Suzanne Whitfield is not your typical grandmother. While other women her age are probably using walking aids, 74-year-old Suzanne was taking part in the Safaricom Marathon for the 15th time.
I bumped into her after she had just finished tackling the rugged 21km course at the Lewa Conservancy on June 24, 2017. She looked hale and hearty as if she was preparing to do another round.
Suzanne is made of a different material and looks much younger than her age. She is in fantastic shape, not only for her age, but for any age. She was the oldest participant in the women’s category, fighting it out at every step of the way. And as she put her hand across to shake mine, I knew her’s was a story I would enjoy narrating. Indeed, I had met a champion.
“I have participated in every Lewa race except three of them. I really love running,” says Susan, who must be the type that meets her dawns with the spirit of a champion as her every turn is punctuated with victorious memories. She is full of praise for the organisers of Lewa for giving her something to look forward to every year.
For this particular marathon, Suzanne started training in January. She started with one weekly run with distance getting longer every week. She also hit the gym and attended a hot yoga class every week.
“You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great,” Suzanne Whitfield
Suzanne lives with her husband in Tambuzi Farm, which is a short drive from Nanyuki airstrip. She has two children; a daughter and a son, both married with children. Once a week, she volunteers at a library near her home and takes part in outreach programmes organised by Mount Kenya Academy. This involves taking part in community projects in public schools in Nanyuki.
Perhaps Suzanne draws inspiration from her neighbour Philemon Baaru, who this year breasted the tape to win his fifth title in the race while Margaret Pepesi took home the women’s title.
Suzanne says Baaru had asked her if they could train together but she declined; “No way! He would be too fast for me,” she says.
Over the last 18 years, the event has transformed countless lives and invested millions in various projects. And as with past years, the funds raised this year will go to benefit a wide range of conservation and community programmes. And Susan is more than happy to be part this worthy cause that supports wildlife, schools, dispensaries, hospitals, and women.
“I would really like to congratulate Safaricom, and to encourage them to keep supporting events like this,” she says.
And if Susan can do it, so can you and me. Sign up for the next Safaricom Marathon by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Like I found out, running in the wild is an unforgettable experience.