Running on the Steep Gradient of Mount Kenya

It took us about forty minutes to drive from Nairobi to Thika. Before the construction of the 8-lane Thika Super Highway, motorists used to spend up to two hours navigating the 50-kilometer stretch. After a brief stopover in Thika town, we proceeded to Mount Kenya.

When I was invited to visit Mount Kenya National Park, I pictured myself walking arduously in hiking boots. Little did I know that the plan was to run. Running along the steep gradient of the 2nd tallest mountain in Africa was a crazy idea, but I had been part of crazier activities before.

The event was organized by Hash House Harriers (HHH), Kenya Chapter. HHH is an international club with more than 2,000 groups around the world. Members meet regularly to run and drink. From the look of things, it is the drinking part that brings them together. Running is an excuse to go for their drinking sprees.

My friend and I ran from the Naru Moru gate to the Met Station, covering twelve kilometers in the process. The rest of the participants were flagged off four kilometers before the gate. That means we had a 4-km head start.

The finish line was at the Met Station, 10,000 feet above sea level. Beyond this point, Mount Kenya climbers toil along a meandering trail. Rock climbing tools are needed to reach Batian peak, but most tourists prefer the less acrobatic Lenana experience.

We had BBQ at the Met Station before slogging back to the entrance. Then we drove to River Lodge near Nanyuki. After dinner, the leader of the Hash delegation presided over a special initiation ceremony. While performing strange recruitment rituals, he poured drops of alcohol on the foreheads of every new Hasher. He baptized the rookies and gave them Hash names. For the record, every Hasher has a hilarious nickname.

This is not a cult. It is an association established to promote physical fitness, fight hangovers, stimulate thirst and make old people feel rejuvenated. These four objectives are stated in the club’s 1950 manifesto. Hashers hail from different races, professions, age groups and cultural backgrounds. They have two things in common though: They run hard and drink harder.