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Runners take over city to restore children’s sight

On a normal Sunday morning, Nairobi city centre enjoys an unmatched tranquillity.

Save for a handful of city residents either going to church or heading to offices for the odd, weekend work shift, a majority stay at home, just resting or nursing debilitating hangovers triggered by the previous night’s indulgence.

For motorists who venture out, the roads are relatively deserted and a delight to drive on.

Not so on Sunday. This tranquillity took a back seat as an army of nearly 35,000 runners took over the city’s main thoroughfares, as they competed in the 14th edition of the Standard Chartered marathon.

Set apart for this gruelling event were Uhuru Highway, Haile Selassie Avenue, Kenyatta Avenue, Harambee Avenue, University Way, Waiyaki Way and a section of Forest Road. Uhuru Park too was not left out, as were Lower Hill, Bunyala, Aerodrome and Lang’ata roads

The participants were drawn from all shades of backgrounds — corporate and diplomatic circles, government and athletics fraternity.

BENEVOLENCE

Thousands of others were individuals driven by benevolence and the need to assist children plagued by blindness.

Among the top diplomats who took part were the US Ambassador Robert Godec and others from the United Nations Environment Programme headquarters in Gigiri. Mr Godec, a familiar face in almost all local road races, has rightfully earned himself the nickname Kip Godec.

A lot may be said of the elite runners, who participate in the full marathon (42 kilometres), half marathon (21 kilometres) and the 10-kilometre race. They do this for honours and monetary reward, while also using it to tune themselves for similar races in cities across the world.

Treating it as a day’s work, these men and women — preceded by police escort in cars and motorbikes — literally lap up the winding course and within no time, are back at the Nyayo Stadium finish line.

However, it is the zeal of the non-professional runners that clearly brings out the story of resilience and determination, as they strive to make it to the finish line.

ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

These runners, unlike the lean and nimble elite athletes, come in all shapes and sizes and from all age brackets, including toddlers who turned up for the 5-kilometre Family Fun Run in prams pushed by watchful parents.

But even for the portly adult runners, their girth and wanting physical fitness did not dampen their spirit or determination.

For many of them, this writer included, driving or riding in a matatu from Nyayo Stadium on a daily basis is effortless and takes minimal time — of course when there is no traffic.

But it is a totally different story when one has to plod along, amid the heavy jostling, on the tarmac, taking the numerous detours meant to pile up the kilometres.