Running for the Serengeti

Monicca Tarimo who works for the Serengeti Conservation Program shares what it was like to run in the Serengeti Safari Marathon, an annual event that showcases Tanzania’s most iconic National Park.

12/08/2021, Monicca Tarimo

On Saturday the 13th of November 2021, I woke up before sunrise and put on my racing gear. I went to check on my team, I made sure all of us who slept in a town close to the race starting gate were ready and together. Then we made our way to the western part of the Serengeti National Park, seven kilometers away from Ndabaka gate.

At 6:40 am, we began to run.

As a runner, I thought I would know how it would feel to run a Marathon in the Serengeti, or at least imagine what it would feel like. But nothing came close to what I felt standing there on that beautiful morning listening to the childlike – heartening excitement from every single one of my coworkers. We were all excitedly talking about many topics:

How pure and rich the air is out here in the wilderness…

How hard and rough yet comfortable the dusty road actually feels beneath our feet…

Who will finish the Marathon first and who might come last,

How thrilling it is to really be doing this together with all these people from different parts of the country and world!

Then the whistle blew and I watched the huge number of impatient Tanzanians and international visitors take off at full speed. I felt my senses burst with admiration and gratitude for being alive at that moment. As I ran, with the morning sun pouring on my face, watching the dusty road ahead, it was only then that I knew for a fact that I couldn’t have possibly imagined what running in the Serengeti Marathon would feel like.

What made the Marathon extra special for my team and for me, was not only the fact that it was taking place in a beautiful area in which we were privileged to be in. But also, the run gave us a chance to experience, firsthand, the thriving wilderness that we get up every morning, work every day to help protect.

On that clear morning, as we ran, we saw zebras, some wildebeest and birds on the sides of the road. It felt as though we were part of their journeys. We didn’t see any predatory animals, fortunately, but we knew that we were safe because park rangers were keeping an eye out.

The Serengeti Safari Marathon is an annual event that takes part starting with a gravel road 8km inside the Serengeti National Park at the West entrance. This international event promotes conservation activities taking place within the National Park as well as local businesses. This year, event organizers also contributed one dollar from each participant’s fee towards the Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) de-snaring project. This project consists of people who remove snares in the park that were put up by poachers to catch wildlife for bushmeat.

The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) is an event partner, and staff have been participating for the past few years. This year there were 23 of us running and we all did the 10km run.

The pride we felt in seeing the visible work we continue to do through the FZS Conservation Project in the Serengeti as well as the medals we earned for completing the race, made the hard work that went into preparing for the run and the exhaustion at the end worth it. You can see this for yourself in the photos, we are all brimming with joy and exhaustion.

Monicca does accounting, storekeeping, and administration for the FZS – Serengeti Conservation Project, and has been working for us for the past six months. In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, writing about what is happening around her in a form of short stories and literary fiction. She posts some of her stories on Medium an open platform for independent writers. She is also working on publishing her first book soon. She started running while in primary school for school competitions but leaned into ‘fun runs’ as she grew older. The Serengeti Safari Marathon was her first Marathon.

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