Inspiration Series: An Interview with Victoria

A few weeks ago I launched a new series on the blog centred around people who I really admire and look up to in the world of fitness. So often we look for inspiration in the celebrity world and we forget that we can learn so much and gain so many insights from the people around us. Victoria is based in Oxfordshire, UK and I first met her in 2003 when we were both volunteering at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in Cape Town. She was a few years younger than me but fiercely independent and she showed a maturity beyond her years. She was quick to show me the ropes and we spent several weeks bonding on the bus to/from the sanctuary and in between penguin bites! This is her running story…

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When did you first start running? I was quite sporty at school, but was never really that interested in running.  I went on the occasional run every now and then during my university days (2003-2006), but never had the staying power to get into it properly.  I wanted to be good immediately…so often went out too fast, huffed and puffed my way around, pulled lots of muscles, and then didn’t go out again for months!  I only started running properly, or rather, sensibly, in 2010.  I was working in the TV industry at the time, working long hours, eating really badly and had recently broken up with my boyfriend.  I was feeling pretty lost and low and just needed something that I could focus on and do by myself, for myself…something that wasn’t defined by my job title or relationship status.  I needed to do something that would give me a sense of self-worth and the satisfaction of achieving something I had set my mind too, so I started running…and entered myself into a 5k race to hold myself to account!

How did that first race go?  I ran my first official race in May 2010, only a few weeks after I decided to take up running.  It was a 5k Race for Life in Regent’s Park in London.  I ran with my housemate Becky and a couple of her friends.  I remember being very nervous at the start line.  There were lots of people taking part, it was a very hot and sunny day and I started doubting whether I would be able to do it!  I was so relieved and proud of myself when I crossed that finish line.  I can’t recall my finish time as I just wanted to complete it.  I also learnt a very important lesson too that day…re-hydrate! My housemate and I had pre-planned a celebratory BBQ at ours for that afternoon with around 20 of our friends.  However, whilst my friends partied into the small hours I was laid up in bed with sunstroke!!  It was rather embarrassing at the time…but I can laugh about it now!

LOL! A lesson learnt the hard way! What would you say is your weekly mileage? Do you also do other fitness activities? At the moment I am running around three times a week, totalling 15-20kms.  In the last few years I’ve gone through stages of doing workout DVD’s (mainly Jillian Michaels) and Yoga.  However, at the moment I’m only running.  I’m not really a fan of gyms (all those people and mirrors!), however, being married to a military pilot I have free access to a host of amazing facilities: gym, swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, spinning classes, yoga, climbing wall etc. so I really should start taking advantage of them!

Looking back at all your races, what has been your favourite race experience?  It’s difficult for me to highlight one specific race.  There are 3 races that I have fond memories of for very different reasons:

Toronto Zoo 10k (Sept 2013) – this was the first 10k race I had ever done….but not the longest distance, having completed my first Half Marathon earlier on in that year.  It was the first race that I had entered where there were thousands of entrants, so the atmosphere was really good. Despite it raining from start to finish, and the course having some of the most horrific hills I’ve ever encountered, I really enjoyed running this unique course.  I set off with no real expectations (I wanted to run close to 1hr, but didn’t think that was achievable with all those hills!) so I just ran with the aim of enjoying the surroundings and trying to spot as many animals in the zoo as possible!  My boyfriend (now husband) was running with me and we spent practically the full 65mins pointing out giraffes, rhinos, chimpanzees etc. to each other!

Blenheim Palace Half Marathon (Oct 2015) – this was my first race back in the UK, having returned from living in Canada for 3 years. It was also my first race as Mrs Whitfield, having got married a couple of weeks beforehand. There were three motives for entering this race: to lose weight for my wedding, to have something planned for afterwards to try and avoid the inevitable post-wedding blues, and to try and put some demons to rest from my first half marathon experience…and I managed to achieve all three!  I was lucky in that I knew the race course inside out and back-to-front as I lived within walking distance from Blenheim Palace and used the grounds for all my training runs.  It was a completely different experience from my first Half Marathon (a small locally run race with around 200 entrants, 2 laps of a straight out and back, where I started right at the back and finished 3rd to last…they were packing up as I crossed the finish line!).  I managed to knock 14mins 15secs off my PB, finishing in a time of 2:19:48 and smashing my goal of a sub 2.5hrs!

Royal Berkshire 10k (May 2017) – this is the latest race that I’ve run.  I just really enjoyed this race from start to finish.  This photo pretty much sums up how I felt about it!

That smile really does say it all! We will come back to that race in a bit but first tell me about the Half Marathon you completed earlier on in the year – I think it was Bath if I remember correctly! Yes, I completed the Bath Half in March this year.  I’m not going to lie, I had mixed feelings about the race.  I didn’t run as well or as fast as I would have liked to.  I’ve always wanted to run the Bath Half…I love the city and it’s a relatively flat course where lots of people achieve their PB’s.  So I had high expectations and was very excited when I entered the race.  I had also promised my husband that this would be the last race I would enter for a while before concentrating on family life…tick tock biological clock(!)…so I wanted to finish on a good one. However, I suffered with two bouts of flu during the winter and missed 6 weeks of training.  I went into the race knowing I wasn’t as fit as I would have liked to be…and I felt it.  It’s the first race I’ve ever done where I actually walked sections, and where I’ve had to mentally, as well as physically, battle with a blister for half the race!  I crossed the line in a time of 2:28:48…not my slowest time…but I felt like I had failed.  I beat myself up for about a week after that…disappointed that my final run hadn’t gone to plan.  But then I picked myself up, put it behind me, (postponed our family plans…again…sorry Tim!) and entered myself for another race!

And that would be the Royal Berkshire you mentioned earlier! I remember crossing all my fingers and toes that you would do it in under an hour and was overjoyed when you did! Yes! I still can’t believe that I’ve finally managed to break that elusive sub 60 barrier!  I really enjoyed this race – the Royal Berkshire 10k, in Green Park in Reading.  I came into the race with a completely different attitude from the Bath Half.  First and foremost, I wanted to enjoy this race.  Regardless of whether I ran a PB, this would be my last race for a while and I wanted to come away with a positive experience.  I also knew that my training had gone well, I had stuck to my plan and was in good shape.  I had run a 59:56 in a training run 2 weeks prior to the race so I knew that I was capable of running that pace again.  So, as I lined up at the start, positioning myself a few metres in front of the 60mins pacer, I didn’t have any niggling negative thoughts.  I had no idea what the course would be like.  On paper it looked like it could be quite boring, running on roads close to a very busy motorway, but it completely exceeded my expectations.  It was a straight forward, one lap along country lanes, which really made me feel like I was on one of my regular runs…with a few thousand people tagging along!  It was easy to find a nice pocket of space and found myself running alongside some lovely people.  There were lots of spectators for the first and last 2k’s, but other than that we were on our own, bar a few marshals and some lovely horses in the fields we passed.  We crossed over the motorway twice and actually had cars honking their horns at us in support!  Having looked back at the professional photos from the Bath Half (in which I look like I am having the worst time ever!) I made a pact with myself that I would actually seek out those photographers…and it really wasn’t difficult to find that smile!

And my resolve didn’t waver even when the 60mins pacer overtook me just after the 5k mark.  My running watch was telling me I was still on course for a sub 60 and I could hear the pacer shouting out that he was on target for a 59:25 finish time.  So as long as I could keep him in my sights I knew I would be ok.  It was a bit touch and go at the end though, as, like with most races, my watch beeped that I had completed the distance, but the finish line was still around 100m away…and the seconds seemed to be ticking by very quickly!  I dug deep though and was so pleased to have crossed that line with a finish time of 59:56. I felt great!  I had gained a new PB…but more importantly I had really enjoyed the race.  I came away with a great sense of achievement, good memories and excitement about the thought of running that course again in the future…oh, and some running photos where I’m actually smiling!  It was definitely the right decision to enter that extra race and be able to finish this running chapter on a high!

What would you say is your favourite distance? The Half or the 10k? If you had asked me this question a few months ago I would have said the half, as you get a huge sense of satisfaction completing those long training runs as well as the races themselves.  However, I really enjoyed training for my most recent 10k!  I loved being able to push myself to go faster and it’s certainly easier to fit those training runs in around your everyday life. I would definitely like to enter more 10k’s in the future…but I would also like to re-do the Bath Half as well.

What has running taught you about yourself? I’ve never really thought about what running has taught me until just now!  And now I’ve thought about it…the answer is lots!  Running has given me the confidence to go out there and achieve the things I want to do.  I am good enough and I can do things by myself.  It has also taught me that sometimes things don’t go the way you wish…but rather than throwing in the towel, you just need to brush yourself off and carry on.  Obstacles and set-backs only make you stronger and more determined to achieve your goals.   Running is great for your mental wellbeing!  No matter how badly your day has been, or how awful you might feel whilst actually running, the post-run feeling cannot be beaten!  That sense of achievement, having space to clear your mind, fresh air and the endorphins running through your body…it’s amazing!  Running is not only good for your body, but it’s good for your mind and your soul as well.

What are some of the fitness or running goals you have for the future? As mentioned earlier I’m shifting my focus to concentrating on family life and trying for a baby, so my running goals are going to be very different.  I’m going to try to carry on running for as long as I can, without putting any pressure on myself…so no races for the moment!  I know people who ran up until 38 weeks pregnant, but also know people who couldn’t run much after around 10 weeks…so I’m just going to go with the flow, listen to my body and see what happens!  And if I fall into the latter camp then I will definitely come back to running when the time feels right.  There are so many more races I would like to do…and there’s still that marathon box that needs to be ticked! Ha ha!

What advice do you have for new runners who have either just started their running journeys or would like to start but just don’t know how? My advice for those who would like to start running is to just go for it!  The only thing stopping you from taking the first steps is your mind…your body can definitely do it!  Ignore any self-doubts or negative thoughts and just get out there, putting one foot in front of the other.  I would also recommend downloading a training plan (even if you have no desire to run an actual race) as it gives you the structure and takes the decision making out of the process.  I’m a procrastinator and can talk myself in/out of anything so without a plan in place the words “maybe tomorrow” work themselves into my vocabulary and before I know it I haven’t run for months!  However, I’m not a quitter, so love having a plan to hold myself accountable to.  I’ve always used the ASICS website to generate my training plans (www.myasics.com) – it’s free, you just have to create an account, and I’ve found them easy to follow and to get the results I want.

Another thing I would advise (and something I have to keep reminding myself about too!) is to not compare yourself to other runners.  It is great to find inspiration from others and look up to them for motivation, but damaging if you are then criticising yourself and putting yourself down.  This is your journey, not theirs!  And it is always good to remind yourself about how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved.  It’s all about the small improvements.  Last month you might have been able to only jog for a few minutes before walking, this month you can now run for half an hour without stopping! Celebrate those moments and be proud of all your achievements!  Before you know it you’ll be running 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons too.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I love your beautiful honesty and authenticity. I love all the personal lessons and practical advice you shared about running. I love that you ended on such a high note before closing this chapter for now. But most of all, I love that big, bright, shining smile that you have after each race. That to me is the best part about running – and the reason we keep coming back! Best of luck to you and Tim as you enter a new stage of your journey! 🙂 

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I am so excited to be sharing this interview with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! Be sure to check out their blogs too! 

Winter Training Cycle: Goals and Races

“Head pulled down, shoulders hunched up, toes curled in, Boris the vulture is sulking.” (The Sulky Vulture, by Sally Grindley) 

At the start of the year, my plan to run 17 races in 2017 was daunting to say the least. I loved the catch phrase “17 in 2017” but wondered whether it was possible. When I got to my sixth race, I felt unstoppable. Unfortunately, something did stop me – my left knee. Some of you may recall that in mid-April, I started complaining that my knee was sore after runs. However, I ignored this and continued to push hard, running my best times in two races, one week apart – the Palapye 10k and the Diacore 10k. However, when I returned to running on Wednesday following the Diacore my knee finally caved in. It was excruciatingly painful. I took a week off and then tried again – this time it felt even worse. My physiotherapist quickly diagnosed patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), more commonly known as Runner’s Knee and I have had several physio sessions over the last few weeks.

It has been an emotional time for me. I have been sulking like Boris, hence no blogging! 🙂 There was huge disappointment at having to stop running and cancel races; there was fear that the one fitness activity I had grown to love could so suddenly come to an end; there was anger at myself for having pushed too hard and too early on in my running career; there was envy at others who could still run; and there was sadness… But things are starting to look up now and I am resuming my training plan this week hopeful, a little bit wiser, and quite humbled by the lessons I have learnt. I have lots of catching up to do if I am to run 11 more races this year… but let’s see what happens! I am taking it one run at a time and aiming to finish races comfortably with my knee intact, rather than to focus on finishing times.

My revised winter race schedule looks like this:

  • 08 July: The Kgale Cross-Country/Trail is a 10k race in the Gaborone area.
  • 29 July: I am so excited to be doing the 30k Desert-Bush Walk in Jwaneng. I did this last year in SEVEN hours and it was such a phenomenal experience.
  • 05 August: Exactly a week after the walk I will be tackling the 10k Road Race in Selebi-Phikwe. This race is one of the oldest in the country and I have always wanted to do it.
  • 20 August: I will be joining Ditiro and our friend Leruo for the Time Team Challenge in Mokolodi. Leruo will do Stage 1 which is a 10k Trail Run, Ditiro will do Stages 2 and 3 (the mountain biking) and I will do Stage 4, the 5k Trail Run. I am really looking forward to being part of a team!
  • 09 September: To end my Winter Training Cycle, I will cross the border for the 10k Road Race in Mafikeng, South Africa.

Disclaimer: If at any point I feel I may need to forfeit a race, I will do so. I don’t want to aggravate my knee again. 

My 13-week winter training plan looks like this:

  • Pilates Classes on Mondays and Wednesdays
  • 2 Treadmill Runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a long Outdoor run every Saturday (for each run I am going to focus on lots of stretching before and after)
  • Conditioning/ Strength Exercises every Thursday
  • Upper Body Work (with weights at home)
  • Fortnightly weekend hikes up Kgale Hill

I am so happy to still be working with Coach Nicola from Running Happy. She has been amazing during my “injury period” and I am so pleased that she will be guiding me over the next few months. It feels good to be back.

Does anyone have any tips for dealing with knee problems? Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

I am pleased to be linking up again with Courtney over at Eat Pray Run who is busy training for the Berlin Marathon!

Inspiration Series: An Interview with Elisa

On my mission to complete 17 races in 2017, I have most enjoyed running with friends and family. It has been more fun than I ever imagined it would be and I have drawn so much inspiration from them. This is the first post of my “Inspiration Series” where I plan to interview different people who inspire me in the world of fitness. The first person I have chosen is my dear friend Elisa who recently completed the Diacore Half Marathon. We have been friends for over 20 years and I have always admired her determination to be the best she can be in anything she puts her mind to. This is her running story…

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When did you first start running? I have always been fitness conscious and active, but  I think I can truly say I started running during A-Levels when I was boarding at Maru-A-Pula Secondary School in 2000. A lot was going on in my life. My parents had just relocated to London and with the biggest exams of my life looming I took up running to de-stress and of course keep healthy and keep any weight gain at bay.  I started doing short runs around the school track and on the road around the neighbourhood. Then I  participated in the annual school cross country event before heading to university and that is when I discovered and got a hint of the true joy of long distance running; however it would be a decade later for me to take up long distance running again and to run my first official race!

I remember those High School days where you would run around the track after class and also that cross country race! How did your first official race go?  My first official race was the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (10k) in 2010. I was working and living there and stumbled upon the craze of race events. Some close friends had participated the year before and I promised myself that I would not miss out again. I started focusing on my running and less on gym classes which I have always loved. As a first timer the whole experience was exhilarating, right from the excitement and build up of collecting the race pack to the morning of the race… the crowd, the glee on everyone’s faces waiting at the start line… the pride and amazement that we were running on the same tarmac as legends like Haile Gerbrselassie, who took first place that year for the full marathon. I was not used to running such a distance so my time was a very modest 1 hour 19 minutes but a PB for me, therefore a victory.

What is your weekly mileage? And what does your fitness regime look like? My weekly mileage is about 15 km; a combination of outdoor running once a week and treadmill running. However I increase this to 20 km when a race is coming up. I also do group classes, Pilates twice a week, Yoga, Boot Camp and Step classes once a week.  I am training to be a yoga teacher so I also incorporate 30 minute yoga sessions four times a week; usually after my classes or during rest days.

When I am focused fully on running training I replace the Boot Camp and Step classes  with some resistance training. I truly have to say I enjoy everything about fitness and all the exercises I do…whether I’m running or focused in a group class on getting the routine perfect while maintaining the tempo or the mindfulness of yoga – getting deeper into a stretch or holding a position. It is the challenge,  that push on myself, the feeling that I am doing it and knowledge that tomorrow I will be better;  it’s such a high and that keeps me looking forward to more!

How are you able to balance training with your daily responsibilities? Thankfully, depending on how you look at it I’m in the middle of job hunting and only freelancing now, therefore I have the time. I also look after my three year old champion of a little girl. She goes to nursery school in the mornings and we spend the afternoons and the rest of the day together. As a result I do most of my fitness when she’s at school. However, if because of work I can’t fit in exercise in the morning, I take her with me to the gym where she gets looked after for two hours. A brilliant concept at Virgin Active! If it is too late, I work out at home and of course she always wants to do what mummy is doing so I include her in my workouts; I use her as extra weight during reps and getting deeper into stretches.  We both get great play time together and I get a fantastic and challenging workout!

That’s an amazing way to incorporate kids into workout routines! What would you say running has taught you about yourself? Running has taught me a lot, it has taught me about being my own cheerleader. It has taught me more about my body, listening to every twinge and adjusting myself accordingly to get rid of it…it has taught me to appreciate the big things, which we deem little and always take for granted; the clear air in the morning before the pollution of the rush of traffic…watching the sun rise. Running has taught me patience;  I’m not  ‘naturally’ athletic and it has therefore taken me time to shave off minutes from my runs with some hard work and training.  Running has taught me to not be self-conscious…the number of times I have had to spit while in motion on the side of the road… I have shamelessly become an expert (discrete and neat) spitter!

Your dad has been at a couple of races now and I love his expression as he crosses the finish line! What have you done to motivate him and other family members to run? To be honest, not much,  it is all them. It is simply through watching me; day in and day out, going to the gym, getting up early on weekends to run. It struck a chord with them immediately! When they ask how I do it, I  stress to them that there was a time I could not even run a full kilometre.  I stress to them that if I can do it, so can they. They see the joy and excitement that running brings me and of course the health benefits and being in good shape, and they too want that for themselves.

Looking back at all your races, what has been your favourite race experience?  My favourite race experience  is the one I just completed.. the Diacore Gaborone Half Marathon…mainly because I felt strong throughout…I had a strategy and stuck to it and it paid off.  Best of all I was at the race with some of my greatest friends, such beautiful human beings including my mother.  Sharing the excitement and buzz of the morning with them was truly a wonderful experience.

We loved cheering you on as you came towards the finish line. You looked so strong, your face was so relaxed and you had the perfect stride. Tell me more about that Half Marathon. Absolutely amazing experience… I was strong, I completely enjoyed the route, finishing in at 02:18:49, a PB. There was a lot happening on the road that morning which truly added to the fun factor. A section of the route went close to the National Stadium and we came across people who were just emerging from a long awaited concert by local artists; so we gained ourselves some very happy, overzealous cheerleaders!  What I wouldn’t repeat is having a coke…I got a bit excited at the 15 km mark and desperate for some sugar for energy so,when presented with a cup of the sugary drink I jumped on it…the gas build up seconds after could have cost me but fortunately I just let out a huge belch and all was well again….lesson learnt… never have a fizzy drink during a race; not even sure why the race organisers had them!

How did this race compare to your first Half Marathon experience? My first half marathon was  in 2011, the Johnson Arabia Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon which I completed in a time of 02:32:57. It was also a great experience.  However, I wasn’t as strong, as well informed and educated as I am now with running. It was my most challenging race up to that point and the route around Dubai was spectacular… it took us through a souk (a traditional Arabian market), the Dubai creek, over and under bridges. A huge negative was that I hit the so called “runners wall” at around 14 km and had to walk up to a kilometre….my legs simply refused to run any farther and my mind couldn’t convince them. However, once I regained my strength on the walk and gave myself a little pep talk, I continued relatively well the rest of the way.

What are some of the fitness-related or running goals you have for the future? My goal is to run 10 km in under an hour…my PB right now is 1:01 hours. Similarly, to edge my way to two hours for a half marathon culminating in participating and completing a full marathon the year I turn 40 (2019). I have just started my yoga course, so within a one year period I plan to become a fully qualified and internationally certified yoga teacher with a body of a dancer to boot!

I have absolutely no doubt you are going to achieve all those goals. I may even join you for that marathon! What advice do you have for new runners who have either just started their running journeys or would like to start running but don’t know how? Start now…start by walking and when you feel up to it jog a little and each time increase the jogging distance and you will soon be running. Listen to your body, be conscious of your breathing and use breathing to help you with fatigue; don’t run in isolation, mix up your running with other exercises, to complement and make you a stronger runner; take a yoga class or a pilates class for guidance on great breathing techniques; building of a strong core for ease and comfort when running. Don’t be concerned about what others are doing, how fast, how many kilometres they are clocking…race against yourself and enjoy seeing the progress. If you love gadgets and have the means, get a fitness watch or load up an app, get a strap for your mobile phone… just seeing  a picture of what you have achieved spurs you on immensely. Take a friend with you, join a running group and most of all have fun!

I absolutely loved doing this interview. Thank you so much for your time, your honesty, and such valuable information. I love your whole outlook to fitness, the varied exercises you do, your determination to be better and stronger, your encouragement of others, and also the fact that you involve your daughter in some of the activities. Fitness and running is such a beautifully personal journey, but one which is made so much more fun when sharing it with friends and family!

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I am so excited to be sharing this interview with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! Also joining Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner linkup! Linking up is such a great way to get motivated and to get to know other bloggers! So please take some extra time to read some of their stories and link up if you can!

Diacore 10k, Race Recap (6/17)

On the 7th May, 2017 I ran the Diacore 10k Race – my Goal Race and the 6th Race in my “17 in 2017 Challenge”. It was the first race where I found myself looking around and really enjoying myself… it was the first race, I felt I wasn’t faking it… I felt like a runner… in a sea of strangers I felt like I belonged. But I am getting ahead of myself…let us take a few steps back…   

Eight weeks ago, I had just run my 3rd race of the year. That 10k race was the first I did without taking any walking breaks. That in itself was a victory and the new PB time I set of 1:15:11 was the added bonus. With my new found confidence, I started an 8 week training cycle to get me prepared for the Diacore which is Botswana’s biggest race and a qualifier for Two Oceans, Comrades, Commonwealth and the Olympic games. In those 8 weeks, I got a coach, Nicola from Running Happy, and I ran two races – the Lady K 10k trail run and the Palapye 10k which gave me a huge (self-timed) PB of 1:08:02. Going into Diacore I felt nervous but prepared.

I enjoyed a relaxing Saturday minus the kids who were at my parents’ place. In the evening we enjoyed a nice pasta meal before heading to bed. In the morning, I had my usual shower to warm up the muscles and my cereal before we headed out at 05:20. On the drive to the venue I made a mental note of the Route:

The Route: They call it the flattest and fastest race in the region and aside from a gentle incline at the start, it really is. Grand Palm – Right onto the A1 – Left at the Rainbow Circle – Left at the Nokia Lights – Left at the CBD Lights – Grand Palm.

The Race: We only found parking about a km away from the start of the race. We tried waiting for Tapiwa but with all the crowds we quickly realised it was a futile exercise. So I walked Ditiro over to the Half Marathon Start and then headed for the loos where I found a long queue of runners. Knowing that I had to warm up my knee to ensure a good start, I started vigourously stretching in the bathroom. I swear, the others must have thought I was one of the elite runners! LOL. With just a few minutes to spare, I took a slow jog to the Start and my knee felt okay. Unfortunately, the long wait at the bathroom meant that I started quite far back. At exactly 06:30 the gun sounded and it took me 3 minutes to get to the Start Line.  After that I had to wade through several walkers so my first 3 km were not the most enjoyable and I struggled to get into gear (Splits, min/km: 06:51/07:41/07:29). However, just after the 3 km mark I found my stride and really started to enjoy myself. I felt truly happy to be out here doing this. I looked up and saw a man holding a banner, “Run it like you Stole it” and I burst out laughing giving him a thumbs-up. I waved at the cheerleaders on the track with their pompoms and as I started having fun, I started feeling stronger and my Splits for 4 – 7 km reflect that: 07:04/ 06:50/ 07:05/ 06:49. As I headed into the last 3 km, I turned it up another gear and remembered my pilates breathing to get me through the final stretch:

As I saw the finish line, I still had enough energy for my final sprint and despite some pain in my left knee I just pushed it until the end. I was elated and on the longish walk down the “passage” to get my medal, I truly felt like a runner. It being such a big race I didn’t see anyone I knew at this stage, and Ditiro still hadn’t finished his Half Marathon so it gave me some time to reflect and enjoy my moment. As I got my medal, a guy tapped me on the shoulder from behind and said, “You ran such a good race. You had such a consistent pace and were my pace maker for most of the race”. And that my friends was the cherry on top!

My time: I ran the course in 1:10:24 minutes (07:01 pace) according to my watch which I started at the Start Line, 5 minutes faster than my last officially timed race. Unfortunately, when the official race results came up, they had recorded our times from the gun start (and not from when we actually crossed the Start Line). So the 3 minutes it took me to get to the start are now included: 1:13:11. 

After the Race: I found a good place where I could watch the Half Marathon and Marathon finishers. Thankfully, my cousin Tapiwa soon found me and we chatted as we waited for Ditiro and our friend Elisa who were both doing the Half Marathon. At 1:42:12 Ditiro came through at a blistering pace and we started screaming, “D!! D!! D!!” and then we waited for Elisa who had such a strong finish and a 20-minute personal best! We were later also reunited with Polelo and were all so happy with our personal journeys. The Half Marathoners had some entertaining stories of Concert Goers who had decided to go straight from the Concert Venue, drunk as ever, to some parts of the course to cheer on racers with their camp chairs and cooler boxes!

Lest we forget – this was NUMBER 6

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. Start closer to the front of the race: I must admit I was very disappointed that the 3 minutes it took to reach the Start Line are included in my official time but I have learned that in cases where there are no corrals I just have to hustle a little harder to get to the front of the line.
  2. A good warm up is essential: In Palapye and for this race, I really made sure I warmed up and in both races I felt stronger than I had in previous races. I am a little bit worried about my left knee at the moment but I will just make it a habit to warm up even before short training runs.

Pros of the Race

  • Extremely well organised (registration was easy, the race pack pick up was very efficient, website provided all the information including route maps, all races started exactly on time!)
  • Fantastic vibe and atmosphere – on the course there were cheerleaders with pompoms, there was a stage with people dancing and singing at one of the water stops, cheerful marshalls). As a Gaborone resident, this was a very proud moment as we hosted people from across the country and 38 different countries! I saw on Facebook that there was an American couple who are on a mission to run a marathon in every single continent and they were ecstatic for having chosen Botswana and this marathon to represent Africa.
  • Our race bibs had our names on them! I have seen this on other running blogs but this was a first for us! That really was something special 🙂

Cons of the Race:

  • You know what I am going to say right?! For the 10k race which had the highest number of participants, they didn’t record the time we actually started. So I took 3 minutes to get to the start of the line which was included in my final time. Not fair.
  • No corrals/ seeded groupings meant that walkers/ people with no timing chips were in front and once we were through the start it took so long to pass people.
  • Apparently there were several porta-loos but in the dark and with no clear signs I couldn’t find them so I used the hotel loos!

Would I do this race again?

Oh yes!!!  For any Gaborone Resident this race is so much more than just a race. I am so proud to have been a part of it this year and to have run such a strong race. I will definitely keep coming back!!

Once again I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap! I am also excited to be linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! Linking up is such a great way to get motivated and to get to know other bloggers! So please take some extra time to read some of their stories and link up if you can!

Diacore 10k Training Recap: Weeks 7 – 8 (Final)

My 8-week Diacore Training Cycle has now come to an end and my goal race (and Number 6/17) is tomorrow. It has been a great 8 weeks where I have learnt so much about myself, my body and running in general. I am looking forward to starting my next training plan, “Winter Trail Training Cycle” which will take me through the cold winter months ahead. There will be a lot of trail running with some new distances and I am happy to still be working with Coach Nicola from Running Happy. But before we get into that, let me summarise the final two weeks of my Diacore training and then look at some of the goals I have for the big day.

Week 7

Monday: I started the week with an Easy Run, 3.57 km, 27:21 min, 07:38 min/km. As usual I did this run with my cousin Tapiwa but as we hadn’t warmed up and started out quite fast, it was not the most comfortable of runs. My body felt as if it was struggling to move. Our run was followed by an intense pilates session – my core is most definitely getting stronger and I survived all the hard leg work-outs. When I started pilates in January, I actually never knew I would love it this much.

Tuesday: Easy Run3.37 km, 25:02 min, 07:26 min/km. I really didn’t want to run but I’m glad I did. I found a nice new route around the neighbourhood.

Wednesday: I loved today’s run – we started out at a nice easy pace and then did “steady-easy-steady-easy” before finishing off easy. Overall, it actually felt slower than usual but it turned out to be our fastest pace yet, 07:18 min/km. 3.58 km, 26:08 min. This was followed by pilates and our instructor pushed us hard.

Thursday: I forgot about my scheduled Conditioning Exercises, so this ended up being an unplanned Rest Day!

Friday: I did Thursday’s Conditioning Exercises (squats, lunges, clams, lateral band walks) today. My knee felt quite sore especially when I was doing the lunges, so I did one set of those instead of two.

Saturday: Excitement and nerves started building up as we packed for our trip! We then set off on our 3-hour journey to Palapye for my 5th Race of the year.

Sunday: What a disorganised race but a phenomenal result. I was aiming for a 2 minute PB which would give me a time of 1:13:11. However, I completely smashed my previous PB and came home in 1:08:02 – a 7:09 minute PB! It was such an incredible feeling. My body felt like a well-oiled machine and even though I started out at a much faster pace than I am used to, it didn’t feel fast, I felt comfortable. If you are like me and love reading race recaps, jump here for a blow by blow account!

Week 8

Monday: This was a Rest Day like no other! I rested and rested and rested! Bliss!

Tuesday: I had a run scheduled but just felt exhausted so this ended up being another Rest Day. Not as blissful as I felt a bit guilty!

WednesdayEasy Run with my cousin Tapiwa that was actually supposed to be a Tempo Run. However, when we started out, my left knee felt so sore, excruciatingly painful at one point, so we kept it quite slow for the first 10 minutes. After that, it seemed to loosen up a bit and we had a good run – 3.60 km, 28:03 minutes, 7:47 min/km. As usual, this was followed by pilates which was very gentle today.

ThursdayEasy Run – from Wednesday’s experience I made sure I warmed up a lot more and although my knee still felt a bit tender, it was much better than the day before – 2.60 km, 20:01 minutes, 07:42 min/ km. As soon as I was done I did my usual Conditioning Exercises and had a good stretch.

Friday – Saturday: Rest Days – Ditiro collected our packs on Friday and Paranoia hit in a big way! Are my knees okay? I feel a bit dizzy? Should I eat that? Why does my eye feel sore? Do I have an infection? etc. etc. etc…! I then happened to read a good blog article and felt a lot better afterwards – it reminded me to have fun and not be so focused on numbers and pace. I’m really glad I read it.

Goals for Diacore 10k Race

  1. Goal A: My goal all along was to do 1:12 for Diacore! But now that I got 1:08:02 last week, I have had to change things a bit! As my new PB was not officially timed, I would be more than happy to get the same time for the official records.
  2. Goal B: To get a 1:10 time – I would still be very happy with this.
  3. Goal C: To finish my 6th race of 2017, strong and smiling and have a great day at the Biggest Race on Botswana’s racing calendar!

Palapye 10k, Race Recap (5/17)

For those of you reading this blog for the first time, I am on a mission to complete 17 races this year! Yesterday I ran my 5th race in Palapye which is a 3-hour drive from Gaborone. This race also served as part of my training for my goal race next week – The Diacore. 

We left Gaborone at around 15:00 on Saturday afternoon, picked up our good friends Polelo and Paul, and had an enjoyable drive to Palapye with lots of chatting and dodging of crazy bus drivers. Palapye is a fast growing town, situated about halfway between the two big cities, Francistown and Gaborone. Its strategic position makes it a convenient stopover on one of Southern Africa’s principal north–south rail and road routes. The Morupule Colliery coal mine is located here, and supplies Morupule Power Station, Botswana’s principal domestic source of electricity.

It is also home to one of Botswana’s largest universities, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). Our drive was uneventful and we arrived at the Majestic Five Hotel at around 18:00.

We had a lovely dinner before heading off to bed. For some reason I had put a lot of pressure on myself for this race, so I had a restless night as well as a headache which fortunately had worn off by the time I got up at 6am.

The Race: The starting point of the race was at our hotel so there was no big rush in the morning. After eating some cereal and getting dressed, we headed down to the Start for our warm-up. Unfortunately, this race was so poorly organised. I don’t want to be too scathing in my attack because I know a lot of work goes into preparing for a race… but… it was a huge disappointment. Race bib collection was from 6am – 7am on race morning but by the time we got there at around 06:30am, they had run out of race bibs and t-shirts stating that they had only made enough for 93 participants. Did they not know how many tickets they had sold? There was no attempt at an apology and we were simply told that we should run with our tickets and then show people our tickets as we finished. To make matters worse, we were supposed to start the race at 07:30 but only set off at 08:11, 41 minutes late.

The Route: Majestic Five Hotel – onto the A1 (big motorway) – over the Lotsane River Bridge – towards Cresta Hotel – turned left into the Palapye Bus Station – and then back to the Majestic Five Hotel. 

The A1 Road

Bridge over the Lotsane River

Clock at the Palapye Bus Station (Around 5k mark)

Ditiro was running this race alongside me and in the week leading up to the race we had “talked race strategy”. I knew I wanted a 2 minute PB which meant running an average pace of 07:19 min/km. This was a slightly faster pace than I had done in training so I was a bit sceptical that it could be done. We agreed that as I always do the second half of the race faster than the first half, I should aim for 37.5 min for the first 5km, leaving me with 35.5 min to get back, to finish in a time of 1:13 hrs. The plan was clear. However, I started the race around 07:00 min/km and Ditiro even said to me, “This is a bit faster than we are supposed to be going”. At that point I thought to myself – “Well, this is really a training run. I feel so comfortable. I am talking nicely, my breathing is okay, my body feels good. So let me stick to this.” And stick to it I did! When we passed the clock at the station we were at the 5 km mark, and were 1.5 minutes faster than we had planned for. My slowest pace (per km) was on the incline where I did a 07:17 min/km pace, still faster than the average pace I had planned for.  With 1.5 km to go, I turned it up a notch and headed for the finish with a pace of between 06:53 and 06:04.

My time: I ran the course in 1:08:02 – a remarkable 07:09 minutes Personal Best, and smashing my Goal A which was to do it in 1:13:11! I was in complete and utter shock that in just 1.5 months I have improved so much. This was not my goal race and because of the complete chaos of the race, there were no official times, but I am claiming this “unofficial” PB! And of course, there were not enough medals to go around so these photos next to the race banner will have to do! No race bib, no medal – I promise you I did actually run and PB! LOL!

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. There were not enough race bibs/ numbers/ t-shirts to go around
  2. No timing chips or proper timing method that I noticed
  3. Not enough medals to go around
  4. 41-minute late start – and we were only saved by the fact that it was a cloudy day, otherwise the heat would have been ridiculous at that time
  5. No distance markers on the roads
  6. Completely dangerous route – we were running on a very busy route, with no safety measures in place – too few marshals and no police officers at key points where we had to cross roads. No orange cones along the roads; no warnings for drivers that there were runners on the roads. Some of the 21.1 km finishers, sprinting in at the end of their long race, were almost knocked over by a taxi.

Would I do this race again? NO – for a race that had so much potential, it was a complete disappointment. But I will choose to remember it for my 7 minute PB and the phenomenal time I had with my friends!! 🙂

Some Shout-Outs: I am still one of the slowest athletes on the track but I have a phenomenal team behind me – Thank you to my dear friends Polelo and Paul for putting aside so many things to join us on this trip. Thank you to Paul for the great photography. Thank you to Ditiro for sacrificing his own race to run alongside me. Thank you to all my friends, those who run and those who don’t, for all your support and encouragement. Thank you to all the runner bloggers for your advice and kind words. Thank you to my parents and in-laws for taking care of the kids so we can participate in these races. Finally, thank you to Coach Nicola from Running Happy for giving me such focus, guidance and clear direction.

Once again I am linking up with the amazing Courtney at Eat Pray Run for the Training Recap and the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap. I am also joining Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run. Linking up is such a great way to get motivated and to stay accountable! So please take some extra time to read some of their stories.

Friday Five: FIVE times I didn’t QUIT

I am so excited to be linking up for the first time with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for the Friday Five 2.0! Please hop over to their blogs and others for some great inspiration.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I am a newbie runner from Gaborone, Botswana. To keep me going, I (bravely or stupidly) set myself the challenge of running 17 races in 2017! So far I have done four of them (a 5k trail run; the Mini-Monster 10k in South Africa; a 10k race in Gaborone where I set my current PB; and a 10k trail run in fancy dress)! I am having so much fun doing this but there are days when it seems easier to quit! So to keep me motivated, I decided to look back at FIVE TIMES I DID NOT QUIT! 

1 – Ballroom Dancing Competition (1989): Let’s take it way back! I was 9 years old and my mum had enrolled my sister and I in ballroom dancing classes. I lived in Lobatse, a small town about 72 km from Gaborone. I am not and was never a natural dancer but even at that age I was so determined to work hard and be good. I ended up being chosen for a big Ballroom Dancing Competition held in Gaborone. Going to compete in the “big city” was scary enough, not to mention that the competition was to be aired on TV! The event was scheduled to start at 8 pm, but we only got on at midnight. I was so nervous waiting that I ended up with an awful headache that I had to sleep off before I got on. Don’t ask me how as I still don’t know… but my dancing partner Mompati and I placed FIRST in the Tiny Tots Category! I stopped dancing shortly after that, but I can always claim that victory in ballroom dancing! Lesson: Hard work and a great partnership pays off. 

2 – Climbing Table Mountain (2003): I was doing some volunteering work in Cape Town. I was very fit at the time (no running, but lots of gym classes) so I felt ready to conquer Table Mountain. I set off one Saturday with another volunteer Chris. I don’t remember many details but I do remember the number of times I wanted to quit… the climb was like going up a never-ending steep staircase. It was so unbelievably painful and with each step I took I was completely and utterly disappointed that all my fitness classes had not prepared me for this mountain. But we did not quit. I will always be thankful to Chris that he stuck with me the whole way and had several encouraging words even at times when he too was struggling. Lessons, 1) the right kind of preparation is needed for any challenge. Yes, I was fit but I had no experience climbing mountains; 2) taking it step by step will get you there in the end.

3 – Walking the Bibbulmun Track (2005): My boyfriend (now husband Ditiro) was studying in Australia. On one of my visits to him, we decided to walk 120 km of the Bibbulmun Track which runs from Perth to Albany (around 1000 km). We planned to walk 60 km and then back again over 7 days. We carried backpacks each weighing 15 – 20 kg with all our food supplies and camping gear for the week. It rained as soon as we set off and within 5 km we were drenched, tired and wanted to quit. The terrain was torturous, the flies were relentless and doing about 20 km took us the WHOLE day. You couldn’t just stop and set up camp at any time – you had to get to the designated camping spots and preferably before nightfall as there were snakes about! Every day when the sun set and we were still far from camp, I cried. Lessons, 1) Canned food tastes so good after a day of hiking, 2) Don’t pack canned food if you have to carry it for 7 days!; 3) Distraction gets you through physical pain. We did our fastest 20 km when we were in a heated argument!

Notice the natural Nike Sign – just do it?

4 – Victoria Falls Bungee Jump (2010): This was on my Bucket List of “30 things to do before turning 30”. It was actually not my first attempt at bungee jumping. In 2003, I walked the bridge to do the Bloukrans Bungee Jump in South Africa. However, when I saw those guys coming back up with such blood shot eyes, I changed my mind. But 7 years later, I didn’t chicken out even when the big, LOUD, know-it-all guy in front of me did. Would I do it again? No. Do I regret doing it? No. Lesson: It takes leaving your comfort zone to realise what you are truly made of. 

5 – Jwaneng 30 km Desert Walk (2016): Shortly after my son turned 2 in May 2016, I was feeling quite frustrated that although I had lost a lot of baby weight, I was no where near fit. I was struggling to balance work, being a mum, and getting fit. When I signed up for this walk, I felt it would force me to get fit again. But as the time drew close, I was terrified as I had not really trained much. Thirty kilometres through thick desert sand is no joke! I did it with Ditiro and my friend Elisa and as people dropped out one by one, we kept putting one foot in front of the other. We completed it in SEVEN hours! Lesson: Setting a goal is always the best starting point. This walk gave me the encouragement and the resolve to reclaim my fitness and ultimately gave birth to the “17 in 2017” Challenge!

So I will NOT quit no matter how hard it gets. 

Thanks for reading! Have you ever really felt like quitting?