I am feeling sickish. Its the 1.23 AM Sunday. 17th May. I have just woken up and my body doesn’t feel quite right. Will I be able to run today? Will my feet be able to slam into the ground for the 11,400 steps it usually takes me to run for 11.5 kilometers? My thighs feel tense. I feel something slithering through them. A tangible form of weariness. But I also feel something deeper. An assurance that not only will I be able to run, I will also run real good. I know in my guts that the sickish feeling buffeting my body is not really the advent of malaria or a cold, the two most common illnesses in my life. I conclude that the sickish feeling must be stemming from the 24 kilometers of cycling on Saturday, with my sister Gish. So I make up my mind that in a few hour’s time, at 5AM, I will step out of the house, walk for half a kilometre, then start running at the Kamuti butchery junction.
I write for an hour and a half then I refine a project concept for Environmental Africa Trust. The concept is about a project known as Chughano, Taita for storytelling. The idea is to use storytelling to tackle the Human-Elephant Conflict that is widespread in Lower Sagalla. I enjoy refining this concept. A few days earlier, I submitted it to a development partner for funding. But now am refining it into a template concept that can be customised for other similar projects in future. 4.34AM. It’s time to get ready for my morning run.
4.58AM. I step out of the house so that I can be at the main Court gate by 5AM. Every minute counts.
“Yá mune Kemboi!” I greet one of my favorite security guards. The other one is Max. They are both jolly people, so we always exchange smiles and laughter. One day I will employ one of them.
“Poa sana Jónte!” he usually uses the sheng version of my middle name John. I need to buy him breakfast soon, I tell myself as I start walking briskly. The breeze is cool and refreshing as it massages my cheeks. Deep silence is alive. The only sound in my ears is that of my footsteps. I almost stop walking so that I can just listen to the sweet silence that inhabits the pre-dawn hour. Only the sound of my feet can be heard.
When my feet splatter to the Kamuti butchery junction, I fish out my phone, scroll to the MapmyWalk running app and press start. It is game time.
About four months earlier when I resumed my pre-dawn runs, I would jog at a slow pace for less than a hundred meters and pant heavily as if I had just finished a marathon behind Eliud Kipchoge, the Greatest of All Time. But not these days. My legs are slowly becoming poetry in motion.
I break into a steady but slow pace, especially since now I know much more about pacing, which entails starting your runs with a slower pace to warm up your body and conserve energy. Pacing ensures that you don’t burn out too quickly.
Even lovemaking requires pacing, but that’s a story for another day.
I run at a slightly faster pace on rhino stretch. I am feeling good as I pass the second junction on the road. I step up my pace slightly when I approach the corner in which I am going to slow my run into a brief walk. At the final 150 meter stretch within Tena estate, I burst into a half-sprint that deposits me to the Moi Drive roundabout. Now a sweat is trickling down my face, which is a good sign that calories are being roasted.
Those two ladies that I always meet on Moi Drive are running towards me. I have just slowed to a walk to catch my breath but when I see them, I break into a run. I don’t want them to catch me walking and imagine that I am already tired. We steal glances at each other with one of them. She kind of looks like my friend Regala. A bigger version of Regala, who is quite petite. I speed past the Kifaru primary school junction and stop thirty meters ahead to catch my breath again. My app informs me that ten minutes and twelve seconds have elapsed. Not bad. Not bad at all. Previously, I used to arrive here at the thirteen-minute mark.
Then I break into a fast-paced run that takes me all the way to the Umoja 2 matatu terminus. It’s the first time that I have ever run from Kifaru junction up to here without slowing to a walk. This fast pace never leaves my side and becomes even faster at Kangundo Road. Here, I am literally sprinting. Poetry in motion. Less than forty minutes later, this poetry brings me back to Whitehouse where I normally stop my running app and take a one-minute stroll back home. 6.24 minutes per kilometer! Yes! This is a personal record. I have never ever run this fast outside the Sports Club. I break into a wide smile and use the back of my hand to wipe the sweat that has just poured from my forehead into my right eye.
My Cameroonian friend Yves ran for 4.44 mins per kilomter the other day, for a similar distance. But I am using that to inspire myelf, not to deflate my spirits. A time will come when that 4.44 will be my slow speed.