In the morning before a marathon, there are times when everything seems to be happening so fast. It was the same for me at the 2018 Nairobi Marathon. On the morning of the race, I felt that I was already too late to do everything; pass the security lines, change, leave my bag at the left baggage section, warm up, queue the line to the toilets, etc.
Everything then slowed down, and I could not bear the waiting for the race to start. Even with just two minutes to the start, it felt like such a never-ending wait!
This was the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon on the 28th of October 2018.
The evening before the race, a friend, Isaac Too, and I 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.
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 5:50 am. The gel was the USN Ultra Vooma Energy Gel, Café Mocha flavour; 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 toward the start line had already been cleared of traffic, and Isaac and I enjoyed jogging on the wide tarmac road alongside other athletes heading in the same direction.
The assembly time for the Nairobi Marathon was 6:30 am. 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 Isaac Too 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 the venue.
As soon as we left our bags, I got separated from Isaac Too 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 Nairobi 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 to 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 before the start of the Nairobi 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 7:00 am scheduled time.
There were no start corrals for faster athletes, which is a bit tricky to plan with the Nairobi Marathon because most runners have the potential to win here without past marathon experiences. But, this caused some stumble and falls after the start as faster athletes tried to make their way to the front.
Despite the cloud cover, the weather seemed to be a little bit warmer than I had anticipated. I had my plans. 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.
I remember the watch giving me a warning that I was too slow (6:35/km), and the next second it was a 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. Having stopped my training then, I hadn’t had enough 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 foot, which was followed by another at the hip of the same leg. 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 in 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. Isaac Too 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 splendid work on my run. Had it not been for my injury, I was on schedule to run a lifetime 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 or try new energy drinks or gels.
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