Running in Africa

Oh, Limpy One! (Pete Biggs)

Whilst on a safari holiday in Kenya the temptation got too much. I still had a knee injury, but the fantastic weather, beautiful scenery and exotic animals needed the addition of a run to make it a perfect holiday.

I got chatting to one of the local Masai warriors. His name was Nalky and he resembled a tall stick with a red cloth tied round the middle. He said that although he had never run a step in his life he had heard about his fellow countrymen who live in the highlands and ran a lot and were doing well in something called the Olympics.

Although it was against the rules he was prepared to come for a run with me in the morning. I did query whether it would be safe with lions, leopards, elephants, rhino, deadly snakes and spiders and scorpions aplenty but he assured me that if we made enough noise most of the animals would run away.

With the thoughts of a possible run of a lifetime an early night was called for. Next morning I was up at sunrise despite Jos telling me that I was mad.

Nalky arrived, and we left without being seen. Outside the lodge Nalky started by jumping as high as possible and making a sort of grunting noise. I explained that I did not think we would cover much ground this way, only for him to explain that this was a dance to the running gods pleading that we return safely. I was a bit unnerved that he seemed to think it necessary to pray before running, but they seem to have different gods for every occasion.

Nalky's running style was a cross between a leaping gazelle, an ostrich, and a giraffe running on hot coals. I put this down to the fact he had no shoes on and the ground was rather stony. With the open savannah before us my bad knee seemed to heal itself and the enjoyment of seeing herds of wildebeest, zebra, warthogs and many other animals in the distance removed any fear I had of whether it was a good idea to be running in the middle of Africa. Time went by very quickly as we ran effortlessly through the early morning sunshine. All too soon it was time to return to the lodge, before the heat got too oppressive for running.

Nalky suggested a different way back through the bush, and along the river. The open ground soon changed to a dense thicket. Nalky started to pick up the pace, and I feared I would lose sight of him. Despite my shouts to him to slow down he disappeared from sight, leaving me to find my own way back to the lodge.

A degree of panic set in. I decided to follow the river so as not to get lost. Forcing my way ahead my eye caught a ripple in the water. A crocodile! I remembered being told that they were very fast in the water, but quite slow on land. I decided to cut inland a little, to be on the safe side, but as I turned, I ran into the biggest spider's web I had ever seen. My instant thought was of the deadly spiders that had been pointed out to us the day before. The web was incredibly strong, and the more I struggled the more entangled I became. I could see the giant spider coming towards me across the web, but also I could hear the crocodile coming up the bank behind me. Everything became a blur of panic as the spider sank it's fangs into my shoulder at the same moment as the crocodile gripped my leg in it's jaws.

From a long way away I heard Jos's voice. I struggled to get free as hard as I could. "What are you trying to do to that mosquito net?"

I opened my eyes to find myself halfway out of my bed, with mosquito net all around my head, and firmly wrapped round my leg.

Maybe I won't go for a run in Africa.

© Pete Biggs, 2001