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http://www.simple-fitness.net/2013/09/17/uap-ndakaini-half-marathon-2013-report/

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A friend of mine, George, put up a picture on Facebook, showing the race number assigned to him for the Nairobi Marathon. From what I could gather from his statements elsewhere, he had not been practicing much. I decided to sign up for the half marathon as well, though I had not been practising as such. I signed up for three reasons:
One, I wanted to take on the challenge of covering 21km
Two, I wanted to evaluate how I would perform, seeing that sprint sessions are supposed to result in greater fitness than lower intensity, longer workouts.
Three, I wanted to (see if I could) beat my friend George.
I signed up on the last day of registration, and instead of the adult sized t-shirt that others got, I was given a green children’s t-shirt.

The run was set for Sunday. It was raining on Saturday night as I went to bed. I woke up at some point during the night and heard the rain. I thought of maybe just skipping the run.
I set my alarm for 5:40 a.m. I did not quite fall asleep. After a while, I thought surely 5:40 has passed. I got up and it was around 5:56. The phone was still on the Alarms screen, so I guess that is why the alarm did not go off.

Anyway, my wife woke up, made me breakfast, and we set off. She dropped me as near the stadium as she could and went to look for parking. There were quite a number of people walking about in and around the stadium compound. I made my way to a tent where they were giving out pins for pinning our race numbers to our t-shirts. I noticed that the vast majority of the runners had white t-shirts, meaning that my green one would stand out. It was also rather fitting, having been meant for a child. So I kept my jacket zipped for a while.

I kept trying to call George but his phone was unreachable or off. I also called another friend, Eve, who I knew was taking part in the run, and we tried to meet.

After a number of phone calls between my wife and myself, I found my wife, who had apparently crossed to an area meant for those running and officials. We took photos, together with my cousin, Tom. Tom said he hoped to complete the 21km in two hours.

The race started at 7:30a.m. I ran a while at a slow pace. The street was rather crowded. As I neared Uhuru Park, I called Eve, she said she was already in the Park. I said she should not let me slow her down.

The run was interesting. I was surprised that I could not run for very long at a time. So I alternated between walking and running briefly. I naturally looked around as I walked or jogged. I saw a lady who looked familiar. My mind took a few moments to place her. It was one of the ladies from Slimpossible.

There were some people on wheelchairs. At least one had the sort of three-wheeled wheelchair that you operate by using your hands to rotate some sort of pedals that are similar to those of a bicycle. These are part of a mechanism that rotates the front wheel. (Picture is here). I thought it was unfair to have these compete against those who propelled themselves by turning the actual wheels of their wheelchair using their hands, without any intervening mechanism. It was later that I realised that the race organisers made a distinction between tricycles and wheelchairs.

There were various water points along the way. I thought they were a bit far apart, but not too bad. Not quite surprisingly, many people simply threw their used plastic bottles on the ground, despite there being bins provided for this very purpose. That meant that the areas around the water points were like mini obstacle courses. There were people whose work was to pick up these bottles.

I saw a tall white guy and another guy running barefoot. My wife later told me there were a number of barefoot runners.

Some motorbikes and vehicles came from behind us. We were told to make way. The elite runners doing the full marathon were passing. Their route required repeating a section of the route, which is why they were passing us. They were running much faster than most of us. It was interesting to note that most of them were wearing vests and small shorts, as opposed to the more casual runners who were wearing more. One would get the impression that the more serious a runner you were, the less you wore. That may be true, considering that I was wearing a jacket.

There was also a bit of advertising going on. One runner had a vest written Team Kanu. (KANU is the oldest political party in Kenya). Others had matching t-shirts advertising this organisation or another. I remembered reading an article that said something like a group people were either barred from entering a stadium or thrown out, during the Olympics or maybe World Cup, because they had t-shirts that were advertising something. Sorry I can’t remember the details. (See related article here). Evidently, no such restrictions applied here.

I found my wife at Nyayo Stadium as she had said she would be. She was literally at the roundabout, having been assumed to be an official or part of the press. She took photos, and told me that a friend of hours, Sydney, had passed some minutes before. Passing opposite our church, I saw a guy I knew by face. I was walking at the time. Run, he urged, so I started running again. There were some boys in the Highway Secondary School compound cheering guys, cracking jokes and generally making noise. I went on. Tom called out to me from the side of the road that was heading to town. It was around 9:22a.m, so there was no way he was going to meet his 2-hour goal.

When I reached the turning point, I was told there were 5km to go. I felt hope rising. I could complete this race in under 3 hours. I saw the lady from Slimpossible still heading towards the turn. Passing our church again, I again saw the familiar guy, he again urged us to run. When I reached the Nyayo Stadium roundabout, I was a bit taken aback to realise that the route first led us a bit away from the stadium, to a roundabout then back to the stadium. That meant more minutes. I kept going. When I reached the final turn, there were many people walking. Some had finished their run, and others were walking to the finish. I saw Sydney. I urged him to run with me but he did not. I left him behind. I decided that the final stretch may actually make a difference, so I decided to run as much as I could. Nearing the actual stadium entrance, I saw a car with a huge timer, saying 2:47. I was delighted. I was going to manage less than 3 hours. I ran on. I reached a guy who was walking and urged him to run. He did. On the last bend, I saw my wife next to the track! (How did she get there?) She took pictures. The guy I had asked to run asked me to photograph him with his camera. I ran ahead, turned at snapped him. I had finished!

21km is actually tough. But I did it. It would probably have been significantly easier if I had trained for it. Now I understand why people get addicted to running. I want to do better next time.

My official time was 2:50:07. I beat George by about 4 minutes. Eve and Tom took about 2hrs 34 minutes.

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The Olympic games are on! My wife and I have been watching some of the broadcasts on good old KBC. (I wanted to make that a link but apparently their web site has been compromised and currently poses a security risk to visitors).

It seems Proctor and Gamble and Ecobank are the (only) ones sponsoring the broadcasts. So we are shown the same adverts over and over, and sometimes they just show a screen telling us what’s coming next. This screen stays on for minutes at a time. Wasted advertising opportunity if you ask me.

So yesterday we watched as once again Kenya failed to clinch a gold medal in a distance-running event. From reactions on Facebook, many Kenyans shared our disappointment.

Comments were many and varied:

Joy:  yaani…..even the Kenyans who defected aren’t winning..!!! Not even the Ugandans?? Kuna kitu for sho!!!!!

Ones: Ati world champion! World champion frm behind.

Ann: For a moment there I wished Kenya Power had not restored elec in our estate…. ningelala mapema! What!!

Amondi: Thank You Lord for Kemboi and his scrawny self!

(Kemboi is a Kenyan runner who won a gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase. Kenya’s only gold medal so far)

Gichiah: Yani guyz went for holiday na sisi tujiambiage tuko na team London!!!

Millie: I think this time we sent over Harambee stars not the Kenyan olympic team to the Olympics…wah!

Ndungu: Ni vile wakimbiaji wetu wako busy Somali.

James: Where are the medals?

Johnstone: R we serious?

(I assumed he was talking about the Olympics. maybe he was talking about something else)

Abraham: tumeshindwa. Ptooo!

Some even suggested that these non-wins could be deliberate.

It is bad enough being beaten by the usual suspects – Ethiopians and North Africans, but I was taken aback that the Kenyans were beaten by a guy with a Latino name! One Leonel Manzano, running for the USA, came in second after the Algerian middle distance runner Taoufik Makhloufi.

Similarly, in the men’s 10,000m, the American Galen Rupp, came in second, beating the Kenyans in the race. Rupp is white.

Kenya’s hope now rests on 800m world record holder, David Rudisha, among others.

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The Schedule
Yesterday I went for my scheduled sprints. No, don’t get the impression that I keenly follow my schedule, but I have learnt with some surprise that having a written (well, typed and printed) schedule helps me be a bit more consistent in following my exercise regime. Maybe it’s simply the happiness in ticking off something as done, or looking at the progress made so far in the plan. Or maybe it is just that a schedule allows me to focus on one day’s task at a time, knowing that other days and their tasks are catered for.
Time Loss
So, back to yesterday. My schedule says I should currently be doing 30 second sprints with 120 second rest periods. I use a phone’s lap timer to measure my times. I usually start the lap timer when I start each sprint, then count off seconds in my head as I sprint. I then stop the lap timer when I stop sprinting. Many times, probably most of the time, I have found that I stopped sprinting before the lap timer counted off 30 seconds. I think this is partly because perhaps my mind counts off the seconds too fast, in an effort to end the sprint sooner. Sometimes I simply stop because I feel spent, unable to continue sprinting and aware that I probably have not reached 30 seconds. The result of this is that unless I add a sprint or two to the workout session to make up for lost time, so to speak, I end up having sprinted less, at least time-wise, than I was supposed to.
The Idea
I read an article on the Web that gave a suggestion that addressed this problem of doing less than planned. It suggested that instead of running for a predetermined amount of time, you should run a predetermined distance. The reasoning was that during your workout session, as you get tired, you are likely to cover less distance in a given amount of time. By fixing the distance, even if you are running slower, then you will still cover the distance you intended. That means each running session can cover the same distance, even if one day you feel less energetic than usual and therefore take longer than anticipated. For me, that also meant that I would not need to count the seconds in my head. I would simply need to determine the distance I can cover in 30 seconds, and simply run that distance, knowing that I am not stopping too soon. I thought the suggestion was very good. Simple and logical.
Go!
So, back again to yesterday. I decided to follow this bright idea. So I made my way to the road where I sometimes sprint. I say ‘made my way’ because there seems to be no official route nearby from the more-used road to the target road. People on foot pass through what seems to be other people’s land, and sometimes sections of the route are inconveniently muddy. Anyway, I jogged to the road and chose a starting point, where I took a break to catch my breath and get ready for my sprints.
I started the first sprint. After some seconds, I glanced at the timer, saw 30 seconds were not up and sprinted a little more. I then took note of where I was to stop. Unfortunately, I had not marked precisely where I started, (imagine that!) but this was good enough for guidance. I walked back to the starting point. As I neared it, I found that the 120 seconds rest period was nearly up! I did the remaining sprints using my new knowledge. It was tough! I thought that if I had not actually seen weight loss results on the weighing scales, I may not have sustained this sprint routine.
How Did It Go?
The plan worked quite well. In fact, of the eight sprints I did, five exceeded the 30 seconds I was aiming for, and two were 29 seconds each. So my total sprint time was more than the target 240 seconds.
Thoughts
A few thoughts that occurred to me (Yes, I do have thoughts):

  • Have a plan. I have mentioned this before. A plan helps you think through the steps to your goal, helps you track progress and can help motivate you.
  • Where possible, it may be better to plan and later measure tasks by fixed, specific outcomes, than rely on changeable, subjective criteria.
    For example, it is better to plan “I will peel fifty potatoes, rather than I will peel potatoes for an hour.” (Don’t ask me under what circumstances).
    Or “I will write two chapters” rather than “I will write for 2 hours” (I know, sometimes the intended writing just does not come out as smothly as hoped).
    Or “I will write the program to add up and display the figures” rather than “I will work until I feel tired.”
  •  The Web has some good information. Well, it also has conflicting information sometimes, but it has lots of good information.

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Shifting Goalposts

Build-up
I jogged about 8.8 km on Saturday, including a 3.8 km non-stop stretch that took me about 23 minutes. Monday’s rain disrupted my schedule. On Tuesday, it looked like it was going to rain again and I decided to jog alongside my wife as she walked in the estate. Wednesday, I basically sat around the house and did other exercises. Thursday daytime, my leg muscles were feeling a bit tense. I feared that because of the two-day breaks between my jogs and the unstructured run on Tuesday, I was losing the gains I had made so far.
Time Limit
We had a group coming for Bible Study at my house on the said Thursday, so I had limited time to jog. I decided to run 5 kilometres, and if I would be able, to run 20 minutes non-stop like I had done last week. I was not sure I would manage this, though, and I was ready to try at least 11 minutes non-stop.
Off!
I usually warm up with a little jogging on the spot and brisk walking for 5 minutes or so. This usually means that the total distance I cover usually includes the 5-min walk distance. I wanted to actually measure my 5K time this time. So I did a brief warm-up within the compound and left the gate running. I felt ok. As I approached Mombasa Road, I started feeling a bit strained, so I figured that I was going a bit too fast. I slowed down. The footpath was rather crowded with people walking, but not too much.
Uphill Task
Ahead of me , on Mombasa Road, was the bridge that goes over the railway line. That meant a climb. That meant strain. I jogged on. The uphill jog wasn’t too difficult. I had decided not to check my stopwatch (Read: my wife’s phone) until I had crossed Enterprise Road. I would then have covered about 1.7 km and would have jogged about 10 minutes. (Wikimapia.org and Google Earth have been very useful in measuring distances.)
Target Ahead
I got over the hill okay, passing the working nation walking home. On my left were cars on the road. The descent was okay as well, and I was still in good shape. I crossed Enterprise Road, still feeling strong. The length of Sameer Business Park was next. My turning point lay just after, at Tulip House. I decided to try and at least reach Tulip House still jogging.
Right, left, right, left, I jogged on. An occasional sip of water.
Sipping water becomes quite a task when jogging and thus breathing more heavily than usual. You have to take a breath, take the sip and coordinate breathing through your nose while keeping your mouth shut and then swallowing.
Turning Point
Tulip House was here. 14 minutes and some seconds. I decided to jog till at least a round figure of 15 minutes. Left, right, left, right. I passed Tulip House a little and turned in a curve to avoid actually stopping. Not yet 15 minutes. Ok, let’s try go for 20 minutes then. That would be 60 X 5 which would be 300 seconds right? I started counting.
Passing Sameer again. Passing pedestrians again that I had passed while going the other direction. Right, left, right, left. 180, 179, 178, 177… Right, left, right, left.
I Know I Can
Did I start counting at 300 or 240? Doesn’t really matter, the counting is just to guide me, and also importantly, to distract me. Mind games.
I decided to continue jogging at least until I again reach Enterprise Road. Part of my concern was that I wanted to jog a distance that I would be able to measure easily. As I got nearer, I felt I could go on beyond the Road. But there was the hill again in front of me. Of course I can make it to the top of the hill, I told myself. Thank you Lord that I can make it. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 20 minutes had certainly passed, but now I had a new objective. Let me just jog till the top of the hill.
As I approached the main ascent, some guy joined the path from the left, jogging in a bouncy manner up the hill. Showing off, eh? You have just started jogging moments ago, so of course you can bounce along. He jogged away. I followed at a slow pace. I passed him and other pedestrians a few metres ahead. He was walking. Whassup homey! I said to him in my head.
I managed the climb and descended happily. Some guy had a jacket with a pocket that reminded me of a kangaroo’s pouch. His was on the back side of the jacket. In the pocket, he had one of those rectangular, transparent, plastic containers that you can buy some foodstuffs in. I passed him. Another guy seemed to be sagging his jeans, but he did not look the type to deliberately sag. I figured he was just shaped like that, with nothing much to hold up the jeans. I passed him too.
The End
At the bottom of the descent, I felt energised. Maybe it was excitement. I can actually push this till home! I thought. Let me at try at least till the gate. Left, right, left, right! Cars, pedestrians. Left, right, left, right! Look at the road behind, cross. I was now at the gate. I can actually do this! Guard at the gate waved hallo. I waved back. I jogged on. The straight stretch. Left, right, left, right! Excitement! Left turn. Reach for phone in pocket. Refrain from checking the time. Reached our gate. Stop the phone’s stopwatch. 5 Kilometres. 30 minutes, 01 seconds! Non-stop! Yesss!!!

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Lessons From The Road

I have been jogging since Dec 13th last year. That would be a little over 8 weeks now.
It has been interesting. During the early weeks, I Googled something I had seen asked by someone else on the Web: When does it get easier?
I identified with the askers. I was following a run/walk program and sometimes I was struggling through the run sections.
The answer was that it gets easier after something like 6 to 8 weeks.

When I worked my way up to running 8 minutes at a time, I was elated. I was actually a bit surprised as well, considering how I had been finding 5 minute runs difficult.

On Monday 7th Feb, I ran about 21 minutes and 30 seconds non-stop. I was very excited. I could actually run 20 minutes non-stop! This was one of the requirements in one of the training programs before training for a half-marathon so I considered it some sort of milestone.

I have learnt a few things from all this:
1) Gradual change does indeed add up. I actually moved from running 2 minutes at a time to 20 minutes, through gradual and regular increments.
2) A written plan is good. There are many free training programmes out there. I got and followed one. It felt good to cross out the days I had run and mark my time and distance. I am not sure I would have continued running if I did not have a definite programme I was following.
3) We need fans. I noticed with some amusement that whenever I was passing people, whether or not I knew them, I would try to run a bit faster or with a straighter posture. I guess we all want to look good to others. But maybe it’s just me. No wonder someone said that if you want to go faster, go alone, but if you want to go further, go with others.
4) Sometimes it indeed is mind over matter. Sometimes the reason I was eager to complete my run stretch and walk was simply that I was counting down to it. At the end of my runs, many times I was not feeling completely exhausted. I tried mental games but did not get far. If I had other things to occupy my mind, I could probably run longer before feeling the ‘need’ to stop.

I also learnt that there are very many products out there for runners – from fuel belts to energy gels to heart rate monitors. I wonder which of those are used by Kalenjin runners.

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I have started running. Or jogging. I’m not sure how this came about. I think what finally set me into action was a video clip I saw about keeping your tummy flat. There was a comment that one needs to run or walk to shed the fat, in addition to doing the specific exercise shown.
Jogging is not new in our family. My dad has been a jogger since as far back as I can remember. I used to join him sometimes when I was a kid. My sister also took up running and says she is addicted. So here I am now.
Last year, a friend of mine send me a training program before the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon. I looked at it but did not do anything with it.
When I decided to take up running, I searched my Inbox, found the training program, looked at it more closely, then decided to search the Web for more.
Not surprisingly, there is a world of information out there. I got a number of free training programs and selected two that seemed suitable for myself.
I researched some more and got more tips, learnt a bit about pronation, hydration before and after exercising, warm-up and stretching, Fartlek, shoes and so on.
Then I selected a start date – Monday 13th December 2010 (simply because it was a Monday), bought running shoes, updated my Facebook status, measured the distance of the route I intended to use and I was good to go. (I measured using our car’s odometer, in case you are wondering. And in case you are wondering what an odometer is, Google is your friend)
On Sunday, my wife, some friends and I went visiting. We were to spend the night. I was not sure what time we would get back home, so I carried my running gear just in case running time reached before we got back home. My intention was to jog in the evening.
On Monday morning, our hostess said she was going jogging. I was urged to join her, but I was reluctant, because I felt I would slow her down (or that she would rush me) since my training program said I should walk for some minutes, then jog for some minutes. I eventually decided to go, since she seemed keen on having company.
We set off on the road along which she normally jogged. She was jogging and I was walking, with my phone at hand to time my walk/jog intervals. I was able to keep up with her. It turned out that I could jog for 3 minutes (instead of the 1 minute suggested by the program) and still feel reasonably comfortable.
So we did 35 minutes. Our hostess jogged the whole way, while I walked and ran at intervals. I was quite impressed by her fitness.
I thought that onlookers may have thought I am a lazy guy. Or maybe that I was training her. I also thought that someone seeing me with her may get tempted to tell my wife that they saw saw me with a strange woman rather early in the morning, is she aware of my whereabouts? My wife would probably then laugh out loud, to the puzzlement and possible embarrassment of the reporter.
So we ran for about 35 minutes, which was close enough to my target 30 minutes. I hope to be able to estimate the distance, based on how long it will take me to cover the 4km or so that will be my regular route.
The program I am on should get me running for 30 minutes non-stop in 8 weeks.
So, there. Another member of my dad’s family joins the running world.

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