Walkabout: Safaricom Marathon at Lewa
I have been following the Safaricom Lewa Marathon for a few years through the media as well as through a few friends who’ve run the marathon. According to them, the marathon is incredibly tough but is absolutely a once in a lifetime experience. In fact, Runner’s World has named it in its top 10 must do marathon list.
The marathon has been ongoing for an impressive 17 years, with Safaricom coming on board as a sponsor in recent years. When I got the chance to go to Lewa this year and experience it for myself, I was quite excited. Before you ask, no I was not going to run the marathon. I was there to experience the marathon as a spectator and get an idea of not only the scale of it all, but also the benefits to the community.
How do you enter the marathon?
To participate in the Safaricom Lewa Marathon, you have to register. It costs USD 250 per participant with an additional USD 1,500 that is to be fundraised by every participant. It is probably a good idea to start the registration process a year ahead so you can have enough time to fundraise. There is also a corporate package that corporates can take advantage of. There are 3 marathon options: full marathon (42KM), half marathon (21KM) and children’s marathon (10KM).
How do you get to Lewa?
You can go by road or air. In my case, we went by road and it wasn’t as far as I had imagined. Lewa is in Isiolo County just after Meru so it’s about a 4 hour drive.
Accommodation and facilities
There are three options when it comes to accomodation: camping within the Safaricom village, self-catering camping or staying at one of the swanky hotels. We were staying at the Safaricom village which was pretty far from the entrance into Lewa. Lewa is huge! It took about two hours to get through all the security check points and into the village. We were staying in tents for two and it would be my second time sleping in a tent. I am not much of a camper so it was part of the experience.
What should you expect?
Lewa is breathtaking. It is kilometre after kilometre of gorgeous savannah and wildlife.
The weather in Lewa is in the extremes. It gets quite hot during the day with frequent dust storms as it’s also quite windy, and then temperatures drop drastically at night. It’s best to carry athleisure wear for daytime and heavy sweaters and jackets for the night. If you’re camping, packing an extra blanket is a good idea.
The showers are communal and the water is cold so be psychologically prepared for a freezing 4am shower. Alternatively, you can shower in the evening when you arrive and the next day in the afternoon after the marathon. The shower is open at the top so it’s a pleasant shower in the afternoon with the sun on your back. The loos are pit latrines, though there are mobile toilets all over the place.
It was great to see a lot of families out camping, some even with their babies. I cam across an adorable one year old frolicking in the dust. For the self catering, the campers had all kinds of tent setups and it looked like great family fun.
The races kicked off at 7am and were flagged off by former Safaricom CEO, Michael Joseph aand attended by American Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec who participated in the 21KM race. There are three race categories: The full marathon (42 KM), half marathon (21KM) and a children’s 5km Race.
Defending champion Philemon Mbaaru emerged winner in the men’s 42 KM Safaricom Marathon in a time 5:28:8, his fifth time to clinch the title, while Lepakana Margaret finished first in the women’s 42 KM in a time of 6:03:5 beating the defending champion Frida Lodepa who finised at position three in a time of 6:40:4. Njiri Naomi finised second at 6:40:4. In the men’s 42 KM, Daniel Mbogo, 5:27:1, and Muthuui John, 5:35:5 came in second and third position respectively. Philemon Kiprono from KWS won 21 KM men’s category at 1:6:00 followed by Kinoti Silas at 1:6:10 and Vincent Raimoi following closely at third position in a time of 1:6:12.
Community and Conservation
Funds raised by the marathon are geared towards wildlife conservation and development initiatives in education, water and sanitation, agriculture and healthcare. Other than communal impact, some of the beneficiaries of the funding go to Northern Range Trust, Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and Bongo Surveillance Project in Aberdares.http://www.mwendengao.com/2017/06/29/walkabout-safaricom-marathon-lewa/Lifestyleconservation,Lewa,Safaricom Marathon