Thoughts from Tory.
I woke at midnight and sadly, didn’t get back to sleep. Turns out, day 3 is a good one for jet lag. The alarm was set for 4 am anyway, so shower, wash the kids clothes and hang it out, out for breakfast (bread and bananas, with a cup o’ tea), then the bus to the stadium by 5am. It was so dark, they were still setting up, the stadium is dirt with some grass in the middle, a volleyball court on the side and some other nets around the place. Meat was being barbecued for later, the air was think with smoke, and runners were starting to file in. After a while, the music started – cheesy dance music at about 3000 decibels, and the MC kept reminding us of the various start times. The loos were Asian, with no TP supplied, much to some of the American girls horror. Fortunately, I’ve been to third world countries before, so came prepared. Of course.
The first glimpse of the top of Mt Kilimanjaro in the pre dawn light was so special. It has been shrouded in cloud and haze since we got here, although we haven’t been able to see it early in the morning before. It was stunning, truly breathtaking and both Charlie and I felt a little sad that we won’t climb it. We’ll find other cool things to do, though, don’t worry.
It was so cool to see the startling crowded with scrawny fast Kenyans and Tanzanians, who sprinted off the start to get the advantage on the bend. The nature of the course with two ‘in and out’ legs meant that we could see the lead pack and eventual winner streak past through the morning. I settled in to my style – waving, high fiving kids, being laughed at by women, comments from men (I choose to believe they were just cheering), as I occasionally curtseyed in return. I suspect many of them had never seen anything quite like me I was rocking my NYM outfit – named T shirt and Jodi Lee Foundation tutu, getting a few call outs for ‘Toe Ree’ and thoroughly enjoying myself. It was a cool flat run for most of the first 12-14k, out of town and back again, then a loop through Moshi which included small hills. Several thousand people were lining the street the whole way, creating a very festive atmosphere. I was joined by groups of kids for kilometers at a time, and at one stage, by a man on a bike for over 10k!
We went back past the stadium at the half way mark, already a km or so into our climb. The climb continued until 31.5 km, through smaller villages, past coffee plantations, people going about their day – burning rubbish (choking on smoke), carrying enormous bunches of bananas (they may be plantains – I am not sure of the official difference), washing clothes, watching the world go by. As we climbed higher, it became a little cooler (very welcome) and we passed the banana plantations. Motorbikes were going past constantly, few of the roads were closed, and none were after the lead pack went through, then more cars and buses, loaded with local folk. Drink stops provided water in cups that I suspect were being recycled off the ground and refilled for slower runners – a few I was offered had coke on the outside once we got the the drink stops that also offered coke. A few stops provided sponges as well – very much appreciated on a day that would have been over 30 degrees already.
The long climb had me walking a few sections. My right thigh (middle part of rectus femoris) was quite tight on the climb, so I was conscious not to be a hero with the hill – 10k of downhill running was going to put more load on that than I really wanted. Finally, after a few 7 minute km’s, the turn around point was in sight. A drink, then open up the legs a little and enjoy the run. I had realised at 27k or so that I was actually still in with a chance for a 4 hr run if the hill wasn’t too brutal, so was watching my pace on the way up. I calculated I would be able to get there with low 5 min km’s all the way down. So when I felt good and the slope was not severe, I was able to get a sub 5 k done, but I always slowed down for the water, and I didn’t want to be too sore afterwards given my holiday starting tomorrow. Soft, I know.
By the last 4 km or so, the road was getting very crowded with people doing their normal Sunday thing. I was having to run around the outside of buses as they pulled over to pick up passengers (the roads were all sealed but there are never any footpaths). I was really trying to get my 4 hr mark, worried I was needing 5min even km’s and I wasn’t feeling able to do that. It was hot, dusty, fumey (is that a word?), I was tired, and I felt a bit insignificant on this crowded road. I couldn’t even see the runners ahead of me, there were so many others about. As I approached the stadium, inside the last km, it was hard to even see the marshall, I didn’t know whether to turn left or right once inside the outer gate, and still couldn’t see any other runners. The roadway was crowded with people sauntering along (drives me bonkers at the best of times), then a small African hurtled past me, kept looking back at me and gesturing me onward. He led me into the stadium proper, I could see the finish archway, and hurtled towards it (I’m not sure how pretty I looked!). It turns out, there were two finishing shutes – one for the half and the other for the full. The marshall was standing directly in front of the only sign directing full marathon runners to the right, while he was chatting to his mate, so he grabbed my arm as I went past, ‘no, no, this way’. Arrgh.
I whipped around the star dropper, sprinted up the shute, and went under the archway in 3:59:56 (garmin time, not seen any official timing). Woot woot! So excited to have done it. I really went in with a plan to run between 4 hrs and 4:20, but to just run by feel. My heart rate monitor hasn’t worked well for months, and I haven’t worn it at all for the last month or so – just running by feel. Weird for me. But now 3 of my 4 marathons have been finished in 3:50 something. I am nothing if not consistent! I feel like my training has really paid off, and a run without jet lag, mothering duties and a 10k climb could have seen a PB run. I am stoked with it.
We ran on roads the whole way, which I didn’t expect. I only brought my Trabuco trail shoes, but I have run a fair bit on road in them with no problem, so figured they would be ok. They were, thank goodness. But my Kayanos at home which have about 1500km in them and are a little overdue to be replaced are still sitting at home. If I had thought about it a little better, I would have brought them as well, worn them for the run and then donated them. They are in reasonable condition – I just should not run in them anymore. My Trabucos are about 18 months old and have a fair bit of wear in them, but I will be wearing them all trip as my everyday shoe. They may not see much running once we get home, but I have run the Great Wall Marathon and the Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon in them as well, so it will be sad to retire them.
Thank you to everyone for your support – it has been wonderful to get the Facebook messages, and the donations to the Jodi Lee Foundation. I will thank everyone individually properly when I get home to easier Internet access. But thank you xx.
Thoughts from Charlie.
At the start line of the 5km run, the kids were hijacked by a large group of African dancers complete with drums, trumpets and cow bells. They were all chanting and singing and once they saw the kids in their braids they were instantly grabbed to join in on the fun. They look both puzzled / confused and slightly scared by this hoard of black people – but once they got into it they enjoyed the experience.
When the starting gun fired we all started walking and trying to run. The crowd was 5000 strong so took a while for the momentum to stat. Once we broke into a jog Luca took off followed by Milla and Charlie. I kept with them for a while but lost sight of Milla and Jr decided to hang with me. Gran was in the back markers with a new friend she found called Kathy whom both decided to walk.
Jr and I did well, running the first 2.5km with my camera pack on whilst i wrestled with a camera in one hand. I got some great shots of the chaos during and after as well as some further pics of mountain.
I think the low and high of the day was the GoPro debacle. Long story short, Luca decided take it off and put in his sponsors bag and then leave it on the ground in a crowd of mostly 8000 Africans. The stadium was pure chaos, nothing was normal. When I found out it was lost I sent Luca, by himself into the crowd to try and find. He came back empty handed after 30 minutes looking a bit sorry for himself. When Tory arrived and had time to relax this gave me time to try and find an official to see if there was a ‘Lost and Found’. I mean if you saw this place, the very notion is laughable in the extreme.
After a few hand gestures and speaking with people around the main stage i was told to go onto the stage and speak with someone who was holding a mic to a speaker. He motioned to a man across the stadium whom i could only just make out. He was standing next to some dignitaries, probably the king or president or whatever they have here. The man with the mic told me that he had a camera that someone handed in!! He told me to go to the man and see if it was mine. Right. So I’ll just struggle through the crowd, climb under 2 barriers, dodge a guard and run up the stairs to the top row of the VIP section ask about a GoPro?? I did! And guess what the man had a red bag with my camera in untouched!
Amazing – I wouldn’t expect to see it again in Adelaide, let alone in one the poorest countries in the world, in a stadium of 8000 raucous Africans, street vendors, touts, runners and street urchins. I certainly didn’t judge in the purest sense, I didn’t expect to see it again just because the basic fact that it was about a years wage and it was our fault that it was on the ground.
The only thing Im sad about is that no-one gave their name, they just handed it over. I was prepared for a reward payment, and happy to pay.
The person that handed it up, required no reward, except for good Karma for the next 2 lifetimes.