The Gaborone Striders Runners Club (GSRC) organised another successful 10×10 Challenge Event towards the end of 2019 with participation increasing from a 120 runners in 2018 to 359 runners. With its popularity quickly increasing, I really hope it will occupy a place on Botswana’s Race Calendar for years to come. The Challenge itself is simple, if a little daunting at first: RUN 10KM EVERY DAY FOR 10 CONSECUTIVE DAYS. There are some basic rules to follow: The 10 km has to be done in one go (so you can’t split the distance), you can’t skip a day, you can’t use the treadmill, and you have to upload your run on the designated app (Endomondo) before midnight each day. Having participated in this race twice now, I would love to share some of my steps to successfully completing the Challenge whilst remaining happy and healthy!
How To Survive and Thrive A Running Streak
1/ Set A Personal Goal: You’ve heard me say this several times but I’ll say it again. Setting a goal is one of the most important ingredients when embarking on anything. Goals give you that initial excitement when taking on a challenge and then help to keep you focused and motivated particularly when things start to get tough. In Bill Copeland’s words, “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”
So my main goal for the 2019 Challenge was to run 100km over 10 days faster than I had done in 2018. I also set what I like to call ‘fun mini-goals’. For me, a fun goal is an effective way of adding some excitement to what otherwise might seem like a very daunting ‘big goal’ but without taking you off track. My fun goals were: to RUN each day with no walk-breaks, to run in a DIFFERENT OUTFIT each day, and to run a NEW ROUTE for each of the 10 days!
2/ Develop An Overall Plan: Once you’ve set your personal goals, it is time to develop your plan. What do you already have on your schedule in terms of work deadlines, social events or other engagements? Will you be travelling during those 10 days? What time is realistic for you to run? When do you need to call in a babysitter to help with the kids? These are all questions that are best answered before the Challenge even begins. I had a number of considerations to make that differed from 2018. Firstly, my husband had also signed up for the Challenge so we needed to make sure our running times didn’t clash on the days we didn’t have someone to look after the kids. We also had my cousin’s wedding to attend in Nshakazhogwe (about 5 hours away) so we needed to make sure our runs could get done before all the wedding activities and festivities began. Running in Nshakazhogwe was definitely a highlight of my whole experience.
3/ Check The Weather Forecast: As part of your planning process, it’s also important to have a look at the general weather picture for the 10 days. In 2018, we had a very typical December so the weather forecast was pretty straightforward – extremely hot temperatures for most, if not all 10 days which meant runs had to be done very early morning or when the sun had set. In 2019, we had some hot days – Days 1, 5 and 6 were notable scorchers!
But we also had many rainy days which added a twist particularly in our Botswana context where we don’t get much rain (especially several days in a row). So it became even more important for us to check the forecast and determine what time was best to run. I remember one day having to squeeze in a run at lunch time because morning was impossible and heavy rain was predicted for the evening. But on some days, there was no escaping a wet run!
4/ Keep Things Interesting: When you do anything for 10 days in a row, you are bound to get tired or bored. So one of the things I highly recommend is changing things up. Instead of doing the same type of run every day, I alternated between Easy Runs and Speed or Hill Sessions that included interval training, tempo runs, fartleks and pace workouts. This really helped to break the monotony of repeated 10K runs. Exploring my wardrobe and choosing different outfits and colours to run in each day was really fun. Also, designing new and interesting routes was probably one of my big highlights. I ran in the Mokolodi/ Notwane area, Nshakazhogwe and Sebina, different routes around Block 8 and Block 7 as well as the Airport Route and CBD.
5/ Listen To Your Body: This goes without saying. If you’ve planned a speed session but you can feel a slight niggle or some discomfort in your body, then make it an Easy Run or even walk if you have to. As I was aiming to run each day with no walk breaks, I was careful to listen to my body and to change things around if needed. I was also particularly good about warming up before each run and stretching afterwards as I really didn’t want to injure myself.
6/ Keep Everything Charged: This includes any music players, watches or phones. Remember if you haven’t recorded your run and synced it to the app, it didn’t happen! But it is also critically important to keep your body and mind charged. Ensure good nutrition and also keep hydrated throughout the process. Also be sure to get lots of good sleep. I can’t emphasise that last point enough – in doing this challenge, you’ll likely be running a lot more than you’re used to with no rest days to regroup. So sleep becomes even more important and it’s something we as runners often overlook. According to The Runner’s Resource, sleep is “so important in preventing injury and building muscle. Getting at least eight hours of sleep a night is one of the first things to try when a runner experiences problems with injuries or endurance. By staying up late and not sleeping properly a runner makes it impossible for the body to adequately repair itself.”
7/ Run With Friends: In 2018, I ran most of my runs with other people! This time, I did many more solo runs but I still managed to get my dose of social runs with Ditiro, my cousin Ndiye and my friend Ngoni. As always these runs were therapeutic and it was great to have company.
8/ Be Stronger Than Your Excuses: Rain. Wind. Sun. Christmas Concerts. Work Deadlines. Office Parties. This year had it all. But this Challenge requires you to keep showing up as one missed run spells immediate defeat! There was one day I honestly wanted to quit. It was windy and wind here means DUST. But knowing I had to complete the challenge overrode any feelings of quitting. If you are used to making excuses for not running, this challenge is actually for you because its very format forces you to be stronger than any excuse. No matter how valid that excuse might be. At the end of the day, before midnight, the run must be recorded!
9/ Enjoy Race Day: Once all is said and done and you have recorded nine 10K runs, it’s time to join the whole team for the Grande Finale! You’ll be tired and may feel “all runned-out” at this stage but this is your day to shine. In 2018, this last run was actually my fastest and in 2019 I landed a 10K PB! We arrived at Wharic Park in a downpour of rain and I said to Ditiro, “I bet they are going to cancel”. But cancel they did not! At the set time, we took off and it rained for most of that run, hard to begin with and then gentler as the race proceeded. We were completely drenched and I was so weighed down by my wet clothes! Some runners actually wore proper rain gear and others plastic covers. But the fact this was our last run kept me (and others) going and the route was probably the most special part of the whole Challenge.
We ran through Old Naledi (which is a more disadvantaged community area in Gaborone) and I later found out that the Gaborone Striders had engaged the Mafhitlhakgosi youth in race marshaling and catering for the big day. In an email sent to us by the race team, they said “Our future efforts are to ensure a very substantial contribution to the Old Naledi Community”. This just made me feel the Challenge was even bigger than ourselves and our own personal goals.
10/ Time To Reflect: At the end of every challenge, it is so important to look back and see whether you achieved the goals you set for yourself, what you learnt from the whole process and what you would do differently next time. Self-reflection for me is one of the best tools for self-improvement. So did I achieve my goals? Well, I ran in different outfits each day. I used different routes for each run and was ecstatic to run through Old Naledi on the final day, something I’d never done before. And in 100km I never walked once. Finally, did I do better in terms of overall time? In 2018 I completed 100km in 15:04:09 and in 2019… I did it in 12:05:59, almost 3 hours faster including a new 10km PB, 1:04:56. I say, that’s mission accomplished!
Thank you to the Gaborone Striders Runners Club and the 10×10 Challenge Team for taking us out of our comfort zone yet again and allowing us to grow in so many ways as runners and as people. I encourage everyone to give it a go in 2020 – it really is well worth your time and effort!
Have you done the 10×10 Challenge (or any running streak)? What challenges did you encounter? What would you do differently next time? What did you learn about yourself in the process? What advice would you give to someone wanting to try it out for the first time?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining a new link-up, Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy, and Faux Runner! Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!