When you watch the Paralympics, you see individuals who have beat countless odds and emerged great victors. They prove time and time again that ‘disability is not inability.’ The rest of us cheer them on and get inspired by them but the truth is we can never begin to understand what it takes to do what they do. The ‘walk a mile in my shoes; notion seems to hold and the Run with Henry pre-marathon event held by Standard Chartered proved just that.
I was privileged to attend the event along with a couple of other people including my workmate Imali. The event started with serving of breakfast as we were divided into teams; red, blue, green and orange. After breakfast, we started off with a little warm-up exercise. An enthusiastic team led us through a little Zumba. I use the word ‘little’ very lightly because my body felt like it had been plunged into boot camp. The only exercise my muscles get is a little walking and probably when I stretch in the morning-sad really. However, after my muscles finished complaining I actually started to enjoy it. I felt a whole lot better after the first session.
What followed Zumba was the session where we were split into our respective teams depending on the color assigned. There were three activities in total; football, running and the obstacle race. Each team was supposed to go through each of the activities. First sport our team participated in was football. We were supposed to split into 2 teams and play against each other. A couple of us were supposed to be blindfolded while the rest directed those who were blindfolded. The ball used to play had ‘shingles’ or metal-like objects inside it. This way, you can hear where the ball is. This accompanied with your partner who is not blindfolded should help you navigate through the field.
Here is the thing, when you rely on a sense for so long, it takes a long while for your body to adapt to not using it. You are distrustful of where you step and are constantly afraid you will walk into something and hurt yourself. It is safe to say chasing after that ball blindfolded was not an easy task and sadly our team lost.
The next activity would be the running where our very own Henry Wanyoike would show us how it is done. Henry Wanyoike is a blind Paralympic champion. With the very many medals he has won and world records that he has broken, he is considered one of the world’s fastest runners. He runs with his partner Joseph Kibunja who guides him through the course. His advice for us was simply ‘trust your partner’. This time I was acting as a guide. As we ran, I got distracted for a second and my partner almost fell. Just goes to show how much concentration is required in this sport.
The last activity was the obstacle race and things did not get better there. Blindfolded and with the help of a caller and a white cane, one was supposed to race to maneuver our way through the obstacles. Most of us did not even run through the course. We just wandered aimlessly in the field. It was a good laugh though. These activities helped us walk a mile in the shoes of individuals like Henry even if it was just for a little while. Watching Henry run with his partner makes it look so easy. They make it look so effortless but it takes a lot of practice, commitment and endurance just like any sport. The day ended with another session of Zumba and brunch later on.
This event set the pace for the marathon set to be held on the 26th November 2017. This year’s marathon will be the 14th edition since the marathon’s inception. The Marathon is the flagship project for our ‘Seeing is believing’ community imitative that aims to raise funds for the needy in the community. It has also provided budding athletes with the opportunity to launch their international careers with the race garnering a different winner every year. It is also a great team building exercise for corporate employees. This year, Standard Chartered along with Athletics Kenya who are the main sponsors of the event have modelled the marathon into different categories; the grueling full marathon which will be about 42kms, the half marathon that will be 21kms, the 10km run, the wheelchair race which will also be 21kms, the CEO’s run which will about 2.5kms long and the family fun run which will be 5kms. This way, everyone can contribute to the Nairobi Marathon whichever way they can.