On the 13th of May 2018, I ran my First Half Marathon on the streets of Gaborone, my beautiful home city. It was an incredible experience, one that I will not easily forget. Crossing that Finish Line meant everything to me. It was the reward for 19 weeks of hard work. It was validation that I am actually a runner. It was proof that I have what it takes to go the distance, to push through the pain and to get the job done. I am not a natural athlete. I am still working on my form. But I have a lot of heart and fight. And that is why this race was a triumph in every sense of the word. Ready for the details? 😉
The Night Before: After dropping the kids with my sister, Ditiro and I enjoyed some pasta before heading to bed.
I didn’t feel too nervous. In fact, one word that kept popping into my head was “relief”. I felt relieved that the day was finally here. This race was all I had been thinking about for 19 weeks so it was nice that the wait was over. It was time. In the morning, I had a warm shower, a gluten free banana muffin and then I spent a long time looking for my knee strap. But it was nowhere to be found. As we drove to the race my main thought was “Will my knee manage without that strap for 21.1 km?” My second thought was “I haven’t done Number 2”. My third thought was “Ditiro forgot the camera so my first Half Marathon won’t be recorded.” My fourth thought was “How am I going to get rid of this jacket?”
The Race: We parked where we had last year (about a km from the start) and were excited to see our friend Leruo and a few other runners we knew. The walk to the venue was a nice warm up. I immediately headed for the toilets and on the way bumped into my friend Zurika who was doing her first Full Marathon! She could tell I was a bit stressed so said “Just breathe.” I had a “successful” toilet trip and then headed to the Start. Ditiro found one of his clients in the crowd who volunteered to hold my jacket as I ran. With 5 minutes to go, Tapiwa emerged from the crowds. I was so thankful. She has run most of my runs with me this year. Starting without her would have been odd. We couldn’t find Elisa but knowing how early she usually arrives, we assumed she was up in the front. We warmed up a little bit more. At exactly 06:30, the gun sounded and we were off.
The Route: A beautifully FLAT course taking us through the old and new parts of Gaborone.
1 – 5 km: Splits min/km (07:49/ 07:38/ 07:34/ 07:10/ 07:14). I love running with Tapiwa because we easily find our stride and chat through all the physical pain. We kept the chatter light and caught up on life as we pushed through the crowds. As we approached 4 km we were surprised that our average pace was faster than usual. We just figured the adrenaline and excitement was getting us through it. Our legs felt good, our breathing was great and we were surprisingly comfortable.
6 – 10 km: Splits min/km (07:00/ 07:05/ 07:12/ 07:10/ 07:13). This was our fastest 5 km stretch! Again, we questioned whether we should slow it down but our bodies felt so good so we just kept going. With most of our races being 10 km, it was not lost on us how far we were from finishing. We were all the way on the other side of town. As we crossed the 10 km mark, I turned to Tapiwa and said “I think that’s a 10 km PB!”
11 – 15 km: Splits min/km (07:20/ 07:49/ 07:45/ 07:54/ 07:43). As we took the turn by the University Circle, I said ” We are soon going to see my babies”. I knew if my sister had found her way around the road closures to the Main Mall we would see her and the kids in the next couple of km with the signs we had made!
Around the 12 km point I spotted them. When I heard my sister’s trademark shriek I knew they had seen us too. She ran towards us with Kaia by her side. Having my little girl run alongside me on my first Half Marathon was amazing. She shouted “Mummy, I am running faster than you”. My sister updated us on how all our friends were doing and then said to us, “Why are you talking? Save your energy!” to which Tapiwa responded “Talking is getting us through this!” We then saw my little boy who beamed with pride as we ran past. What a boost of energy this gave us. Pure unadulterated happiness.
16 – 20 km: Splits min/km (07:45/ 08:05/ 08:04/ 08:06/ 07:45). Just before entering the CBD, Tapiwa’s engine was rearing to go and off she went! That stretch winding through the CBD was tough. Maybe because it was the first stretch I was alone? Maybe because I was so close and yet so far? My slower paces tell the story. Towards the end of this stretch, we joined the tail end of the 10 km runners so there was a little bit of weaving around. Remember I said Ditiro forgot the camera at home? Well because he finished in around 1:42 hours he had time to drive home and get it. As I was entering my last 1.5 km he spotted me and ran some parts with me as he took photos. It helps to have a husband who is one whole hour faster! I shouldn’t improve my time too much. LOL!
20 – 21.1 km: Splits min/km (07:54/ 06:13) How do I put into words what I felt in this final stretch? Ditiro asked how I was doing and I told him I was still feeling good but I was tired. When he sprinted ahead to get some more photos, it took everything in me to just keep pushing forward. But I kept smiling.
As I entered the Hotel Grounds and saw the Finish Line I questioned whether I had the strength for a final sprint. I did! I looked at the Finish Line, I kept my head tall and bolted as fast as my tired legs could carry me.
Oh, and you know I love some drama! I started waving my hands around. I think I even threw a few fist pumps in the air as I pushed, finishing strong, happy, and PROUD!!
My dear friends Polelo and Paul captured photos on the other side of the Finish Line. As you can clearly see, I am not one to hide my emotions! I was a tad bit excited to see them.
My time: I never really had a time goal BUT I always hoped I could do it in under 2h 45 min and I did! My official time was 02:41:01. Best of all, I feel I have found my distance. I have always felt too slow for 10 km – just as I find my stride it’s time to finish. But this distance was my Goldilocks, it felt just right.
After the Race: Joy. Joy. And more joy. We all met up, hugged, kissed and exchanged stories. There we all were – running for different reasons, going through different things in life, but united by our strong bonds of friendship and our love for running. As we waited for our Marathon Runner friends, I sat almost in disbelief that we had done this. I kept saying “We did it. We set this goal. We conquered this distance”. It was a feeling like no other. And although I have had some post-race blues the last 3 weeks, I am so ready to get back out there. There is still a lot of work to do. But I am ready to put in that work. This is only the beginning… hello? I am a now long distance runner. 🙂
Acknowledgements: Thank you to everyone for supporting me on this journey – my inspirational runner friends who push me to be a better runner; my non-runner friends who listen to my running stories; my blogger community who keep me accountable and share such motivational personal stories; my family for all the babysitting and for putting up with my “far-fetched” goals; my kids for telling people their mummy “wins all the races”; my Coach Nicola for designing a program that really works for me (we haven’t met but this medal is as much yours as it is mine); my husband – well, for everything… and for running back to get that camera. Thank you all. We did it!
I am linking up with the inspirational Holly from HoHo Runs and the fabulous Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home. Where would I be without this group of inspirational ladies? This link-up is a force to be reckoned with!