Not long ago adventure meant stepping into the unknown, riddled with untold dangers. The possibility of not coming back alive heightened the feeling of the ultimate sacrifice but nowadays we take it differently. Yes, we cannot remove all dangers from an adventure but we take precautionary measures and prepare – a lot. One such preparation is taking mental pictures.
Take Be More Race for instance. Update after update has been shared with Standard Bank customers and members of the public to allow everyone adequate time to prepare. There’s no need to show up with muscles that are stiff and a chest that can hardly heave up and down. Hit the gym now. Hit the road every week in the morning or early evening.
And here is one more weapon in your sports arsenal. Standard Bank has shared the routes ahead of the race. Take time to go through them and relate routes to the road networks in Lilongwe. If you happen to be in the Capital City then take the time to drive through the route for your run category. Then get to walk through sections of it. And if possible get to jog portions of it.
This will allow you to build a mental picture for your route. It will help you on 9 June to deal with twists and turns of the race.
So far my coverage about this year’s Standard Bank Be More Race has focused on the casual runner on a quest to achieve physical fitness and wellness. But Be More has more to offer.
As the race is open to professional athletes, financial rewards await for those in the 21 kilometre heat. Like the promise of a treasure at the far end of the rainbow, Standard Bank too has dangled a total of K2.9 million at the finish line for the first three to cross the line.
Winners will receive cash prizes in ranges of K550,000, K900,000 and K1.5 million on third, second and first positions, respectively. Now that’s something to smile about! It is commendable that Standard Bank has considered rewards for athletes. Apart from cash prizes, all participants will receive a bag stuffed with branded Standard Bank goodies. That is the way to go.
Many professional athletes out there have been crying out for motivation and the more sponsors like Standard Bank come forward with prizes, the better for the sport. The bar has been raised. These cash prizes should motivate more athletes to get back on the track, and new ones to join. Ultimately, standards of the sport will improve. The overall picture of success looks bright. We can now look forward to the moment when more than just the regular local athletes participate at global competitions. Surely the gold medals are coming on home soil.
Some things we do as kids later on tend to be seeds of greatness or phenomenal success. However, there are other things whose intricate value is difficult to ascertain, other than that they were moments of pleasure. One such thing was the practice of gleaning. Whenever the sweet potatoes would be harvested in the fields just outside our neighborhood, we would go and glean after what was left. Usually, these would be little tubers too small to be worth the effort of getting them off the ground. We would glean with pieces of sticks, instead of the usual hoes. Nonetheless, from time to time, one would stumble upon a sizeable tuber.
Occassionally, we would be given a chase by owners of adjacent fields whose harvest was still full, and who would mistake us for thieves. At one point, a field owner who had a sugarcane field nearby gave us a chase while wielding a sharp panga knife. We later made peace when it became apparent to him that we were not after the sweet grass. In a way, this was fun – dangerous fun , if there’s such a thing.
After the exercise, we would put all our “harvest” together and head back home for a night of feasting. As indicated in the previous article, we would set up bon fires at the Lisimbas, who happened to be my next door neighbours in Nkolokosa, a high density location in Blantyre. We called our sweet potatoes kunkha, which simply means gleaning after the harvest. And it’s an expression not restricted to sweet potatoes. It can apply to anything that is picked up after the harvest.
Gathering around the fire, we would put the kunkha on the hot ashes, and wait for the sweet aroma to signify the roasting was complete. The potatoes would become soft to the touch and when poked with a piece of grass or wire, it would easily pierce through the skin. Again, ash was always nearby, so the face would become painted in strokes of grey and black, while we indulged.
As I recall, this was the practice year in, year out until one day the Lisimbas came up with a brilliant innovation. Instead of throwing the tubers on the direct fire, they put them in a tin and sealed it with a thick plastic cover. Our prized harvest suddenly became a steamed affair, and the improvement on taste was through the roof! No more ash on the face, no more burnt skin, and there was much consistent texture all around the tubers.
Come to think of it, years later, Kondwani Lisimba went into food production and is now a renowned chef, food production manager and owner of a food production company. So maybe after all, everything we do as little ones serves as tributaries that come together to form one gushing river further down in the stream of life.
Kunkha, both the old and new ways, gave us a first glimpse of camp cooking while in the comfort of our homes.
It’s all a matter of perspective. 10 km passed in a modern plane at cruise speed will be fleetingly small. In a car, on the open roads 10 km is nothing. In busy cities like Lilongwe, it will be noticeable. But on your feet, pounding the hard asphalt to the rhythm of your heart, 10 km becomes 10, 000 metres!
As covered in previous articles, the city run was designed to bring Standard Bank customers, staff and the community together. It was a day where runners were encouraged to come along with their family and friends.
THE TURN OUT
The turn out was great. I made out a few familiar faces including Walter Nyamilandu, the current president of Football Association of Malawi (FAM). I couldn’t resist getting a photo opportunity with him. And his deep baritone voice helped set the mood for the race. I met Kelvin Mphonda, an old friend from college days. He’s an Assistant Director of Roads, Ministry of Transport and Public Works. There were peoples of all races, ages and gender. The youngest was 8 years old and the oldest perhaps was in his 70s.
THE START LINE
After signing the indemnity forms and getting the race number, we all gathered at the start line. This was a proper affair with the modern square arch marking the spot. There was an ambulance and lots of Police and race officials. Then a trainer appeared in front of the crowd and took us through a warm-up session. It was more like a dance-aerobic session. I felt the warmth of blood surging in all the four corners of my body. I was ready.
When it was 2 minutes to the starting time, Malawi National Anthem played on the loud, high-fidelity speakers. Some runners cheered, and others stood at attention of sorts. Exactly at 6:00 a whistle was blown and we all took off.
HERO OF THE DAY
I decided to take a comfortable pace and watched a sea of faces run past me. Steady and Easy was my strategy. What’s more, there was a high chance of catching up with some of these runners later on in the race. As I was busy fiddling with my phone, an athletic pulled up next to me. He looked like a smaller version of Bolt. We struck up conversation and got to learn that he was Ian Msampha. He was a survivor of a nasty car accident that left him with a broken leg – in three places, and a broken left hand. The accident occurred off Lilongwe City limits in September 2015. After surgery, where they inserted a metal bar to support his femur, the doctors said he would never walk again unassisted. The family then decided to involve a physiotherapist from Blantyre who had strict routines, some starting off as early as 4:00 am.
Bit by bit, he started going to the gym. He started bench pressing a 50 kg bar, and went as high as 140 kg. And here he was actively participating in the race. To me he was the hero of the race.
The route that was selected was very scenic. Starting off from the heart of New City Centre, the part of Lilongwe without dust, it went past the majestic Reserve Bank building, the only structure that is thin at the bottom, and wides out like an inverted stepped triangle. At the far end of that road, the route brushed shoulders with the boundary of Lilongwe Sanctuary, where wild animals are rehabilitated and released into the jungle, if they are still capable of fending for themselves. Then the route turned north and went past the American Embassy, the new South African High Commission complex and the DFID offices (Department For International Development). On the opposite side, there was a forest composed of indigenous trees. It was green everywhere.
At the Malawi Parliament roundabout it turned west. The Parliament buildings were in sight, and this architectural marvel does not disappoint. The route had been steady until this stage. It sloped down a little bit, and then started going up. Further down the road, it turned north again at Area 18 roundabout. This is where the first challenge emerged. The slope was considerably significant. In the mornings when going to work, it is not uncommon to see loaded trucks that have broken down on this section. People and machines alike find this section difficult to navigate. The road from the Parliament roundabout and this road bordering the popular Area 18 form two sides of a rectangle housing the Botanic Gardens. This is a favorite spot if one is looking to pray, study or reconnect with nature.
Lilongwe City Run.
Lilongwe City Run.
Lilongwe City Run.
Further up the road, the route turned right into the low density Area 10. The road sloped down and offered some respite to the now tired runners. An undulating pattern led the road to a junction between Area 12 and Area 11, and the road turned right. This section, thankfully eased on the ankle, offering a gentle negative angle. In front of the road was The Golden Peacock Mall, and Golden Peacock Hotel in the background towering everything. The mall is one of the biggest in City Centre and boasts of shops, restaurants and office space.
At the bottom of the road the fun abruptly vanished. The route turned right, and up, and up and up, towards the finish line. This was the last challenge meant to test the resolve of both the experienced and the uninitiated. Capital Hotel was to the right, and Mungo Park further up the road. The latter has the only five-star hotel in the country, and also has the prestigious Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC). All these are beautiful compounds, but at this point, it was likely that the runners were not noticing these, only focusing on completing the race at BICC.
There was three watering points along the way, and at each junction a race official would pair with police members showing directions and controlling traffic. The preparation that went into this must have been massive considering the attention that was given to the details.
THE TOP TEN
Then came matters of ranking. The first position went to John Waldron who clocked an impressive 47:22 minutes, and the second position went to Jochebed Mpanga who did 53:55 minutes, followed by Maya Kachenga with 54:29 minutes. Here’s a complete list of the first ten runners to hit the finish line:
Joni Waldron 47:22
Jochebed Mpanga 53:55
Maya Kachenga 54:29
Cynthia Mahata 57:49
Lindiwe Nkhambile 57:51
Rose Chapola 1:00:08
Iris Borsch 1:02:47
Orama Mwase 1:03:06
Racheal Shilup 1:03:29
Nyasha Vera 1:05:59
Other than the first three positions, the top ten list was dominated by valiant ladies who sailed through the route as if on the wings of swans. A big congratulations to the top ten. You did us all proud.
Top Three, John to the left.
The Youngest Troop
Ladies in the Top Ten
Between the first and second booths, as we were negotiating the slope of the Area 18 road, I spied a towering figure pumping up the slope without effort. He could easily be twice my size, and than fascinated me. He was accompanied by a companion, whom I assumed was a wife. When I got close, I decided to introduce myself. I assumed he was the CEO of Standard Bank. He was gracious enough to respond to my questions while we were still in stride. After introducing myself as the blogger for Be More, I reached deep within and tried to increase my pace. I mean, I thought it was important to make the right impression being our first meeting.
I took off and left them in the distance. But by the time I was negotiating the last slope towards BICC I spotted the pair approaching with strong intent to overtake. I reached for the dregs of any energy reserves that were left in the tank and took off awkwardly. I silently promised myself that the only thing left that mattered was to be ahead of them, even if it meant just a metre separating us. I crossed the finish line with a short distance between us. I don’t think he knew there was a competition at play here.
Later on, I got formally introduced by Thoko Unyolo, the Head of Marketing and Communications and the chief engineer behind the Be More Races. I was fortunate to be granted a short interview. William and Debbie le Roux are a power couple, having participated in the Mzuzu City Race already. Debbie is a kindred spirit having a passion to hiking. She has already been to Mulanje Mountain, our famous and tallest massif in Malawi.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview:
Kondaine: “What is your message today?”
William le Roux: “We want to see more interaction between our customers and the staff. We want to see our customers and staff spend more time outdoors than being in the banking hall. For that reason we have introduced Digital Channels, and with it a digital app that is best in its class. It is linked to Airtel Money. It is an App 247, that will allow you to easily access your account anytime, anywhere. Together with online banking, you can easily access the bank services from the comfort of your bedroom, or anywhere.”
He paused. After a brief reflection he continued.
“We believe that wellness is good for business. It is good for the community. We believe that wellness is good to our customers and to our staff. And we would like to encourage everyone to embrace the outdoors lifestyle by participating in the Be More Races. That’s the message today.”
We shook hands and parted our ways. I must say this was a classy appetizer. Time and opportunity willing, I’d wish for a more comprehensive interview that will tackle a wide range of issues concerning Standard Bank, the athletics and of course the Be More Races. But for now, this was a timely glimpse into the most powerful man at Standard Bank, participating, and engaging with customers and the business community.
The stars for the day were all those that showed up, without whose presence the City Race would not have been a success. This was fun, and to say that it was an achievement would be making an understatement. The run/walk has given us all an idea of the scope of the main race. Be More Race on 9 June will be twice the fun, twice the challenge, and twice as long.
If you happen to be in Lilongwe over the weekend, look up the calendar and you’ll see you had put a small cross on 12 May. That’s because that was a day reserved for Be More City Run/Walk.
Come and join the athletes ,families and fitness enthusiasts who will breeze through 10 km as an appetizer for the main race in June. The rest of us will run – at our pace or even walk. Some will run a little bit, and walk some more. Whatever the strategy, it will be important to participate.
The race will start promptly at 6:00. These races are known for time keeping. So it is best to show up early. You can register online or via Whatsapp for free . Check the details on the poster below. If you are busy, you can also register tomorrow. Just make sure you give yourself enough time for the registration.
To all of us, remember to have plenty of sleep and hydrate ahead of the race. Dehydration is a show-stopper. So drink lots of water and other fluids. And as usual, stay away from the hard stuff.
See you at the start line. And remember the main race is coming on June 9, 2018 in its inaugural city, Lilongwe.
Be More Race has introduced interim runs this year as a way to raise awareness of the main race on 9 June that will take place in the scenic Lilongwe City. This triad has targeted the three main cities, Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Each hit has been aptly named City Race and it covers 10 km. The races for Blantyre and Mzuzu have already taken place. The first one was in south on 14 April and in the north on 21 April.
Now it’s a golden chance for Lilongwe to have a taste of this sumptuous race. 10 km is just enough to get you sweating and give you pointers for the main race to come next month. The Be More Lilongwe City Race will take place this coming Saturday on 12 May 2018. It will start at exactly 6 in the morning. It will start from Standard Bank Capital City Branch at City Centre. Admission is free of charge. I guess it doesn’t get any better than that.
I’m planning to attend and see how far my preparations have been. It will also be an opportunity to learn from other runners and pick up a technique or two. If you happen to be in town please plan to attend.
We may not have an ultra marathon yet but as far as extreme sports is concerned Malawi is not far behind. We have the Yacht Race on Lake Malawi, we have the Porters’ Race on Mulanje Mountain, we have the Be More Race in Lilongwe. And we also have the Three Peaks walk in Blantyre. These are all annual events.
I have been covering the Be More Race, and I’m planning on attempting the 21 km race. I expect nothing but fireworks and fun. I’m not so sure about the Porters’ Race. Perhaps that could be sampled next year. But I’m having an irresistible temptation to try the Three Peaks walk this year as well.
The Three Peaks walk covers 48 km in a day and that includes hiking three mountains in Blantyre and reaching each summit. The mountains involved are Michiru, Ndirande and finally Soche, in that order. To say this is very challenging would be making an understatement.
One family friend of ours gave it a try last year. Esnat Chilije completed all the three mountains. It’s no wonder that this year she attempted the City Race in Blantyre organized by Standard Bank as a runner up to the Be More Race. It took place on 14 April. We were inspired by her accomplishments and are planning to follow suit.
In the meantime, I’m reaching for the straws and trying desperately to assure myself I can do this. The only comfort is that I did several long walks in Cape Town back in 2012. I could take almost the whole day to walk 34 km from the end of the train line in Simon’s Town to Mowbray.
And in 2016 (I’m not so sure about 2015) in Lilongwe I walked several times from Bunda Hill to Area 47 covering a distance between 34 and 36 km. That included reaching the summit of Bunda Hill. Besides that I have also done Three Peaks in Lilongwe, but drove in-between instead of walking.
Not much compared to what is to come, but somehow that should count a little bit. No? Cathy my sweet wife is eager to participate in the Three Peaks walk and I can only reflect the enthusiasm. Ahem!
So keep June clear and start preparing for the Three Peaks in Blantyre and/or the Porters Race in Mulanje. The City Race for Lilongwe will be on 12 May at 6:00 am at Standard City Centre and the one for Mzuzu already took place on 21 April and the main Be More Race, again in Lilongwe, will be on 9th June.
I haven’t had time to research about the Yacht Race in Mangochi, but keep an eye on it too. (I only hope it hasn’t taken place yet! 🙈)
To all those that love outdoors, extreme sports and nature, now is the time to get active. Get started!
Excitement is in the air. What looked like a distant prospect is now just 40 days away as we count down to the Be More Race on June 9th.
The 2018 edition has taken off to a flying start with 10 km city races underway. Blantyre was first, followed by Mzuzu. Lilongwe is next on 12th May 2018.
The city races aim to prepare runners ahead of the main heat on 9th June 2018. They also act as a build-up to the main race and should drum up public support through social media.
So where does that leave you and I? I hope we have been making progressive preparations in all areas that matter. Remember to enjoy the day, one will need to build endurance, improved breathing, and hopefully, became lighter on the feet.
If your progress is not where it should be, don’t lose heart since there is still some time to catch up on the effort. However, should it be clear to you that this will not be possible, then consider the different options on the table.
The main event will be an odd 21 km, and there will be another one for 10 km, and lastly, there will be a fun run for 5 km. Plan to attend, and aim to participate in any of the three. But what if all these are still tough for you? Well, don’t despair. You can still turn up and take a walk for as far as you can go. It will inspire you to love outdoors and do something about your physical fitness.
Remember, this race is about family, social inclusion and setting personal records. So mark up your calendar and keep 9th June 2018 free.
Mountain Club of Malawi (MCM) recently sent out an invitation to its membership for a weekend of hiking in the Mangochi Forest Reserve and camping at Fort Mangochi. This is one area rich in colonial history about trade, migration, battles and slave routes.
So at midnight on Friday last week, I sneaked out of bed and headed out of town. Coming from Lilongwe I took the Salima Road, which would later join the road to Mangochi and then towards Namwera. My rendezvous was Skull Rock Estate in Majuni. I got there very early and found out that Maggie O’toole, the president of MCM, and Poly Boynton, another hardcore MCM member, had already arrived the night before having cycled all the way from Blantyre, covering a distance of 140 km.
Our guide was Jailos Sinto, who has local knowledge about this area. We were expecting over 20 members. We were all set by 10 on Saturday morning and ventured into the bush. Normally, by this time of the year the trail would have been maintained by a team of locals. But this year, the project got derailed somewhat. As such there was tall grass everywhere. Parts of the path was so overgrown the leading guide had to clear it with a slasher.
The traffic jam that would follow gave a chance to armies of red ants to have a go at us. I was the first victim and this continued for a good part of the day. Just when we were about to theorize that the ants preferred local flesh, the barrier was breached and everyone became a candidate of the merciless stinging bites.
These red ants were much bigger and more vicious than the ones I had encountered on Easter Monday on Dedza Mountain. These ones were after causing maximum damage and inflicting intense pain. I politely tried to disengage them but when it became obvious this was a war, a few heads rolled.
Skull Rock facing left
Skull Rock staring you in the face
Skull Rock facing right
Yaseen, unmoved by the Skull Rock stare
Rob, a mental health expert from UK taking a break
On the way to the fort, we skirted past the Skull Rock hill, a rocky affair with three huge boulders for a summit. One of these has a profile of a skull. Going round the hill reveals a much dramatic view. The skull boasts of two asymmetrical sockets fiercely staring down into the valley below. Professor Eric Borgstein, a prominent surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, joked that dinosaurs in the prehistoric era gorged out the sockets off the rocky face. Now, we know how this outstanding feature was formed. Brian Lewis, husband to Maggie, and a crusader for managing dairy cows for over 7000 smallholder farmers, suggested that the block of stone was probably soft, and got sculpted by forces of nature. I’m inclined to go for Eric’s theory, after all he’s the master of sculpting of the human body!
Some of us had been worried that it might rain on this day, given the trend of recent rainfall in the country. Instead, it was very hot and very humid. Others minded the heat and others the humidity. I belonged to the latter group. With an aerial assault from the skull’s stare, red ants on the ground and the humidity wrapping an invisible steaming blanket around our struggling bodies, the situation invoked a deep respect for nature from everyone. This was a challenge worth undertaking.
Mangochi Forest Reserve miraculously stands intact. It was refreshing to walk for miles on end in a thick forest, surrounded by nothing else but forest sounds, wild blossoms and supreme greenery. The rolling hills gave an illusion of an endless pleasure ground like one could be lost forever wandering from one spot to the next oblivious of the passage of time. The natural beauty far outweighed the challenges we were encountering on the way.
We reached the ruins of Fort Mangochi just after midday. It was such a welcome sight after walking in the endless bush. The ruins still have an intact thick perimeter wall made from masonry stones and mortar. The wall is one meter thick and has rectangular openings from outside, which widen away as a recessing wedge in the inside of the wall. This was designed to allow two soldiers to man the hole and fire at the enemy with a much wider horizontal scope without being exposed to the opposing fire.
Inside the square compound are the remains of buildings made from burnt red bricks standing in neat rows. The ground, though covered in grass, is even and firm as if it is a modern construction site. The walls are perfectly aligned to the four cardinal points – with the main entrance facing East. Outside the perimeter wall were remnants of what are houses for officers. These were added to the fort much later in its evolution.
We camped inside the stone wall perimeter. Everyone was expected to find themselves a spot. Some opted to stay close to where the camp fire would be. Others went to the suburbs where the grass was receding. And others chose to be buried in thick grass. One adventurous member even found time to beat a path from his tent to the campfire.
Chinga in the “suburbs” of Fort Mangochi
Happy with my tent
Maggie and Brian posing at the perimeter wall of Fort Mangochi
Poly, the cyclist from Blantyre followed by Yaseen
Yaseen, followed by Sarah
Sarah from Manchester, UK.
A Walk to the Rainforest
We pitched our tents, ate our individual lunches, rested a while and then set off for the rainforest. I had forgotten to bring along a cup. So instead I took my midday tea in a breakfast bowl. No sweat there as that is exactly the spirit of camping. Anything can be turned into a versatile instrument. My lunch consisted of shredded tuna and a cookie. The creativity failed to make an impression on the team but it got the job done anyway.
On the northern side of the camp, there’s a next ridge with a rainforest. We were aiming to summit it before sunset and return in time for a communal dinner around the campfire. Once we cleared our top flat ridge we came across an overgrown path full of protruding roots, vines and nettles. I lost count of yelps, ows, and ouches from young and old, lady or gentleman. Red ants couldn’t resist joining in the torture spree. The guide tried his best to hack a passage through the thick grass as fast as he could but he couldn’t stop a jam from building up and grinding the team to a halt.
And when things couldn’t get any better, the terrain started rising up sharply. I tanked. I sat down to catch a breath, and someone joked that I looked like one of the ancient wise ones – a sage. I brought up the rear and matched on into the rainforest. This section looks dark and ominous. It just feels like its a place a leopard would be comfortable to wander around. But once inside the canopy that blocks out the sun, the ambience is totally different. It’s an air conditioned chamber with humid control. It was totally refreshing, and the air divine. I don’t recall being attacked by a single red ant inside this forest cove, if there’s ever such a thing.
Our next stop was where people camp within the rainforest, and we decided to end it there. We were not going to proceed to the summit in the interest of time. Well, mostly that. But there was also the small matter that most of us by this time were totally thrashed. So instead we branched off to this ledge that stands above the cover of the rainforest. And talk about view. We could see the eastern leg of Lake Malawi glistening in the sun like a precious piece of glass. And then Shire River, the only outlet of this magnificent water body, snaked across the land like a ribbon before emptying itself in Lake Malombe, before proceeding its journey to Zambezi River, and then eventually hitting Indian Ocean. Shire River, being the longest and biggest river in Malawi is around 402 meters long. From where we were standing, we only saw a small chunk as it came out of the lake.
We returned to our camp inside Fort Mangochi and started our campfire.
Sumptuous Dinner and A Rousing Talk by the Campfire
As the open flames crackled above the burning firewood, a group of self-made chefs gathered around the fire and started preparing dinner. Yaseen Mukadam, our treasurer and also a long time member of MCM, was the rice grandmaster. He was cooking up a big dish from our famous Kilombero rice, the most aromatic long grain rice in Malawi. Carl Bruessow, an avid hiker, author, historian and champion of the replanting effort for Mulanje Cedar, was preparing mushroom entree. Others were making an assorted dish, and a special platter for vegetarians. When it was time to serve, it was so difficult not to put a small hill on one’s plate. Vegetarians were served first. The rest come after them, and wiped out whatever was being served.
Afterwards, some washed down the meal with a glass of wine. Some of us, a glass of water did the trick. Then came a surprise. Brownies, served with whipped cream! Aahh! Such good times.
We had an AGM – Annual General Meeting, led by Maggie, the president. She kept it succinct and informative. We received two reports and then we elected new leaders. Maggie and the rest of the officers were unanimously re-elected into office without being opposed. This committee is truly dedicated and strives to bring out the best for the club. We wish them another successful tenure in office.
Then it was time to settle down and have a talk from Carl Bruessow, who also happens to be the current president of Malawi Society, the custodians of colonial history artifacts and knowledge, which happily assists in the preservation of this rich heritage. After being taunted for a power presentation, Carl held out slides of photos and maps in his hand and delivered a moving oration. He told us about how the Yaos migrated from the coastal regions of Mozambique to this very spot. The Yaos loved mountains, and were attracted by the rolling hills in the area, and its plenty sources of water. The Yaos were tradesmen who had been dealing with Arabs, trading in the precious commodity, salt, in exchange for honey and other goodies from the interior of Africa.
Unfortunately, the trade turned its ugly head and stooped as low as in the sale of human souls and ivory. Slavery, in this region, started as a way to get rid of unwanted characters in the society. But soon became a huge human trafficking undertaking. At its zenith, the trade route passing through this area could have more than 20,000 souls per month. Until authorities in Britain said enough was enough, and started a campaign to abolish slave trade.
This led to three major battles that took place in different campaigns, led by different British officers. It involved British soldiers, Indian Sikhs, irregulars from the Ngonis, regulars from Zanzibar and more Ngonis. Irregulars would be the equivalent of modern day mercenaries, who came from the Dedza area. If I heard the narration very well, I think there was also a presence of some Yaos from Zomba, especially during the last battle that flushed out the Yao chief together with most of his 25,000 subjects. The headquarters of the chieftaincy was then later turned into Fort Mangochi, comprising of the thick stone perimeter wall and the structures inside it.
We learnt a lot about the local tribes, their historical behaviour and influence. And personally, I have never seen such delivery, with flair and decorum. This will be a night to remember for a long, long time.
I collapsed into my tent for an early night and drifted into a peaceful sleep. I stopped feeling the clods from the collapsed grass, and after a while the tiny thin polythene sheet for a mattress got comfy. I woke up fresh the following morning. Lost interest in having a cereal, and took instead a bowl of hot soup and got ready for the hike back to Skull Rock Estate.
This was one wonderful weekend, and I hope to return one day. Next time, I will want to reach the summit of the ridge where the rainforest resides.
The countdown for the Be More Race is in full swing. Already we are now down to 79 days, left. Have you started your preparations? The race is for the swift to win like that adage an early bird catches the worm. So if you haven’t taken to the tracks yet, now is the time.
Later on in this series, we are going to talk to the winners of last year’s race in order to obtain useful insights for you as you prepare. For now, we can start with the basics:
Run, my brother run. Run, my sister run.
The best advice I ever got on anything was when I was preparing to hike Kilimanjaro was that practice is the best teacher. If you will hike, the best you can do is hike often. So it goes that if you are going to run a half marathon, the best you can do is run a couple of half marathons. That is 21.2 km of fun and grit in the administration capital, Lilongwe.
Give it a try as soon as possible, and then collect the data to analyse. Are you generally weak? Are you having problems breathing? Are you too heavy? Or perhaps too light? Though I doubt if that would be a problem, but then you never know. Are you too slow? This one will be important if you want to finish among the top 10 or top 50, whichever is comfortable to you.
Watch for general fitness
Some skills are required for specific type of sports, but fortunately, some are generally generic across the board. One such skill is the ability to be in a state of general fitness. This means you can be able to run, walk, jump, swim, bend, stretch, twist without attracting any groans. Whatever your plans for the race may be, I would suggest you start working towards gaining this level of fitness. A visit to the gym at least twice a week, or a walk three times a week, or a run over the weekend, will push you towards this state.
It’s time to give up a bit of couch potato rights and start getting active. It doesn’t have to be excessive for now. Just a little bit every day will give you some decent results. After all, when you are generally fit, it is easier to avoid physical injuries.
Visualise the challenge
Maybe this one should have been the first thing to do. Do you have an idea how long is 5 km, 10km or 21 km? Get on a familiar road and measure this distance. These days it is not difficult to achieve this. You can use a number of apps on iPhone or any Android phone. You can also use the odometer in your car. Drive the distance, then walk the distance. You can even run the distance later. Have a mental picture of the distance you will cover on the day of the race. That will help you build stamina against the challenge.
Gone are the days when it was a macho thing to walk for a month without taking a glass of water. You need to train yourself to take water regularly. Start doing that now, so that by the time to race comes, you’d have conditioned yourself to maintain healthy levels of hydration. You’ll need it.
So forget about studying the camel for now. On that day, you’ll be like the hippo. Not, the shape of course, but the love for water. You will have taken a lot of water the previous day, and on the day of the race, there will be more bottles waiting for you.
Sleep, and sleep some more
How much do you sleep these days? To be a great athlete you must learn to rest the body. And sleep, in large quantities, achieves that better than any other method of resting. Start working towards sleeping normal hours so that by the date of the race, you would have trained your body to rest, relax and be in primal condition for a day of fun and endurance.
I wonder if sleep could be adopted as a hobby. I know most of us could use more sleep everyday.
Take it easy
This will seem to contradict the first point. As much as it is important to jog often, it doesn’t have to be a daily activity. You will have to pace yourself. Listen to your body and give yourself frequent breaks. Maybe between the long runs, you could have days for sprinting very short distances. You might also push between the runs, a visit to the gym or a walk in the park.
The point is that don’t try to be gazelle, cheetah, and elephant all rolled into one within 79 days. Take it easy. Do the best you can, and avoid injury.
Tell a friend
It’s great to win. It’s even greater to win among friends. Anyone who will participate will gain something because with Be More Race, everyone is a winner. Build a local team by inviting friends to join the race. And this is the best time to gel with your team members. Plan to do weekly runs together. The more the merrier.
Well, now that you have basic tools, it’s time for you to put them to use. Wishing you great preparations as we are all looking forward to that great race, which is among Malawi’s greatest races. Remember, it is 79 days to go.