On the 30th April 2022, I participated in the Spar Community Challenge Series at Airport Junction Mall. This is a 9-part running series with monthly runs from April until December, with two distances, 5K and 10K. There is a leader board for each race (and series) with overall winners to be announced at the final race. There are also spot prizes and finisher medals at each event. The challenge is in support of the Gamodubu community about 25km from Gaborone.
Following my Ultra, I’ve been taking things easy – running for fun without a particular goal. This week though, I resumed more structured training with my eye on a few 15K and Half Marathon races. With all my endurance training (and little to no speedwork) the last year, I’ve lost a lot of speed and I’m looking to reclaim it one run at a time. So this Spar Community Challenge Series couldn’t be more perfectly timed. It will keep me focused as I work on getting faster again.
The 10km race was starting at 06:15 and as we only live a short distance from APJ, we left the house at 05:55 to be there for a quick warm-up. When we arrived, there was only a small crowd warming up on the lawn with the Penalty Box trainer. We stayed close to the gantry and caught up with our friends Naema and Elisa. I’ve been experiencing a bit of social anxiety so was initially nervous to be in a crowd setting, but as we chatted with that buzz of excitement in the air, I felt comfortable and just thought “How wonderful that races are back!?”
The route was an out-and-back on the Phakalane Road, not one I do very often. I had planned to incorporate my scheduled speed session for the week – a 2km warm-up followed by 5x 400m speed intervals, and then cool down. But I threw the strategy out the window when Elisa changed her distance from 5km to 10km – I haven’t run with her in so long so decided I’d rather focus on keeping it conversational (but strong) in the first half and then tempo in the second half. Our first km was a speedy (for me) 6:57min/km but we slowed it down a tad bit with splits: 7:09/ 7:16/ 7:15 and then a mighty push up an incline with 7:34 pace. We turned around the 6km mark (7:31) and headed back. We stopped talking around 7km (7:15) as we felt the strain.
Shortly after this, Elisa told me to push ahead. I drank my last bit of water and regretted not taking more at the last stop. With 3km left, I turned it up aiming for a sub-7 pace. I succeeded with a steady – 6:57/ 6:56/ 6:57. Ditiro came back for me around 9km and rescued me with water. When my trusty Garmin signalled 10km, my time was 1:11:46 but I knew I was at least a km from the finish! But as my cousin says, “Extra km for free!” My pace dropped to 7:23 for the 11th but I found some energy in the last 250m for a solid sprint and, yes, with my hands in the air! A respectable 7:11min/pace for 11km, probably my fastest in a year, and with a 170 ave. heart rate, 92% in Zone 5, and my Garmin telling me I was overreaching, I’d say I gave it my all!
There was a cool down session with Penalty Box at the end but of course, Ditiro, Elisa and I decided to take a few photos at the end. #Priorities, right?!
Aside from the late start (06:42am) and longer course (11km), this was a beautiful event – gorgeous Botswana skies, perfect 13˚C temps, two water stops, encouraging marshals, and very professional and friendly police present at the intersections. With the slight elevation, the route tested our strength and of course we were rewarded with gorgeous medals at the end!
If you’d like to join the movement – please register for the remaining runs at SPAR stores (Kgale, Village, Airport Junction and Acacia), GRIP Runner (Sebele Mall) or online at http://www.ucbtiming.co.bw. Here is the schedule.
Are you taking part in the Spar Challenge Series? What’s your favourite distance? What goals are you working on? Does endurance training make you slower?
I’m joining two amazing runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired.