Travel

‘I ran round Mt Kenya for 60 hours’

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Eunice Wanjiru, an utra-runner. Ms Wanjiru is one of the 10 Kenyans who ran up MT Kenya, covering 375.96 kilometres in 60 hours. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • Eunice says that this run despite its many challenges and its surfeit of lessons was the beginning of her love for ultra-running, a sport where one is supposed to run a distance greater than a full marathon.
  • She talks of how it made her want to discover if she could run longer distances but without excessive fatigue.
  • Three years later, after lots of preparation and armed with the correct running gear and supplies, she managed to run around the base of Mt Kenya, covering 376km in total.

Fools tread where angels dread. Eunice Wanjiru, fondly known as ‘Kayuney’ in running circles, hilariously attributes her ultra-running feats to this adage. She was one of 10 people who recently ran round Mt Kenya in six days. In 2019, she ran from Nyayo Stadium to Ushirika Stadium in Moshi, Tanzania in six days and has climbed Mt Kenya 30 times and Mt Kilimanjaro 25 times. But why does she do this?

“I needed a good way of whiling away the weekends and the extra time we all find we have at one time or the other. I realised that it was either the bar or running. I chose the latter since it is healthier, more productive and way cheaper. Scaling mountains is my way of seeing just how far I can push myself,” Eunice says.

While everyone starts running by setting out on a moderate and scaled set, Eunice started with a 10km run, then registered for a 15km race which ended up being 30km after she decided to follow one of her close friends Milly way past the finish point.

A few months later in December 2018, she would follow another group of friends on a 55km run. The information she had was that they were going to celebrate Kenya turning 55 and would be required to run for almost the whole day.

“To date, this was the hardest run I have ever done as I went in without any snacks or energy capsules. I did not understand what a running body requires and fuelled solely on Fanta Orange and Lucozade. Nobody told me to carry salt. Because believe me, even Kensalt can greatly help a runner since sodium helps regulate fluid in the body. Long-distance runners lose a lot of sodium and other electrolytes through sweat and are therefore supposed to take salt to prevent their sodium levels from dipping too low,” the hiking enthusiast shares.

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An overview of the distance covered as shown on a tracking app. PHOTO | COURTESY

Eunice says that this run despite its many challenges and its surfeit of lessons was the beginning of her love for ultra-running, a sport where one is supposed to run a distance greater than a full marathon. She talks of how it made her want to discover if she could run longer distances but without excessive fatigue. Three years later, after lots of preparation and armed with the correct running gear and supplies, she managed to run around the base of Mt Kenya, covering 376km in total under a total elevation gain of 8,758m, something out of her wildest dreams.

“We would run anything between 60km to 77km each day through different altitudes. The great thing for me is that I no longer suffer from altitude sickness. After countless times being on both Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro, no symptoms of altitude sickness manifest. Previously, my altitude sickness would manifest in the form of headaches, moodiness, lack of appetite and drowsiness. I was largely fine during this ultra-run hence I enjoyed the routes and the scenery despite the fatigue,” Eunice explains.

But a seemingly effortless feat appears so only because of lots of preparation. Eunice talks of eating lots of starch to bulk up and have stored energy which she terms as being the backup in case you run out of snacks. She would also have a tight regimen of short runs, long runs, long walks, and power walks. She emphasizes the importance of testing out gear before D-day as bad gear can mean not completing the run or hike at hand.

She would run at night to test headlamps, in the rain to test her rain gear and at almost any time of day to test out new shoes and new socks to ensure they were right and would not induce blisters. She also talks of the importance of knowing one’s pace and doing strength training.

“I would do base runs to find my best pace to complete each day's target distance. I would also do some strength training as it helps the runner have a strong core and back which are very important for proper running form and to avoid injury. I also got myself mentally prepared by having a vision board and giving myself a pep talk every morning. But preparedness also translates to dealing with the worst possible scenario. So, I wrote a will as we had been warned that the routes we were using would be through rivers and in wildlife-rich areas,” Eunice explains.

And since every end heralds the beginning to something else, the end of the gruelling run meant the beginning of a post-recovery period characterised by lots of sleeping, eating nutrient-dense food, and plenty of recovery runs and walks. She is now gearing up to circumvent bypass, where all the bypasses connect to make a 100km circuit.

As to anyone who wants to take up running, Eunice’s advice is to know yourself and be comfortable with that knowledge.

“You will be stuck with yourself, your brain, your body, and your inner dialogue with no escape mechanism or coping clutch. So be comfortable with yourself or prepare to do the work even as you run," she concludes.