Imagine returning home from a long day at work and trying to squeeze in some sleep. Then all you hear behind your window are people running, laughing, throwing stones at your window or using a stick to hit the roof of your building all in a bid to scare you.
Well, for some rural communities in Kenya like Njiru, Limuru, Ruiru, Ruai, and Thika, night running is a folklore that has become their reality. They are terrorized by a group of people who label themselves as night runners.
Night runners terrify these communities and those who are into it believe it is a calling on their life to be night runners.
They are unable to shake the urge to run mostly naked at night and disguise themselves with leaves to blend in with the trees.
The aim for disguising themselves is to hide their identities for fear of what the villagers might do to them when caught.
Superstition has it that night runners are possessed by demons and the urge to run is hereditary, passed on from generation to generation.
These “faceless naked individuals run, dance and even lurk with wild animals at night around people’s home steads casting spells and creating state of fright.,” Business Today reported.
For most night runners, they take delight in instilling fear into people mostly for about two to four hours every night.
Although many night runners prefer to hide their identities, one man who goes by the name Jack Songo is the self-acclaimed president of the Night Runners Association of Kenya.
He told Business Today, “Night running is a call from God and to some people, it comes as a talent. Once you become a night runner, it is very hard to quit it since it’s an addictive act. Mine is purely a call and I don’t have reservations about this. I have been a determined night runner for the past 17 years.”
Trevor Omondi, who lives near Bomas of Kenya, has come across night runners in his vicinity.
“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,” said Trevor, a tenant of a retired couple.
“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 claimed.
After the act continued, he reported the incidence to his landlord who then installed security lights in and around the house. Since the runners operate in dark places, they never returned to the house.
These night runners want to expand their ‘sport’ into the city, but the well-lit streets could pose as a hindrance, many have said.
Songo said, “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.”
A recent BBC Africa Eye exposé revealed the dangers associated with night running as one ex-runner was trapped and disfigured with freshly boiled water.
Other dangers include mob action by the people which could even lead to the death of a runner. At times, the culprits are ostracized from their community when caught.
“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,” Songo said.
There have been appeals by the Night Runners Association to the government to legalize their sport. However, much to their dismay, the act is far from being accepted by Kenyans.
Regardless of the negative connotations associated with night running, Songo, the association’s president, claimed it has about 2.8million members around the country and most of them are active with the exception of the older members.