David Thuo didn’t always like running. He got himself out of cross-country runs in high school by overplaying a medical condition he had. He explained that his nose bleeds could turn fatal if they insisted he runs. They didn’t.
Now, everything in his life revolves around running. The coasters on the table in his office have pictures of him on the treacherous road races of Boston and New York, his birthday present from his wife – he just turned 46 – is 100 Marathons by Jeffrey Horowitz.
Having missed the cut to study at Mang’u High School, Mr Thuo was admitted to Thika High School, a move he says set the trajectory for the rest of his professional career.
“When I joined Thika High, they introduced aviation technology, and I was among the 15 that took it up,” he says.
Only eight students would go on to graduate. Mr Thuo took it further and joined the aeronautical community as a career and has advanced all these years later to set up his own business – Dathon Ace Limited. From their base at Wilson Airport, they run a component overhaul and repair facility for planes.
As with his other passion, Mr Thuo says, “You can’t leave anything to chance in this business.” A breakdown of a flight in the Mara would have a catastrophic ripple effect of travel delays from here to Heathrow.
In running, as in aviation, he has learnt to take care of all aspects within his control because there are and will be factors out of it.
It wasn’t always that way. Mr Thuo started running by chance.
When he was 23, his first-born son (who is now 23) was born. To get back in shape, his wife took up the only activity they could afford at the time and Mr Thuo scared for her safety in the pre-dawn darkness took it upon himself to be her bodyguard.
After the initial panting and shortness of breath came extreme itching. He managed to overcome these and quickly found that he actually enjoyed it. That’s when he first heard about the StanChart Marathon which he joined and got a humbling introduction into his new passion. He finished way down on the log.
Still green in the sport, Mr Thuo entered the 21km Kilimanjaro Marathon. From his son’s school meeting, he and his wife grabbed some Uchumi Supermarket sandwiches and got on the road to Moshi. It was no wonder that at the 17km mark, he got disoriented and collapsed. His wife waited, worried, at the finish line and when he came back to his senses and traced her, he lied. “I told her I had earlier finished the race!” He would only come clean months later when he finally conquered the mountain that is the half marathon.
Over time, he got better. He made an attempt at the 3-hour mark, a milestone for recreational runners, at the 2015 StanChart Marathon – this time in the full marathon. He failed. The London Marathon that year was a revelation in more ways than one. He ran the course in under 3 hours and was also greatly fascinated by how the organisers seamlessly organised a race that brings together over 40,000 runners in one place.
Back home, Mr Thuo formed Fitness With David to help educate runners “not to have the same struggles I’ve had.” His goal was also to create experiences; he organised birthday runs and important milestone races like a 50th birthday run. Over time, he’s helped bring many races to his running community and even planned and executed the New Year’s Run. His first edition had 90 people, hung over from the previous year but looking to fulfil their resolutions for the new year.
January 1, 2023 will be the fourth edition of the New Year’s Run. Proceeds will go towards regaining the dignity of women suffering from fistula. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Thuo and members of his community started an initiative dubbed Adopt a Family. They raised funds for care and food packages and in their running gear delivered them to the heart of Kibra and elsewhere in Nairobi to stave off the biting pangs of the pandemic. They paid rent and medical bills for the most affected.
In the charitable sphere, Mr Thuo has joined forces with an organisation that champions breastfeeding and its vital nature to raising a healthy nation. He says, “Your health is your wealth.” This year, he has also teamed up with Faraja Cancer Support Trust in their inaugural Be Bold Go Gold Run that raises funds for children with cancer. He says it’s the least he can do and quotes Prof Wangari Maathai’s hummingbird story of doing what one can to tackle prevailing challenges.
Mr Thuo will not feature in this year’s StanChart Marathon. He will however do a virtual run in Karen at a 3.5 km stretch of road he’s christened FWD Vienna, a play on Fitness With David and Eliud Kipchoge’s record-breaking course in the Austrian capital where he broke the 2-hour barrier for the marathon. Despite this, his preference is the actual road race. He says, “Being on the road and sharing it with thousands of other runners is the greatest feeling.”
“Running is a metaphor for life,” Mr Thuo says of the confluence between his passion and the game of life. Like running one has to have self-discipline, consistency, mental strength and a support system necessary to get through the hard patches when the road gets tough. Setbacks, slow patches in the journey of life motivate him to try harder and that makes the victories that much sweeter.
Asked if age has a detrimental effect on his abilities, Mr Thuo answers in the negative. He has actually run the most and posted the fastest times in the last eight years. His personal best time, 2hrs 38 minutes was clocked when he was 43! He’s grown more prolific with the passing of time. “I ran the Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa 45 minutes faster this year than I did five years ago,” he says beaming.
On Sunday’s course, runners can spot him and his Fitness With David team on the 18.5 and 27.5km marks where he’ll be at hand with a bottle of water or an ice pack for weary runners. But more importantly, there will be a cheer going to push the participants on towards the finish. More than most, he will know what the runners will be going through at that point in the race. For bearing the pain that will definitely come, Mr Thuo says, “there is nothing as fulfilling! But first set out to finish. The rest are Bonga Points.”
For those who wish to take up running, Mr Thuo offers some advice, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now. Start now.” He also says it’s never too late to start.
He strongly advocates that a novice runner invests in the correct and comfortable gear and further emphasises luminous gear for visibility on the road. If you wish to run long and injury-free as he has, Mr Thuo can’t stress enough the importance of a good pair of shoes.