At midnight on the 30th of July, the Greater Gaborone area was placed under lockdown for two weeks as there was a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases. This was a terrible set-back for all of us as we had slowly started getting back some semblance of “normal” albeit with compulsory masks, temperature checks and registrations everywhere. But in many ways it was a reminder that we are a long way from normal and we just have to keep doing what we can to stay positive, safe and healthy. With no races in sight, I thought it would be fun to share some unforgettable moments in my race history. With 43 races done, each with its own story, it was hard to choose! I started with five, quickly changed that to eight and now we have ten!
1/ The First Time I Ran 10K Without Walking. Looking back, there are several defining moments that helped to build my confidence as a runner. The first time I ran 10K without walking was one such moment. My husband Ditiro had always assured me that, “Once you can run 5km without walking, you can run 10”. Two weeks before this race, I managed my first 5 km running stretch. So when I reached the 5km point in this race and still felt strong enough to keep running, I remembered his words. My body went into autopilot and when I reached the 7 km mark, I was certain I would manage. 8km… 9km and then with 500 metres left, I belted it, pumping my fists in the air and dancing and smiling as I crossed the finish line.
3/ Completing My First Half Marathon. I’ve now run seven Half Marathons but my first will always be my most special. I was never meant to run a Half Marathon. Sure, I joked about it but I was never really serious. And I don’t think anyone took me seriously either! But after 19 weeks of training, I ran my first Half and proved to myself that this body can go the distance, it can push through the pain and it can get the job done. That moment as I entered the last stretch, seeing the gantry and digging deep to finish in 2:41:01 is something I will never forget.
4/ Getting Mugged On A Trail. My cousin Tapiwa and I signed up for a trail race. There can’t have been more than 30 of us and Tapiwa and I were close to the back. It was a beautiful trail and my first 15K. Around 10km, we were on a narrow single-track when we spotted a man walking towards us. As we approached, he didn’t move out of the way and all of a sudden we stood face-to-face with him. And then I saw it. The knife. Brown wooden handle. Dirty blade. I still remember the knife and his wild-looking eyes. For 4 minutes, he searched Tapiwa’s hydration pack and jacket and then me. The only thing he found was Tapiwa’s phone and once satisfied, he waved the knife menacingly at us one last time. We were in the middle of nowhere so had to finish the remaining 5km even though we were physically and mentally exhausted. What a horrible moment. This was such a random occurrence and since then this trail has never been used. I’m glad it didn’t stop me from running. If anything it strengthened my resolve to keep running. I got my mum to take this photo because I always wanted to remember that this was the seventh race of my running journey and my first 15K. He didn’t steal that.
5/ My First Soweto Experience. No one ever forgets their first Soweto experience. I’ve had better Soweto races after this one but I’ll never forget the first time I took to the streets of Soweto, navigating crowds of runners, meandering through houses and small shops, listening to the supporters cheering us on and just feeling the pulse and rhythm of Soweto. The final kilometre is a gentle descent into the stadium, through a tunnel and then into a cacophony of noise that makes you feel like a football player about to kick off for a cup final! Coming through that tunnel especially that first time was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
6/ Walking 30K Alone Through The Desert. My 30km walk through the desert still ranks as one of my hardest challenges. I had actually done this walk before but with Ditiro and Elisa and their company had made the hours tick by so fast. But this time I was alone. Towards the end, my back was sore from carrying my bag, my legs were aching from trudging through the thick sand and my mind was weakening especially as people started getting picked up by medic trucks because of cramping, blisters or sheer exhaustion. At around 21 km I met a radio presenter from Duma FM who asked, “Are you defeated?” I told him, “This race is tough. It takes everything – heart, mind and soul. But I still have 10 km left in me.” But those 10km were soul-crushing. I finished in 7:25:39 hours. My mum was waiting at the finish and I don’t think I ever saw her that relieved.
7/ Running A 30:34 5K. I always wanted to run a sub-30 5K but I’d never come close to believing it would happen. I had a 10K trail race on Sunday but not being one to miss a race in town, I’d also signed up for a 5K the day before. I had no intention of racing it but as I lined up at the start, I made the impromptu decision to go for it. I did my first km in 06:26, my second in 06:18, my third was even faster, 06:05, and then so was my fourth 06:02! The last section was on the stadium track but I quickly realised the course was going to be short. So when I got to the finish, I grabbed my medal from the startled marshal and ran another 400 metres to complete the full 5K! When my watch beeped, I saw it – 30:34 minutes. This was such a significant moment because it was then I knew I could run a Sub-30 5K which I did a few months later!
8/ My First Stage-Trail Race. My two-stage trail race in the magnificent Northern Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa was an incredible experience. The first day was 17 km of arduous climbing and running and the following day had 14 km of more forgiving terrain, both days totalling a net ascent of approx. 1,140 metres. I did the race with a group of my friends which made the experience even more amazing. We ran separately but each came back with individual tales of wild adventure, heroic feats and the experience of a lifetime. Sir Edmund Hillary’s words resonated with me throughout the race, “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”.
9/ Winning Dinner For Four: I can’t leave out the race where I won a dinner for four at a lovely Italian restaurant in town for the “Most Creative Runner Costume”. There were so few people who dressed up so my little group of four felt quite self-conscious at the start but our outfits garnered many compliments from strangers. As I ran, many people shouted “I need some help Doc” and with the voucher I treated the four of us to dinner, dessert and a bottle of wine! I won’t be winning any race awards any time soon so I count this as a huge win!
10/ My Daughter’s First Race. In 2017, I had one mission and that was to run 17 races. My fifteenth was so special as I ran with my then five year old daughter Kaia. She had long asked to race with me and what an experience it was. Choosing our outfits together and pinning on our bibs, watching her excitement as she got water and orange wedges at the fuelling table, seeing her excitement as she ran past other runners and then watching her joy as she got her medal. Three years on, she still remembers that race and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
I’ve really enjoyed this trip down memory lane! The highs have been epic and the lows have been character-building in so many ways. I can’t wait to make even more memories on the race track but these ones will definitely stay with me for a while to come.
What are some of your most unforgettable race moments? Do you remember the first time you ran 10K without walking? Have you raced with your child before? Have you ever felt embarrassed at a race?
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.