. After about 10 years the rhinos needed more space and the sanctuary was expanded to cover the entire ranch. This is when the Craig family handed over the ranch to a non – profit organization, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
The safaricom marathon started in 2000 and is now in its 16th year, how about that. It is considered as a must do marathon and also one of the toughest considering you run through the conservancy in boiling temperatures. The main purpose of the marathon is to raise funds for wildlife conservation, while also investing in education, health, agricultural support and infrastructural developments for the local communities.
So when I was informed that I would be covering the event I rushed to check out its location on google from where I came to realize that it was in Isiolo some good 270 kilometers and that it would take about four hours to get there. Being a fan of the outdoors I have to say that I was excited plus I had not been on a road trip for a while. On the day of departure we congregated at the K.I.C.C parking lot with my travel companions and at around 8 o’clock we embarked on the journey to the wild. We had a brief stopover at Nanyuki for lunch and refreshments and I had a chance to devour some tasty goat ribs at the famous ‘Kungu Maitu’ which I was duly informed was the oldest and most popular eatery in the town. I was amazed at how much the town had grown since my last stop there some 8 years ago. We finally reached our destination late in the afternoon where we were taken through rigorous security checks, it was evident that the event organizers were taking security very seriously. We were shown our sleeping quarters and everyone headed off to relax after the long trip.
I woke up bright and early partly because I wanted to be ready for the marathon but mostly because it was too damn cold for me to sleep comfortably. We had been warned that the temparatures drop to as low as 10 degrees but I never thought it would be this bad. What followed a nerve jarring shower with ice cold water, given the fact that the last time I showered with cold water was I high school this was definetly a traumatizing experience. I thought I was the only one who got traumatized by the cold shower only to find a long queue of shivering individuals at the tea urn. After breakfast everyone headed to the start of the marathon, I was surprised by the large number of people who had signed up to run in the marathon from the old some of whom were over 70 years old to the young with the youngest being 10 years. Once we reached the starting line we found the runners warming up in preparation for the long run.
The first race which was the children’s 5 km race was flagged off by the US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec. After about 20 minutes the second race being the 21km half marathon and 42 km full marathon were flagged off by the Safaricom Chairman, this time Bob Godec had joined the other runners with a view to run for the half marathon. A shot was fired to signal the start of the race and the runners zoomed off, I had to quickly move out of their way to avoid getting trampled on. After all the runners had left, we headed back to the finish line to wait for the eventual winners.
The first to cross the finish line were the winners of the kid’s race. The first girl in the 10 – 13 category was Diana Karimi while the first boy in the 14 – 17 category was Daniel Kaunga. After about an hour the winners of the 21 km half marathon started trickling in with Robert Wambua being the winner, he was closely followed by Maurice Munene. The first lady to finish the 21km marathon was Lucy Karimi with Pauline Wanjiku and Perendis Lekapama coming in second and third consecutively. An hour later the winner of the 41 km full marathon crossed the line, he was Elijah Mbogo who finished with a time of 2:20:18 three minutes ahead of Moses Wamaitha 2:23:21 and Cyprian Kiogora 2:24:54. The first lady to cross the finish line for the 42km marathon was Fridah Lodepa with a time of 2:50:18 who made a record by winning the marathon 3 times in a row, she was closely followed by Monica Muthoni 2:52:26 and Rispa Lagat 2:53:25.
The highlight of the marathon for me was an 85 year old man by the name of John Gituchi who ran and finished the 21 km half marathon. He had been running since 1948 while he was in class three and had no plans to stop. I was also impressed by a 72 year old lady Susan Mitfield who also ran the 21 km marathon. These two who were still running at their advanced ages really motivated me to start running since I can’t even manage to run a full kilometer non-stop due to my membership in team one pack. So watch this space, I might even get a podium finish next yearJ.