As a triathlete, running in the Maasai Mara was an opportunity I would never have dreamed of. For the simple reason that running amongst the Big Five is near impossible, let alone the once-in-a-lifetime chance of running with a super-fit Maasai athlete.
I woke up to a typically beautiful Mara sunrise, my tented suite overlooking the endless plains of the Mara below - a misty gloom from the previous night’s heavy rains. This was going to be a muddy run!
Knowing that Kenya produces some of the world’s fastest endurance runners, I felt some trepidation at the prospect of meeting my running partner. But then I met Robert, a softly spoken Maasai who comes from a village nearby. We set off from the lodge and headed toward Angama Mara‘s airfield. After a few hundred metres, I realised we were running at a cracking pace. Whilst I managed to keep up with Robert, he jogged along making it look all too easy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold this pace the entire run, so I gently announced to Robert that my short little legs couldn’t keep up with him; he very graciously tapered off a bit.
As we got into a more comfortable rhythm, we began chatting about our lives. How old are you? Do you have children? Where is home? What kind of exercise do you do, and do you run competitively? The answers to our questions couldn’t have been more different, but here we were, brought together by a passion for running.
The run got a little more interesting as we headed into muddy territory in search of giraffe and zebra, Robert gently warning me to take care and not slip. We managed to get reasonably close to some giraffe and shared a few laughs as I almost landed on my butt in the mud a few times, but luckily, I escaped unscathed.
After being at Angama Mara for just 24 hours, a few lodge colleagues managed to convince me to take part in the ultra MARA-thon, which took place on Saturday, 12 December. This was one of the most incredible runs I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. The ultra-marathon is a total distance of 50kms, and I was part of a team of four women who each did one leg of 12,5km. I met my three teammates at the race briefing the night before, all of us clearly quite nervous at the prospect of running through Big Five territory. I was allocated the third leg of the race, which of course happened to be uphill!
The race started at 7:30am and from the outset, it was clear that it was going to be a hot day. By the time my Scottish teammate passed me the baton, we were sitting in second place in the women’s relay. Off I went to hunt down a new friend, Fran, who was the leading runner in the competing all-women team. I was no longer worried about coming across a buffalo, the heat, the elevation or the altitude. All I was focused on was getting ahead of Fran and getting our team into the lead. I also couldn’t wait for an ice-cold Tusker at the finish line. I managed to overtake Fran and handed the baton over to my Dutch teammate who was now in first position. However, Shannon Davis, my competitor and colleague powered through the last leg and her team took the win. It was so exciting!
Had someone told me a few months ago I would have the privilege of running with a Kenyan in the Maasai Mara I wouldn’t have believed them, but I certainly would have trained a lot harder. This is a memory that I will treasure forever – running with a Kenyan in the Maasai Mara.
Nicky is not the only person to have been outrun by a Kenyan – many of our guests willingly subject themselves to the same fate in our Run With a Kenyan guest experience. They tell us that our Maasai staff don’t run, they float. For those brave enough to try this please be sure to pack your running shoes when you next come and stay.
Filed under: Inside Angama
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