Saturday, 12 November 2016

Remembering the Kericho Tea Marathon


Running the Kericho Tea Marathon will always remain as one of the most memorable and enjoyable moments in my life.
I still remember the evening of 8th May 2015, when we as athletes from various parts of the country and beyond descended on the small town to take part in the marathon scheduled for the following day and we were greeted by a heavy downpour that is typical of this place. After alighting from the PSV vehicles we immediately rushed through the heavy rain to find shelter in nearby buildings. The rain finally subsided about an hour later and other athletes headed out to pick their race numbers at a park within the town in the process getting greeted and surprised by monkeys dangerously crossing the streets to climb tall buildings in town to get vantage positions to enjoy the last moments of the reddish evening sunshine.

Kericho is a town in the southern parts of the Rift Valley region in Kenya. Famously referred to as "the green town," it is surrounded by vast fields of tea plantations and the landscape, to every direction you face, is ever green up to the horizon. Along the river banks and the roads around this town are indigenous trees that form small forests teeming with monkeys that blend well with the green farms.
Early the following day, the marathon started out smoothly at around 8AM with female athletes getting a head start of 20 minutes before the male athletes. The weather was cool with clouds covering the sky, but no sooner had the athletes set out than the sky cleared and the sun began to glare causing the temperatures to rise gradually. The course itself was a tough one with many steep hills. Whenever one came across a section that slanted downwards, it only served to remind them that they would definitely have another hill to climb on their way back because the route was a 21km stretch on which the athletes were to turn at a point and follow the same road up to the same starting point which will have been turned into a finish line by the time they were back.
The organization of the marathon throughout the course was great. There was plenty of water on the route with aid stations situated five kilometers apart. The officials and volunteers along the route too were very cooperative and did their work very well and cheerfully. They understood that not all the athletes in the course were there just purposely to win the race, but that some were there to just try and finish a marathon, others were there to better their times while others were there to do a long run in a measured course, among other reasons. The same attention was being given to all the runners on the course with officials recording times and chest numbers at various points and uttering words of encouragement.
The scenery was amazing whenever an athlete wanted to turn his attention away from the pain on his legs and let his eyes wander about the green table of tea plantations. I still remember one point near to a river bank where a monkey had scared me almost to a scream when it jumped down from the highest point of a tree and grabbed the lowest branch as it nearly fell just in front of me. For a moment, it took my thoughts away from the hard task at hand as I kept wondering how it had made the judgment that the branch wasn't going to break leaving it to fall on the tarmac road.
Well, as I bought a packet of fresh highland tea and headed back to Eldoret after successfully completing another marathon, the conductor of the public service vehicle I had boarded asked me if I had won anything in the marathon and when I replied to him that perhaps he was the one who actually won more given the number of athletes who had paid him fare to board his vehicle, he smiled and decided to secretly refund me some money, confiding in me that he had actually reaped a lot out of this marathon. His smile was probably being replicated by other business owners in the small town; those who accommodated the athletes in their hotels, the taxi operators and those who sold them packets of tea as they left the town.