My theme for 2020 was FOCUS – FIGHT – FINISH, largely because I had such mammoth goals, including 20 races. We all know what happened next. Shortly after my third race, the world shut down and life as we knew it changed, perhaps forever. I can’t quite describe the feelings I had as my neat race plan (which included an amazing travel itinerary) suddenly lay in tatters. But I probably don’t have to as many of you would have experienced similar feelings, if with different goals and plans. But I had a choice to make – give up or keep going. And like many runners, I chose the latter, even if that sometimes meant running crazy circles in the garden or mundane laps in the neighbourhood. So although I never got to 20, it is with great pride and joy that I write this summary of the 12 challenges I did, 8 of which came with medals. Funnily enough, this was the same number I did last year – only the experience was…ahem… slightly different!
1 – Y-Care Oodi-Mmamashia Walk, 16 km| 25 January. Last year, my husband and I did the 30km walk which took us almost 6 hours. Although we enjoyed it, we didn’t want to be out that long this year so we chose the shorter option and were joined by Elisa. Unfortunately, it rained so much overnight that the route had to be changed, taking us off some bush trails and onto the main road. Although this made the experience slightly different, we still had a great time. At the end of the race there was a health station checking BP and sugar levels and this was a key reminder that no matter how fit you think you are, regular health checks are critically important as you never know what might be lurking beneath the surface. Here is the Race Recap.
2 – Phobians Pretoria Half Marathon | 23 February. Little did I know that this would be my last trip to South Africa for a long time! This was my 7th Half Marathon and what a great experience. I absolutely loved the route as it was designed in such a way that gave us the opportunity to see so many attractive and historic buildings in Pretoria. The climb up Klapperkop was tough but the panoramic views at the top made it worth our while. The traditional music bands, both at the top of Klapperkop and at the entry to the High School, were a real treat and a unique touch. And on a personal note, this was the first time I wore shorts in a race. That was huge – I’ve explained the significance of this in another post but let’s just say I broke a barrier in my head that day – I do have a runner’s body. Here is the Race Recap.
3 – Gabane Trail Run, 20 km| 07 March. Although Covid-19 had now entered our vocab, it was still an “international problem”. Ha! This turned out to be my final in-person race of 2020. Looking back, I’m glad I ended with this one as I really enjoyed myself. I had consciously decided to set no expectations other than to have fun. This stress-free mindset made a world of difference. I felt alive on the trail. Admittedly, it was not an overly technical course – aside from the short climb up Gabane Hill most of the course was flat, not enough to warrant any walking. I took in all my surroundings which is something I don’t do enough of on trails. So the lesson here – let go, take in the scenery and smell the fresh air. Here is the Race Recap.
4 – Mzansi Lockdown Ultra-Marathon Challenge| April – May. This challenge started in South Africa shortly after they went into full lockdown and when Botswana followed suit with no running allowed outside, I was quick to join the challenge and ran 127.45 km either in circles in my yard or on a dysfunctional treadmill. I’m not quite sure which of the two was more frustrating. This showed me that anything is possible. How often do we set limits for ourselves? “I can’t do this because…” Well, once upon a time, I would have thought, “Run circles in my yard? You’ve got to be crazy!” Well, call me crazy because I ran an ultra-marathon in my yard.
5 – GSRC Yard Run, 10km | 03 May. This was 10km on the treadmill – it took almost two hours, if I count all the times my treadmill stopped and had to be rebooted and brought back to the life. What did this race teach me? I need to throw my treadmill out. Seriously, it’s gone!
6 – Run The Edge Un-Cancelled Project| April – June. The Un-Canceled Project organised by Run The Edge was a free 6-week virtual race series with several distance options and key themes each week – gratitude, hope, humour, inspiration, courage and commitment. So successful was the challenge that it was extended for a further six weeks with more uplifting themes – Dreams, Kindness, Joy, Community, Perseverance and Life. 12 weeks and 28 virtual races taught me to channel positivity and keep looking for the best parts of life even when it is not always easy to do so. For the Race Recaps – go here and here.
7 – Sub-60 10K Time Trial| 12 July. Running a sub-60 10K was always a dream of mine. Did I think it was realistic? No! But I was determined to give it a shot. So on the 4th May, I signed up to a free training program from Fitness From Africa, a coaching company in South Africa with Coach Marcel as my personal coach. It was an intense 10 week program with lots of mileage and many speed sessions. I assembled a pace and support team that my friend Zurika wittily named, “The Pacers and Chasers” and on a very cold morning of the 12th July 2020 I managed 59:28! The lesson? All that stands between you and your dreams is hard work, dedication, consistent effort, a taste of failure and an unparalleled belief in yourself that it can and will be done. Never underestimate your power. Here is the Race Recap.
8 – Spring Challenge 81km| 01 – 09 September. After this epic 10K victory, my mood plummeted with several dark days as I relived the loss of my mum a year ago. Throw in a sudden 2-week lockdown in August as well as the usual Covid-19 anxieties, winter wasn’t the best time for me. So it was almost with a sense of desperation that I looked forward to Spring which starts on the 1st September for many countries in Southern Africa. And that’s why I came up with the 9 x 9 Spring Challenge – run 9km a day for 9 consecutive days with a splash of colour to celebrate Spring. Initially, I was going to do this on my own but I decided to launch it as a public challenge on social media when I realised I’m probably not the only one needing some general motivation and upliftment. It was a fantastic experience with two main lessons – I don’t have to wait for a challenge, I can make one up! And secondly, in times of darkness, always look for COLOUR.
9 – Race At Your Pace, 200km| September. I signed up for this Challenge because I’d never broken the 200km/month barrier. The closest I’d come was during my training for the 10km time-trial, about 177km. With the Spring Challenge to start the month, I knew I was in with a good chance but I took a few too many days off in the middle which meant it was a mad rush at the end with lots of kilometres to make up and a whole lot of stress! But it got done – the lesson here is simple – stick to the plan! Mid-challenge laziness gets you no where, LOL!
10 – Y-Care Chairman’s Challenge, 60 km| 01 – 05 December. With just a few weeks left of the year, this popped up on my news feed. And yes, I signed up immediately. It was meant to be 60km in 6 days, only I missed the first day so I did 60km in 5 days by running 10km on each day and a whopping 20 on the last day in rain, thunder, lightning and wind. It was all virtual of course but on the last day we were asked to collect our medals at a set venue and time and the best part was being awarded the medal by the Chairman himself. I loved that personal touch. The lesson here? Never run in a thunderstorm, even for a medal. Well, maybe for a pretty medal… 😉
11 – GSRC 10×10 Challenge, 100 km| 01 – 10 Dec. This is usually the way I end the race reason. This challenge involves running 10 km every day for 10 consecutive days. We collected our medals a few days after the last day – and it was the first time I had been with such a large group of runners. It felt good to be there. Gosh, how we had all missed this! But on a deeper level it made me think – we had all run a minimum of 100km at the end of a very difficult year and yet we were all still smiling (if with our masks on). We were all survivors, warriors even. The year hadn’t broken us. It had made us more defiant. Stronger. Resilient. Powerful.
12 – Econet Virtual Victoria Falls Half Marathon| 13 December. Before you go, there’s one more! For my 30th Birthday, I bunjee jumped off Victoria Falls Bridge and for my 40th I’d planned to run across it. One day I will run across it, but this year I signed up for the virtual Half (my eighth) and ran across the biggest bridge we have in these parts! I asked Ditiro and our friends Ticha and Taffy to join me and true to form, I got us all to do it in theme – between the four of us all five Zimbabwean Flag colours were represented – yellow, green, red, black and white. The race itself was well-organised with the app telling us exactly what we were passing, the historical relevance of some areas as well as some of the charities the race was supporting. The lesson here was “monate o a itirelwa” – my favourite Setswana saying, that loosely translated means you have to make your own fun. Yes, it wasn’t the Victoria Falls but we made the best of the situation we were handed – perhaps, the most important lesson this year.
So this is not the review I had ever planned to write for 2020 but it is probably the review I was meant to write for I don’t think any other year would have called for me to focus, fight and finish as much as this one did. And I go forward with a better understanding of what I’m capable of.
How many races did you do this year? What stands out as your favourite? And what was your most valuable lesson?