The 17th edition of Safaricom Lewa Marathon which attracted close to 1,400 participants and approximately 5,000 spectators came to its zappy climax under the sweltering sun of Lewa Conservancy. Seasoned and upcoming runners participated in this year’s competition which saw past and new winners clinch prestigious prizes in different categories.
It was Fridah Lodepa’s big day as she made history as the first woman ever to win the 42-Kilometre race for the fourth consecutive time after clocking 02:48:13. Fridah who is used to dominating the race due to her mastery of the course today faced stiff competition from Mary Ng’endo who came in second in the women’s category in a time of 02:48:46. Fridah’s hunger for success is far from satisfied. She now has her eyes focused on next year’s edition of Safaricom Marathon as well as the upcoming Kuala Lumpur marathon both of which she is optimistic to win.
In the men’s 42 kilometres category, Philemon Baaru returned to reclaim his place at the top of the race after missing out on last year’s edition as a result of a leg injury. He clocked 2:22:42 to floor Paul Maina (2:24:23) and Peter Wahome (2:24:47). He dominated the entire race and attributed his success to hard work in training after he recovered from his injury. This win also marked the fourth time he is clinching this title since his maiden participation in 2012. Just like Lodepa, he is not going to rest even after winning today. He is training hard to break the marathon record next year.
The 21-kilometre race also attracted elite runners such as the decorated Henry Wanyoike and two-time London marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge who was using the half marathon as a platform to launch his bid for gold in the Rio Olympics came in fourth but was elated by his performance. He is in the middle of his Oympics training and only on Thursday did he run 40 kilometres before resting for a day then participating in this race which he claimed is good for his build up for Rio.
Besides the Marathon, other highlights from the event were:
Party in the wild
It sounds cheesy but we partied among the wild animals. A mega stage was set up near the finish line where participants were treated to some music from DJ Juan, DJ Soxxy and Daddy Owen. You see, if you have ever or are used to attending Safaricom events, you will agree with me that the company knows how to throw a good party. As it is always the case, people turned up in large numbers you would think we were still in Nairobi. The charged up party goers sang along to Daddy Owen‘s songs as they did jigs to the different music played by DJ Juan. DJ Soxxy who was the MC, on the other hand kept us entertained through the funny one-liners he could drop. The end of that party marked the beginning of yet another party. The show spilled out into the night where a huge bonfire was lit for the participants-turned-revellers. Here, we got a chance to interact and network as we sipped away the night. For some people, the party got fancier as the booze started kicking in. As we perched near the bonfire, the night quieted and only occasional sounds from animals could be heard from the animals. The moon and the stars came out in the clear sky to light up the place giving it a beautiful look. Of course there were ‘love birds ‘lying on the ground watching the moon and the stars and whispering romantic things in each other ‘s ears.
When you are part of Safaricom Marathon in whatever capacity (runner or spectator), you will find that there’s more than just running in the wild. Since the marathon starts as the sun rises, participants trickle in the night before and are accommodated in tents during their stay at the conservancy. For two nights, the place usually inhabited by animals becomes home for people. When we headed down to the conservancy, there was an air of excitement among the participants, spectators and media. A weekend away from the craze that is Nairobi was a perfect getaway.
We were accommodated in clean tents complete with small beds and blankets to keep us warm through the rather cold nights at Lewa. When darkness crawled in, people made their way to the tents in anticipation for the big day. The night was serene. We woke up to the pleasant chirping of birds and golden yellow rays of the rising sun. You never know how much a beautiful sunrise means to a photographer until you hear them sulk when there’s no sunrise to snap away. The conservancy was no exception. People armed with their cameras ‘thronged ‘a place that was seen as ideal to capture the beautiful rising sun.
I was particularly impressed by the measures to ensure safety of every person who went to Lewa. There were numerous security checks to take care of any insecurity that could arise. Bearing in mind that is a place for animals, the game rangers could be seen strolling around to ensure safety of both the animals and people.
Weather and terrain
When we left Nairobi for Lewa Conservancy on Friday it was excruciatingly cold in Nairobi. Fearing that the conservancy could as cold, we armed ourselves in heavy clothes only to take them off when we got to Lewa. The nights here are cold but it tends to get rather hot during the day. Runners had to endure the harsh conditions here as the sun came out in its full glare. The roads are dirty and rough but that is the beauty of running in the wild among wild animals.
Safaricom Marathon has gone global since its inception in the year 2000. This annual event’s popularity has continued to draw participants from all over the world. Runners in this year’s edition came from countries such as USA, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Finland, South Africa, Italy among others.
The Safaricom Marathon continues to be a major sporting as well as fundraising event where proceeds go into bettering the communities around the conservancy.
If you have never experienced this spectacle, then make plans to attend the annual event. Mark you, it is not that pricey keeping in mind that you’re going to have crazy fun and still play a part in the conservation of our endangered wildlife. Save up if you have to and get to experience Lewa in a great way.
Images courtesy of Tek Production Services. Sunrise Picture courtesy of Faith Kinel.