The Next Great Run

The Next Great Run was scheduled for December 1. On general principles, The Paji, The Jaw and I have decided that two events per year are as many as we will want to hold so as to stay relevant (and not too common) and also to go easy on participants’ pockets.

This is because The Great Run has finally gained identity: over and above the charity aspect (which we cherish very much) The Great Run is an endurance event testing both man and machine to see who will cave in first.

This second instalment was a 600-kilometre drive from Nairobi to Machakos, then on to Wote, down to Makindu, back up to Emali, turn left towards Loitoktok and head straight to Chombo Cha Upendo Children’s Home right at Loitoktok town, 15 odd kilometers from Tanzania.

Reliability and fuel economy played a huge role in determining who went the distance; as did energy drinks and several bottles of mineral water. This had to happen in one day.

Putting this gig together was not easy, but at least we had time and, more importantly, a sponsor. A serious one. TOYO Tyre Company sent one of their representatives from Millennium Dealers (MDL) to check out for prospective dealers, but instead they ran into The Great Run and its portfolio; and a partnership was born instantly.

We love what you are doing, they said. We will back you up, they also said. What do you need, they asked. We need money, and in exchange you get your name attached to the most enjoyable motoring event in the 2012 calendar.

Details aside, let me just say a partnership was born, and it was mutually agreed that this is not just a one-night stand: Toyo tires are in for the long haul. That money funded very many things.

This time there were T-shirts, stickers, pretty little baseball caps and the pieces de resistance: trophies for all who completed the run. The trophy was a small steering wheel mounted on a little plinth and emblazoned with The Next Great Run’s plaque on one side of the base.

Clearly those who have had no interest in The Great Run up till now have no idea what they are missing. To get things clear, here is a run-down of how The Next Great Run went down.

Registration

We now have an online presence over and above a simple Facebook page. Typing in www.thegreatrun.org in your browser’s address bar will send you to our website, and it was here that registration for cars and bikes took place.

Payment was electronic: no more cash-in-hand transactions as though one is collecting fare aboard a city bus. Charges were the same from the first run: you pay your Sh1,000, and we give you a Run for your money, in a manner of speaking. That 1000 bob enlisted you into our league of Great Runners, and for that you not only got a chance to drive with us, you also got stickers, numbers, a shirt and a hat. Talk about value for money…

This time round the response was immediate and we got our maximum entry capacity of 50 vehicles really quick. It was unfortunate some colourful super-star showpieces from the first run did not appear this time round, but we forgive them…

The Route

Suggestions from readers and participants had made it clear to me that there is a well-constructed but little used stretch of tarmac from Emali to Loitoktok. The Jaw and I did a recce, and we liked what we saw, and we saw that it was good.

A round trip just shy of 500km, with a children’s home at one end. Ideal for our purposes. The Paji did his own recce and came back with his own ideas. Not enough corners, he said. So he took the liberty of adding an extra 100 kilometres to the route, through some very scenic passes deep inside Kambaland.

If and when you get an opportunity, drive through Machakos town, down to Wote and on to Makindu. I assure you, you will not regret it. The only let-down was a killer speed bump that sprouted overnight and caught us off-guard.

It did not quite pop up out of nowhere: one could see it from a long way off, but that did not make a difference. Ground-hugging Evos and Mercs sweated it trying to go over a hump on the road that rose higher than their engine blocks. Only the Landcruisers managed to sail hassle-free over the obstacle. That bump gave us much to talk about later that day…

Charity

The Great Run is about helping the little kiddies in whatever way that we can, and this was no exception. The home this time round is called Chombo Cha Upendo, and it is run by an organisation called Teule Kenya.

Tucked just off the road as you enter Loitoktok, it is a small affair for orphans who would otherwise have nowhere to turn, but the place is thankfully undergoing expansion. The Great Runners this time round outdid themselves, both in turnout and generosity. I have never seen so much stuff being given away.

Car-loads of mostly foodstuff and clothing filled the compound as we mingled with the residents, who then put up a presentation for us. It reminded me of my days in primary school.

Then one girl took it upon herself to express their gratitude, and it was difficult to keep a dry eye as her voice piped up wishing us long lives filled with love, and how happy they were to see us and how they want us to keep it up, and God bless the Great Run and…. It was hard not to cry, I tell you.

The Sponsor

MDL, being the main agent of the recently introduced (locally) Toyo tire brand stepped in as sponsor, and what a timely entry that was. Initially, it looked like a repeat of the first run when we got a sponsor who led us down the garden path only to bail out at the worst possible moment: just after we had advertised.

History was repeating itself: we got a sponsor (another car company): who promised us many things, only for them to undergo an adjustment in human resource patterns (people got fired or retired: either way they left), so we were struck off the priority list.

Almost desperate, The Jaw and I started eyeing The Paji’s pockets. He looked like he wanted to run away somewhere very far from us. This awkward situation was saved by the entrance of MDL and their tire brand.

It was Fate like you would not believe it: they wanted to make an entrance into the market, we had the platform and needed a sponsor, and to top it all off, most of The Paji’s hardware is shod in Toyos. There was not other way this would have turned out: signatures were placed on dotted lines, hands were shaken and The Next Great Run took off without a hitch.

Special Recognition

There was a mother-daughter combo in a black Vitara whose stoicism and spirit reminded us that we don’t need high-strung turbocharged saloon cars to enjoy the Great Run (though having one wouldn’t hurt at all).

To quote a fellow Great Runner, she had “heart”: driving the entire 600 kilometres without griping even once (some people, like me for instance, complained about nothing in particular the whole way, and ended up irritating the hell out of my passengers).

Another individual of note was a man in a Mazda Demio, who drove his car like he was doing a road test. Then there was the fellow running on jet fuel. And the many noisy Subarus. If there is one thing we cannot complain about, it is lack of colour and variety.

There will be a Great Run Volume III, in June of 2013. Miss it at your own peril. You have been warned. In the meantime, a picture is worth a thousand words, and these photos from The Next Great Run will explain things better than any number of words I can care to write.

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