A couple of weeks ago, I ran my ninth Half Marathon and to my shock and disappointment, the result was a Personal Worst (PW) time. The course was not hilly or particularly difficult, in fact, I found it really enjoyable (until I started struggling). When I reflected later, there were many reasons for my dismal performance which I’ll get into in another blog but to summarise them very briefly – the month leading up to the race was very stressful for me with poor sleep, hydration, nutrition as well as haphazard training. So, my performance on this course was never going to be great but did I expect a PW? Not at all! That is a special status I reserve for my Soweto races! I won’t lie – my ego took a huge hit and my confidence was shaken, so much so, that I changed the Half planned for 17th September to a 10K! But I don’t want to dwell on this feeling for too long so let’s look back and celebrate my Half Marathon journey thus far.
My Half Marathon Journey
1/ Diacore Half Marathon, May 2018: It was sometime in 2017 that I started thinking about running a Half Marathon. Initially, it wasn’t a serious thought… in fact, each time it entered my head, I brushed it off as a ludicrous idea. But, by the end of that year, I felt that a Half Marathon was something I needed to try…”at least once”. So in January 2018, I started training with Coach Nicola from Running Happy, and in May that year, I ran my first Half Marathon on the streets of Gaborone. It was such an incredible experience and I remember repeating to myself “I did it. I did it. I did it.” I think the disbelief I felt stemmed from the fact that it had taken me so long to even accept that I was a “real” runner. So, this Half felt like some kind of validation. But more than that, I enjoyed it. I hadn’t set a time goal but I was happy with my 02:41:01 result.
2/ Soweto Half Marathon, Nov 2018: Next up was the Soweto Half Marathon in Johannesburg, South Africa. Having done the 10 km Race in 2017, this was my second Soweto experience. Given how tough the 10km race was, I knew the Half would be more challenging so I spent three months training with Coach Nicola. Soweto is a tough race which lulls you into a false sense of security in the first half, only to beat you down with some gruelling hills in the second half. It was in this race that I learnt how important fuelling is during a race. I had not had anything but water on the course and was completely knackered and nauseous when I finished in a time of 2:47:12. As a side, this remained my PW until my ninth Half Marathon but I was extremely proud of this effort.
3/ Gabs Half Marathon, March 2019: For my first two Half Marathons, I had only one goal – TO FINISH. For this Half Marathon, I decided to set a specific time goal of 2:35. In hindsight, this was quite an ambitious goal but when I set off, there was no question in my mind that this goal was achievable. I ran a beautiful 15km and then it all came undone in the last 6km where I felt completely drained, demotivated, hot and lonely. I was well and truly at the back of the pack with hardly anyone around and when I spotted my husband, father and my friend Zurika holding my kids, I was so happy. I hurtled to the finish with a PB time of 02:37:42 but all I felt was a crushing sense of disappointment at how poorly I’d run those last 6km. With time though, I grew very proud of this new PB as well as all the lessons that had come with it.
4/ Diacore Half Marathon, May 2019: After my third Half Marathon, I took a week off to reflect and realised two things, 1) I had to work on my mind game. My race had fallen apart as soon as I went off target at 15km and I almost talked myself to a last place finish, 2) I needed to do more speedwork. My friend Johannes said he had an 8-week training plan I should try out. I trained consistently, hardly missing any runs, and when the day came, I felt extremely strong and confident throughout the race. So strong was I that I powered home with 06:42/ 06:39 (min/km) splits. As I approached the Finish I saw my dad and cousin on the side-lines, and I just kept pushing! I then saw Ditiro, Zurika and Elisa. There were no dancing theatrics like last year, just pure focus. And then I was through! I stopped my watch and there it was 2:28:42. Sub 2:30 when all I was going for was 2:35. As I went to get my medal, I spotted Polelo and her family and all I remember shouting to them was “Sub 2:30!” A 09:46 min PB!
It’s safe to say that at this point I was well and truly bitten by the Half Marathon bug! With each Half, I was determined to get fitter and stronger for the next one and achieving a sub-2:30 time for Half Marathon No. 4 was an incredible feeling. I had gone from running a Half Marathon just to say “I’ve done it” to running a sub-2:30 time, and not just that, running strong for the whole race. If I was to summarise my lessons from these first four Half Marathons it would be to say that you can do anything you put your mind to but that it takes courage to set the goal in the first place, to put in the work and to lift yourself up when you don’t perform as you’d expected.