Could you walk a bit slower please? The plump lady requested me. A beige shawl was draped over her shoulders. Seconds earlier, she had looked sideways at me and given me a smiling look. I wondered if I knew her from somewhere. Turns out she was afraid of the guy behind her. A tall fellow with an unkind face. It was 5.20AM and there were only a handful of people on the road. The Rhino Stretch. I had paused my run to catch a breather when she requested me to slow down. I walked with her to the police post a about half a kilometer away.
Slightly more than one hour earlier at 4AM sharp, I was outside my gate ready to start the morning run. Minutes later at Kamuti’s Butchery, I met with a handcart puller. He had a black cap that he was putting on backwards. He was being trailed by two dogs. They were brown in color, which seems to be the most popular dog-color this way. A few meters behind, two other larger dogs were barking menacingly at the dogs that had just passed. I was about to speed past them when I felt a tingle in my right ankle and decided to take it easy. I slowed down into a slow jog, which was disheartening because I had been hoping to improve on my average speed that morning.
Thirty minutes and five kilometers later, that eighteen year old guy that I had seen the previous day overtook me. He was running so fast that I envied him. Something stirred within me and I bolted. He had slowed down and was walking. I sped past him. He will not catch up, I vowed, knowing full well that I just had to run really fast for one hundred meters then I would turn left and he would proceed straight on. I knew his route. He didn’t catch up. When I turned left, I glanced behind me and saw him looking at me in puzzlement. He was probably wondering how I had run that fast. One of the advantages of running with others is that you keep pace setting for each other.
Two kilometers later at Usain Stretch, something awesome happened. I discovered a relaxed yet fast way of running! Three years earlier when I used to run every weekday at Jaffery Sports club in Lavington, this tall, middle-aged guy would occasionally show up. I would be running really decent speeds of less than five minutes per kilometer, then he would just overtake me. Yet he appeared to be merely running casually. Zero-strain runs. And there I was running my fastest speeds but straining like hell. I would stare at him and wonder how on earth he could do that. Well, on that Thursday run, I stumbled into his secret. It boils down to internalizing running, which comes with consistency.
Three days later on 26th April, it was just me and the sweet 4AM breeze again. My pacing was great. So I finished the first kilometer in decent time. I felt a light twitch in my right ankle but I ran on, as I listened carefully to my ankle. The second kilometer’s time sucked because I had to pee so I lost momentum and some valuable ten seconds. I ran well in the third kilometer. Then my body gifted me with a pleasant surprise. My sole target had been to try run for the entire km without stopping. Two matatus at the matatu stage threatened to derail this goal but I ran on. I was feeling good. I finished km 4 then decided to run on up to the potholed road. I was feeling good so I ran on until I finished km 5. The lady on ‘mapmywalk,’ my running app told me that I had run five kilometers in 30 mins… great! Even greater, I had achieved a 2021 milestone of running two kms without resting at all. Awesome stuff. I ended up finishing the entire 11.5 km run in my best average speed in more than a year - 6.19mins/km. Two days later on 29th, I improved on this speed by one second and was thrilled that I was making steady progress towards my previous speeds of sub-6 minutes. It is better to take consistent, small steps forward than large, inconsistent steps.
Running requires consistency, which results in incremental steps forward. Before you know it, you will be running speeds that you could never have imagined, and it will all appear so natural.