When Myfanwy asked me to put a team together for the She Runs: Cardiff Summer Relay, I immediately agreed, and for 12 hours on the 3rd July, I had the great honour of leading Team: We Run Gaborone, a group of 15 amazing runners who ran or walked with heart, courage, determination and soul. Some runners had overcome personal challenges in recent weeks and others tackled obstacles on the day itself. But each and every one of them showed up, rallied hard behind the team, all dressed in Blue, Black and/or White, the colours of Botswana’s flag.
In a great blog post on Sunday, coordinator extraordinaire Myfanwy summed up the relay and shared the reason why they had chosen to support and raise funds for Kidney Wales this year. Botswana is not immune to Chronic Kidney Disease with doctors and researchers reporting more and more patients presenting with it, some of whom we know personally.
There were 27 teams in total (with a maximum of 24 runners allowed per team). Twenty-seven runners started at 7am, each passing the virtual baton to the next runner in the team after their run, until 7pm. To be in sync with Wales, we ran from 8am to 8pm, our time. This being my first time managing a team, I entered only 15 runners to run 30 or 60 minute slots. To be fair to everyone, I used a strictly ‘First Come, First Served’ rule for choosing timeslots on our WhatsApp group. As the sun would set around 5:40pm, I asked three of my male runners to cover the 5pm – 8pm slots, with the last runner needing to be indoors by 8pm (curfew time).
On Relay Day, Botswana woke up to beautiful blue skies and we knew it was going to be a hot one. A quick check on my weather app revealed temperatures of 22 – 27 °C for my 12pm – 4pm runners. Oh dear! Around 07:30am, I sent a note to the WhatsApp Group and called my first runner to the Start! The analogy I used the whole day was that we were in a Stadium, and each runner had to make their way to me when they had 15 minutes to go! Zurika described the pre-race vibe perfectly when she said “It has been a while since that pre-race pile – shoes, socks, tights, shirt and number… all prepared the night before… don’t you just love the anticipation?”
Our first runner Sonja reported a beautiful cool morning in Gaborone North as she made her way to the A1 Road – “When I jumped at the opportunity to have the early slot for the day, it only dawned on me later that this also meant that I’d be kicking off the relay, the pressure was on!! Waiting for the minute-hand to tick over, the nerves were there, but our WhatsApp Group was so alive and full of excitement that it felt as though I was lining up with the entire team standing right next to me, cheering me on! The energy was palpable!”
Next up was Sanne in Oodi (a village neighbouring Gaborone). When I asked her to join the team, she had recently been diagnosed with Covid-19 but without a moment’s hesitation, she said I should sign her up for 60 minutes as the relay was still a month away.
She did amazing and for her run, wore a t-shirt honouring brave Jamila, the only girl in Botswana with Batten’s Disease, who after a valiant fight, passed away in May. Third up was Arifa who some of you will know from the new blog series, Physio’s Corner! She ran in the centre of town and handed our virtual baton to Baraka in the west of the city!
It was then back to Gaborone North where Polelo and Brad put in some solid runs and were the first to bring out the big Botswana flags for their photos! When I did my run at 12:30 I felt dizzy with excitement and set off too fast! But I decided to maintain this pace for as long as I could, and was ecstatic with my 06:30 average pace which I hadn’t done in a while!
I handed over to Botsile who was the first to tackle an hour in the 25+ °C weather. When I asked her what motivated her to get through her run, she said “I knew it was for a good cause. One close to my heart. My mum is on dialysis. Also whilst running I remembered others were running the same race, just elsewhere. That kept me going”.
Ngoni said of her hot run, “I’ve realised that when I stop obsessing about running conditions or the distance, I usually enjoy my runs. And so on this day, I stopped thinking about the temperature and viewed it as just a run and how great I’d feel when I completed it.”
Kuma was next in line, also running for one hour in 27°C heat – “It was hard running during the hottest time of the day. I could really feel the heat coming off the road. My motivation was that I was a part of a great team, and I wanted to put my whole heart into my run”.
Zurika and Elisa both had 30 minute slots in Central Gaborone, with Elisa choosing a patriotic route in the CBD showcasing one of the city’s most famous monuments – The Three Dikgosi.
Leruo, who was out on the periphery of the Kgalagadi Desert at the time, struggled to find a place to run that wasn’t deep sand! Thankfully, 20 minutes before he was set to run, he found a gravel road and gave us almost 12km! He also brought in the sunset from the desert skies!
Gape, out in Tlokweng, (an urban village adjacent to Gaborone) described the “sun suddenly being switched off” on his run. He pulled off a great run especially after recovering from Covid-19, and handed the baton to our last runner of the day, Ditiro, who ran on the Airport Road.
Ditiro insisted on going out in this face mask, much to my dismay but to several “Yays” from the other team members! He was doing his shift in the dark so the consensus was that this would scare off any potential trouble-makers. As he set off on his run, he says he felt so inspired by all team members who had run before him. So he was extremely pumped to give his best effort. And what a solid effort indeed, 13km for his 60 minute slot.
Over 12 hours the team ran 113.02 km, passing the baton all over Gaborone as well as neighbouring villages, Oodi and Tlokweng, and the Kgalagadi Desert. Team members wrote several messages on the Group throughout the day, many saying how connected, excited and energised they felt to be a part of this. Gape summed it up perfectly when he said, “The whole experience was exciting. It felt like I was part of a global movement. Great support from the team and overall great challenge for an even bigger cause”. Thank You Team. Who runs this city?
To the event organizers, thank you for inviting us and welcoming us so warmly. Thank you for helping us connect in a way we haven’t done in a while. You gave us a day of excitement, joy and HOPE in a time that still seems so uncertain, all while raising money for an incredible cause.