The Runner Boys

 Update for week ended 11 January 2013

Juma woke up late on the cold, chilly morning. His mother had to yell at the boy to wake up else he would be late to school. Late at school meant whacks on the backside and the kiboko, the cane like stick, was something he feared, as did all his classmates. He got ready for school, putting on the navy blue pullover. His mother had made the light gruel, uji, the warm, watery gruel made of milled maize. He tossed his satchel on his shoulder and started out of his little hut on the hill. The morning mist had not lifted yet, and it was biting cold. His navy blue pullover had holes in it, after years of wearing and handing downs from elder sibling to younger. But that was all he had with him, and he quickly made it down the hill on which his hut stood in the hamlet in the Western Highlands. He passed other such huts and small settlements along the way and the little cabbage patches where mothers had started their morning farm-work, with their little babies snugly tied to their backs with the colourful Kitange, colourful cotton waistcloths. The sun was yet to rise, but Juma could not wait for that. He had a long way to go for school, and the slushy and slippery, red earth beneath his black shoes were not helping him speed up. It had rained last night and Juma feared the kiboko for untidiness as well, if he was not careful. So he started a light sprint down the hill, carefully avoiding any puddles or slushy mud and kept running till he met Benson along the way. Benson was his classmate and he too was late to school. Both of them ensured that there were slightly apart while running, to avoid the splash from their shoes onto the uniform, and therefore ran in a straddle position and kept running till they reached the stream that ran between their village and the village by the highway on the other side. The wooden logs that were placed across the stream helped the village folks to get across the hill stream and both of them slowed down to walk over this precariously, not that they feared getting hurt if they fell. Falling would mean, wet shoes, wet socks, perhaps wet clothes and books, and the headmaster would punish them by asking them to kneel on the sunny patch of the football ground outside the school. That is what they feared, as the crossed the stream. They crossed the little market on the other side and started their slow sprint uphill to the highway. The road was better here, not exactly tarmac, but what they learnt as murram in school. These roads had a harder feel to it when you put your foot down. It was also used for the pick-up trucks that would carry the village vegetables to the district town. Juma and Benson could sprint faster here and they climbed up to the highway and then kept their sometime sprint, sometime speed walk routine along the side of the highway. They were not feeling cold now, as they had warmed up quite  a bit and Juma also felt like taking off his pullover, but dared not to. It was his uniform. And the two boys kept their run, walk routine on, and they were joined by Samson, Keino and John and they followed the contours of the highway, which went down a hill and then up another in this rolling hills country. The average height was about 6000 ft above mean sea level, but the undulating landscape made it ideal for crop cultivation and sheep rearing, as the weather was temperate and the rains less incessant, but plentiful to ensure green all year round. Though today it led to more pools of red water after  last night’s downpour. The sun was out, and the school was in sight. Juma could see the headboy walk towards the headmaster’s room to get the dreaded weapon on all the boys’ minds – the schoolbell gong.


The D Boyz woke up on a wintry morning and were slightly late for their daily work. They gulped down their breakfast in a hurry and as they rushed to get to office, they saw other Boyz practicing for the impending marathon due in the city the following weekend. The Running Boyz ran down the street and the D Boyz kept watching them and missed the bus to their D Street. This delayed them and hence were reprimanded by the SENSEX at D Street which caused them a big loss on Monday. Thereafter, the D Boyz tried to ensure that they did not get distracted by the Running Boyz, and succeeded on Tuesday, but on Wednesday the Running Boyz took over the street with their flat runs, leaving the D Boyz to keep their SENSEX flat. And ended the week at 17663.


Juma and his friends managed to enter the school gate before the headboy started his clang clang on the bell. They heaved a sigh of relief and were allowed to keep their school bags on the ground by their feet as they stood in line for the school assembly. After the morning school prayers and singing the national anthem, the headmaster spoke of how discipline in school was not only about wearing neat uniforms and being quiet in class when the teacher was not around, or being punctual. It was also a habit once inculcated, could positively impact other aspects of one’s life. Neat uniforms meant that you cared for yourself and therefore likely to care for others. Silence and peace are very essential for thinking and therefore useful in learning more and applying it. And being punctual meant that you had to beat the clock and sometimes would need to speeden up to achieve it. That way you also exercised your body and who knows what positive outcomes that could achieve? Juma and Benson exchanged glances and waited to get into class, away from the harsh Equatorial sun.


Wishing all my readers a great Uttarayan – the beginning of the Sun’s journey northwards – and symbolizing a new beginning. It is Pongal, Sankranti, Uttarayan. This is also the season when the runners get into their final round of preparation for the Mumbai Marathon and hence my post today is dedicated to all you runners and hope you get some inspiration from Juma, Benson, Samson, keino and John and others like them, who started their running careers way back, on their way to schools and today run international marathons winning them at record sunning speeds of 20 km/hr!  


Have a great week ahead!!

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