The Great Run 3

People can be very unusual sometimes…

May 28, 2013 03h00 (3 in the morning)

Ring, ring…

Caller 1: Hello, is this the Great Run?

Me: Yes sir, this is the Great Run.

Caller 1: What exactly is this Great Run?

Me: The Great Run is an endurance driving event… etc (*see definition below)

Caller 1: (Sneering) Why would I want join a group of people to drive to Meru when I can just hop into my car and do so by myself any time I want?

Me: You do that, sir, and have a safe journey while you are at it.

Caller 1: *&(^^%##.....!!!


May 31, 2013 14h30

Ring, ring…

Caller 2: Hi, I am calling about the Great Run.

Me: Yes, ma’am; how can I help you?

Caller 2: I want to take part. How do I take part in the Great Run?

Me: You have to register online, but as it is we already have a full entry list and so registration is closed. However, if you want to…

Caller 2: (Interrupting) What is it anyway? What usually happens during the Great Run?

Me: The Great Run is an endurance driving event… etc (*see definition below)

Caller 2: (Interrupting again, shrilly) Sounds like a waste of time, a waste of money and waste of fuel! And I have been to Meru before anyway! I’d rather attend Blankets & Wine!

Me: (Genially) Have fun at The Carnivore then, ma’am….

Caller 2: *&(^^%##.....!!!


These are just but two of the hundreds of calls fielded by The Jaw and I in the run-up to the Great Run Volume III, Nairobi-Nanyuki-Meru.

People can be very unusual sometimes…

June 1 2013, 07h00. Venue: Shell Petrol Station, Exit 5 along Thika Road

People can be very good sports at times too, and these people can really make you proud. The turnout for the Great Run III was nothing short of epic.

Gazing around the fuel forecourt early that Saturday morning, my mind was almost overcome by the sheer volume of pomp, colour, variety and circumstance swarming as far as my still-sleepy eyes could see.

Cars decked out in Great Run livery, people decked out in Great Run and DN2 merchandise, rumbling exhausts, hissing dump valves, camaraderie between strangers, interviews on camera, interviews off camera, reminiscences of previous Great Runs, anticipation of the drive ahead, introductions (so this is the Paji you keep talking of, huh?), order, disorder, back to order, speeches, applause, flagging off, clutch in, first gear, clutch out... and we were gone in a flurry of activity. The Great Run Volume III was under way.

What, exactly, is The Great Run?

We should pause here for a moment to try and decide just what exactly The Great Run is. Originally, the idea was simply to gather a few petrolheads, get them in their cars and head out of the city for a bit of fun.

That is OK, by any standards, but we wanted to make this an “official” kind of occurrence, something with a bit more gravitas, more presence and possibly recognition as a proper calendar event.

Like our two callers in the opening lines of this write-up, not many people saw the sense in that. After much head-scratching, somebody somewhere said: if you do charity you cannot possibly go wrong.

So charity came into play, and lo and behold, there just happened to be a children’s home along our planned routes. It became cast in stone that all Great Runs will be charity events in which a children’s home will be visited, and as such participants (and sponsors) are strongly encouraged to come up with “something small” for the kiddies.

As it turns out, the children in these homes are lonely as hell and they greatly appreciate visits by the less-unfortunate, especially when they show up in a convoy of very diverse vehicles bearing goodies.

It shows them that being an orphan is not the end of the world; that there are folks out there who have them in mind and in heart, and would do anything within their power to ease their hardship.

Case in point is Car No 54 in The Great Run III, whose owner pledged long–term unending support in the education — and edification — of one of the little ones at SOS Children’s Village in Meru.

Caller 2, this is how we at The Great Run waste our time, our money and our fuel. We do it just to see the smile light up a child’s face. There is no price you can place on that.

A year ago I tried defining what a “run” is, and again, not many people got it. It became imperative that The Great Run assumes a proper, easy-to-understand identity.

Going over the things that have happened with the previous two (and now also with the just-concluded third edition), we got a bee in our bonnet — not a vehicle bonnet, the bonnet in the idiom. How about we brand it as an endurance event? Car vs Driver vs Distance. Who will win the three-way match? Our archives told us that in previous runs, not 100 per cent of the cars finished under their own power. So set people a challenge and watch them sweat.

Seeing how we present certificates of participation and (as from Great Run II) medals and trophies, now participants have to actually EARN their awards. Go the distance, get recognised. Falter along the way and er…. too bad.

True to form, not everybody finished; some cars did not make the distance, and one driver who forgot to have breakfast before he left his house had to ask his passenger for assistance in helmsmanship lest he passes out at the wheel from hunger. For the sake of prudence and propriety I will not delve into details.

This event identity goes a long way in giving participants a sense of belonging. While in other motoring events the ordinary individual is reduced to passivity and cannot do much besides stand around like a lamp-post observing and possibly trying to get drunk while at it, The Great Run affords such people a chance to be “in on the action”.

The stickers and vehicle numbers are just cherries on the pie in giving our participants a first-hand experience in being part of “something”.

Don’t get me wrong: it has been a long-held misconception that The Great Run is a road race. No, it is most definitely not: there is no first and there is no last, there are no time stamps, there are no lap records, there are no average-speed recognitions; it is as simple as: Who will finish the course?

The Run takes place on public roads, and the event has not been sanctioned as a form of motorsport by the responsible authorities: so it is NOT a race. Traffic laws still apply.

A fortunate by-product in the organisation of The Great Run’s events comes from a very unlikely corner. To keep things lively for the participants and to reach as many children as possible, Great Run events take place on different routes every time.

One of our supporters (a former rally ace) called it “local tourism”, and I thought: In the name of internal combustion, the man is right! Who knew the roads to Namanga and Loitoktok were that smooth and that lonely? Who knew that the curvy, sinuous route from Machakos through Wote to Makindu was that scenic? How many of us had driven “around the mountain” before, so to speak; from Nyeri and/or Karatina, through Nanyuki to Meru?

Back to the run itself. This time, as you may have gathered by now, we went to SOS Children’s Village in Meru. For support, we had DN2 run ads and provide shirts. And make an appearance. You can imagine my surprise when my own editors showed up to take part in The Great Run in a Range Rover Sport!

Vivo Energy (agents of Shell Petroleum in Kenya) offered us a venue for starting, their Managing Director flagged us off and then, to top it all off, threw in a fat cheque for the children’s home (God bless the man).

Del Monte chipped in with plenty of fruit and juices for the small ones. Red Cross provided a fully-kitted ambulance in case things got hairy for drivers and/or their passengers. The rally ace came in his tow truck, ready to help the mechanically weak and the wayward.

There was another beneficiary: Toto Children’s home, from Embu. The original plan for Great Run III was to actually do a loop: Sagana—Nyeri—Nanyuki—Meru—Embu—Sagana (or the other way round) then head home. However, the road to Embu from Sagana… ahem… has some bumps along it that would… (cough, cough)… take out the body kit on a Lancer Evolution or rip out an aftermarket exhaust back-box from an Impreza STi… and the khat-bearing utilities that haunt that road take no prisoners; so, no.

However, we had already made contact with the children’s home in Embu, and it would have been really uncool for us to get their hopes up like that then break their hearts, so we asked them to please come and meet us in Meru at SOS… and they did.

Conclusion: I am not going to narrate what went down during the Run. This is one of those “you-had-to-be-there” situations, but all in all it was a huge success; partly because of the support of the Great Runners and the sponsors, and partly because of the massive turnout (we registered a record 75 cars, and we still had unregistered tag-alongs for those who couldn’t register in time but still wanted to take part).

Those that came for the Great Run III had a good time; and yes, there will be a Great Run IV. For now, let the pictures do the talking.