By Patrick Githinji
Until eight years ago, Joyce Nduku never thought much about jogging, but now she runs to save her life.
At, first, she followed doctors advise after being diagnosed with arthritis.
Today, however, she literally sweats to save her life.
Her passion for running has seen her enter into various races around the world, the recent being the Old Mutual Marathon 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa, where she emerged number one in her category of 45 years and above.
Nduku’s problem began back in 2002 when she started experiencing pain in her knees when walking or squatting, prompting her to go to the hospital.
"The doctor told me I had arthritis and I was so shocked," says Nduku.
The doctors advised the Kenya Medical Research Institute nutritionist to eat right and exercise. Being a health guru, diet was not a problem, but exercise was. Nevertheless she took up the workout prescription and has never looked back.
In two years, Nduku literally became a jogger turned marathoner as she enrolled for the 2004 Standard Chartered Bank marathon.
"I remember that day I ran with a bandage on my knee. After running for almost ten kilometers, I started feeling relief and I removed the bandage and continued with the race," she says.
It took the then 50-year-old woman five hours to complete the race, by which time the pain was gone. Inspired, Joyce enlisted for the 2005 Chicago Marathon followed by another in Boston, Berlin and New York.
Last year, as Nduku clocked 56 years, she couldn’t resist enrolling for the South Africa Marathon, which ironically like her age was a 56-kilometre race.
Nduku says she drew a timetableto train for this race .
"My day would start at 5.30am. I would spend one and half hours in the morning running in my neighbourhood and in the evening I would train at Arboretum."
Running for the single mother who resides in Kitengela has become a hobby as she is up by 5:30 everyday and jogs for one-hour religiously.
On weekends, Nduku trains with the Urban Swara groups who run for charitable courses such as the Freedom From Hunger walk and the Mater Hospital Heart Run.
"We got together in 2005 and ran without an identity for a while before we decided that because God has given us good health, we could use it for a worthy course,"Nduku says. They even ran in a bid to fundraise for a man with kidney failure.
"Safaricom gave us running T-shirts and a cheque of Sh50, 000 and we ended up raising Sh300,000 from the run,"says Nduku.
Currently, Nduku is working on a proposal to establish a sports complex in Kangundo to give talented youngsters an outlet to build their talent.
"Most of the youth in the village are idle and end up taking illicit brew, drugs and get sucked up in crimes," she says.
Nduku is looking for donor assistance to fund the youth project.
Through the project, she hopes to raise awareness on non-communicable disease by advancing what medics have for a long time advocated for that exercise indeed is a cure for many ailments.
For Nduku running has moved from merely being a hobby, to an exercise that saves lives in a fun way.