“Even when you have gone as far as you can, and everything hurts, and you are staring at the specter of self-doubt, you can find a bit more strength deep inside you, if you look closely enough.” – Hal Higdon
Another year and another StanChart Nairobi marathon gone! I arrived at 2011 Nairobi marathon with a goal of running a sub 3 hours marathon. I had previously done two sub 3 hours marathon, in 2008 (2.52) and 2009 (2.56) but in 2010 I had a real back sliding, and finished in 3.23. A very poor performance by my high standards. This year was all about getting my pride back.
The eve of the marathon was perfect. No anxiety, plenty of rest, plenty of food, plenty of hydration. I woke up at 5.00 am, took a very hot shower just to warm up my body. I made sure the hot water ran down the key running muscles: the hip and the calf. The hotel breakfast starts at 7.00am so I had made my own arrangements. My pre race breakfast consisted of half a litre yogurt and six slices of bread.
With roads closed, the only way to get to the starting line was by walking. Every one was walking from Nairobi City center to the start at Nyayo National Stadium. I think Nyayo stadium is almost 1.5Kms from Nairobi City center and that walk alone is enough warm up!
The full marathon started at exactly 7.00am. My routine is to avoid the crowd in front and start from behind. I started well and when I got to the 9 Km mark I started feeling my body was not responding well. I was pushing but I was lacking the endurance to maintain apace of 4 mins per Km. Thoughts of my body may have peaked and I might never run faster again started crossing my mind.
The White Knights
At 11Km mark a man and woman team caught up with me. They seemed to be working together and they looked good at what they were doing. The guy was pacing the lady. I asked the guy what was their target and he told me, sub 3 hours. I couldn’t believe my luck! My job now was to stick with them.
I stuck with my White Knights, shadowing their every move. We crossed the 15 Kms mark at exactly 1 hour. If I maintained that pace I knew I would be on target. Nairobi marathon is a real budget race, the runners are only given water. I was drinking water at every water station. As the day got older, the sun came out and the temperatures started creeping up. I started taking an extra bottle of water and poured water on my body to cool off.
At the 25 Km, my white knights started pulling back and I raced in front. I thought I was leaving them behind only for them to catch up with me at around 28 Kms mark. We crossed the 30 Kms mark at 2 hours 8 mins. It was clear to me if I was to hit my target of sub 3 hours I would need to do something special in the final 12 Kms.
I Hit The Wall
At the 35 Km mark, my white knights took their team effort to the next level. The lady asked the guy to hold his hand and they sprinted off. I tried to chase them but my body refused. I couldn’t flip my legs faster, I had peaked. I was still running but I was not racing. ( I caught up with my white knights after the race and they informed me they crossed the finish line at 2.59)
When I saw a sign showing 3 Kms to the finish line I looked at my watch: 2.50. There was no way I could do the last 3 Kms in 10 mins. My new target now was under 3.05. To cut a long race short, I did the final 1 Km in 5 mins and finished 2011 Stanchart Nairobi marathon in 3 hours 6 minutes. Very Satisfying!
I never hit my target but some how I was very satisfied with my performance. I live to fight another day. You win some, you lose some. That’s life!