A chronological and truthful re-telling of the months that lead up to the most painful 5 hours of my life:
December 7th 2016
My name is Brian Ash. I’m 26 years old, from Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA. In 2008 I rode my bicycle 3,080 miles westward across the United States of America, only stopping when the Pacific Ocean forced me to. In 2012 I climbed to the highest point on the continent of Africa – the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro – because its there. For the past three years I have lived in a small village in rural western Kenya foregoing most of the amenities which the developed world has come to take for granted. Now, in 2017, I will face the hardest four (maybe five…or six) hours of my life - I am attempting to conquer 26.2 miles and complete my first marathon in support of www.ArriveKenya.org.
I despise running more than waking up too early in the morning. It hurts. I’m slow. My dislike for running is strong, but my love for Arrive and our kids is stronger. I am willing to put my body through absolute hell and back just for the chance of giving these kids what every child deserves – happiness. Am I scared? Absolutely, but I am ready to face my fears on March 18th, in a small village west of Eldoret, Kenya. What waits for me there are 26.2 punishing miles (http://riftvalleymarathon.com) through some of Kenya’s most beautiful but toughest terrain in the heart of the Great Rift Valley (yes, the Great Rift Valley), reaching a staggering 7,000 feet above sea level. But first, what is Arrive you ask…?
After graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and with the support of my family and friends, I founded an amazing non-profit organization – Arrive ( www.ArriveKenya.org). Instead of the traditional yet highly flawed neo-colonial method of international aid, Arrive promotes locally driven initiatives carried out by members of the society in which we work. We partner directly with local non-profit organizations around the world, engaging and empowering native community leaders to provide aid for the most vulnerable kids of their society. Social development in Kenya must be propelled by Kenyans themselves, ensuring Arrive’s model for aid is sustainable and delivers long-term, highly effective progress.
Arrive is devoted to the rescue of homeless street children and starving orphans, providing them with hope and the tools to create a happy and self-sufficient life in the society that once abandoned them. We are passionate about encouraging sustainable practices and building infrastructure that will provide long-term assistance to those who need it most. Now, I am ready to push myself to the limit, both physically and mentally, to support the people and organization I love.
I anticipate my training to be painful. I know my runs will be grueling. What is truly grueling, however, are the lives that street kids in Kenya are forced to live. Living in dumpsters and under cars, sniffing toxic glue to mask their hunger and sadness, all by the age of ten. I am inspired by these children who never give up and I will think about their resilience as I motivate myself to put one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again.
As I begin my journey, I encourage you to get involved. I am raising money for Arrive so we can further extend our positive impact in the developing world. Of course, I’ll be paying for all expenses of the marathon myself; every penny donated will be given directly to Arrive to support the kids. 100% of our donations will go towards buying desperately needed foods, clothes, and school supplies for the boys and girls of our childrens home. Joining my quest for 26.2 miles not only means the world to me, but also may be the difference between the streets and our home, desperation and happiness, life and death, for a young child in Kenya.
I aim to raise $2,620 – first as a tribute to the 26.2 miles I look to complete in March and secondly because I thought $26,200,000 to be a bit ambitious. Every dollar you donate, including any extra funds that are raised above the $2,620 goal, will be deposited directly into the Arrive bank account (see the "Certified Campign" on the right). Supporting Arrive by contributing $1 for every mile I run is equivalent to a $26.20 charitable donation.
Follow every step of my journey on Instagram: @brianrunsamarathon (or click here: http://goo.gl/uwD6oV), to see photographs and statistics from each of my training runs around the world.
Asante Sana (‘Thank You Very Much’ in Swahili) to everyone who supports my personal journey and the mission of Arrive. Your continued and gracious support has enabled us to create positive change around the globe - your donations are truly making the world a better place.
Kuwashukuru ('Special Thanks') to my aunt Vicki for expertly coaching me through all of my training; to my friend and Arrive Board Member Davide for always creating a way to motivate me to keep running; and to Boulder Running Co. (Boulder, Colorado, USA) and Ridgefield Running Co. (Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA) for hooking me up with only the best gear. Hongera!
Thanks for reading. Now, I've gotta run...
January 15th 2017
On Wednesday last werk I returned to Kenya. I was proud of the training and progress I saw in my running during my stay in the United States over the past two months, but that feeling of accomplishment turned to horror about a mile into my first run in Africa. The air is thinner, the sun is stronger, the hills are longer (and steeper), the dust is thicker, and the roads are…well…barely roads. I feel like I am beginning my marathon training all over again, only three months until the big race.
A few running highlights from my first week of training in Kenya:
- Instead of running by myself, I now have a team of Arrive kids who not only run with me, but love leave me in the dust. I love it. - Meet Siaya (pictured below), 14 years old. He came with us on a run last week. He showed up to run with us in the only clothes and shoes he has. About 10 minutes into our run, his sandals ripped in half. He wore the sandals on his hands for the next many miles, running barefoot on the rocky trail. We reached a 20 yard stretch where a few glass bottles had been shattered and there was broken glass on the ground. Siaya powered through in his bare feet and continued running. In total, Siaya ran with us for 4.5 miles, averaging under 9 minutes per mile, in jeans, barefoot. And he beat me. I would love to purchase Siaya a pair of shorts actual running shoes; please contact me for more information if you wish to help Siaya. - On another run through the outskirts of the village Uriri, we ran past a young girl with a shopping bag in each hand; she had just come from the village center to buy food for her family. She decided to run with us all the way back to her home (pictured below) It was awesome! - Unanticipated training: having to squat with very sore legs in the latrine to do my business. Let’s just say, my mile isn’t the only activity where my pace has quickened! - Everyone is so supportive during my runs here as compared to in America. A wave, word of encouragement, or smile is received from nearly everyone I run past.
The Rift Valley Marathon also offers 4-person relay. I knew Kenyans are skilled runners but the boys and girls here have impressed me beyond my wildest expectations. I would love for the Arrive children who enjoy running and who are dedicated to transforming themselves into better runners, the opportunity to compete in the race.
I have been blown away by the support for my mission to complete a marathon, and more importantly, for the Arrive efforts here in Kenya. We have already surpassed my initial goal ($2,620) thanks to your generous contributions. Encouraged by your support and motivated to bring the deserving Arrive boys and girls to the race, I am increasing our goal to $10,000! We will use a small portion of the funds donated to:
- Buy all of the deserving runners a pair of actual running shoes. - Pay for race fees and transport for the deserving runners. - Increase the amount of food we give the children at Light Home of Hope; if the children will be burning more calories for the next three months, we need to ensure that they continue to eat a sufficient, healthy, and well-balanced diet.
Thank you all again. Many of you have asked if you can donate slightly used running shoes - unfortunately we cannot accept packages. The customs fees are astronomical even for us and paying hundreds of dollars to accept the package is not economical. We will gladly accept donations to help the Arrive runners obtain the gear they need. Donations specified for children’s running equipment will be used in that manner.
Please find below a few photos from my short time running here in Africa. For more pictures from each and every one of my training runs, follow my quest on Instagram @brianrunsamarathon. Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions and I will respond as soon as my Kenyan WiFi permits
February 6th 2017
It has been a tough few weeks training in Kenya. The Kenyans who I run with are younger than me, faster, run effortlessly, an have more fun than I do. Instead of this motivating me to run harder, it demoralizes me and makes me want to give up.
I am still adjusting to running here - besides the insane hills, burning heat, and high elevation, I generally have two options. Option 1 - Run on the main roads and endure clouds of thick black smoke coming from trucks (there are no exhaust emissions testings here) as they pass going way to fast just inches from my face. Option 2 - Run on backcountry roads and endure a dust storms that don't just make it impossible to breathe, but blind me indefinitely as I not only try to continue running but also avoid the random 6-foot deep holes that happen to be in the middle of the trail.
I don't know what I am going to do, and I have 1 1/2 months before the big race day to figure it out. Oh, did I mention that I have made the news in Kenya? https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2001227805/marathon-driven-by-love-for-kids. NO PRESSURE...!!
MARCH 18th 2017 (RACE DAY)
I finished 26.2! #b̶r̶i̶a̶n̶r̶u̶n̶s̶a̶m̶a̶r̶a̶t̶h̶o̶n̶ #brianRANWALKEDamarathon
My race did not go as planned. I am excited about the $5,160 we, together, raised for the Arrive kids. My campaign closes on Friday; please share this ling with any last-minute supporters (goo.gl/wpGs3R). I am grateful for the humbling race experience. I am dissapointed with my race result (I was however the fastet American finisher...out of 3). I was neither mentally nor physically strong enough to run the whole race, and had to walk at times. I am motivated to train harder (starting when I can walk again). I am excited to race again in August in the Maasai Mara Marathon.
The biggest thank you of all goes to the random 7 village kids, between 8 and 12 years old, who were hanging out on the race route. As I passed they decided to run (barefoot of course) with me from miles 16.1 to 26.2. I was far behind the pace of the leaders (2:10ish at 7,000+ ft elevation) and by the time I reached the water stations at 30km, 35km, and 40km, the crews had packed up and left. No water. Multiple times, those kids ran ahead into valleys to collect river water to bring back to me. Without them the race officials would still be searching for my shriveled up dehydrated body somewhere in the bush of rural Kenya.
Here is a post-race picture of 4 of those kids.