On the 10th of March 2019, I ran the Gabs 1/2 Marathon. This was my third Half, following my two last year, the Diacore in May and the Soweto in November. For my first two Half Marathons, I had only one goal – TO FINISH. For this Half, I decided to set a specific time goal of 2:35 (07:21 min/km pace). In hindsight this was quite an ambitious goal but when I set off, there was no question in my mind that this goal was achievable.
The Race: The Race Start/ Finish was at Airport Junction Mall which is a 5-minute drive from our house and there is plenty of parking space. So we didn’t need to worry about any of the logistics we had to with Diacore and Soweto.
We got to the race and found Zurika, Elisa, Polelo and Tshireletso all raring to go. Only Zurika and I had registered for the Half so we were a bit more anxious than the others. I had a good warm up, organised my music player and was generally in good spirits. After 10 solid weeks of training, I felt ready.
The Route: As the race is so close to home, I knew every little bump and pothole in the road, every left and right turn and also the distances between different points. In team sport terms, I had a clear home advantage! I had just never run all the sections in one go.
A Glorious 15 km Run
1 – 5 km: Splits min/km (07:01/07:22/07:22/07:16/07:01). The Half runners were a small group (I don’t think we could have been more than 200) and many set off at quite a fast pace. Zurika was with me for about 200 m before powering away. This was my first Half Marathon without my running buddy Tapiwa and it did initially feel quite weird. For my first Half I ran with her for 16 km and for the second, for about 5 km. I made my way through Block 10 neighbourhood and then turned right onto the Airport Road. The familiarity of the route was quite comforting. At 5 km I was ahead of schedule and my legs felt good. At around 5.5 km we turned back and headed for the Airport Lights.
6 – 10 km: Splits min/km (07:16/ 07:29/ 07:07/ 07:05/ 07:09). In this section, my body was in flow. The tar surface was smooth and I felt so beautifully prepared for this race. The only hiccup came towards the end when I had to cross a big intersection. As I was at the back of the pack, the policeman decided to let cars go through. I was momentarily flustered but then decided that instead of stopping I would go right and then stay on the other side of the road until I could cross over. This worked out quite nicely.
11 – 15 km: Splits min/km (07:30/ 07:37/ 07:28/ 07:19/ 07:35). Probably 90% of my short runs are done on this stretch of road so I was well within my comfort zone. Shortly after the Block 8 circle (around 12 km) I decided to take my first gel. I had hoped I could stretch it out a bit more, but I realised my pace was dropping and I wasn’t feeling as energetic as before. I headed to the BTV circle and then took a left to go over the first flyover. I was strong up the incline and when the 15 km beep sounded I was still on goal-time.
How It Came Undone
16 – 20 km: Splits min/km (07:41/ 08:05/ 08:15/ 08:02/ 07:48). As I descended the BTV Flyover and took a left, I suddenly felt really drained and my pace dropped even further. I started to lose focus and when I did the math, I realised I had fallen off target. My music player battery died around this time which was such poor timing as music would have helped through this rough patch. My legs felt fine but I was just failing at all attempts to pick up the pace. There were so few runners on the road now and with the city fully awake there were several cars unnervingly close to me. The sun was out in full force and the road was so deceptively steep, far steeper than I remembered in training. At 18 km, I took another gel and soon after I took the final turn onto the Taung Flyover. I was near the end.
20 – 21.1 km: Splits min/km (07:34/ 06:50). When I got down to the Airport Lights, I was surprised that we were being told to go across the Road. Immediately I knew the course was too long. When the Half distance sounded on my watch, I still had about 500 m to go and it took everything to push through. As I turned the last corner I spotted my dad, Ditiro was holding the camera and Zurika had one kid in each hand.
I was so happy they were there. This was probably one of my loneliest races – 21 km close to the back of the back, very little spectator support and impatient drivers headed to work. Seeing my people was so uplifting and together, we ran towards the Finish Line.
The nice thing about finishing towards the end is that all volunteers are waiting to wrap it up! And my kids sprinting down that stretch brought huge cheers! I raised my arms as I crossed the Finish and then spotted Elisa in front of the big crowd!
My time: My watch gave me 02:37:42 which was not 2:35 but was still a 3:41 min PB. Sadly, with the distance being too long, my race official time is 02:41:46 (21.69 km).
After the Race: I was exhausted and emotional. I felt I ran the first 15 km really well, and I achieved a major PB. But I was also slightly disappointed that the last 6 km had been such a struggle! But after talking to experienced Half Marathoners, it seems the general consensus is that those last 5 – 6 km is all about digging deep and finding your strong. A friend of ours, Johannes, also reminded me how important speed work/ interval training is and I’ve actually incorporated a lot of that into my current training cycle.
I always plan to write my race recaps shortly after the race, but I find I need a bit of time to figure it all out in my head – the obvious joy of finishing my third Half, getting a PB, having such supportive friends and family, and running with my kids to the finish. But also the slight disappointment that things fell apart at the end. Friends, there is a lot more work to do. And you know what I say to that? Bring it on! 🙂
I’m joining two fabulous runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!