Guest Blog · On The Run

Interview | From Asthma To Marathons

Although I have such huge admiration and respect for the Isaac Makwalas and Gerda Steyns of the world, the stories that motivate me the most come from ordinary runners, like you or me, who usually started running later in life, who once believed they couldn’t run or who don’t fit the typical “athletic mould” and now work hard to achieve goals once deemed impossible, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon. It is these people I turn to for inspiration when I’m having a bad week and these people who save me on Race Day when I’m struggling. Today, I’d like to introduce one such individual – a runner since 2014, Jay Jay is a proud father of three and has completed three marathons as well as countless Halves and 10km races. This is his running story.

When and how did you start running? I started running in 2014. Prior to that, I played soccer and hated running. I used to think that runners were crazy! I was asthmatic when growing up and it was so painful for me to run. Fortunately, I have since outgrown my asthma and the pain is more bearable now. As part of our team building at my previous employer, we enrolled for the Botswana Life Corporate challenge. This challenge involved companies registering as many runners as they could and the winner was determined by the average time each company was able to run. We came second and this motivated me to continue with the journey. 

Asthma can be so crippling and I’m so glad you’ve overcome it. What were some of the struggles you initially encountered as a beginner runner? There were lots of struggles. Just a 5km run felt so long and I experienced a lot of pain post-runs.  I also did not have the motivation to do it alone. I must say running as a group of colleagues really helped. We ran after work together to avoid being stuck in traffic and it really helped. The success of the challenge then motivated us to prepare for future challenges.

Aside from the difficulty at the beginning, what has been the hardest challenge you’ve had to deal with as a runner? The most difficult challenge was cramping during my first marathon. I was a novice and failed to hydrate properly prior to Race Day. I tried all the tricks and nothing worked. I was helped by a fellow runner, Tjeneso Rakgamanyane (she was a stranger then and has become a friend) who encouraged me to keep it up and we finished the race together.

Runners are such special and supportive people. Now that you mention races, what are some of your most memorable ones? First would be the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as it was my first marathon – the vibe of all the international runners, the view and weather just made it so special. I also enjoyed running by the sea and running in a bus (group of runners keeping the same pace and singing and chanting).

Second would be the Soweto Marathon which was very brutal on me. It’s one of the most difficult terrains and third, the Kazungula Half which is similar to Soweto in terms of brutality.

I know the brutality of Soweto well – but we keep coming back! How do you balance running with your daily responsibilities? Running has become part of my lifestyle and I am able to juggle it very well with both work and family. I mostly run around 5:30am and this sets the tone for my day. If I travel, I take my running shoes and ensure I run. It’s a way of getting to know the new place and it’s a runner’s code of marking the territory of places they’ve been to.

Now you know I have to ask this – which places have you run in? In Botswana, I have run in Gaborone, Mahalapye, Maun, Ghanzi, Palapye, Francistown, Kasane and Pandamatenga. Outside Botswana, I have run in Hartbeespoort, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Brussels and New York. I’ve raced in Soweto, Cape Town, Hartbeespoort, Kasane and Gaborone. 

I love the variety! Bringing it back home, what do you love about running in Gaborone and what do you think could be improved? Running in Gaborone gives me an opportunity to appreciate our beautiful city and get to know it better. We definitely need to work on safety of the runners on the road – roads need to have bigger shoulders. We also have to educate drivers to accommodate both runners and cyclists.

I agree. What has running taught you? Running has taught me that one needs to plan in life and work hard to achieve anything. For you to do well on Race Day, you must have a target finishing time, a training plan and also you have to work very hard during training so that you enjoy yourself on Race Day.

Many runners struggle with motivation from time to time. How do you keep yourself motivated to run? To me running is a lifestyle and it’s my time to plan for the day or de-stress after a long day or a long week.  I am at a stage where if I don’t run for more than 3 days during the week, I don’t feel complete. Some of my favourite mantras include: Your health is your wealth. You are stronger than you think. Ignore the pain it will be worth it in the end. 

Its all in the mind and your body will do whatever your mind tells it to.

As you started running with colleagues and you now belong to the Gaborone Striders running club, what would you say are some of the benefits of belonging to a club? The Top 3 benefits for me are the invaluable lessons you get from seasoned runners; the programs that the clubs have (e.g. Easy Monday (10km), Tuesday (8km Tempo run), Wednesday Speed Run etc., and accountability – a fellow runner asking if you are coming for that run or the other and feeling obliged to come.

What other activities do you incorporate as part of your overall fitness regime? In the past I didn’t do much outside of running but since January 2022 I started gym (Spinning, Yoga, Strength and Cardio) and I must say my fitness level has improved.

What advice do you have for new runners who have either just started their running journeys or would like to start running but don’t know how? My advice to new runners is to be patient in your journey. Run your race and take it one day at a time. Don’t rush for good times and PB’s. Time improvement takes time and running grows on you if you’re patient.

We’re publishing this on your birthday! First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY – and, of course, I have to ask – what are some of the running goals you have for your new year? To do my first Ultra Marathon at Om Die Dam on the 11th June 2022; to improve my Marathon PB Time of 4:33 to Sub 4:10; and to consistently be able to run a Sub-2 Half Marathon.

Those are incredible birthday goals! Thank you Jay Jay for sharing your running story and best of luck at Om Die Dam – ultra-training is gruelling but that scenery, medal and bragging rights, will make it all worth it! If you’d like to connect with Jay Jay, check out his Instagram Page.

I’m joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By MileCoach Debbie RunsConfessions of a Mother RunnerRuns with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running. Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.

19 thoughts on “Interview | From Asthma To Marathons

  1. What an enjoyable and inspiring read! I’m always amazed at the diverse backgrounds of the running community.
    Jay Jay advises new runners to be patient, and he is spot on with that advice.
    I’ve just come back from a run with a newbie runner. She was a bit frustrated about her pace and wished she was faster. Sometimes it’s hard to be patient with yourself – but it’s part of the game!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great interview. So interesting to hear about other runners experiences.

    And you asked the perfect questions.

    Keep ‘em coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Like you, I am also more interested in hearing stories from regular runners who have chased their goals and overcome obstacles to get there, These are fun posts to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Running bus! I love that! We don’t really have that here, the closest we come is a pace group.

    I love that Jay Jay uses mantras (the only one I disagree with is the no pain one — pain should always be noticed)!

    Good luck with your birthday goals, Jay Jay — you’ve got the drive to achieve them for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

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