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I ran my first ultra marathon

Tuzo Jonathan, a second year Communications student, ran 85 km in the Strathmore University Foundation Ultra Marathon.

I have always loved running, but since the Covid – 19 pandemic settled down in Kenya, I have become addicted to it. I’m always trying to squeeze in a run in my schedule so as to break my personal record, try to stay fit or just to release some tension accumulated from the day’s classes. My longest distance covered so far has been 26km which I bragged about several times. A friend of mine, Jabez Magomere, a running enthusiast and Bachelor of Science in Informatics and Computer Science alumnus, urged me to start training for a 100km Ultra Marathon with him in December. I had not even run a full marathon(42km) in my life and here he was telling me to run an Ultra marathon. Unsure of what the future held, I immediately agreed. I knew I needed to add my kilometers. Two weeks after this conversation, I got wind of the Strathmore 100 KM Ultra Marathon in aid of the COVID-19 Educational Relief fund. Jabez called me and we immediately agreed that we would join the team. We set our goals; I aimed at running 50km while Jabez would attempt 70km.

5:50 pace

The Ultra marathon was carved out along the Nairobi bypasses with the starting on Mombasa Road.  We started at a 5:50 minute per kilometer pace as the first light beamed over the capital. As I ran, I kept playing mind games to keep on pushing for the first sector that would have us run 30km to Ruiru. The pace got us through this sector by 7:40am.

As we fueled up on Carbs, we all were well aware of what lay ahead of us. The altitude would now start rising gradually up to 2000m above sea level; we named this sector the Heartbreak section and for me it stuck true to its name. At 42km, I was slowing down and like a wounded animal, I slowly drifted away from my pack of runners. My legs had become stiff and my hand started chafing (irritation of skin caused by repetitive friction, usually generated through skin to skin contact) which led to poor running form.

50KM Mark

I tried to incorporate both running and walking at this point as I questioned my reasons for taking part in such an event. The last few meters to the 50km pitstop were memorable as the Vice Chancellor Designate, Dr. Vincent Ogutu joined me as the rest of the runners welcomed me to the pitstop. I couldn’t believe it, I had run 50km! I was done! The excitement was immense but my facial expression indicated the pain I was in. I did a few stretches, had breakfast and retreated to the chase vehicles to join the service crew as the runners began the second half of the marathon.

The second half would have the team run from Four Ways Junction on Kiambu road to Kikuyu 25km away as the heat reached its peak and the altitude kept on rising. As I rode in the car to 65 km, I started feeling better and decided to get back out and run to see how far I could push myself.  This sector saw us cover many hills arriving at Kikuyu at 2:30pm completely drenched in sweat. We only had 25 km to go to finish the marathon but this proved to be the toughest sector yet as our bodies gave in to fatigue from close to 12 hours of running.

Mind games

Here is where the mind games come in handy to help you keep your mind off the constant discomfort. How long can you run on this line? Can you catch a shadow? Am I faster than this cyclist? Do my steps sound like a rhythm? These were the mind games that pushed me during the last section of the Ultra Marathon. I crossed the finish line at 7:50pm having tossed 85 KM into the bag. The joy was immense! I couldn’t believe my accomplishment! This will definitely hang as my top achievement in running. And in case Jabez doesn’t remember, we still have our own 100km Ultra Marathon to run in December.


This article was written by Tuzo Jonathan, a 2nd Year Communication Student.


Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu