When Ditiro and I got married, it was inconceivable that we would celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary with a Trail Race. Whereas Ditiro has always enjoyed running, I avoided it at all costs. But a couple of years ago, after years of little exercise, I decided it was time to get fit. Running seemed the only realistic option – it was cheap and with two young kids it was convenient. But my personality (by no means my athleticism) was never going to allow me to be a casual runner – in my first year of running I ran 17 races and this year I ran my first Half Marathon. I am still a back of the packer but running has become such an important part of our lives. So celebrating our milestone with a race seemed only natural. We chose the Magalies Adventure Trail for several reasons. It was hosted at African Pride Mount Grace Country House and Spa Hotel which is an awesome venue.
It was perfectly timed with a long weekend in Botswana and is only about a 4-hour drive from Gaborone. Also, with our eyes firmly set on the Soweto Race in November, we figured we could do with some crazy hill training! 🙂
Race Morning: The race was scheduled for an 8 am start but we only set off at 08:15 as we had to wait for the cyclists to have cleared the path. The late start gave us extra time to warm up and as I had strained my knee a few days earlier this worked in my favour. The race commentator kept us well entertained with some good banter. It was a very small crowd so we managed to chat to a few people as we waited. We even spoke to a lady filming the event who said she had filmed the Diacore Gaborone Marathon before.
The Race: We all started together but there were four different distances, 4 km (20 runners), 8 km (14 runners), 16 km (30 runners) and 25 km (13 runners). When I saw some of the 25 km athletes I was very pleased that we had chosen the 16 km Route. They definitely seemed way out of my league! The route was well marked and aside from a minor glitch at the end when we were led astray by another runner, we never got lost.
1 – 5 km: Just a few metres out of the gantry we got off the tarred road and turned left onto the reddish-brown trail.
The road for the first kilometre was quite wide but almost immediately our ascent began. We soon turned off onto a narrow path that wound beautifully and painfully up a hill. The green sugar bush trees against the brown grass formed a beautiful backdrop.
The first km turned out to be my fastest but one would never have guessed from all the huffing and puffing I was doing! But even with the heavy breathing, it was difficult to ignore the spectacular panoramic views including a sighting of our hotel.
We were behind most of the 8 km and 16 km runners but we made sure to keep up with a couple and a lady who was further ahead. She had on an orange shirt and I kept saying to Ditiro that we needed to keep an eye on her.
At the 5 km point there was a water station and the couple veered off to the left to finish their 8 km route. We went right and continued to look out for our orange-shirted pace maker! My overall splits (min/km) were: 07:51/ 09:06/ 09:07/ 09:30/ 08:49.
6 – 10 km: I ran on all the flat bits and I tried to maintain this pace on the gentler inclines. However, I was forced to walk in many sections. The late start meant it was very hot and it was also humid as it had rained the night before. Coming from a very dry city like ours that was difficult to adjust to. Around 8 km we spotted some cyclists and then went through a gate by a chicken farm. The surface changed to black furnace tailings.
We then struggled up a steep section so the 9 km water stop fully decked out with jelly babies and chocolates at the top was a very welcome sight! I grabbed a handful of jellies and spent the next kilometre chewing on them. It was a much needed sugar hit. Thankfully the next kilometre was flatter which allowed me to run a bit more. My splits for this section were: 08:44/ 08:21/ 09:17/ 10:50/ 08:33.
11 – 14 km: The terrain was generally more forgiving in this section tending downwards, with just one big hill to conquer. Around 12 km, we met a 25-km runner who had run out of water and complained that he had not used enough sunscreen. Thankfully, we had grabbed an extra bottle at the water stop so we gave him that one which he seemed quite pleased about. My splits: 08:14/ 10:23/ 07:52/ 09:31.
15 – 16 km: With just a couple of kilometres left, we saw our orange-shirted pace maker walking back with the 25-km runner we had helped with water. The 25-km runner was quite frantic saying we must have missed a turn as there were no more markers. Ditiro very confidently said we had not missed any markers and he pointed out some upturned soil indicating bicycle tracks going left. At this point we were close to the hotel so we knew we were not in danger of getting lost. We continued on our way and up a short incline we saw a pink marker confirming we were on the right track. We crossed some wooden bridges and at this point we could hear the Finish Line music.
I walked up one last incline and then as I spotted a photographer and the gantry, and heard the cheerful voice of the race commentator, I broke into a run with the biggest smile on my face as I came through the Finish! My last splits were: 08:38/ 09:28.
My time: I ran the 16 km course in 2:23:46. It was a tough race for me but I am so glad that I pushed through to the end and finished smiling. Of the 30 who did the 16 km Route, eight did not finish. I am not surprised as it is quite challenging if you are not used to trails. Trail running is a whole new ball game – it is challenging but also beautifully calming. Some of those climbs were intense but the gorgeous views and surroundings kept our spirits high. I also didn’t feel that frantic rush I have in road races where my mind is always on pace. I actually stopped to take photos which is unheard of on the road. But… I must admit as a loyal road runner that I do love the predictability of that trusty tarmac!
After the Race:We stuck around for a little bit and it was a great atmosphere. The whole team of organisers and sponsors did a fantastic job putting together a well organised and friendly event. We also introduced ourselves to our orange-shirted pace maker, Rethabile, and it was great to hear how many trail adventures she has participated in across South Africa. Seeing her up ahead throughout the race really kept me focused!
Afterwards we went to the Black Horse Craft Brewery and Restaurant, a well-acclaimed eating place in Magaliesburg, and enjoyed some good ol’ comfort food and drinks, as well as some stunning views.
Running with Ditiro on this beautiful trail was the perfect way for us to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. The Magalies Adventure Facebook Page shared this video of the event and we feature from around 2:30 min with my shoe taking centre stage! Take a peak – the video gives you a real feel of the whole event! 🙂
I am linking up with Holly and Wendy for the Weekly Wrap. I am also linking up with Marcia, Patty and Erica for Tuesdays on the Run. Be sure to catch up on what all these fabulous ladies have been up to!