Once I completed training for my ultra-trail at the end of February, the one I ended up not doing, I took a week off to regroup and then embarked on an 8-week program in pursuit of a self-timed sub-2:15 Half in May. But even with this goal, I felt… for lack of a better word – lost. Although 2020 taught me that I can run without races, to a large extent, I held it together knowing that this situation was only temporary. But when 2021 rolled in without much hope of races returning, I felt disheartened. Yes, I’m good at setting goals and finding ways to make my runs enjoyable, but racing for me is a huge part of running. So that sense of longing that I’ve been able to shift to the back of my mind – pinning the race bib on my outfit, meeting friends at the start, feeling the energy of the crowds and the medals at the end, resurfaced with some intensity.
To make matters worse, a directive from the Government of Botswana issued in late February, banned people from running in groups and I just started to feel we were backsliding. Moving beyond the issue of running, there are just so many stories of families struggling with heart-breaking losses, a painfully slow vaccine roll-out and then the looming financial crisis from multiple lockdowns and curfews, already noticeable in skyrocketing prices and job losses.
It was as I was navigating all these thoughts and emotions that I spotted Mina Guli’s World Water Run Challenge on social media. Starting on 16 March, Mina was organising a free 7-day virtual run around the world in support of World Water Day on 22 March. A lawyer by profession, Mina uses ultra-marathon running to advance the global conversation about the world’s water crisis and in this endeavour has worked with global organisations and governments on several projects. Click here to read more of her inspirational story.
I was quick to sign up and over 7 days, I ran my pledged 42km whilst rallying as many people as I could to join the movement. All the water flyers in this blog are just some of those provided once you registered. A few days after the Challenge ended, I heard about another challenge – this time it was a call from a charity group, Ladies Circle Botswana, to run 100km in 15 days starting on 1 April, to help complete Happy Hearts Home which is an interim home for children receiving cancer treatment in Gaborone. I’m 45km in and as with the Water Challenge, I already feel I’ve gained so much. Participating in these challenges has inspired today’s blog.
Six Reasons You Should Run For A Cause
1/ Your Runs Feel More Fulfilling. The reasons we run vary from runner to runner but many are centred on keeping fit, improving mental health and socialising. Running often gives me renewed energy to tackle various life challenges. But I’ve found running for a cause makes my runs feel more fulfilling. The World Water Run was important to me as Botswana has experienced several droughts over its history which have significantly affected harvests, livestock, wildlife and people. Water is extremely valued and is reflected across various national symbols – our currency “Pula” means rain and the blue on our flag represents water. Our coat of arms includes three waves symbolizing water with our motto “Pula” inscribed on a blue ribbon at the bottom. More recently, there has been a push by Government to classify drought as a permanent feature in budget plans. So this challenge made me run with intention and heart.
2/ You Gain And Raise Awareness For A Cause. Often the cause you’re drawn to is something that is close to your heart. But even if the cause is important to you, there is always so much more to learn. So although I’m familiar with water shortages in the context of Botswana, as the week wore on, I saw that water is not just a problem for a select few countries. The information Mina and other runners shared really helped to broaden my scope of the world’s water crisis, moving my awareness beyond the borders of Botswana.
Running for the Happy Hearts Home in Gaborone has also brought a lot of learning. When you live in the city with its privileges, you often forget that others are not in the same situation. Finding out that children from outside Gaborone undergoing cancer treatment often have to travel long distances to get here and then make the long journey back home, risking possible complications from side-effects, was eye-opening. Happy Hearts Home aims to give these children and their guardians a “home away from home” while they are receiving treatment in Gaborone. And then of course, by sharing your runs and information you help to raise awareness of issues to people who may have no knowledge or experience of them.
3/ It Gives You Perspective. Learning about different issues also gives you some perspective of the world outside your set boundaries. It’s sometimes easy to get lost in our own emotions and troubles. Although these are valid, sometimes looking at other struggles and global issues, helps to ground you and remind you of your blessings.
4/ There’s Extra Motivation To Train. I’m training for a Half Marathon and without a coach to be accountable to, there are days when my effort has been questionable! Running for these causes has made it so much harder for me to get out of running. The commitment to the cause always outweighs the excuses I come up with. It’s that added driving force to get runs done.
A good example of this comes from my husband’s experience in the World Water Run. He was on call that week so his runs didn’t go according to plan, leaving him with 25km to cover in two days. Had this been a normal week, he would have written it off and moved on. Instead, he did an 18km night run – 9km to check his patients at the clinic and 9km back home!
5/ You Keep Fit. With the extra motivation to run, it’s easier to stick to your running plan which helps to keep you fit and active. Doing these challenges has not in any way disrupted or removed the focus from my Half Marathon Training Plan. Instead, the challenges have helped me to stick to the plan in a more dedicated manner.
6/ You Have A Virtual Support Group. Most of my runs are solo, so for both challenges, I’ve loved connecting with other runners, giving and receiving words of encouragement. I’m not sure how Mina managed with thousands of participants from 132 countries, but she commented on most posts, shared our stories and just kept us excited and enthusiastic the whole week. I’d also signed up my dad and it was fun to get his stats every morning. He pledged to walk 42km, but by the end of the week his mileage was closer to 50!
Both these challenges helped give me some perspective, channelled my thoughts in a more positive direction and motivated me to stick to my running plan. That’s not to say every run I do (or you do) should be for a cause, LOL! But it’s a great tool to use when you feel you’re starting to lose some motivation and need some extra help.
Aside from giving you that extra push to run, it gives you the opportunity to learn and spread awareness about a particular cause and to run with a greater sense of purpose.
Do you sometimes run for a cause? What are some of the causes close to your heart?
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.