Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon

Running the San Antonio Marathon- From my perspective

I ran the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon because I wanted to join the elite class of Kenyan marathon runners. I had always felt there was something mystical about marathon runners, and I wanted to have this mystic under my belt. I grew up during the era when Kipchoge Keino was running. Every child in Kenya wanted to become a future Kipchoge – elite runner! Now there is Tergat, Catherine Ndereba, Wanjiru, and others. They all ran with such grace, making running appear as something mystical.

In 2008, I turned on my television and to watch the Beijing Olympic marathon. There was a Kenyan marathon runner, Wanjiru. I watched as the thin Kenyan male called Wanjiru, sprinted to the finish line to win the gold medal. Wanjiru is a Kikuyu female name. In fact my grandmother is called Wanjiru.
Wanjiru, my grandmother and her friends were basket weavers. From them I learnt how to be creative using any local materials that were available, mainly straws, sisal, and shrubs known as migiyo in the Kikuyu language. These were chewed to make fibers. These fibers were twisted and braided to make yarns. Using these yarns, I learnt how to weave baskets.

As I watched Wanjiru the marathon runner on the world stage, memories of Wanjiru my grandmother flooded my mind. She was always running or walking briskly. This was the only way she could accomplish her daily chores before the sun went down, and darkness set in. I remembered her asking me to assist  with some chores in the village, and always urging me to hurry, to run (teng’era, teng'era! she would say)

I live in San Antonio, Texas, a city that held its first Marathon in 2008. A marathon right on my doorsteps....I was going to run it! I ran the 2nd Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon in 2009. Before I started training for the marathon, I was just an ordinary runner, running three miles, four times a week. When I had decided I was ready to join the elite runners' club, my husband Thiuri and I teamed up and started training.

We used The Fitness Motivator Program, "Training for your First Marathon" which we found on the internet. This equipped us with tips and strategies that would help us complete the race without injuries. We started training in July, and gradually increased our mileage. We also trained at our local gym for endurance, and participated in the cycle challenge program to create variety in our program, and to keep us from burning out.

By the end of July, we had done 9 miles, and things were looking really good. Then the August Texas summer heat slowed down our training. Thiuri went out cycling at our local McAllister Park with our two boys, and got into a race that left him with an injury.
We picked up again in September, and by September 19, we had done 16 miles. At mile 20, in October, our bodies started to feel challenged, and we were having a hard time getting our bodies to adapt to handle the 26.2 miles. During the first week of November, we ran our 22 miles and completed our 20 - week training plan.

We were on a special Kenyan runner’s diet, Ugali. Ugali makes the typical Kenyan diet rich in carbohydrates and very low in fat. It is traditionally made from corn flour and boiling water, using a wooden spoon, muiko. Ugali serves as the main dish in many parts of Africa. Ugali is usually the main dish, accompanied by meat stew and Sukuma Wiki (collard greens) or any green vegetable. Thiuri and I shared this meal most evenings.

I buy my corn flour from my local La Fiesta market here in San Antonio. It is referred to as masarepa, Harina de maiz Blanca. My muiko, (special wooden spoon) was brought from Kenya by a friend of a friend of my mother in law, who was visiting St Louis Missouri, some ten years ago. From St Louis, the muiko found its way via UPS to it final destination. It is one of the most precious items in my kitchen.

Race Day
November 15 was the big day. We woke up at 5.00am and drove to downtown San Antonio. Here we boarded a charter bus that took us to the Lions Field where the race would begin at day break. We joined thousands of runners. Old and young, the thin and the not so thin, the amateur and the accomplished. At dawn, I looked around and saw the different faces of the runners. I had never been in the presence of so many people with a similar goal. There was a lot of energy, excitement and anticipation. The runners were all wearing colorful Nike, Adidas, Rebook, and Puma running gear. From my perspective as an artist, I realized we had all become one large beautiful quilt, ready to decorate the streets of San Antonio with our movement and rhythm, accompanied by the Rock 'n' Roll music.

                                                    Photo: from

We had run for two hours when we saw the champion Kenyans gliding towards  the Alamodome to finish the race. We looked at them with envy. We realized that although we are Kenyans, we were first timers hoping to simlply finish the race.
Stifling humidity and uncomfortably warm conditions made the race extremely difficult. Fortunately, the marathon volunteers used water hoses to spray us., and distributed salt and drinking water.  This kept us from getting dehydrated. When we finally got to the Alamodome, our legs were wobbling, but we were excited as we came down the closing stretch. In shared hope and toil, Thiuri and I experienced the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon and it was remarkable. It is an experience we will always cherish.

Thiuri and I after the marathon, wearing our gold medals.