For those who are regular readers of my blog, you know who Tapiwa is. She has featured in several training and race recaps! We often start our races together, have a good chat before she pushes ahead for her powerhouse finishes. We have a great running partnership and if I am to define it, I would say we bring out the best in each other. We have had some great adventures and mishaps – getting mugged in one race and spending half the time thinking we were lost in another. But we always come out stronger… and laughing! Tapiwa was a top athlete at school, excelling in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. In her adult years she made the transition to longer distances. She mostly does road races but her heart is most content when she is out on some wild mountain trails. In September 2017, she did Runtheberg which is a 2-day stage race in the Drakensberg, Africa’s premier mountain range, stretching from the Western Cape to the Limpopo in South Africa. This challenge was in the Northern Berg, between the Highveld and the Indian Ocean, 300 km out of Durban. There are two options for the race, the “Challenge” which is 15 km per day and the “Extreme” which is 25 km per day. Tapiwa did the Challenge and for this post I asked her: What FIVE things did you learn from Running the Berg? This is her phenomenal answer.
1 – When anxious I find ways of calming myself
I don’t usually get a good night’s rest the day before a trail race. I lay awake, trying to convince myself that it is going to be fun. Even after completing the first 15 km on Day 1, I have to prepare myself psychologically for the next 15 km the following day. I tell myself I am going to complete the race. I tell myself that if all else fails I will just walk to the end. Waking up is not a problem. That weekend the mornings were clear, sun was out but it was cold. Looking up into the majestic mountains simply takes one’s breath away. Looking up, it was CALMING.
2 – I am privileged to have a healthy body and sound mind
Day 1, the first 6 km is uphill. This is when my ability to zone out kicks in. I take in the views and listen to my breathing. Weaving between forest trees and climbing rocky cliffs. At this point in the race I tell myself to just keep running, just run this minute, just clamber up the next rock outcrop, just don’t stop. On Day 2, it’s harder to keep running when your toes hurt. But that pain was not enough to hurt my race. I just kept going.
3 – The Power of the Human Spirit
On Day 2 the terrain changes from the first days of rocky cliffs to an open savannah type of grassland. With 5 km left to completing my 30 km challenge, I had a mantra, I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS; I GET TO DO THIS. I was among the slower trail runners and I connected with other people who needed encouragement. We were all helping each other. We were just those ordinary people being extraordinarily courageous. We were not elite athletes. We just didn’t want to fail. The amazing power of the human spirit…
4 – No one reaches their full potential without learning from others
On both days there was a lady out on the trail, Mbali. For the last 2 km of Day 2, she helped me find ways to keep moving at a decent pace. I actually ran fastest in those last 2 km! I could even jump and pose for a picture. I wanted to live up to the role I had set myself – that I had the audacity to try something great and inspire people in the process. In doing so, I faced my own fears, I faced the fear of pain.
5 – I just don’t quit and I am always up for a challenge
No matter how much things hurt, not once during the race did I feel like quitting. The only person I was racing against was myself. The goal – to finish. And I finished what I had started. After crossing that finish line, 30 km completed through such treacherous terrain, there was no big clock to remind me that I was slow. There were only cheers, a beer truck and wors rolls. I met up with my crew of Zulu maidens and we planned our next trail. We were all ready for an ULTRA TRAIL. And indeed, the Cape Town Ultra Trail in December was our next race….but that is a story for another day.
Thank you Tapiwa for taking the time to reflect on your journey and some of the lessons you took away. I think we often forget what great things we are capable of, what phenomenal challenges we can accomplish, and what obstacles we can overcome if we put our minds to it. The resilience of the human spirit. I for one have always been inspired by your determination to get the job done. My daughter Kaia reminds me of you – you face each challenge with a quiet confidence and formidable strength. It leaves the rest of us wanting to push ourselves even more.