Well, I made it and without the help of the stretcher-bearers! Not perhaps as fast as I had hoped, but 23 seconds under 3 hours! I was placed 693 out of 1,100. No one was eaten, although at one point the spotter helicopter had to stop a protective female elephant charging a group of runners. I was lapped at the 12 km mark by the winner, a Kenyan, who nonchalantly loped past and by all appearances had not even broken into a sweat. He completed the full marathon in 2 hours 18 minutes.
I can categorically say I hated pretty much every minute of the run and as you will see from the pictures, I’d designed my own T-shirt, much to the delight of many fellow runners. The route was solidly uphill from the 5 km to the 14 km mark on a narrow track gouged and rutted from rain. We were up at 5 am for some breakfast and at the start line for 7 am to watch the 5 km children’s race set off, slightly delayed by lions having a zebra for breakfast on the course. By 7.30, when the race began, it was already starting to get hot so the water/Lucozade stops every 2 km were a most welcome respite and an excuse to walk.
Running aside, the event was huge fun. Amazing logistics, brilliant atmosphere, wonderful place and surprisingly good food in a tented camp housing upwards of 200 people – overall a fantastic experience. Several teams from the City (Deutsche Bank, Blackrock, Artemis – each of whom raised in excess of £100,000 for Tusk), a lovely group from Admiral Insurance in South Wales, an army team of wounded soldiers from BattleBack, Americans travelling with Marathon Tours (crazy people who run marathons in 7 continents) and of course the majority were locals, many of whom travelled up from Nairobi the night before and who clearly had never run anywhere in their lives.
We visited several projects funded by the Tusk Trust, in the preceding days. A couple of schools, a water project and land, irrigated and fertile by Tusk efforts. It made us realise we were running for the sake of a very good cause. And on the early morning game drives, we saw some Black Rhino, the endangered beast that is so well protected on the Lewa Downs – a treat, on top of the aches.
Having posted beforehand that I would never, ever, ever do it again, the pain of the run, rather like childbirth, recedes (or so I am told!) and is replaced simply by the memory of the experience. Who knows? I cannot help feeling we should have a full Steppes team for 2012 with a combination of staff and clients.
Anyone up for it?