Lanni Marchant holds the Canadian national marathon record, recording a 2:28:00 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon during the fall of 2013. Marchant grew up in Canada with six siblings and started running in high school to stay in shape for figure skating. She attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she earned a BA in economics and was a three-time USTFCCCA Academic All-American and a two-time NCAA All-American. She received her law degrees from the University of Ottawa and Michigan State University, and is a practicing attorney in Chattanooga, focusing on criminal defense and family law. Here she discusses how finding a happy medium and enjoying the smaller details during her time in Iten, Kenya, has helped give her the motivation to go the extra mile with her Boston Marathon training.
Six weeks and 640 miles later, my third trip to Kenya has come to a close. This trip was similar to my previous journeys over there; lots of miles, countless meals of Ugali (corn porridge) and Sukuma Wiki (collard greens), trips to town in a crammed Mutatu (jitney), and a few marriage proposals, and yet it was a completely different experience.
Describing the training environment in Kenya is difficult. The relaxed atmosphere, the sounds of farm animals, children yelling “How are you Mzungo (white person)?” as you run by, the film of red/orange dust that covers you… none of it can really do it justice. It is definitely one of those places that you have to visit to fully grasp the wonder.
For my first trip in 2012, I was more of a tourist. I arrived in Nairobi and was hit in the face with the smells of Kenya… best described as sweat-saturated dirt… the smell of “hard work and championships” as coined by Desiree -Linden (the 2011 Boston Marathon second place finisher). I made the six to eight hour drive from Nairobi to Iten, so that I could see more of the Kenyan countryside. I did the typical safari, made sure to run in the forest, hiked down to the waterfall, and ate dirt… three times… adding a bit of Lanni to red dirt. I was a 2:44 marathon runner, a full-time attorney, and a little soft around the edges.
My trip in 2013 was all business. I was only able to make the trip for three weeks and wanted to get the most training benefits out of it. I rarely left the camp, ran most of my runs with a Kenyan pacer, managed to eat dirt only once, and kept all beer drinking to a minimum.
This year, I found the happy medium. I was able to get down to business training with Desiree, having her metronome stride nearly destroy me on the up and downhill terrain of the running paths of Iten. I did my best to chase down Dane, an Australian staying at the High Altitude Training Camp, as he paced me through some speed sessions. I also kept things slightly more social with a few bottles of Guinness here and there, trips to the Giraffe Park, and several trips down to Eldoret for burgers, Indian food, souvenirs, and to watch hundreds of young Kenyans run barefoot in a cross-country meet.
Maybe it was because I had Desi there, experiencing everything for the first time, but I found myself taking the time to notice and enjoy more of the everyday activities in Iten; the little children walking to school in the mornings wearing their puffy winter coats that made them waddle like penguins, women carrying sacks of food on their backs, kids playing with wheels attached to the end of a stick… all part of the daily life here in Kenya.
I think I found a better rhythm this time around. It took three trips but I managed to settle into the pace of Iten; the relaxed nature in which tasks are accomplished… and I managed to stay upright the entire trip… I’ll count that as a success.
For those of you training for this year’s Boston Marathon, what are the everyday moments that have inspired you to go the extra mile?