My friend Zurika had plans to run four marathons this year to mark her 40th Birthday, some of which would have likely been overseas. However, when the pandemic hit many of her plans changed. One day, she suddenly announced to our running group that she would run 10km a day for 40 days with the 40th run falling on her birthday. Although we realised just how difficult this challenge would be (particularly as she was coming off an injury), we never doubted her determination, resilience and strength to complete it. In her words, this is her remarkable story!
Why did you set yourself this crazy challenge? Good question! Normally I’m off my feet with work, but not this year, and this was new for me, not a NEW that I liked, but like millions of others I had to get my head around this situation. With work severely affected by the pandemic, I had to focus my mind and for me that meant taking to the road and figuring it out. Funny how things change – usually I struggle to find time to run, now I had nothing but time, so use it well I thought, you might not get another opportunity like this again. During the Lockdown, our little running group kept the spirits high by posting new challenges every week, from water consumption to garden dashes to strength training and alphabet jumps. This had such a positive influence on me and after Shathiso completed her 40 day run streak I was inspired to do the same. I’d been training in the hopes of doing 4 marathons this year, but as races got cancelled one after the other, it was evident this was not going to happen. What to do? Well, how about running 10km a day for 40 days? Could I, should I, have I completely lost the plot?
How did you juggle your general daily activities (coupled with general Covid-Stress) with getting your runs done? I set up a schedule for my runs. I prefer running in the mornings as it is cool and there is no rush for school and such. My husband takes the kids to school in the mornings, so as they set off for school, I would set off on my runs. This was a great way to start my day and before 9am I would be all done and ready for whatever the day would throw at me.
What do you love most about running in Gaborone? There is so much to love about Gaborone, but we are so busy and caught up in our crazy, that we miss out. Part of this 40×40 was to get back to basics, remember what it was I love about running and running in this city.
Early mornings are brisk here in winter to say the least and it was a cold winter. But as I set out each day – there is the morning noise of taxis waiting for their next passenger, horns sounding to call potential customers, street vendors setting up stalls beaming with crisps, sweets, chappies, Wilsons toffees, bananas, oranges and boiled eggs. There is the smell of freshly cooked potato chips drenched in vinegar wafting in the air, the sharp smell piercing my already cold nostrils, but I love it! There is the sight of little golden drops of dough being perfectly cooked into magwinya (fat cakes) and queues already forming for this breakfast staple. Steaming black pots of stews, slowly bubbling away to be served to lunch time crowds.
Students are rowdy and seemingly excited to be back at school, the noise is an assault on my ears, but hearing happy voices in these dark days make me smile. There are gogos mending clothes on old Singer sewing machines whilst keeping an eye on little ones basking in the early morning sun. And the people, every one doing their thing, trying to make sense of the new normal, friendly smiles, shouts of encouragement, offers to accompany me on my crazy journey. There is the occasional wolf howl, but even this does not faze me anymore, I have learnt – just wave and run on. The street art. I have captured so many incredible artists’ work – these I found on street corners, hidden behind bushes and in little alleyways. I love these pieces and it shows the rich culture and talent that is shared for all to see if you look for it. There is an energy about Gaborone that is hard to put into words. I love living here. I love running here.
What were your favourite runs? Well, I have a 5km route that I am very fond of, close to my house and fairly flat. What I enjoyed most about this loop is the people. I started to get to know some of the regular street vendors and we would have a little good morning shout on these runs, “How are you today?” “You are looking strong today!” Or the occasional, “Keep it up”. And the once dusty sidewalks have been paved, making the run even faster. A run in Letlhakeng was great too. We were on our way to the Kalahari and I needed to get my 10km in, so my husband and kids drove on as I ran out of this metropolis. There was a strong wind behind me which was great, a beautifully graded service road and enough support to last a life time. A lone cyclist was heading into the wind but not before saying hi and sharing some encouraging words.
I have to say my happiest run was my sub-60 10km. This was early on in my challenge. I did the Nyerere – Main Mall loop. I felt really good and my legs were strong. I tried not to look at my watch, just listened to the beeps counting the kilometres. Anyhow as I came to the intersection where I needed to cross I noticed the road was clear in all directions, glanced at my watch and realised I had less than 200m to go for a sub-60, best you go for it my head said, so I did. I ran 10km in 57min. This was a great moment as I knocked 5min off my previous fastest time.
What were some of the challenges you encountered on your 40 day journey? We had planned a trip to the Kalahari and my husband kept asking where I thought I was going to do my runs? My answer was I will make a plan. If I can run circles around my garden during lockdown, surely I can do a run in the Kalahari. But his response was always, “There are animals there that will eat you”. “Best I run fast then” would be my cheeky reply. So off we set, I have only two runs in the bush, so I will have to make a plan. This is the first question I ask our lovely rangers at the campsite, where can I run, they all burst out laughing. Not amused, I ask the question in all seriousness again. One of the rangers jokingly says, “Well, we could lock you in the staff village, that is safe…” Boom, all sorted! The ranger’s eyes were the size of saucers when I arrived in my gear and a large bottle of water ready to go to the staff village. This is an enclosed area of 200 square metres, but again if I can run circles in my garden, I can run circles in the Kalahari.
This was a tough run, the temperature was close to 27 degrees and running in soft Kalahari sand is no joke. As I was running my rounds all I could hear was the loud cheering, although not for me but the WWE wrestling match going on, my thoughts were, Well, there you have it! We are in the most remote place in Botswana and there is a throw down on the telly… that’s technology for you! My next run was early morning, the sand was a little firmer and the air a bit cooler.
As we head back home I soon realise that we will not be home before dark. I need to do my run. Covid road check points and long weekend traffic worried me. I have come this far, with no treadmill to speak of and night creeping in, my nerves were a little tender, but you know, there is a Buddhist saying, “Reset your mind as many times as necessary”. We got home safely! I fed the kids and Mark took over bath time duty (I think he now realised that come hell, Kalahari lions or high water this is going to happen). Kit on, new batteries in the head lamp and off I go. I run up and down our cul-de-sac. This is exactly 150 metres long, but I venture into my neighbourhood and get the job done. This also meant that in less than 12 hours I would be on the road again…
Fast forward 24 hours. I woke up around 3am with intense stomach cramps. I took some cramp meds and back to bed, the only thing going through my head: I need to run in the morning, try get some sleep. The cramps settled a little but not for long. Mark gave me one look and said, “Back to bed! No running. Sorry love, this is the end of the challenge.” I am too nauseous to give him a cheeky response and rush to the bathroom as last night’s supper is making a comeback. When I am pretty sure I am free of any solids or liquids for that matter, I crawl back into bed.
When I wake up, it is 10am. GET UP, GET READY, GO! I call a friend who asks “What do you want to do?” My reply, I want to finish my challenge. She replies, “Then go for it. Run, walk, crawl and rehydrate.” You got to love your friends! This was probably my toughest run, my body did not want to move! This was also a run that showed me that human kindness is not lost in this crazy world of ours. About 4km into my run I could feel I was going to be sick. I was, for this exact reason, close to home but not close enough – a tree will have to do. The next minute there is a man in a red shirt running over, asking if I am ok, if he could call someone or if there was something he could do. He helps me up and I say thank you, not for asking if he could help, but for a kindness that the world needs so badly. I set off to finish a very long and tough run.
Those were some real challenges but I love how you explored all possible options to overcome them! Tell me… did you ever question why you started the challenge? 40 days is a long time, 10km is a long distance! Were there quiet moments you thought “This just isn’t worth it”? To be honest, I knew why I set this challenge for myself; I wanted to keep sane in a very uncertain and confusing time and environment that was as strange to me as being in space. Running has always been something that brought me closer to my thoughts and feelings. It gives me clarity and I solve most of my problems on a run. It really does clear your head and I learned early on that this year was going to be one where the RESET MIND button would be pressed on a regular basis. No… I never had a day where I wanted to just give up. After the first 100km, it became my morning routine – get up, running kit on, out the door.
I am very lucky that when I set my mind to something, I stick to it. At the end of the day, I did this challenge for me and I was going to give it my best. All you can ever do is give it your best shot, right?! I looked forward to seeing the now familiar faces on my routes, got excited to find some hidden piece of art or discover a new route that was either challenging or fast.
There was so much to look forward to every day and counting down the kilometres was an added bonus, and once I passed the 300km mark it was like that last kilometre to the finish line.
I have an amazing support system, my friends and fellow runners have been so inspirational and a lot of their challenges have gotten me off my backside and into my running shoes. If I could be an inspiration for someone, how great would that be? Also, I like a challenge. I have worked hard all year, so keep the momentum going and maybe next year I will be ready for something amazing. I took myself out of my comfort zone. You will be amazed at what you are capable of!
What did you learn about yourself on this 400km journey? OWN YOUR CRAZY!!!! I learned that it is important to set challenges for yourself, not to please anyone or be seen, but do what you need to do for you. Often as mothers, wives and business women, we forget that all you need is that one thing that makes YOU happy, that one thing that makes you feel like you, whatever that might be. So often we just settle, DON’T! Another, and probably the most important thing I learned is that it is ok to RESET your mind as often as you need to.
What an incredible story Zurika! I’m so immensely proud that you took on this crazy challenge and got it done through sickness, travel and even Kalahari Lions! I don’t think any year has called for adaptation as much as this one. We are constantly being asked to adapt, be flexible and find new challenges to keep us going, keep us sane. I love what you said about sometimes just pressing that RESET button. It was amazing to see you get through this challenge and when I ran 200 km in September, I kept thinking, “If Zurika could run 300 in the same timeframe, keep going!” Thanks for sharing your story and I just know so many people will be inspired by this!
What’s the craziest running or fitness challenge you’ve ever done? What risks have you taken in the name of running?
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, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.