I have this crazy goal to run 17 races in 2017. However, getting to this number means travelling outside Botswana for some of them. So in my second race of the year, I suddenly went from “novice runner” to “runner with international experience”. 🙂 I chose the Medihelp Sunrise Mini-Monster (10k) in Pretoria, South Africa. My training was far from ideal leading up to the race, but I was still quite excited. In the last week of training, I did two classes of pilates but only managed one run on Wednesday (2.77 km, 20:47 mins, 7:30 min/km pace). On the 4-hour drive to Pretoria we enjoyed the scenic views and happily sipped on our cappuccinos, blissfully aware that we didn’t have kid duties for the next two days 🙂
We arrived just on time to collect our race packs (bibs and temporary license numbers) and then had supper.
The Race: I tossed and turned all night so when my alarm went off at 04:30 I was only too happy to get up. We forced down some cereal before heading to the race. There were SO many cars and people. I knew it was a big race but it was a complete shock especially coming from the races we are used to. We only found parking 2 km away so the walk to the start ended up being a nice warm-up session!
I knew Pretoria was a lot hillier than Gaborone which is very, very flat. However, I too quickly realised why the race is called the “Monster” and why this statement was made about it: “This undulating route is not for the faint-hearted”. The course is set in an area where there are only ups and ups and more ups! The first uphill was within the first km and this quite simply defined the race. Every time you got down a hill, another one was just around the corner.
My Strategy: Ditiro had reminded me before the race that “What goes up must come down” and had advised that even if I have to walk up the hills I should run down each one and run on all the flat bits. This is exactly what I did. Even when I was so out of breath after the climb I made sure I recovered while running down the hill. It was intense. It was painful. But I kept going. My pace on some of those hills was down at 16 min/ km, but I did my best to bolt down the hills and at one stage even managed 06:32 min/ km. In the last 2 km it was relatively flat and I maintained a good pace of between 07:23 and 07:35 min/ km all the way until the end which turned out to be my fastest stretch overall.
Route: Started at the Harlequin Rugby Grounds and made our way through a pretty and HILLY residential area including the University of South Africa (UNISA) campus.
My time: Ditiro has been running for 25 years and confidently says this is the toughest one he has done. He still managed a great 54 minutes. I asked him what he thought when he was waiting for me and he said: “I knew you would do your best to finish because you are a fighter. I knew you would push until the end. But what I didn’t know is whether you would come back on foot or in an ambulance”. 🙂 So he was shocked when he saw me coming through in 1:28:33 hrs, beaten down but still with a little bit of fight left. There will be many more races to come and most (if not all) will be done in a better time. But this one will always be one of my greatest running victories because I had to dig so deep to finish it.
After the Race: We met up with our friends from back home who were visiting South Africa and we had a great breakfast! When they left, we did some shopping and enjoyed several well-earned cappuccinos and even a slice of gluten free cake! 🙂
- I have come a long way: When I turned 36 in October, I committed to getting fitter. This “17 in 2017” goal is all part of that bigger picture to get fit. It has not been a smooth journey but this race showed me that I am a lot stronger than I think I am. Those hills kept coming at me, but I kept pushing back. I felt strong.
- Secure a place closer to the starting line: All the races I have done so far have had far smaller crowds. I have never seen crowds of this magnitude and I had thought they would organise us into batches (according to our predicted finish times). However, this was not the case. So in future, I will need to get to big races a whole lot earlier so I don’t end up so far back and having to wade through all the fun walkers.
- I still run funny and don’t breathe well: Knocked knees don’t make for glamourous running but hopefully my form will improve as I get even stronger. My breathing still doesn’t sound like what I think it should but at least it is now more rhythmic! 🙂
- Temporary license numbers are needed for South African races: Luckily we purchased this online so when we collected our bib numbers, our license numbers were already included in the envelope.
Pros/ Cons of the race:
- The registration process was on-line and very easy. The race pack collection was also extremely well-organised. When we arrived, several volunteers were standing next to alphabetised boxes, (e.g. A – C; D – F) so we were in and out in no time.
- The marshalls were a huge highlight – cheerful, funny, and encouraging as they tried to convince us that “there will be a surprise at the top of the hill, just keep pushing” and “No smile, no drink!”.
- The distance markers were very accurate. When it said “7 km” you knew that it was 7 km which helped with pacing and just morale!
- The runners were phenomenal! Such a beautiful atmosphere and as we got to each hill some would shout: “Up! Up! Up! Monster! This is the Monster!!!”
- No goodie bags!! For the few races I have done in Botswana you always get a goodie bag (drinks, sweets, t-shirts, etc.) before the race. So we were shocked that all we got were our race numbers! At the end of the race though we did get a t-shirt and cap after we collected our medals.
- There were no chips/ transponders – so two days on and we still don’t have our official times.
- There were no corrals and with maybe 10,000 people, this was a struggle! A lot of fun walkers were way ahead of us and blocking faster walkers and runners. It took one minute for me to get to the gantry and then maybe four minutes to get through all the congestion.
- At the end of the race, we had to go through a very narrow, muddy path to get to the finish line which prevented a nice sprint finish at the end.
Would I do this race again?
I went into this race completely ignorant of the Monster! Would I do it again knowing how gruelling it really is? long pause I think so. It is a one of a kind race which can’t really be compared to other races. Even if I never do it again, one thing I know for sure is that I will NEVER forget the day I conquered the Monster!