This blog post was written by Leanne Turner, a 2018 Marathon participant.
This was my second visit to Kenya on a volunteering trip to support an amazing organisation, Five Talents, and my first trip with Impact Marathon. I was given the opportunity to attend the marathon with the support of Glorious Brands.
Nothing could have prepared me for the week ahead, the unmeasurable feeling of inspiration that was about to cast its spell on me in more ways than one.
Our first stop was the Maji Mazuri project in the Mathare Valley. Mathare Valley regularly makes the news for reports of violent gang-related crime. We learned that there’s a lot more to this community and the people that call it home, many of them just trying to better their lives. The Mathare Valley is the oldest and second largest shantytown in Kenya, after Kibera, also based in Nairobi.
The children here are raised in poor living conditions and value their right to an education. The Maji Mazuri project allows children to an education, which will give them the tools to change their lives in the future.
I had the most memorable running experience of my life during this trip to Kenya training with elite Kenyan athletes. Its not by chance that the Kenyans are arguably the best runners in the world. They train, and they train hard! In high altitude and warm temperatures.
Under coach Gabriel’s lead, we embarked on one of the hardest training sessions of our lives! Interval training has nothing on this, think star jumps, 400 metres, 800 metres and sprint sessions…on REPEAT! Although it sounds like absolute torture, it was lots of fun. I felt honoured to be training among the best in the business, including the 2017 Dublin Marathon winner, Bernard Rotich who completed the 26.2miles in 2 hours 15 minutes!
Many of the athletes explained that running in Kenya to the younger generation is inspirational. It demonstrates to them that you don’t need money, or any material equipment to be successful, but you just use your body and train hard to become the best that you can be. Many children in rural communities run to school, run back for lunch, back to school and back home again, so from a young age running is something they’re familiar with.
Throughout the week we learned, we cried, we felt inspired, humbled, shocked, excited, tired, energised, and exhausted. You go through a roller-coaster of emotions whilst having so much fun along the way. All of this was just the lead-up to race day where the roller-coaster of emotions come back…apprehension, excitement, the ‘can I do this’ voice on one shoulder, and the ‘just have fun’ on the other shoulder. Impact Marathon do a fantastic job all week of making you realise that this isn’t in fact a race, it’s fun.
“You’re about to run a half marathon on a tea plantation in Kenya 2,000 metres above sea level, enjoy it.” – Nick Kershaw, Impact Marathon Founder.
And that’s what we did.
We ran with the most motivational group of Kenyan athletes, took in some breathtaking views of the famous Rift Valley, climbed a total elevation of 500 metres and had lots of fun along the way. This really was a race like no other and an experience I’ll never forget.
If you love to run, love to travel, and love to help, sign up now – you won’t be disappointed.
Asante Sana x