Charlotte Morison describes her experiences dodging rhinos, elephants and 1000 other runners for 13 hot, hard miles in Kenya.
Over a glass of G.H. Mumm Champagne at some swanky do in Pall Mall I was first introduced to the lovely Charlie Mayhew, CEO of the Tusk Trust. A couple of glasses later and what do you know, I was agreeing to don trainers and lycra and head with Ben to Lewa to take part in the Lewa Marathon!
And so, at the end of June we hopped on a flight to Nairobi to (very nearly missing our flight I hasten to add) where we were met by a very laid back Kenyan who worked for the aptly named Roving Rovers. Our trusty vehicle looked like it had done a few rounds with Mike Tyson however it worked like a treat! Unlike your usual car hire in Europe the hand over comprised a handshake and smile (no checking of the vehicle / paperwork etc. A huge relief.
Having picked up Tiny (Ben’s school friend) and his work colleagues we hit the road towards the Laikipia Plateau and then on to Lewa. Needless to say our landy proved to be reliable but not quite as speedy as Tiny’s new Mahindra so we chugged sedately along the 200km’s, via a tasty lunch stop on a runway, arriving at dusk onto the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy a privately owned conservancy owned between Mt Kenya and Samburu. Haste was imperative as we knew in 30 mins the place would be pitch black – the sun sets a regulation time each evening and fast. So with no time for dawdling and looking at the wildlife, we sprinted to the registration tent and set about pitching our tent.
When I had imagined the campsite I was thinking something along the lines of Glastonbury, a bit grotty but cheerful. Oh how wrong we were. The campsite was brilliant, spread over a huge area we were able to snuggle into a quiet corner under some trees, looking out over the plains.... we were definitely in Africa now. The boys pitched the tents in record speed which was amazing considering the potential for faff from the likes of Ben and Gav, and the girls made supper. Our Roving Rover was equipped with a box of goodies for cooking so we set about creating a culinary feast of pasta and sauce to fire us up for the next day. With full tummies we went to sleep in our tents like the Waltons... Night Johnboy!
6am get up. Averagely bright and breezy, a quick brekkie, emergency toilet stop, another emergency toilet stop… (I was nervous) and we were all ready to face the race!
The atmosphere was electric, people from all over the world were gathering, a 1,000+ people all in lycra. Keen beans at the front were like greyhounds in the slips... we were a tad more British about it and loitered further back! A buzz of helicopters over head and a characterful Masai MC on the mic started the race. We were off.... pretty soon everyone had splintered into mini groups and I was on my own running along talking to all sorts of wonderful people. I know I wasn’t supposed to be talking, I was supposed to be running right but the type of atmosphere it was meant that everyone was buzzing, nattering away and smiling from ear to ear! The route was tough, tough as no one told me about the HILLS. Hills at altitude are brutal, truly, add some fierce sunshine and they really are tough.
What really spurs you on is the feeling that so many wonderful people had sponsored us, not to mention the fact that it was humbling to get ‘lapped’ by local guys running in boots two sizes too big. I don’t think us Brits were made for this. We made it though, one by one we stumbled over the finish line. We were greeted with hundreds of smiling faces and blaring Afro Reggae music that you cant help but wiggle to. We all made it, a huge success and the UK team had beaten Tiny’s Kenyan crew so that was a relief too. One nil. Excellent.
From there the UK crew boarded the Landy again and head north west further into the Laikipia plateau. As soon as we left the potholey road we immediately started spotting game. This is really when self drive comes into its own. With our heads out the roof, cruising at our own pace (as set by Gav the demon driver) we were able to do what we wanted when we wanted. For seasoned safari goers this is the best. As the sun was setting we arrived at Sosian Camp with an obligatory double G&T which we had fantasised about for the past 2 hours. Heaven, nowhere does entertaining like the Kenyans. We had a super 2 days at Sosian, looked after perfectly by the whole Sosian team.
The highlight for me was my first sleeping under the stars..... who would have thought that me, petrified snake lady could cope with it but I simply LOVED every minute. You sleep so well with your face looking out at the stars and you are all cosy inside. I am sure I heard an Elephant in the night but just rolled over and thought, he won’t bother me.. yawn!
Ben has organised trips to run the Lewa Marathon in Kenya for the past seven years. Call him to find out more about running the race, as well as how to build the event into a holiday.
A long weekend in Kenya to run the Lewa Marathon – leaving the UK on a Thursday and returning on a Tuesday morning ready for work – costs from £1,600, including all meals, drinks, transport and race entry. Call Ben in the office on 01768 603 715.