•Steep ascents and descents, the bitter cold — getting to sub-zero temperatures at night — altitude sickness, endless rain and fog are some of the obstacles you really have to contend with.
•Each runner will carry his own food supplies and gear to last them the entire challenge and they will also need to run at night and through all-mountain conditions to be able to have a fair chance of achieving their target.
Ever imagined running up and down Mt. Kenya three times in 24 hours?
Steep ascents and descents, the bitter cold — getting to sub-zero temperatures at night — altitude sickness, endless rain and fog are some of the obstacles you have to contend with.
All these will be braved with verve and vigour in an upcoming Mt. Kenya Challenge as four daring but level-headed Ultra Trail Runners seek to conquer the tallest mountain in the country in a three-route quest on January 30.
The quartet will begin their trek at Sirimon's Old Moses Camp, climb up to Lenana Point, down Naro Moru route, back up to Point Lenana down the picturesque Chogoria route and back to the starting point.
Each runner will carry his own food supplies and gear to last them the entire challenge and they will also need to run at night and through all-mountain conditions to be able to have a fair chance of achieving their target.
Like Eliud Kipchoge's INEOS 1:59, where he became the first person to achieve the barrier-breaking sub-two-hour marathon in a remarkable time of 1:59:40, Limo Kipkemoi, James Muhia, Cheruiyot Kirui and Victor Kamau are already in the mood to set a record, which countless other Kenyans would only dream to achieve!
Borrowing from Eliud's famous "No human is Limited" slogan — Muhia, Miringu, Limo and Cheruiyot envisage the dream of achieving a first upon the mountain.
Muhia is a renown mountaineer, the only member from his group of Trail Runners who has been above 7,000m altitude and has Mt. Everest squarely in his cross-hairs.
He currently holds the Mt Kenya three-route challenge record of 34 hours 14 minutes.
"I started Trail Running because I found mountaineering quite tedious. I wanted to do mountaineering the Alpine style to be able to move faster so I succumbed to the lure of trail running," says Muhia.
Alpine style means moving light, fast and often with minimal or no support on the mountain.
Expedition style is climbing in an organised group with full logistics support on the mountain.
"Mountaineering for four to five days was quite a time-consuming exercise," adds Muhia.
"My first ascent of Mt Kenya was in August 2017. I was curious to climb days after an invite from my friends. Salomon Kenya are supporting me with full gear, which couldn't have come at a better time."
He will be using the Sense Ride Three Golden Trail (Limited Edition) shoe, which he says is light and very Ideal for Ultra Trail Running.
"When I was practising, I realised the shoe had a good grip and cushion and really amazing in off-road running," says Muhia, who set the three-route record back in August 2020.
"My friend Kirui had managed it in 40 hours two weeks and so we picked the under 36-hour mark which I'm glad I managed."
Miringu's landmark feats on ultras and mountain running in Kenya speak for themselves.
Cheruiyot who will be turning 37 on January 26, is using the challenge as a ‘birthday party’. Incidentally, he has spent his last two birthdays (2019 and 2020) running up Mt. Kenya and says before that he never used to commemorate his birthdays.
In 2020 alone, he climbed Mt. Kenya seven times and managed to set some of the fastest times on each route.
Among his trail running accomplishments include a 100-mile race in the USA, a 389km race in the Italian Alps — for which he has written a book 'An Ultramarathon Story of the Tor des Geants' — and a one-day speed climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Kamau is regarded as the best trail and ultra-runner in Kenya. Together with Cheruiyot, he completed the 389km 'Tor des Geants' race in the Italian Alps in 2019, finishing in a time of 145 hours while Cheruiyot took 149 hours.
He also completed the three-route Mt. Kenya challenge in 2020 in a time of 40 hours and will be looking to slash this time by 16 hours if they are to achieve the 24-hour target.
Kamau also has a host of other impressive accomplishments including running from Nairobi to Nakuru, Nairobi to Naivasha and running up Mt. Kilimanjaro in one day. He has also climbed the five highest mountains in Africa and the Mera Peak in Nepal.
Besides the targeted mark of under 24 hours, they are eager to see the sport grow in leaps and bounds. Cheruiyot, by and large, hopes to rack up the course record but it will not be a walk in the park.
They will set off at 3 am on January 30.
"It's going to be a real energy-sapping experience. The mood is great for us all after receiving running shoes and full gear from Salomon Kenya and we are looking forward to a great trail challenge. I've been fortunate to experience some bright moments and break one or two personal barriers, so the 3,748 km total mileage for 2020 was quite big," says Cheruiyot.
"Maybe 2021 will be the year to hit 4,000km for the first time. I climbed Mt. Kenya seven times last year, including a three-route successful attempt in 40 hours and a climb from Old Moses to Point Lenana in less than three hours. This was without a doubt the toughest event of last year."
Muhia went on: "Last year's hike up Mt. Kenya's Lenana point with a 22kg bag of supplies to last at least five days on the mountain was an awesome experience. I'm looking forward to this year's adventures where I plan to be more independent on the mountains, climb more and higher."
The essence of the challenge, according to Going Outdoor Chief Executive Sushil Gohil is to popularise Trail Running in Kenya as well as promote sports tourism. Muhia and Cheruiyot were last year named Salomon athletes with full gear sponsorship which they will be using in their fairy tale record attempt.
Muhia will be using Salmon's Sense Ride 3 (Golden Trail Series Limited Edition) shoes while Cheruiyot will be running on the Supercross product.
"We want to bring out the Salomon brand as the leading maker of Trail Running gear," said Gohil.
Trail Running is very famous in Europe and America.
"We are glad to have opened two outlets so far at the Galleria Mall in Karen and at Two Rivers, where athletes can savour the comfort of our shoe products," observed Gohil, adding: "Trail Running is the way to go."
He said they hope their efforts will attract international athletes to the country to enjoy the scenic high altitude terrain and hospitality, a great opportunity for sports tourism which is a lucrative business globally.