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Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet

January 28, 2013

Was Discovery Eldoret Cross-Country really so hard that I couldn’t crack the top 100? Not really, but it is a very deep race.  The main reason why I know I could have finished higher up is the effort I put forth.  I pushed slightly harder than I would in a session but not as hard as a typical race effort.  One of the reasons I didn’t push harder was because I was afraid to get into oxygen debt trouble at 7000 feet altitude.  Only 10 days into altitude training I’m still getting used to the thin air. Excuses, excuses.

The race was pretty nuts right from the start. They corralled the runners about 25-30 meters before the start line a few minutes before the race. And then a guy told everyone to get on the line. I think some guys took off to make sure they were going to get a spot on the front of the line and others then took off after them. I was content to be second, or third, row so I trailed the runners. Since everyone was in a panic to get going people just started racing and the starter simply fired the gun knowing he wasn’t going to be able to control the racers. I had to run really hard just to make sure I wasn’t  trailing 400 racers.  Even with my burst of speed I still came to a slow jog around the first corner.

There were five laps of two kilometres (plus the start) over grass and some farm field. I wore flats because I didn’t want to be sore from spikes and push my training back. In the first lap I was passing scores of runners. After two laps I wasn’t passing that many guys a lap but when I did pass a guy they would sprint back in front of me and then settle back into their pace.  This was really annoying. It happened because these guys didn’t want to get passed by a mzungo so they put up a fight, for a bit.  Throughout the race I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard but at the same time if I were to push a little harder it would have hurt a lot more due to the altitude.  The 30C+ degree weather just made it that much more uncomfortable.

After the race I had no idea what place I finished in so I went over to where they were writing down the places from the bottom portion of the bib number they tore off at the finish line. I started looking over the result recorder’s shoulder around 50th place. Surely I would be in the top 80… nope. When they got to 97th place the result recorder got a phone call and stopped recording names so I asked the other lady going through the bib tickets if I could see the next few names, hoping I cracked the top 100.  She showed me a few more names and I saw mine which would eventually be slotted in 101st place (I may be off by one place either direction).

What an amazing and humbling experience. I had a great time, even though my time, 33:14, wasn’t great. I got what I wanted out of the race, which was a solid effort to make marathon pace feel a little easier up here. I was the first mzungo in the race out of the handful that started.  Even if I was to race Discovery after being here a month and in cooler temperatures I think cracking the top 40 would be very, very difficult. To put a little perspective to the level of competition, Bedan Karoki finished 3rd, around 30 flat, he also finished 5th at the 2012 Olympics in the 10 000m. Hopefully I can find some results online soon…

Stay tuned for Eric’s video footage of the race on his blog. Link to the right >>>

These guys passed us on the drive from Iten to Eldoret heading to the race. They claimed they had the eventual winner in the truck.


Tennis courts at Eldoret Sports Club. Back in 1920’s and 30’s this place was booming with Brits playing Rugby, Cricket, snooker and tennis.



  1. Ian sinclair permalink
    January 29, 2013 9:38 pm

    Great memories. I taught in eastern Kenya in 94-95 and learned to get a hair cut in Nairobi from an Indian barbershop. I coached athletics at my high school. I remember the first cross country run – I figured I’d start at the back to catch those who would prefer to hide in the bushes, then catch the leaders. I never did. I’m no great shakes (35 min 10k) but even so…they were miles ahead…it took me 2-3 months at 6200′ to feel normal on a run again. Btw it’s mzungu. I get to practice my Swahili these days on the Kenyans who show up here at Toronto Olympic club. Go check out brother colm.

  2. Susan permalink
    January 30, 2013 3:32 am

    Hey Reid,

    Enjoyed your Eldoret race commentary. As our B&B is located on the side of Table Mountain, even the short walk up is quite strenuous. Can’t even imaging running
    in this altitude.

    We are having a great time here in SA–look forward to sharing stories upon your return.

  3. January 30, 2013 5:52 am

    Thanks for the race report. The start is usually rough. Ensure you race in one of the local marathons.
    And yes, please note, its mzungu, not mzungo. I suspect its Craig Mottram who has popularized the phrase ‘mzungo’. He is big mzungu, not big mzungo.

  4. Delilah permalink
    February 1, 2013 12:53 am

    Sounds like you are having a great adventure out there. Take care of my good friend Annie 😉 Looking fwd to following you this year!

  5. February 25, 2014 7:19 pm

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