Saturday, 11 March 2017

Malawi – Mud run madness

February 19

Hello everyone!

I talked about the rainy season last time. There’s still lots of fun to be had when it’s wet and muddy…




A few weeks ago we learnt about a ‘mud run’ in Malawi’s smallest national park: Kuti. The park, which we hadn’t heard of up to this point, is surprisingly close to Lilongwe. We drove there on a Saturday afternoon, with the bumpy and very dry dirt road lulling us into a false sense of lowered expectation about our Sunday morning jaunt.

A mere 100 kilometres or so to the east, on the way to Lake Malawi.

We arrived just in time to enjoy a lovely, moody sunset.


Kuti isn’t known for having a plethora of fauna in its boundaries. What there is, however, is seen at close quarters. Very close quarters after dark, most notably when I almost walked straight into the park’s lone ostrich.

Zebra wandering around near our room

The ostrich, a female called Evelyn, is a harmless and hilarious soul. She wonders freely around the park, including through the lodge dining area and A-frame sleepers. Memorably, she decided to full empty her bowels in the middle of the restaurant whilst everyone was eating brunch after the race. The splattering sounded like a very large tap had just been turned on full blast.

Evelyn leaving her mark on someone's trainers

Evelyn, being an ostrich which is capable of reaching very high speeds, would probably have struggled in our run earlier that morning.  In spite of the recent dry weather, away from the beaten paths Kuti National Park resembled a bit of a quagmire. We didn’t realise this at this point…

Being taken to the starting zone on the back of a truck
  
…but after running 400 metres and then taking a sharp left into the thicket, we came across this…

You couldn't avoid the mud for long

…and it got progressively deeper and harder to actually run in. I could use the fact that I was taking photos using Hannah’s rather expensive phone as an excuse for my slowness; I doubt I would have gone much faster hands-free.

This section was waist-deep, with no escape on the outer edges

The route wound its way through the undergrowth of the park’s southern frontiers, marked fleetingly by pieces of a plastic bag. Of course, some of these didn’t stay in place, resulting in confusion during parts of the race. Looking up for these also meant not looking down at where your feet were going to squelch next, or which branches or trunks you were likely to trip over.


It was less a ‘mud run’, which I associate with army training and eating brown gunk as you crawl through murky abysses, and more a ‘run through mud’. The one major ‘obstacle’ occurred on dry land. It was great fun and also made me realise that my speed is instantly killed when I go off-road.

The tranquil, muddy waters of Kuti National Park

We’ll likely be back in Kuti in April with our running club for a similar weekend to this one. I’m very much looking forward to wading through the wet stuff once again! Maybe Evelyn this ostrich will even join us this time…

Our running club's mud runners



Love you all


Matt

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