Musings of a young athlete

Sweats of joy

Smiles every mile


Shorter strides by day

Longer leap tonight


My shoes are getting weary

My soul yearns for more


Pledge, make me run

Educate a needy child

The poem came up during one of my runs in July. It was inspired by my very first run on June 28th, when my running shoes lost part of the sole covering the heels. The shoes were already weary, yet the passion to run had just been ignited in me.

Fortunately, the weary shoes carried me through, as people pledged and paid, keeping me on toes.

I would like to thank the nineteen people who made me run for the SU Covid-19 relief fund. Kenneth Mutethia, Teresa Awino, Joy Macharia, Victoria Mwangi, Leila Mwangi, Kanyoro Lilian, Nashon Napoe, Angela Wakarura, Melissa Muchiri, Stacy Mwangi, Laura, Warren Ochieng, Naserian, David Mwambali, Elton Omwega, Kevin Irungu, Samuel Gariy, Vanita Kihuithia, and Omondi Ruthie. Special thanks to Kibera Pride Children’s Home for allowing me to run with some of their kids. It is worth noting that most of my sponsors are close friends, who out of their good heart supported this noble course.

Specially, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Vincent Ogutu and the Strathmore University Foundation team for this noble opportunity.

You have put a smile on a wrinkled face

You gave me breath after every mile


Every dawn I hit the road

I had a belief, the toil will pay


The cold and the dark were not a bother!

Your love and hope lit the way

as embers of joy warmed my heart

I can but only say, ‘Thank you!’

For July and August 2020, I embarked on this running project to support the Strathmore University Covid-19 Educational Relief Fund.  First and foremost, my runs were inspired by the course itself. Along the way I ended up running for nine birthdays and one wedding, I also got an opportunity to run with two buddies and a couple of times with kids from Kibera Pride Children’s Home. My runs also honored two places I had visited a while back, a village in Kilgoris called Kilena and Bernshausen village in Niedersachsen, Germany. 

The fundraising drive came at a time when I was taking part in a Guide to Manliness programme, which required the participants to grow mentally, spiritually, and physically. I had my fingers on the first two except the physical one. This was another motivating factor. Having been a beneficiary of the Strathmore University scholarship for 1.5 years, I saw this as an opportunity to give back and thank the University for the support they gave me. 

The number one motivation that kicked me out of bed to run was the trinitarian way the project was impacting life: One person getting an education, one growing physically fit, and another growing in charity through giving. What a wonderful idea!

Along the way, I started running out of sponsors and this had a negative impact on my morale.  It was not long before the idea of running for my friends’ birthdays came to mind. This kept me fit physically and gave me a way to celebrate people’s birthdays through running. I had just found out a new way of gifting people without spending cash. The loveliest thing was when some of my friends sponsored the runs during their birthdays. Since I was not ready to hit the road without a good reason, commitments kept me going, so I had to look for them.

I did most of my runs just a few hours before dawn, when the air was still fresh and the roads clear. The run that gave me the greatest shock of my life was in the countryside at 5 o’clock; in the dark murram road without streetlights, I was forced to use a torch and run fast without looking back. I thought of postponing the run, but my friend’s birthday and commitments had to be kept. 

The following poem gives a glimpse of my running experience for the two months.

Before the break of dawn

I head down the soundless road, pitter-patter

darkness cold on my heels

I keep moving, leaping, flying-fast

The universe running past


Breathless silence reigns in the woods,

as I listen to the wind in the dark

blowing lightly as a thief,

slapping my face with a fading melody


Darkness ahead draws away and the streetlights

Stand against the golden sunrise

The earth slowly spins, everything is beautiful, alive

And powerful – it stings


drabber and shabbier the streets grow

sweeter and adventurous my jogs become

The direction I take as the warm breeze kisses my face,

is about the joy, not about winning a race.


Is this trail defeating me? Am I tired, no!

fast moves my long, lean, sinewy limbs.

The corners, the slopes, or just the straights,

with every stride, there’s just something about the path I take.


It’s the feeling I get as I run off course,

a passion and a love upon that meandering path.

So, as I roll along and feel the ground,

with every turn and twist taking in the sound.


my heart loudly pumps away

deep desires of what that I know not.

hot cramps in my chest, painful stitches in my stomach

I realize I’m hungry…


I’ve seen that hunger in other people too.

hunger for just 1 more mile

hunger to change more lives

hunger to defeat yesterday’s stride


as the wind whistles a sweet rhythm to keep apace to

I feel relaxed, steady, determined one step at a time.

Silent hedgerows gliding past, forever long.


It is hunger, a different kind of hunger

hunger that pulls you out of bed

and sets your eyes forward…

keeping your hands moving, 

as though in a drumming spree

and the music only dies, when…


Tis hard to explain, the freedom you feel, and the peace in your heart.

Above all, having in mind that your runs are not in vain.

Looking back, the only time I have tried to run was in primary school and a few times in high school. My best pace during these fundraising runs is 4.41 minutes per kilometre. The pace was set from the last run 33 kilometres I ran. I am currently accepting invitations to run with friends as I look forward to doing a marathon.

Here is the analysis of the runs: 

Distance covered: 586 Kilometres

Total Runs:  42

Months: 2 (July & August 2020)

Total Cash raised: Kshs. 20,989


This article was written by Emmanuel Ooko

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