Strums & Strides

7 marathons. 7 continents. All for the healing power of music.

Join Nick Stukel on his journey to become the first medical student to run marathons on every continent while raising funds and awareness for Musicians On Call.

The Roof of Africa

I. Made. It. That was one of the most exhausting, exhilarating, and powerful things I have done in a while.

Nope, I'm not talking about the marathon in Africa (although I will likely say the same about that when it happens in a couple days). I am referring to a fairly recent addition to my trip to Tanzania: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. But I am getting ahead of myself -- I left off having just arrived in Africa mid-June. First, I will catch you up on some of my adventures across Kenya and Tanzania...

Kenya is a country of surprises. My home-base was nestled in the chaotic business district of downtown Nairobi, with plenty of people making the sooty streets their storefronts by spreading out everything from clothing to handbags on the ground in hopes of big sales. I spent my free day in Nairobi with a great cab driver named Nani, who showed me the west side of the city. I saw camels and baby elephants, and even talked a giraffe into kissing me (it is harder than you would think!). The next morning, I joined five other young Americans on a bumpy, seven-hour drive on dirt roads to the Masai Mara reserve for a three day safari. It was unlike anything I could have imagined, and it was comforting to have a group of people my age with whom I could interact. I saw hundreds of wildebeests and zebras (apparently they migrate together), as well as everything from hippos and rhinos to lions and cheetahs. It was like the Lion King, but live and in 3D. Absolutely great!

After returning late to Nairobi from the safari due to traffic, I had just enough time to pack my bags for Tanzania and panic about things I still needed for the Mt. Kilimanjaro trek before boarding an early-morning bus to Moshi, Tanzania. In Moshi, I met my climbing and marathon group for the first time. As I hesitantly opened the door to my shared room, I was greeted by a friendly middle-aged Irishman named Peter. I soon met Chad and Nicole, who are along on the ride for their honeymoon, and Nancy, a writer who has become one of my new favorite Floridians. Each of them is as outgoing as you would expect, and I am absorbing and learning as much as I can - about running and life - from this group of avid marathon runners, athletes and travelers. 

Twelve hours after meeting each other, our group embarked on a five-day journey to the roof of Africa: Uhuru Peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. I have underestimated very few things as much as I underestimated this mountain and the challenges it would bring. The weather changing from warm and sunny to freezing cold and windy within a couple of minutes is one thing. Waking up at midnight to trek up the steepest part of the mountain for seven hours in order to reach the peak is another. And somewhere in the challenges, exhaustion, and sharing everything from meds to batteries, I became amazingly close with my group here. I could not have reached the peak (nearly 20,000 feet) without them and our climbing crew, and I learned much more about myself, the people around me, and living life to the fullest during the trek than I was expecting. 

As Peter, my newest role model, wisely portrayed during one of our long talks on the mountain, "If there is something you would like to do and it is at all feasible to do it, do it as soon as you can. Do not wait and put it off. Live life to the fullest right now." 

With that in mind, I'm praying my body will recover enough in the next two days to run a marathon on Sunday morning. I will be in touch soon from the States!

Keep running, 


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