Earlier this year, I was inspired by Run Myf Run‘s mission to #RunEveryStreet in her district. I had started to feel quite uninspired with my running and needed a fun challenge. I signed up to City Strides which imports data from various apps and maps out all the streets you have run. However, I quickly realised that streets in Gaborone were not recognised as streets. I contacted City Strides who were extremely helpful but sadly established that Botswana was not included on the OpenStreetMap platform which they use. Not to be deterred, I took a screenshot of my neighbourhood from Google Maps and after each run, I traced the route using my wobbly finger.
Marapoathutlwa, loosely translated as “Bones of a Giraffe”, and more commonly known as Block 8, is an area on the western side of Gaborone. By the city’s standards, it is one of the newer neighbourhoods. When my mum was teaching me to drive about 20 years ago, we used the newly built roads in Block 8, and at that time there were no houses, at least that I remember. The perimeter of the residential area of Block 8 (shown above) is about 8.5km, but once I had run all the roads (with several repeated), I had covered about 150km over 6 weeks.
What To Expect When Running In Marapoathutlwa
You Can Wear Trail Shoes. I’ve always run on the main arteries of the neighbourhood which are all tarred or paved roads. I knew there were still sections of dirt road but I was completely unaware just how many there were! By the time I was done with this project, my shoes needed a good wash! So I definitely could have used my trail shoes for several of my runs.
You Won’t Get Bored. Before this project, I’d probably run only 15% of my neighbourhood, always escaping to what I deemed as more exciting places. But this project made me realise just how many unique combinations I can make so each run is different. Now you know your girl still wants to keep exploring the city, LOL, but it was great to find there are so many interesting running routes closer to home. So if you like a bit of variety, you will certainly get that here.
You Will See A Bit Of Everything. There is a whole lot going on in Marapoathutlwa! Let me start with the schools – there are several different schools from kindergartens to primary and secondary schools, both state- and privately run. When you’re a runner, you quickly realise just how many schools there are because of all the traffic in the mornings – navigating cars, schools buses, kids, parents and teachers can get tricky, if you haven’t timed your run well.
There are big chain stores like Choppies but also several dimausu, which are small outdoor kiosks/tuck shops selling hot food/ snacks, drinks as well as convenience items like matches, soap, etc. When I asked the lady in the orange semausu below if I could take a picture, she was quick to remind me she also sells electricity vouchers, mobile data and you can pay for DSTV! There are also small markets along the main roads selling fruits, as well as several workshops.
There are a number of different churches, mostly Christian, but also a Hindu Temple, which you’ll recognise from many of my posts as I love running past there.
There is a Government clinic as well as a Chinese Health Clinic offering herbal medicine and acupuncture. As is tradition in Botswana, there is also a customary court for our area. You may remember I once participated in a running challenge to raise funds for a “home away from home” for children receiving cancer treatment in Gaborone? That’s located here. There’s also a lovely little park established by the Masitara Foundation. But to my complete surprise we have a Sahrawi Embassy! The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is “a partially recognized de facto sovereign state located in the western Maghreb, which claims the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, but controls only the easternmost one-fifth of that territory.”
There is a huge range of housing varying in terms of shape, size, structure and style. There are some lavish houses and apartments, but also several medium to low cost housing, as well as official housing for police, teachers and Council employees. But whether it’s a luxury house or a more humble abode, many residents have made an effort to plant trees and bright bougainvillea along the streets. A number of homes also have creative and water-conscious gardens.
You’ll Spot A Few Dogs. When I started weaving through all the smaller streets, I came across several dogs. Most were minding their own business, sitting sheepishly outside their yards or rummaging through bins, but it was initially intimidating. Luckily, I didn’t have any bad incidents but dog owners need to do more to ensure dogs are kept in their yards, not just for the sake of runners, but also for kids who are playing on the street, as well as for the safety of the dogs themselves. Following this project, I wrote some safety tips for running when there are roaming dogs around. But as you can see, dogs are not the only ones running these here streets!
I loved this project – so much so, that when I was done, I ran every street in another area, Peolwane. I enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of Marapoathutlwa and experience such variety, from the things I saw, to the vibe I felt on different streets, to the contrasting road surfaces I ran on. But probably the biggest gain from this project was a boost to my confidence. I was initially nervous to run on unfamiliar roads by myself. But the more I ran, the more comfortable and confident I became navigating strange roads on my own. This new found confidence definitely contributed to me being comfortable running solo in Ghana last month.
Finally, I can’t end this post without a special mention of the Garmin Forerunner 245 which was generously given to me by Extreme Brands, Botswana’s Garmin Distributors, around the time I started this project. When I started, I ran with a piece of paper highlighting street names I had to cover. That’s until I discovered the navigation function of my watch. Using my Garmin app, I created routes for specific areas and synced them to my watch. As I ran, my watch would guide and prompt me meaning I didn’t have to internalise all the streets or use a piece of paper anymore. Genius! It got complicated if there were too many short twists and turns but for the most part it worked well and is such a neat feature especially if you’re running some place new.
Until someone says otherwise, I’m going to declare that I’m the only person who has run every street in Marapoathutlwa! 🙂
Have you signed up to City Strides? Have you #RunEveryStreet in your area/district/neighbourhood? What about your town or city? I wonder how long that would take?!