10 Rules To Survive As A Runner In Nairobi
1. It’s more trail running than street running. Doesn’t Nairobi have sidewalks? Yes and no. More often no. Mostly no. If your ankles weren’t strong before, they’ll be tree trunks after a season in Nairobi. Uneven sidewalks. Single-track dirt paths. Rocks. Debris. And dust on top of dust on top of I’m not entirely sure what (see number six).
2. You will fall in a hole. (See number one.) Last week I fell after mile one of a five-mile run. Instead of limping home, I angry-ran the remaining four miles with a bloody knee. If I stopped after every fall I’d never make it as a runner in Kenya.
3. Zero-percent body fat Kenyans in business attire will run past you at rapid speeds. I’m not talking about the elite runners — it’s a given you’ll be passed by them. They are jaw-droppingly fast. I’m talking about the dude running to the office in his loafers and slacks simply because it’s the fastest and cheapest way (see number five). Running is a thing here.
4. Matatus* will kill you.
5. Lane directions are more like guidelines. The time-tested rule of running against traffic to see oncoming cars is hard to obey when a gaggle of boda bodas** use the sidewalk as their own personal road, matatus barrel down the wrong way to skip the never-ending traffic, the corn roaster set up shop over the entire sidewalk, and hyenas nip at your heals. Ok, that last one isn’t true. Or is it?
6. Yes, that is human poop. Open defecation. It’s a thing.
7. The closer you run to the fence, the higher the urine probability. Open urination. Even more of a thing than open defecation.
8. Kenyans will encourage you on your run. I’ve lost count of the times passing Kenyans (see number two) yelled out encouragement while lithely floating past me on zero-percent body fat legs. “Strong! Strong! Strong!” is a Kenyan favorite.
9. Bring a headlamp if you run in the dark. You will fall anyway (see number 2). Street lights are not a thing here, and even when they are they aren’t necessarily on.
10. Kenyan sunrises will make you cry. Watch the opening of the Lion King. It’s like that. Although your weepy emotional state may be due to an over abundance of matatu fumes and the lack of oxygen at Nairobi’s 5,800ft elevation.
*matatu: gaudily-painted public transportation with more dents than you can shake a stick at (which the police often do); reckless breadboxes on wheels
**boda boda: motorcycle taxi; the only way to cross the city in the middle of the day without losing your sanity in endless traffic