Pushing through at least three hilly miles a day the summer before 8th grade was the beginning of my love affair with running. Running was an early form of meditation, allowing me to connect with nature and clear my mind. Up until I trained for my first marathon in 2007, my logical mind was happy to present all of the reasons why I didn’t have time to invest in a sport I loved — career, kids, busy work — capping my runs at six miles. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I truly chose to invest time in myself and my personal passions. I quickly married my love for running and global travel.
Running internationally is a tremendous way to tour a city and meet unique people along the way. Each international race I’ve run has been different, yet unforgettable in its own way…whether running on cobblestone by beautiful architecture and museums in Paris, running on dirt roads in the heat of Costa Rica, running nearly 5,200 steps as part of China’s Great Wall marathon, or running in the Kenyan Bush surrounded by wildlife. Travel is the greatest form of education. It’s where we learn about what we are made of; learn about other cultures; meet new people; and, experience history.
I selected The 2015 Amazing Maaisai Marathon experience since it is the primary fundraiser for The Girls Project. The itinerary also availed us the opportunity to travel into the heart of Kenya, connecting with nature, wildlife and many beautiful souls. The Kenyans I met had such a positive outlook on life, even if they lived in what most Americans would define as poverty. Hakuna Matata (Swahili for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”) was a phrase repeated countless times by beautifully smiling faces.
My travel time to Kenya was nearly 30 hours in duration (including in-air time, airport time between connections and two hours to get through customs and luggage collection in Nairobi). I was both excited and exhausted by the time I reached my destination.
As I departed the airport around 10pm, there were more than a hundred drivers holding signs, eagerly awaiting to transport clients to their final destination. As I scanned the crowd, a man stepped forward from the waiting area. His confident delivery in calling me by a surname other than my own elicited a smile and deep sigh as I was running on fumes. Then a European gentleman (with the surname the driver was seeking), warmly smiled and welcomed me to join their group if I needed transportation. Upon expressing my gratitude, I continued until I spotted my driver another twenty feet away.
I traveled half way around the world and the first person I met was an oncologist from Los Angeles who works with a large insurance carrier. I was humored by how much physician opinions may differ. For several years I worked with a medical director who was adamant about the negative health consequences of running marathons; yet, here I was embarking on a journey in Kenya with a doctor who was about to run his 119th marathon! As I sat next to him, I received a message from a new client who had just been diagnosed with lung and brain cancer. She asked that I be part of her care team. How’s that for the Law of Attraction?
After about a 20-25 minute drive, we arrived at our first destination — the beautiful Fairmont Norfolk Hotel, where President Obama enjoyed his stay earlier in the week. As we neared the hotel, security guards approached to begin their inspection of the vehicle and of us through the glass windows. I smiled and waved, which was returned with smiles as they inspected underneath our vehicle with several tools, including a long-armed mirror. Once we were approved to enter through the security gate, we briefly awaited another security nod to continue. We were next greeted by courteous staff who immediately retrieved our luggage to be screened when we pulled up to the front entrance. As we stepped out of the vehicle, we were guided to walk through a full-body security scanner. I quickly checked in, enjoyed a long hot shower and then finally fell asleep.
Since our time at The Norfolk was so brief, I awakened early to tour the property and to meet our guides before our journey into the heart of Kenya truly began. As soon as I boarded our vehicle, the first two smiling faces I encountered were those of career focused, philanthropic, travel-loving female runners from New York City. We had so much in common that the several hour drive to our next destination flew by…