The Amazing Maasai Marathon marathon is notably one of the top adventure marathons in the world, and serves as the primary fundraiser for The Girls Project. In addition to raising funds to support girls’ secondary education, running empowers everyone in the community. It facilitates important dialogue regarding topics such as the role of women in society and supports expansion in their tourism industry.
We were up by 5am to prepare for the 7:30 start time on Saturday, August 8, 2015. The universe gifted us with a beautiful breeze and cloud cover for much of the race, mitigating rising temperatures. It was very much appreciated for this unique adventure marathon!
I was so excited to run among the wildlife! Dangerous animals were closely monitored within each of the local villages. In addition to a periodic vehicle drive-by, armed security was placed at most hydration stations. We were also advised how to proceed should our path lead us to an elephant herd. Runner safety was a priority. The greatest risk on the course was actually that of dehydration.
Our natural obstacle course was comprised of a trail run on different types of soil…often rock-filled, with Kenyan bush patches, or with crevices in the Earth. There was even a segment near the end which simulated running on a sandy beach. The race route was well marked with stones painted in a splash of orange paint. We were, however, forewarned to actively seek route markers as they would disappear as the day wore on. Can you see a few painted rocks in this picture? 🙂
I watched two young Maasai girls (Mary and Rahab) begin to struggle around mile 8. Rahab was experiencing side cramps and they appeared defeated. So, I ran the next 5 miles with the girls, ensuring they crossed their half marathon finish line. I refused to let them quit. I coached them on their breathing technique, which alleviated the cramps and released their anxiety. I ensured they remained hydrated, shared stories of encouragement and held their hands on the up-hills. I wanted them to know they can DO and BE anything they desire in this life!! Dropping them off at their half marathon finish line was the most memorable part of the race for me:-)
Although the second half of the marathon route was a repeat of the first 13.1 miles (21 km), the experience was very different as the temperature rose quickly, there were far fewer runners, spectators ran alongside us, and hydration stations disappeared. I quickly stopped every 1-2 miles throughout most of the course for the most gorgeous photographs.
Around mile 21, I felt astoundingly liberated to be running completely alone amidst such majestic views. All was quiet in the Bush except for the stir of wildlife.
Shortly after mile 22, the path veered to the right where I leaped over a sizable crack in the earth and landed on a loose rock. I was propelled forward into a pebbled path of red clay earth, resulting in cuts on my hands, a scraped arm and a sore shoulder. I laughed at my graceful execution as I observed clay mud smeared on my clothes and buried underneath my fingernails. My remaining water was used to rinse away the blood and big debris from my hands, as I quickly returned to running. I then heard a runner’s voice as if out of nowhere: “ I saw that. Are you okay?” Of course I was fine. I jokingly inquired as to his when I was going to view my “trip” on Youtube. Humored, he replied he had been too busy investing his energy into trying to catch up. Phshew (ha ha)
Craig (Kenyan ultra marathoner) and I ran together until we hit another long uphill. He suggested I run ahead since I had a faster pace. As I walked through the next hydration station, he suddenly breezed by me. When I asked where in the world he got his burst of energy? A Snickers bar. Yep, he swore by Snickers as his secret weapon. Then he handed me a snack size bar and took the lead as I devoured it.
With about a mile remaining, we were surrounded by camels. I knew stopping for photos at this point would disrupt my momentum, so we continued toward the finish line. I was so excited when my GPS started the final mile countdown, even as we trudged through a segment of deep sand. The final stretch of the course was a cruel uphill. Around 43 km (yes, the course was a bit longer than 42 km), we finally rounded a segment of Bush to hear the music/spectator crowd…and pushed toward the finish.
After running the final few miles together, Craig refused to cross the finish line without me. This exhilarating experience was further magnified when Mary and Rahab joined me at the finish line with hugs of celebration!
If you’ve ever considered an adventure race such as The Maasai Marathon or The Great Wall Marathon…Do it, do it do it! These are experiences that fuel the soul. Life limitless.