#RunningWithTheFirstLady for the Beyond Zero campaign

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I am here to tell my version of the truth and nothing but that version.

Pretty much.

Here’s a moment by moment rundown of what went down on Thursday19th February, 2015, at State House, Nairobi, Kenya, where some of the most influential women in media were invited for an early morning jog with the First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta. Our task? To train with the First Lady for the 2015 half marathon on March 8 in support of the Beyond Zero Campaign. The following takes place between the hours of 4AM and whenever my muscles will stop aching.

Prelude: I start preparing for my early morning adventure by laying my outfit out the night before. I begin to question whether one should wear makeup to go jogging with the First Lady of Kenya. Let’s not kid ourselves here, there’s going to be photos taken. Lots of them. Even Beyonce had a full face of makeup as she belt out the famous lyrics “I woke up like this.” I decide to worry about later. Right now, it’s about getting enough rest.

4:00AM: My alarm rings and my excitement will not allow me to snooze. I shower, get ready and decide to only fill in my eyebrows (a ritual I equate to brushing teeth), put on a little mascara and some lip balm. I get ready and wait for my partner in pain crime.

4:47AM: Renee Ngamau, my colleague at Capital FM and co-host of the Capital In The Morning radio show, calls to say she’s here to pick me up. It’s dark, and cold, and the roads are so clear. I share with her that this is my first time inside State House! I’m so excited and nervous, but mostly excited. She shares that she’s been there once before to interview the President. We decide to take it slow on the run and agree that only horrible citizens would outrun the First Lady. Honestly, we just haven’t been working out and are petrified of being kicked out of State House for being lazy but we’re very content feigning patriotism right now.

5:05 We arrive at State House and after confirming that we’re on the list, security allows us in. There’s a few other people already there but it’s so dark we can barely make out who’s who. We start chatting and one gentleman shares that he thinks that we might be running 20 – 30 kilometers. Is it too late to back out now? And is one allowed to call a taxi to State House?

5:30: We move to the field right in front of the iconic house and I’m in awe. I’m right in front of this beautiful structure I’ve seen so many times in pictures and on TV! We meet Douglas Wakiihuri who starts making small talk – mostly to reassure us ladies that we’ll be fine. He’s an Olympic Gold Medalist and has come first in several marathons. He asks when the last time we went running was and I confess that I may have not gone running in 10 years but I occasionally go walking. Is that the same? Not really. He says to just go at a pace we’ll be comfortable with and that I’ll be fine. I decide to believe him.

5:40: I’ve identified a couple other women who also haven’t been jogging in a while and I start to feel safer. I remind myself of how great it will be to start a sentence with “You know the other day as I was jogging with the First Lady…” and decide to be positive about this experience even though no one is saying just how many kilometers we’ll be running.

5:57: The First Lady walks out and greets us. “Hi guys!” So polite and informal and absolutely perfect. I’m tempted to go “Hey Maggie!”

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6:00: We do a 5 minute warm up and stretch our hips and limbs and jog twice around the field before making our way around State House.

6:15: I glance at my watch and feel proud of myself for not dropping out yet. My legs are still moving; my heart still beating. I just might make it guys. As we jog, Renee introduces me to the physiotherapist, Japheth Kariakim, who’s jogging along with us – a good contact to have indeed.

6:27: I’m starting to feel a little tired but tell myself we’re almost there. They’d said something about running to Gate D. Or was it C? Anyway, I think we’re close. I hear Julie Gichuru complain of fatigue and say to someone “Pigia watoto waambie mama ameenda” which is followed by breathless laughter from the ladies. I don’t think she’s joking much though. Should I be making goodbye calls to my family too?

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6:30: HAS IT REALLY ONLY BEEN THREE MINUTES? Impossible. I turn and ask how many kilometers we’ve been going and I’m told 2.6. I remember the gentleman who said we might be running 20 – 30 kilometers and I almost faint on the spot.

Later: I’m not sure what time it is because I’ve stopped looking at my watch. It’s not helping. I’m now having a hard time keeping up and every step forward feels like I’m jogging closer to my death. I wonder where Renee is and if she’s keeping up. I lost her along the way. Or is it she lost me?

Even later: I really don’t know how everyone is still doing this. There are a couple of people behind me and many more ahead. My muscles ache with every step and I spot the First Lady still going strong. How is this so?? I believe I’m the youngest in the group. I tell myself not to make this any more embarrassing than it is by dropping out, considering I should be the fittest.

Later-est: I’m about to vomit. I feel tricked into this. I try and remember why we’re doing this but all I can feel is the sharp pain from all my muscles and I start to wonder whether I will make it back home or if this is the end of the road for me. Not a bad way to go though – jogging with the First Lady. Not bad at all.

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7:08-ish: WE’RE DONE! WE’RE DONE! Let’s pop some champagne and toast to this because we’ve somehow made it! Thank God. I’m at the finish line. Found the pot of gold. Felt the light at the end of the tunnel on my shoulders. Let me tell you, things are starting to make sense again. We take a few pictures with the First Lady and she actually holds me!! You may not be able to tell but her hand is on my back and we’re like best friends. Almost.

7:23: Was it all a big fat trick? The warm down exercises they’re making us do seem worse than the actual jog! I try remind myself that my body will thank me later since my muscles will be more relaxed but most importantly, I remember that cameras are still rolling and proof of my unfit self is just one camera roll away. Must. Keep. Going. I wonder whether the camera people are ok seeing as they were running along with us, filming every moment of it.

7:31: I glance at the First Lady who seems to doing really well and I decide to push on. Besides, a few of the women are lightening up the mood with funny comments and I know that breakfast is just round the corner so all is well people, all is well.

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Some unknown period of time: Forget Breakfast at Tiffany’s! We are having breakfast at State House with the First Lady of Kenya! This is unbelievable. We eat, we drink, we moan and groan of the lingering pains left in our joints, but most of all we celebrate ourselves for having made it. Renee puts it so well when she says that we are some of the most powerful opinion shapers and most watched people in media – all the women in this room are movers and shakers. What an honour.

9:03: We make our way to the Beyond Zero mobile clinics and we’re all in awe over this little space that is going to change the lives of people around the country. Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta speaks to us about her vision and is gracious enough to answer a bunch of questions about the project.

9:37: Has the security team been briefed that some of us almost died in there? Because they’re all so sweet and keep congratulate us as we make our way out of the gates. Thanks man, I’m officially going to start referring to myself a chosen soldier of this country.

(Next Day) 7: 07AM: My best friend says he thought I sounded so funny on the phone last evening during our conversation. What conversation? I don’t remember a thing. Can amnesia be a side effect of fatigue? He says something funny but I have to stop myself from laughing because my body is aching everywhere. What can I say? My battle scars come in the form of muscle pains. Cost of being a true patriot, I guess.


To the crew who kept up with us the whole time, thank you for being such sports.

To the ladies who gave their all during the training, it was an honour running next to you.

To Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta who is not only championing such a noble cause but was gracious enough to invite us, I salute you.


To learn more about the Beyond Zero campaign, visit www.beyondzero.or.ke

With a maternal mortality rate of 488 deaths per 100,000 live births, Kenya is off track in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal numbers four and five by 2015. In January 2014, Beyond Zero Foundation was formed to partner with the government in reducing maternal and child mortality. Spearheaded by The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, the Beyond Zero Campaign is part of the initiatives outlined in her strategic framework towards HIV control, promotion of maternal, new born and child health in Kenya. On March 8, we will have the 2015 First Lady’s Half Marathon. Registration closes on the 27th of February.

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