On the 24th June 2018, I participated in the PPC Kgale Hill Challenge for the first time. This is a 15 km race and includes the beautiful yet punishing Kgale Hill. It is one of the older races on the Botswana race calendar and this was its 20th anniversary. For several years, it has been my husband’s favourite race and because of the Hill I always felt it was out of reach. However, as they day grew closer, I was really excited! The day before the race I caught a cold but it wasn’t bad enough for me to cancel the race. I was confident as I had some good runs leading up to the race so I knew I was ready.
Race Morning: We got up early and I had my breakfast cereal in the car. We were scheduled for a 7 am start and we arrived at around 06:30. It was quite cold so we sat in the car for a bit before heading to the start for some photos and a warm up.
There were around 300 runners for the 15 km route and they also had a 5 km Fun Run option that was scheduled to start shortly after us. Due to some construction on the road, they had changed the route from previous years. The usual start was at Wharic Park but this year we started at Game City and went onto the A1 before turning by Gaborone Technical College and into the neighbourhood surrounding Kgale Hill.
1 – 5 km: As there were so few runners, getting a good starting position was not difficult. We were busy chatting when we heard the sharp crack of the starting gun at 07:03! I started with Tapiwa. Everything felt good and I was so relieved. My cold seemed to be behaving quite nicely. I was happy. Tapiwa left me around the 2/3 km point but I was soon joined by another friend Chandi. My overall splits for the first 5 km were faster than usual: 06:54/ 07:22/ 07:30/ 07:22/ 07:38.
6 – 10 km: Chandi and I found a comfortable pace. Our strides were remarkably similar and reminded me of the first time I ran 19 km – she was with me on that occasion too and we ran in perfect rhythm. We chatted a lot which really helped especially as I started to feel the change in gradient. We pulled each other along as our pace varied slightly with changes in elevation. We soon saw Ditiro who was on his way back down! We then got to the stone crushers (met Johannes coming down) and were on the stretch of narrow, uneven dirt track which led to the concrete path. Shortly before the water point at the base of the steep incline, I told Chandi to push ahead as I needed to walk for a bit. But I tried to keep my eye on her so the distance didn’t get too big. The Hill took it’s toll and I was happy when I saw Zurika, Elisa, Malaney, Tapiwa and Nelene coming back down. When I saw Chandi again, I knew I was close and was so relieved as I was starting to feel nauseous. My splits for this section (km/min): 07:26/ 07:51/ 07:32/ 08:34/ 10:10. You can tell when I succumbed to the pressure of the Hill!
11 – 15 km: After the last bit of incline I was finally at the top having gone up 258 metres!
As I went around the marshals at the top, they ticked our bibs with two different coloured markers. I immediately headed back down the hill as nimbly as I could. The steep descent was quite challenging. I used the downhill to recover as much as possible but when the gradient was safer I harnessed gravity as much as my legs would allow. The last 2 km were amazing, firstly, the surface was a lot smoother, but secondly, I found a guy walking who said “I like your pace” and he immediately joined me. We muttered how hard the Hill had been but apart from that we didn’t say much at all. We ran in unison, our strides matching and every time I could feel him tire a bit I would say “We’ve got this”. When we neared the last bend, I said, “Come on! That medal is ours, let’s get it!”
As I increased my pace, he increased his to match. We caught up with two others and said, “Let’s go guys!!” We pushed each other right to the final sprint across the Finish Line. It was such a fine effort and great sportsmanship between strangers. My splits (min/km): 15:09/ 08:18/ 07:12/ 07:29/ 06:32.
My time: A new PB! My previous 15 km PB stood at 02:05:18. But I did this race in 2:03:46 even with a Hill involved! I joined my friends and we talked about our wonderful race experiences! I can’t remember having so much fun on a race course.
After the Race: We took lots of photos and I had to include one of my running partner Chandi as she had been with me for a good part of the race, getting me through the grueling course, one step and story at a time!
Afterwards, we went to Mugg n’ Bean with our caps and medals and had a lovely breakfast and of course a cappuccino! 😉
This was definitely one of my best race experiences. That Hill throws a huge spanner in the works but conquering it is just the BEST feeling. I am going to familiarise myself more and more with that Hill because if I can run up, I know it will one day give me a huge edge. My husband always says, “If you’re going to run on a hill then train on a hill.” 🙂