Where & When:
Moshi, Tanzania, March 2015.
Moshi, “The gateway to the Kilimanjaro National Park“. How’s that for a strap line!
Why I ran this course:
I’d somehow gatecrashed a friends holiday! The plan was to trek up to the summit of Kilimanjaro. After some planning over Christmas we knew what we wanted. Then I found out (about 6 weeks prior to the trip) that there was a Marathon in Moshi the week we were visiting, well, the plans just had to change!
Starting at the stadium in Moshi, the route begins with heading out (for about 8km) along the road to Dar Es Salaam before looping back (passing the hotel were we were staying) along the road into the town (this was fairly flat with some undulating). Passing through the town the course headed gradually uphill towards Mweka with the mountain in the background. Correction, the mountain was the background!
The route passes through farms, villages, coffee and banana plantations. Turning around at about 32km, the final stretch gradually led down hill back to the start, finishing in Moshi stadium where it all began. Throughout the majority of the route, Mt Kilimanjaro stands ever present in the background providing a surreal visual to run with (it is the highest free standing mountain in the world after all!).
Basic but effective. No intermediaries required, you can book the race and everything you need directly with the organisers. The registration at the event was simple, collect your race bib and check the route. Done. The event is IAAF accredited and also counts towards qualification for the Comrades. Besides the marathon there are half, 10km, 5km and wheelchair events. On the day bag storage is freely available.
For such a small race (there were approximately 300 participants in 2015, the majority of whom were Kenyan or Tanzanians that made up 58 of the first 60 finishers!), the support was fantastic. The locals all come out to celebrate the event, clapping and cheering along the route. Children in local schools and orphanages going wild at the sight of runners sweating it out in the sun.
As we explored the town and registration center the locals were so friendly and chatty (and besotted with Kate and Sarah!). Each time someone found out that I’d be running the marathon, it was met with cries of “who, you are?!” and laughter. A real confidence booster! They had only one request, beat the Kenyans! They were betting on the wrong runner.
My training was pretty much the same as it was for the London Marathon. I just had much less time. By now I was living in Crystal Palace and exploring different areas on my training runs. It was quite weird when I started to recognise roads I’d run on years before when training. Training went well with no issues or concerns. I was off to Tanzania. My only worry, 3 days of safari and camping might not be the best prep for a marathon! It’s a tough life.
The even before the race we rocked up in Moshi, collected my bib and chilled out by the pool. After a few days of eating packed-lunches and camp meals I was ready for some pasta and carb loading. the “Pasta with red sauce” ordered at the hotel though turned out to be some curry concoction. Oh well, I need those carbs! That evening I tried again with the “Pasta with white sauce” and to my delight, I had the same meal as earlier. Brilliant. double curry before a race, great start.
The hotel was providing a breakfast and a shuttle bus into Moshi for the marathon, I understood the bus to be leaving at 5am but inquired at reception to confirm. There was some confusion, although I was confident that I was right and wouldn’t miss out as a result of the breakfast gathering. A few hours later though I was woken up by the receptionist to confirm it was indeed a 5am departure. Great, double curry and a disrupted sleep. This was going well…
Being unsure of the water situation in Moshi I decided to run with my camel back. I was so glad to have my own water supply as the temperature was hot (around 33 degrees C) despite the early (6am) start. With so few runners, there were long stretches, particularly after leaving Moshi and heading up towards Mweka, when I was running on my own. At times, coupled with the long straight roads, this was a mental challenge I’d not previously experienced. The path through the Banana plantation (about 3km i think) was another challenge as, despite being beautiful, it was off road and like running through a building site! Along the final descent, I was joined by a group of 5 or so young children who came out of nowhere, holding my hands and running with me for about 5km. This was rather special and honestly I was struggling to keep pace with them in their jeans and flipflops!). I kept going though as I realised I had a shot at a sub 4hr time if I could maintain the pace. Coming into the stadium the town was bustling and you had to weave through locals going about the business. A small crowd seated in the stadium cheered home each runner. That was a nice touch!
A medal and a single size (large but more like gigantic) cotton t-shirt which sadly didn’t last long.