Mathew Shahi is a disturbed man. The father of two says men run around his house in the gated community of Nyayo in Embakasi.
“My bedroom is upstairs, but I can still hear pounding feet outside my gate. When I pull the curtains aside, I see a man running up around my compound at three in the morning,” says Shahi.
He says the night runner has now become bold, prancing around naked for hours every night around his house.
“The first time I saw him, he wasn’t naked. He was only wearing an Arsenal jersey. At times, two of them run round the estate,” says Shahi.
Trevor Omondi who lives near Bomas of Kenya says he has also encountered night runners in his neighbourhood.
“There was a time one used to come to my house and tap a rhythm on my bedroom window. He would stop when I turn on the lights, but resume as soon as the lights are switched off,” says Trevor who lives in the servants’ quarter of a retired couple’s home.
“Sometimes, he would come to my bedroom window and start making strange noises, like he is being strangled, but as soon as I wake up, he would laugh loudly and take off,” Trevor claims.
He eventually talked to his landlord and they installed security lights outside his porch and around the house. The night runner never came back.
Trevor also claims to have seen a man walking on the road at around midnight on the stretch between Bomas of Kenya and Lang’ata Cemetery.
“There are no bars or residential houses there. Where would a lone, sober looking man be coming from or going at that hour?
But are these runners really ‘night runners’ or just fitness enthusiasts? But then, why jog only at night and around people’s houses in Nairobi?” he poses.
Traditionally, night runners rule the villages at night, but several Nairobians say they have encountered night runners in the city.
A night runner, Jack Songo from Pala village in Homa Bay recently came forward and urged the government “to recognise and support night runners.”
He is no ordinary night runner, he claims, but an ‘expert’ who has risen through the ranks amongst fellow “enthusiasts of the sport” to become a “democratically elected chairman” of all night runners in Kenya. According to Songo, he coordinates night runners’ nationwide activities.
“In Nairobi, we have 1,300 members, but only 700 are active. The rest are either too old or live in restricted places where they can’t practice their craft,” says Songo.
He adds that the hindrance to Nairobi’s night runners are streetlights.
“Our craft is practiced in the dark, the only light should be from the moon, but Nairobi estates are all well-lit, making it hard to get in the mood for a night run,” says Songo.
He also blames the suspicious nature of Nairobians for not understanding their calling and making it had for night runners to ‘work’ in the city.
“If you are caught running at night, you can be beaten and even burnt. It’s risky. A watchman can shoot you with an arrow and cops can gun you down. Fortunately, there haven’t been fatal cases or incidents leading to the death of our members in the city,” he says.
He further reveals that at the moment, most of the night runners in Nairobi prefer to live and practice their craft in the city’s outskirts:
“Places like Njiru, Limuru, Ruiru, Ruai, and Thika are the most ideal. These areas are expansive and dark. I urge Kenyans to respect and give night runners a chance to do what they do best. We don’t steal, and we don’t hurt people, so no one should bother us,” implores Songo.
Night runners can also be crafty, if not just dumb. A story is told of one in Kakamega who complained of being hassled by a night runner and asked his neighbours to watch his back…only for him to be busted as the culprit!
(The standard june 27)