On the 28th and 29th September 2019, I took part in Runtheberg – a 2-stage trail race in the Northern Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. I chose the Challenge Race which was 17 km of climbing and running on the first day, and then 14 km on the second day, both days totaling a net ascent of approx. 1,140 metres. To learn more about why I chose this race and how I trained for it, have a look at my June/July and August training recaps. Before I get to the race recap, this is what went down in the final month of September.
If you read my last post, you will know that I lost my mum towards the end of August, and her funeral was on the 31st of that month. I ran the evening before she passed. I still remember the distance so clearly, 8.65 km. Things were not looking too good at that point but the run helped me process some of my emotions. In fact, in the 9 weeks that she was sick, my running really helped me to cope with some very difficult hospital visits and tumultuous emotions. The knot in my stomach was never as strong while running. It always returned shortly afterwards but on the run it usually eased a little.
That run was my last for 10 days and the running break would probably have lasted a lot longer if my husband hadn’t convinced me to go for a run one lunch break, a couple of days after the funeral. It was really hot but I managed 6 km.
After that, I focused on Coach Nicola’s plan as closely as I could. On many days, I would go for my run but then crawl back into bed once I was done. When I returned to work, I continued to focus on running. I guess it was the only thing I had control over and as a fellow runner wrote to me, it’s kind of hard to run and cry at the same time. My training schedule consisted of a number of Easy Runs, Tempo Runs, Fartleks, Downhill Training and Long Runs. One of my long runs was a fun 14 km exploration of the Mokolodi Nature Reserve with a few friends. It was a lot warmer so no animals were spotted this time.
I involved the kids a lot in my training this month even though my 5-year old (on his bike) felt my Easy Runs were just too slow for him. At one point I was ‘forced’ to remind him that, “Your mum is a 5 x Half Marathoner”. I suspect that fell on deaf ears though, LOL. All my running amounted to my highest monthly mileage for 2019 – 139.3 km!
Strength training continued at home and I managed a few pilates sessions too. I also did another hike up Kgale Hill which was really fun and as I found out later, very useful training for the Berg! The kids were amazing, hopping up like real mountain goats as they made their way to the highest point of Gaborone.
September was jam packed with races. On the week I returned to running, I had a Half Marathon that Sunday. My first goal was to get to the Start Line and once I achieved that, it was to get to the Finish Line. I wore a peach ribbon for Uterine Cancer to honour my mum and I made ribbons for all the friends I knew would be running. I started out nice and easy but when I got to 17 km, I realised I was en route to a very unexpected PB. I came home in 2:24:01, 4:45 min off my previous fastest time.
On the 21st September, I had another race – this time I chose the 5 km option at the Botswana Independence Race. My coach wanted me to go easy as I had another race the following day, and we were just a week from Run the Berg. But I couldn’t help myself and bolted to my fastest 5 km time ever, 30:34.
The following day I did the Mokolodi Scorpion 10 km Trail Run. This race wasn’t as smooth sailing as the other two, firstly it was so hot and secondly, my legs were tired from my Speedy Gonzalez performance the previous day. No racing this time, I was just happy to get the job done. There were three main benefits to this run – I got to test out my Camelbak hydration pack which had just arrived via courier from the USA, I got to run in hot conditions and I got to practice racing on tired legs.
Thoughts and Feelings
For so long I had dreamt and talked about the Berg. I had even shown my mum several race videos before she got ill. But after what happened, I felt I was just going through the motions of training. I love preparing and organising, but this time apart from running, I had no interest in anything else. So all the purchasing of gear, gathering of compulsory items, sorting travel arrangements, and preparing race fuel fell to my poor husband.
I tried to feign excitement but a lot of the time it all felt so trivial. But I never lost sight of how amazing this adventure would be. Although nervous, I woke up on Race Morning feeling ready. There are lots of details to follow in the Race Recap, but fellow readers, I did it. In Sir Edmund Hillary’s famous words, “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”. These words really resonated with me on both race days.
[Run The Berg Training September: 139.3 km| Berg Cycle: 461.3 km| 2019 Mileage: 1,013.9 km]
What’s New on the Blog?
There are no new blog posts, but I’ve finally joined Instagram, here is my link! Please follow me if you are keen for some more regular updates. For those of you who prefer Facebook, I’m still there and you can find me using this link. I owe you a whole lot of recaps. Now that I have some of kind of routine going, I will tackle each, one by one. I can’t wait to share them all with you, and hopefully (!) before my next Half in a month’s time!