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An Exciting Kenyan road running adventure at the 2018 Nairobi Marathon

November 29, 2018
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My friend, Isaac Too (in the middle) at the lead of the men's half marathon, Photo by Weldon Kennedy

In the morning before a marathon, there are times when everything seems to be happening so fast and you feel that you are already too late to do everything; pass the security lines, change, leave your bag at the left baggage section, warm up, queue the line to the toilets, etc.
Then it slows down again and you can’t bear the waiting for the race to start. Even with just two minutes to the start, it feels like such a never ending wait!

It was the same for me at the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon last month (the 28th of October 2018). 
The evening before the race, I and a friend had checked in at a hotel about 3km away from the starting point, which we had found to be convenient as we would just jog to the start as part of our warm up.

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At the crack of dawn, we woke up, took some more water, one banana and one energy gel each for breakfast and headed out of the hotel at exactly 5:50am. The gel was the was the USN Ultra Vooma Energy Gel, Café  Mocha flavor; thanks to the director of the USN Kenya who had learned about my plans to run the Nairobi Marathon and had offered me a few gels to try out there.
We were out too early for the hotel’s breakfast. The road towards the start line had already been cleared of traffic and we enjoyed jogging on the wide tarmac road alongside other athletes heading in the same direction.
The assembly time was 6:30am. As we jogged to where we would leave the luggage, other athletes were walking slowly as though they had all the time in the world. I told my friend to focus on getting everything as early as we could so that we save some extra time before the race. There were queues to pass through the security as we entered the luggage area, then another queue to give the bags to the officials who looked under-staffed as they struggled to keep up with the rapidly increasing number of participants entering in.
As soon as we left our bags, we got separated with my friend as he was running the half marathon while I was going for the full marathon. Time seemed to be running faster than I had anticipated as I lined up to use the toilets. I could hear the announcer calling on the marathon runners to approach the starting line. The lines were getting longer and some athletes at the back of the lines were requesting those who were running the other distances that were to be started about twenty minutes later to allow them use the toilets first. I didn’t know if they were allowed as I was already on my way to the start line.
Ten minutes to the start of the marathon, the wheelchair race was kicked off. Some athletes were still arriving at the start line when the countdown had already started and I guess two more minutes might have been added after the 7:00am scheduled time. There were no start corrals for faster athletes and this caused some stumble and falls after the start as faster athletes tried to make their way to the front.
I, tackling the 42km race, photo by Weldon Kennedy
Despite the cloud cover, the weather seemed to be little bit warmer than I had anticipated. I had my plans and I was not going to go with the leading pack, but there was a slight problem. My GPS watch was not accurate due to the dull weather, and perhaps the tall buildings as well as I remember it giving me a warning that I was too slow (6:35/km) and the next second it was warning that I was too fast (2:55/km)! To make matters worse, I never saw any distance markers on the route which would have helped me compare the splits I was getting to the actual distance on the route.
At around 15km into the race, I was still on the right schedule to beat my projected finish time. But then, my worst fear came to reality. I had been involved in a minor motorcycle accident ten days before the race, I had stopped my training then and I hadn’t had enough in time to do any real hard workout that would point out if I still had any lingering injuries. I had headed to the marathon hoping that everything will just go fine till I cross the finish line. I had prepared for this race for a long time and I wasn’t going to just let it go so easily. I felt some pain on my right feet which was followed by another at the hip of the same feet and I was already limping at around the 20km point.
Finally, at the 28km point I finally weighed the options. I was already in pain, slower than my scheduled pace and unsure if I was doing the right thing pushing on with the pain on my leg. I saw it better to pull out of the race, picked some water at the next water station and walked back to the finish area.
It was great to meet with friends again at the finish line after collecting my bag. My friend had run a fantastic race in the half marathon where he had finished in fourth position.
Well, I can attest to the fact that the USN Ultra Vooma Energy Gels did do a splendid work on my run. Had it not for my injury, I was on schedule to run a life time personal best for my marathon. I felt strong throughout, and even recovered faster than I expected after the race. There was not even a slight discomfort in my stomach which usually happens to runners when they drink excess coffee, try new energy drinks or gels.

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