On the 21st of May 2022, I participated in the Boitekanelo 15K Race. Located in Tlokweng, Boitekanelo College is an academic institution which offers degrees and diplomas in various health-related fields. As part of their 15 year anniversary celebrations, they organised a Charity Race with Access Bank Botswana as their Gold Sponsor and Botswana’s Minister of Health Dr. Edwin G. Dikoloti as the Chief Runner. There were three distances to choose from – 5km, 10km and 15km. When I signed up, I was confidently looking forward to a solid, and possibly PB-worthy 15K Race. However, the post-race blues after my ultra-trail affected my motivation, meaning I was definitely not race-fit but knew I could handle 15km albeit with some effort.
With a scheduled 6am start, we got up early and I wolfed down a snack bar on the way to Tlokweng. We arrived around 05:40 but with 6˚C temperatures, we sat in our car for as long as we could. Closer to 6am, we made our way from the parking area to the entrance of the college.
Once there, we spotted a few familiar faces – the “usual suspects” – Sonja, Brad, Zurika, Arifa, Polelo and Tapiwa, and a few other friends and colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while. An enthusiastic photographer captured this great photo of us together with Sonja and Brad.
It has to be very cold for me to wear a long-sleeved shirt for a run but a short-sleeved shirt means I have to start running immediately! The race showed no sign of starting at 6am and as time passed, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I moved my arms and legs vigorously, just to keep warm. Almost 40 minutes later… we were called to the Start. As we huddled in the crowd, I felt excited. Zurika and Arifa were a few rows in front of me and Ditiro moved even closer to the front to get a good start. Tapiwa and I stuck together. Finally, at 06:40 we were off.
1 – 5 km: The rain the day before meant there were a few muddy puddles to navigate at the start. As predicted, my body warmed up quickly and even in the crisp air I felt happy that I had gone without layers. I was amused by those in big bubble jackets, but hey, we are all different! Our route took us through some residential areas and about 2km in, we ran past a Catholic Church with beautifully stained glass windows. Tapiwa and I ran in rhythm like the old days. We chatted about all things under the sun and when we parted ways around the 5km mark, I reflected on the power of a good conversation to make the kilometres fly by. As I crossed the road, Tapiwa took a right turn with the other 10km runners. Our splits for those first 5km show a clear upward progression: 07:22/ 07:21/ 07:11/ 07:02/ 07:01 (min/km).
6 – 10 km: Now alone, I focused on maintaining a steady pace and being pulled by the race vibe. Up ahead was a couple who had kept the same distance from me the last 2 or 3 kilometres. I took a mental note not to let that gap increase. Around 6.5km, Brad overtook me and we joked that “we are almost done” when in reality we were not even halfway! We continued to explore different residential areas and I was impressed at how much Tlokweng has developed over the years. Although the late start had me worried about how organised the race would be, these worries were laid to rest. There were several water stops with cheerful volunteers offering us water and fruit as well as words of encouragement. Around 8km, my pacer couple abruptly started walking. I pushed ahead, never to see them again. I looked for another target. I ran past a few but others were difficult to catch. My splits: 07:12/ 07:08/ 07:09/ 07:18/ 7:28.
11 – 15 km: I felt okay but my legs were certainly getting heavier. I was grateful the end was in sight and told myself, “Just an easy five.” I was slower than I’d been but I wasn’t alone as other runners also seemed to be losing a bit of steam. As we approached the last main intersection, 10km runners emerged on our right. I ran past most and in the final kilometre pushed even harder but by then my tank was empty. My splits: 7:09/ 07:39/ 07:17/ 07:20/ 07:06.
My 15km PB of 1:38:05 was set on 28 February 2021 under Coach Marcel. My time for this race was 1:51:07. Although the course ran long, my time at the 15K mark was 1:48:33 – a far-cry from my PB but I was content with my run. The late start meant that Ditiro had already left for work and when I called Tapiwa she had also left. But I soon found Zurika, Arifa and Polelo and we took a few celebratory photos in the typical runner’s pose! If you know, you know!
So what did I think of the Race?! As this was an inaugural event, there were certainly some teething problems. Race packs were not ready on the first day of collection and unfortunately this was not announced until some people had already rocked up to pick up their packs (Ditiro included!). The second day of collection was described as disorganised – there were long queues and several race packs were missing key items and many t-shirts were wrongly allocated in terms of size and distance. And I’ve already told you about the 40-minute late start.
All that aside, I, along with many others, LOVED this race for several reasons. The route offered a truly Tlokweng experience allowing us to feel the pulse of this rapidly growing town. The 15K distance is not common even though many people actually consider it to be their favourite distance. There were several water stops, the route was well-marked and the volunteers created a fun vibe. I later learned that a house was donated to a family in Tlokweng in the closing ceremony. Although this event was organised to celebrate Boitekanelo’s 15 Year Anniversary I sincerely hope it becomes an annual event! Let’s sign a petition!
Were you at the Boitekenalo Race? Would you like it to become an annual event? Do you have many 15K races in your area? What do you think of 15K as a race distance?