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Lewa Safaricom Marathon 2017

On Saturday 24th June 2017 over 1,400 people lines up to compete in the Lewa Safaricom Marathon. Set on the breathtakingly-beautiful Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, it has been voted one of the world’s ‘must do’ marathons.

For Rangers were well represented, with 28 people running either as individuals or as part of a team. Below are two reports from another successful year supporting For Rangers.

Race Report by Marcus Newton

Garmin Says 42.99 km in 3:59:43 and I’m sticking to it!

The Lewa Marathon is special. It’s not just because of the environment where you run around a UNESCO World Heritage recognised wildlife conservancy; it’s not just because it’s the home of the ‘Big Five’ and a sanctuary for Black and White Rhino and the equally endangered Grevy Zebra; it’s not just because Garmin tells you the max temperature hits 39°C and you reach a dizzy 1,917 metres. In my view, it is special because For Rangers was born here as were many other conservation and community support initiatives.

Getting together at the start with an awesome bunch of athletes was an honour but also a bit daunting. Many of these guys have run ultras before, the Kenyans are born to run (and run very very fast), and the Rangers are in top physical form.

For a middle aged “muzungu” (if you count 100 as the cut-off point!) going through a mid-life-lycra-crisis, going through my mind was “How on earth am I going to keep a steady 5:30 to 5:35 min/km pace going to finish in just under four hours?”

The Lewa Marathon is a little bit longer than most marathons (very African!!) and consists of two loops of a half marathon circuit followed by an extra 800 metres to the finish. The start is usually around 07:15 hrs, so you know that the longer you are out there, the hotter it is going to get and correspondingly it’s going to be harder mentally and physically.

It's an exciting start with about 1,400 people being funnelled onto a track about three metres wide. By the time you clear the melee, you can just about see the dust trail kicked up by the front runners a few kilometres ahead! It’s uphill most of the way, or certainly seems like it, but the views are utterly spectacular stretching out over the Conservancy and the Laikipia plateau. The first couple of hours for me were a matter of trying to keep a steady pace that wasn't affected by the half-marathon runners giving it their all. Because then you hit ‘The Sign’. It's the one that tells you to turn right and do it again… except for this time there are only just over 100 runners spread out over the course. The Kenyan front runners were only about 15 minutes behind me at the turn… that's 15 minutes until they fly through the finish line and go for tea and medals!

My view consisted of kilometre after kilometre of an open, hot, dusty track stretching uphill in front of me, with a few friendly dots that were other runners. The welcome mirage of the water stations could be seen shimmering out the heat every so often. The stations were a great support, and there is nothing like a cheer and a shout of encouragement from someone handing you water to keep you going. The water stations were fantastic. I poured a good deal over my head at each one in an attempt to regulate my body temperature, as the designers behind For Rangers obviously fell afoul of fashion when they chose black as the background colour for their logo!

AC/DC belted out a reliably motivating playlist, and it was head down trying to catch Matt Hill, a For Rangers stalwart and a runner of some note, who kindly slowed his usual pace to boost mine and my morale. He said it was very important that we looked ‘strong’ as we ran past the water stations and without this encouragement, I don't think I would have hit my target. Cheers, Matt!

The second lap is hard and seems longer than the first, but with the right hydration, a few salt sticks and a couple of isotonic caffeine booster gels it was still a pleasure to run. There was more wildlife visible this time round; you always get the feeling that something is watching you at any rate!

I made it through to the finish according to Garmin with a massive 17 seconds leeway. The finish was great, and there were massages and cool drinks in abundance and the all-important finishers memento medal.

I would recommend this marathon to anyone – do it more than once if you can – you are there because the Rangers make it possible with the support of an amazing conservancy.

Race Report by Azza

As a new runner, the Lewa Half Marathon sounded easy. After all, when you’re surrounded by a line-up of the For Rangers ultra-marathon elite and the Rangers themselves running with 30lbs of kit, rifles and boots, how hard can it be to run 21 kilometres in your trainers?!

The crowd gathered at the start line told one another excitedly that Lewa is the toughest half marathon in the world! With the experience of less than one under my belt, I couldn’t comment – but at an altitude of 5,400 feet and across a course which impossibly seems to go up more hills than down, I guess it could be a contender.

We’d got up in the dark to make sure we were early, and at 0630 it was still chilly enough that we could see our breath in the early morning light. “It’s going to be hot!” said For Rangers running legend Pete Newland cheerfully as he jogged off to help the Kenyan Ranger running team get ready – and he was right! As the starter gun fired, 1,400 runners set off in a trail of dust across the breathtaking landscape. As we wound our way up the first of a series of hills, the temperature climbed too, reaching 30°C within a couple of hours!

There was a great mix of people taking part, from Kenyan elite runners who sprinted the entire marathon, to a wide variety of participants from over 20 different countries. All were cheered on enthusiastically by the crowds gathered at each water station situated at every 2.5 kilometres throughout the course – and from the three spotter helicopters and light aircraft that had been up since dawn clearing any rhinos, elephants, buffaloes and lions away from the race track!

Most impressive of all was the For Rangers team in full kit finishing in an incredible 2hr 42 minutes!

It was hot, dry and very dusty – but the stunning views and camaraderie made it an unforgettable experience. And where else in the world can you run against the stunning backdrop of Mount Kenya, watched by a curious giraffe?!

I’m hooked!

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