I can spend hours talking about my love for running in Gaborone. I love the familiarity of my neighbourhood and surrounding roads as well as the excitement that comes with visiting a new area of town. I love knowing the distances between various landmarks and charting new routes depending on the distance I’m doing or the interesting building I want to take a photo of. I’m always surprised by features or things I’ve passed several times in a car but only seem to appreciate when I’m on the run. But when I started this blog I wanted to share all aspects of running in Gaborone, not just the good but also some of the annoying things I’ve found. Some of course may be quite universal but others may seem strange to runners outside Gaborone!
1/ Too Few Sidewalks. The Western Bypass (K.T. Motsete Road) offers some lovely sidewalks and I’m lucky to live about 200 metres from this main road. The Molepolole Road also has a great pedestrian path from CBD heading towards Metsimotlhabe. However, major construction on the Western Bypass with three circles being transformed into huge intersections, has meant major disruptions to this popular running route. Unfortunately, as I’ve ventured out into other areas of Gaborone, I’ve become acutely aware of the lack of sidewalks or wide road shoulders. Many areas of Central Gaborone, Village, Broadhurst, Old Naledi and Bontleng don’t have great running paths and unless you’re out early you’ll find yourself competing with traffic. Also most neighbourhood roads don’t have shoulders. Although mountain bikers enjoy some fun trails within the green zones of the city, runners don’t share that luxury.
2/ It’s Too Flat! Aside from three man-made flyovers, Gaborone is extremely flat. When we visit our friends in Johannesburg or Pretoria, there seems to be a hill on every corner! So they may be surprised that I’ve noted this as an annoyance! Admittedly, I do really love the flat terrain of Gaborone which allows you to focus on running without that added difficulty an incline brings. But unfortunately this lulls us into a false sense of security and when we leave the confines of our city, our bodies often struggle to adapt to hillier landscapes! This makes racing in Kanye, Soweto and Pretoria very difficult for Gaborone runners and mountain races such as Magaliesburg and Drakensberg humble us completely! Training for a hilly race also becomes difficult as we have to travel out of town, e.g. Mokolodi, to get any proper hill work done.
4/ Unwanted Cheerleading Squad. I’ve had this discussion many times with my husband and we seem to have very different experiences. When he is out running no one yells at him, “Sweetie”, “Sweetie lavo!” or “Ao baby”. The worst is when you run around 5pm and pass the matshelonyana (open lorry) with construction workers heading home. The declarations of love will leave you gobsmacked! But other guys seem to fancy themselves as running coaches and will shout “Taboga mosadi!”, “Run faster” or”That’s just too slow”. Sometimes they go as far as saying “That’s not even running” but the most irritating one of all, “Eish, but you’re trying”. Seriously, what is this?! Fortunately for me, most comments have been harmless and have certainly not stopped me from running outside. But I know some women would not be amused by this live commentary and I think we deserve the right to run as free and happy as our male counterparts!
5/ Inconsiderate Drivers. There are many drivers who have shown such kindness to me on the road especially in my neighbourhood, slowing down when they see me and sometimes even stopping to let me cross when they don’t have to. But I’ve also seen some very rude drivers who for whatever reason feel the need to intimidate runners. On one occasion a car swerved onto the shoulder as a way to scare me. On another occasion a guy SPED up to me so I quite literally jumped in alarm. Is it fun to scare someone off the road? Such distasteful behaviour.
6/ It’s A Struggle To Find Running Shoes. I’ve saved the most frustrating point for last. We have big chain stores like JB Sports, Mr Price Sport and Total Sport which all sell some decent sports apparel and equipment. However, they stock very few running shoes. Shoes sold are often fashion shoes or more suited to other fitness activities. Funnily enough, the same stores in South Africa have a wide selection of running shoe brands and sizes. This means that many of us travel to South Africa for decent running shoes. Travelling to another country for a pair of shoes? Now that’s absurd. But what’s even crazier is how much we have to pay for them. So as an example, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 shoes in South Africa cost R1,899 ($114) and in the same store in the USA they cost $85 (both sale prices). And in some cases, the difference I’ve seen has been larger. Throw in time and travel to South Africa (including road tolls, food, accommodation) and you have a very expensive pair of shoes! Cross-border courier prices are also ridiculous given the relatively short distance (approx. 400km). With our border now shut for non-essential travel (COVID-19) we won’t be able to buy shoes in the near future.
There you have it! My six pet-peeves of running in Gaborone. Will any of this stop me from running? Not a chance! Nothing will keep me from the quirky streets of Gaborone with all its interesting sights, sounds and smells. And it shouldn’t stop you either. But next time someone tells me to run faster when I’m running my heart out, I may just throw my water bottle at them!
What are some frustrating things about running in your town? Are some of yours similar to mine? Do you have an unwanted cheerleading squad too?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy and Organic Runner Mum! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.