Tag Archives: Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon

Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon Review

Date and time: March 3, 2013, 6:30 am

marathon morning

Sunrise at the start

Location: Moshi, Tanzania (beginning and ending at the stadium on the north side of town)

Weather: Hot and still. 80-95 F. No shade.

Threads and treads:  Champion tank and running skirt, bright pink Pro Compression marathon socksSuunto Vector super watch, pink Tifosi Slip Wrap Sunglasses, LOADS of sun screen and my wonderful Mizuno Wave Creation 11s.


Field: Mostly southeast African (surprise surprise) and a number of non-African transplants to the area. There were <300 for the full marathon, but many more running the half and the 5k fun run. Although there was often a language barrier, everyone was very friendly and encouraging. 

Support: There were 7 water stations, one with straight sugar to refuel with, but that was it. I packed my bra full of jelly beans and Clif Shot Blocks though, thank god. There were also daladalas around to cart anyone back to the stadium who was in need of medical attention (I have no idea what this actually would have entailed) or could not continue the run.

Pre-race Expo: hehehe…this was the most quaint and low-key expo that I’ve ever been too. Now this isn’t a slam (I feel like it kind of sounds like one) it’s just the way it was. There were two or three folding tables outside of the Key’s Hotel and another few tables inside. There were maps showing the 2013 5k, 21k and 42k courses with seven…that’s right, SEVEN water and aid stations labeled. This is the first time that it was actually confirmed – at least for me – that the course was the same as last year, and really did only include SEVEN water stations throughout the 42 km! Yikes!

Race start: The “race” started at 6:30 am from the stadium on the north side of town.

Ignorance is bliss.

Ignorance is bliss.

We luckily were staying just about 1 km away and were able to walk there (in the dark) in about 15 min. All of the runners piled on to the track behind the starting line and waited for the “ready…set….go!” 

Lining up...kind of...

Lining up…kind of…

It was a very mellow start to a marathon but with ~300 participants that’s about what you can expect. It was already about 80F as the sun was just starting to come up so there was no need for pre-run warm up clothes or anything like this. There was no bag drop off, but at least I didn’t need one. As noted above, there was no need for pre-run warm-ups or clothes for later.

The Run: The run began by leaving the stadium and going on a 10mi/16km out and back loop. We headed east out of Moshi towards Arusha along the main Moshi-Arusha highway. There were rolling hills and many well wishers along the way. The surface was either the road’s black top or gravel on the ditch, not bad. Personally though, I began struggling with the altitude right away. My big (ignorant) plan was to hold a “conservative” (hahahahaha) 10 min mile for these first “flat” ~10mi/16km. It was everything I could do not to dip into the mid 11s – thank you Suunto Vector 😦 My lungs were on fire – I couldn’t get the oxygen that I needed to save my damn life.

And then it got hot. 

By the time we got back into Moshi it was about 85 F and the sun was up. There were two water stations on the out and back (one we hit twice) and the another one in town. One of these stations also had straight sugar to fuel up with but this was it. The water stations were just that, water stations. I was carrying one of the bottles from my water belt and filling it up at each stop – along with chugging 1-2 cups of water as I walked through and dumping another 1 or 2 over my head. We spent about 4 miles weaving through town – and town was getting busy! Roads were totally not blocked off and we just froggered it through the normal Sunday morning bustle. I made it through town and back to the stadium which is at the base of the ascent up Kilimanjaro in just over 2:30 according to the Suunto Vector. OUCH!

And the it was up the f#@%ing mountain!

The final ~12 miles were an out and back UP and then DOWN Mt. Kilimanjaro at ~5% grade. This is where the wheels really came off for me. My bat shit crazy goal was to 3 min on, 1 min off run/walk up the mountain and then crank it up and run back down. How hard could it be? 3 min running? That’s nothing, I can always slow down, and then I can even walk for a min! And then coming down, it’s 5% grade! All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and gravity will practically do the rest…at a 9 min mile or better I bet! I’m not sure if I’ve ever been SO WRONG in my life! It was HOT now. There was NO shade, no breeze, 90-95F and only a 4 precious water stations remaining. The 3 on 1 off crap lasted about 15 min and then I walked (aside from a few flat areas and slight down hills). I held ~10 min/km on the ascent (thank you Suunto Vector).

So that’s it, right? The hard part is over! It’s literally all down hill from here! Or this is what my dumb ass thought from the top of the climb. I cranked up my tunes and proceeded to trot off down the mountain like it was my job. How quickly I was reminded that no, in fact this was NOT my job. However, what I actually am is a nerdy graduate student in chemical engineering who quite frankly had NOT A DAMN CLUE what she was getting herself into! If I thought breathing was rough at 3000 ft, breathing at 4000 ft was impossible! So, I slowed down and proceeded to shuffle/walk theh 6 mi back down the mountain. Damn.

All wasn’t lost though – the scenery was beautiful, the little kids that came and tagged along with me were adorable and according to my (very frequent) calculations – thanks again Suunto Vector – I was still going to make it in under the 6 hr cut off. By the time I made it back through the last water, they had run out of cups and were fishing dirty cups back out of the ditch and filling them with water. I was sooooo close to snatching one up and guzzling it down before I noticed this! Not cool. After spending 5 hrs on my feet in the direct sun (now it was ~95F), I am very glad I didn’t test my immune system and go for it anyway. I was tired, hot and dizzy enough that it may have seemed quite rational. And let’s be honest, I’ve probably done crazier shit in my (relatively) right mind. I finally finished in 5:45ish (in the same vein as running water stations, Tanzanian time keeping isn’t the best) and never thought I’d be so happy with a 5:xx marathon as I was when I came back into that stadium.



Lucky for me I had a very patient/understanding buddy waiting for me with water and cookies to help drag my ass back to the hotel for a shower. (Thank you Al!!)


The rest of the day was stretching, leg rubbing, a very slow shower, some toenail surgery and a very very slow walk into town for the best pizza and milk shake for dinner. While I will never do this marathon again, I am SO SO SO glad that I did do it once.

Executive summary:

HARD. Hot (95F and no shade), at 3000-4000 feet, 12 miles at a 5% grade – up then down, 7 water stations and no fuel.




Very, rewarding.


Filed under Marathons, Tanzania, Travel

The 3rd

Today is the 3rd. So what?

1. Today is the one month anniversary of what will hopefully the worst marathon I’ll ever “run”…

@ 6:30 am. Ignorance is bliss.

March 3rd @ 6:30 am. Ignorance is bliss.

(PS. I think this is the red flag that I really need to write that race review don’t I?! One month later I best have gotten over my hard feelings of +5 hrs to write something resembling a rational post.)

(PPS…or PSS… Which one is it? I never know… Anyway, I also think this is the red flag and flashing lights and blaring sirens that I need to get my ass out for a run again. That and I think my pants are shrinking. Yes, it’s my pants that are shrinking, it certainly isn’t me that’s getting fat…)

2. Today is t-minus one month until my thesis defense!


Did anyone else realize today had some sort of significance as they walked/drove/bused/biked into school/work today? What is it?



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Filed under Dr-ing, Marathons, Tanzania

Home sweet home!

And I’m back at home! Man, the last two weeks have flown by! Al and I have this ability to max out vacations in a way that is absolutely exhausting! But, after paying +$1700 I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Considering that I currently want nothing more than to make good friends with my feather pillows and blankies, I’ll just do a quick, broad overview of the trip now. But, over the next few days I’ll go into the specifics for each part and review the marathon and our different accommodations in detail.

After a lovely +20 hour commute MSP–>AMS–>JRO we made our way to Herbs and Spices in Arusha. We stayed here for just one day, wandering around town, checking out the market and collecting ourselves for the safari.

Dinner at Spices and Herbs in Arusha

Dinner at Spices and Herbs in Arusha

Bright and early on Monday morning, our safari guide Hassan and our cook S. Bruno (from Sunny Safaris) were there to pick us up in the snazziest of safari vehicles.


With our sweet wheels

On our first day out we went to Lake Manyara. Although it wasn’t the rainy season and the lake was largely dry, the Lake Manyara National Park was very green and lush. It was the smallest of the three places that we went but not short on awesome animal sights.

We then spent days 2 and 3 in the Serengeti. We only really hit a very small part of the Serengeti but even that was soooooo incredibly vast! I think we spent about 8 hours driving there (and visiting a Masai tribe and checking out the animals en route of course) on day 2. It was like it could go on forever. On day 3 we spent the morning on a final game drive and then headed for the campsite at the Ngorongoro crater in the afternoon.

The morning of day 4 was a big game drive down in the Ngorongoro crater and then the afternoon was spent driving back to Arusha.

Each location was very unique which allowed for us to experience a huge breadth of African plants and animals. The three camp sites that we stayed at were very different as well. However, for some odd reason that I can’t really understand, we had to choke down the same greasy, over salted carrot mush each night for dinner (P.S. I detest carrots) and the same bland boxed lunches (centered around bread and butter sandwiches) for lunch each day. Good thing safaris are about seeing animals rather than eating!  Here a few highlights for the different animals that we saw…


Zebras chilling in the Serengeti


Wilda-beast chilling in the Serengeti

zebra and wildabeast

Zebras and wilda-beast chilling in the Serengeti


A pair of shy warthogs in the Serengeti

ugly bird

An ugly bird that thought he was king of the Serengeti


Adorable Lake Manyara monkeys


A Serengeti Masai tribe welcome dance


A lazy Serengeti lion pride


A beautiful Lake Manyara lion


A Serengeti elephant family


Giraffes near Lake Manyara


Gazelle in the Serengeti


Hippos in a hippo pool in the Ngorongoro Crater


A Ngorongoro Crater elephant profile


A Serengeti cheetah


A powerful (and dirty) buffalo in the Ngorongoro Crater


Looking over the Ngorongoro crater with our fantastic driver and guide Hassan

Returning from the safari, we spent one more night in Arusha and then it was off to Moshi on a Dala-dala for the marathon! In Moshi we stayed at the brand new Hotel Hibiscus. Aside from our initial problems finding the place (as it is brand new and no one knew where it was) this was a fantastic hotel!

Going back to the marathon though, long story short, I did not handle the heat (think 95 F by 9 am, no shade and only 5 water stops) or the altitude (think starting at 3000 ft and then cursing through miles 12-19 at a 10% grade up to 4000 feet). However, I finished the damn thing (and not in last place) in time to still get a t-shirt and a metal, and hopefully have the longest marathon of my life done and out of the way.


All the essentials laid out the night before – this includes the awesome watch I got to borrow, enough snacks to feed a small village and my malaria, altitude sickness and pain medications


Before (when this still seemed like a good idea)


After (having spent over 5 hours cursing what a terrible idea this really was and with a rather unconvincing fake smile)

And then it was off to the beach! Kind of. The morning after the marathon (Example A: The Epitome of Genius Planning) we hopped a 7 am bus for the 9 hour drive to Dar es Salaam and then an hour and a half cab ride for the last 5 kms to our digs for the night in the city. Forget water boarding and take note Mr. Chaney…

The next morning we were actually off the to beach. We took the ferry to Stone Town on Zanzibar and then a cab to our beach abode at Panga Chumvi in Matemwe on the east side of the island. Hello heaven!

panga chumvi

The afternoon view from our ocean front bungalow at Panga Chumvi

Our last 4 days began with the most perfect Tanzanian breakfasts…


Breakfast first course – coffee, freshly squeezed passion fruit juice and fresh fruit that I will forever dream about

Breakfast course two - cheese, grilled tomato and sausage with toast

Breakfast second course – cheese, grilled tomato and sausage with toast

and then spent lounging with our buddies…


reading, shelling, snorkeling out on the barrier reef, on a spice tour…

Check out the fruit that nutmeg and mace come from!

Check out the fruit that nutmeg and mace come from!

on a walking tour of Stone Town and stuffing our faces with sea food…







It was the perfect way to wrap up a vacation.

On Saturday it was back to reality though. We left Zanzibar in the morning to meet up with Aliesha’s awesome former host family for lunch and hanging out in the afternoon. In the evening it was off to the airport for our journey home: DAR–>AMS–>ORD–>MSP.

Have you ever been to Tanzania or another East African country? What were the major highlights? Lowlights?

Have you been on a safari? What was/would be your favorite animal to see?

Have you run the Kilimarjaro marathon before, or another marathon with a major altitude change? Thoughts?

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Filed under Marathons, Tanzania, Travel, Trotting