Sunday, January 3, 2010

A run with Samwel Shauri

By Ulrich Fluhme for, Iten/Kenya, 03.01.10

He’s running beside us without even saying a word. His stride is smooth although he wears sandals, jeans, a down vest, is maybe seven years old and about half my size.
Samwel Shauri, my running mate today, a 60:33 half marathoner, Olympian (21st at the 10,000 in Beijing) and aspiring marathoner from Tanzania, starts talking to him in Swahili. Yes, his brother is a runner and he also wants to be a runner.

“Kenya or mzungu pace?” I asked Samwel when I met him at lunch after he offered to join me for my afternoon run. “Mzungu pace”, he replied with a smile as he must have seen the fear in my face. “Tomorrow long run. Special marathon training. Two hours thirty. Maybe 40 kilometers. We drive to Eldoret at 5am and meet with other guys. Big group. So easy is better.”

After 20 minutes on the clay road to Kaptagat, we’re turning right to get back to the road from Eldoret to Iten. More kids come running our way from the huts, shouting “How are you? How are you?” and “Mzungu, mzungu!”. “Jambo, jambo!” I shout back and give high fives.
“See,” I say to Samwel, “you’re a 60 min half guy and I’m a fat mzungu. But who’s more famous here?”

We talk about Tanzania and his family. Yes, his sister is also a runner. She just ran a half in 1:16 at altitude. “That’s sub 70 on sea level!” he says proudly.
If he ever climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, I ask him next, half joking, thinking that this would be something only Westerners would do. “Oh yes!” he says. “I worked as a porter for mzungu after I finished school.” My guess would be that he carried 60lbs backpacks for people twice (or more) his weight.

Last fall he spent a month in Italy and raced frequently, winning most races. This spring he eyes the Turin Marathon which used to be one of the famous marathons in the 80s and 90s but has lost a little of its glory recently. Still, it’s a prime race on the Italian road calendar. It’s stacked with African talent and a handful of Italians that take up the battle.
Alternatively, he’d like to do Rotterdam but says “For my first marathon I can run 2:09 [which may win Turin] but not 2:04 [which is what Kibet and Kwamabi ran in Rotterdam 2009].”.

After forty minutes we’re back in Iten. While I stretch and catch my breath, Samwel strides out. A thunder rolls in the distance. “Oh-oh”, he says. “No long run tomorrow, the clay roads will be slippery.” “How about taking the road instead?”, I ask. “Not good”, he shakes his head and points on his legs.