My 2023 Lewa Marathon Experience
The 24th annual Lewa Safari Marathon was held this past weekend at The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and was hosted by Tusk, The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Safaricom and Huawei.
I’d been to Lewa before in 2018, and couldn’t wait to return. The Lewa Safari Marathon is a bucket list item as it is quite a unique race featuring a challenging terrain and wildlife experiences.
This year participants were encouraged to ‘Ditch the Desk’ and connect with nature. The annual event has hosted runners of all abilities for almost two and a half decades, from elite professionals like Marathon World Record Holder Eliud Kipchoge, to amateur runners and walkers alike.
Lewa is a 5 hour drive from Nairobi and is in Northern Kenya past Nanyuki. There’s an airstrip for those who prefer to fly down and the flight is 1 hour from Nairobi. If you’re driving down, it’s best to do so in a 4WD as the terrain can be hard on your vehicle. The drive up to the Lewa entrance is tarmacked and an easy drive, but once you get into the conservancy, it’s basically untouched savannah.
We travelled on Friday, the day before the race, in a 4WD Cruiser and it was a pleasant journey with 2 stops to freshen up and one for lunch. We had lunch at the famous Kanguimtu in Nanyuki Town and it was in true Kenyan fashion, nyama choma and ugali. From Nanyuki it’s just under an hour to Lewa and even with our long stops, we got there in good time around 5pm.
Registration is done prior to the race but they do give an option to register when you arrive, though I think it’s probably best to make all your arrangements beforehand. There are 4 race categories: Kids 5km, Executive 10km, Half Marathon 21km and Full Marathon 42km. You can also come to the marathon as a spectator as I did, to support someone or just to enjoy yourself in the wild.
At the registration, you get your pass to move around the race areas, as well as your camp pass that designates your sleeping camp and your running tee and race number.
We were at Location Africa, an eco friendly camp. And yes, when I say camp and eco friendly, that’s exactly what I mean. If you’re looking for a glamping or hotel experience, this isn’t it. You will have a tent with a small but comfortable bed and access to shared mobile washrooms and showers. There’s a designated dining area with delicious meals as part of the package so you can eat and socialize before and after the race.
There’s a self-catering camp option as well and I saw lots of adventurous set up camp and even cook out there and it looked like a good time. One of the things that I loved to see was those who came with their families and were camped out with little kids who looked like they were really enjoying themselves. That’s an experience that I’d love to give my kids someday and it was nice to see that it’s possible.
In terms of how and what to pack, pack light and pack essentials. It’s hot during the day so light tees, shorts and pants are good. It is the outdoors so running shoes or sneakers are the best footwear. You can opt for sandals so your feet breathe if you’re running the next day but that’s a personal choice based on how you know your body. For the night, it gets very chilly so a heavy jacket and thermal pants are a good choice and probably what you’ll sleep in.
The race kicks off at 7am and registration closes by 6.30am. We had a late night socialising and I struggled to be up at 5am to get ready. Thankfully, breakfast included lots of coffee and I made sure to fill up. There was quite a lot of walking and driving to do to get around Lewa from the different areas, but there was lots of clear signage and tons of helpful security in case you got lost.
With my leg injury I couldn’t run so I played cheerleader for my friends who did. The security was very tight at the starting line and after I’d seen off my friends, I made my way to the finish line. It’s on the other end and is about 2km or so of a walk I’d estimate. We made our way there and it was a flurry of activity with an entertaining MC, music, food and drink areas and a stage. The finish line is open to all and people from the neighboring communities came to support and enjoy in the festivities.
Philip Kigen won the men’s marathon, clocking 2:19:06, with Mercy Kwambai winning the women’s marathon clocking 2:48:35. Half-marathon winners were Nelson Rono and Beatrice Cheburet with times of 1:05:32 and 1:16:15 respectively. The Executive 10km race had Stephen Kiptinness in first place with a time of 00:53:44 and Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa in second place with a time of 00:53:46. My friend’s did well with Frankie Kiarie coming in 4th with a time of 00:57:00 and Mikhala Barasa coming in 13th overall and 3rd woman, with a time of 01:14:05.
Since its inception in 2000 the race has raised over $8 million dollars in support of been invested in the direct protection of endangered species, other wildlife and community support.http://www.mwendengao.com/2023/06/30/my-2023-lewa-marathon-experience/EventsLewa Conservancy,Lewa Safari Marathon