On the 28th August 2022, I participated in the BDF AC Half Marathon in Mogoditshane, a bustling peri-urban town in Kweneng District which borders Gaborone. The last time I was here was in 2018 when I did the 10K route. I had such an enjoyable time exploring the vibrant streets of Mogoditshane, navigating curious goats on the streets as well as enthusiastic combis and taxis along the big Molepolole Road, and being cheered on by jovial spectators. At that time, I declared that I would one day do the Half Marathon. So, I was extremely excited to finally be here. When we arrived, we spotted my cousin Tapiwa, and then, our friends, Sonja, Elisa and Thebe. They were all full of joy, as was I, and at that point, I was surprisingly confident. But with a finish time of 2:48:06 (07:53 pace) it was my worst-ever performance in this distance, 54 seconds slower than my first Soweto Half Marathon. Let me pause to let that sink in…!
So What Happened?
1/ Poor Nutrition, Sleep and Hydration. High stress levels and lots of work for most of August, meant I resorted to some unhealthy and mindless snacking. That was coupled with late nights and early mornings. It being winter, I also wasn’t hydrating enough. I’m not good at drinking water on hot summer days so you can imagine how bad it gets during winter! Taking these basic factors into consideration, it’s not surprising the wheels came off during the race. Even in the first 5km, I felt out of sorts, and by 8km, I knew it was going to be a tough one. I felt stiff, tired, heavy… each step just felt harder than usual. By the time I got to 15km I started walking on/off, and I must admit, it wasn’t exactly “energetic” walking.
2/ I Made Bad Decisions During Training. I took a week off after the Phikwe Half Marathon and resumed training for the BDF AC Half Marathon at the beginning of August, giving me four weeks to get ready. The first two weeks went well and then on the 14th of August, I did a 22.5km run to support my friend before her epic Comrades Marathon. I don’t regret this decision at all BUT I do regret my actions afterwards – I didn’t run for NINE days and then quickly threw in two panicked runs, a 5km and 8km, on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Sunday’s Race, and didn’t do my usual shake-out run the day before. Had I just stuck to my plan those last two weeks, I know I would have been a lot stronger on Race Day.
3/ I Let My Ego Control The Pace. My strength during races has always been my pacing. That, and reading my body very well. This time though, I set off too fast – my splits (min/km): 07:00/ 6:59/ 6:48/ 7:03/ 7:08. It’s easy to get excited at the start of a race, and I knew I was going too fast, but instead of dialling it down, which I usually do, I kept pushing. My splits for the next 3km were: 7:21/ 7:04/ 7:11. It got a bit too much around 9km where I fell to 7:48, but again, I kept pushing, deliberately, and for the next 3km I ran, 7:08/ 7:15/ 7:09. I knew my body enough to know that I would soon crash but looking back my ego had taken charge. And yes, as expected, the big crash came at 13km. By the time I got to 15km it was all over: 9:08/ 9:35/ 9:17/ 9:28/ 9:21/ 8:22/ 9:20. There’s no pretty way to say this – I crashed and burned!
4/ I Talked Myself To A Personal Worst. Race strategies go wrong all the time or unexpected challenges come along. But that’s when you dig deep and use all the mantras in your kit to get through the race. I’ve used several in all my races – You are strong. You are fearless. You are unstoppable. This time, I repeated, Why did I sabotage my training plan? Why didn’t I just slow down? This is awful. This feels terrible. I hate this so much. And when Ditiro, who was running with me, tried to bring me out of the swamp, I threw in a You don’t know what you’re talking about! Yes. There’s no better way to say this. I talked myself to a Personal Worst. The more I channelled this negativity, the harder and more painful it felt. And long. It felt so long!
5/ I’ve Become Complacent. In reviewing my previous eight Half Marathons this week, I realised something. I have always respected the distance enough to stick to my training plans. That’s not saying I wouldn’t miss some runs but I wouldn’t miss two whole weeks. I think when I trained for my ultra (yes, I’m going to spend a lifetime bringing this into the conversation, LOL!) I had to do 20km runs week after week, and the respect I had for the distance, waned a little. So for both the Phikwe Half Marathon and this one, I didn’t put sufficient effort into training – after all, I know I will get it done. But this race taught me that if I say I want to get stronger and faster, I need to respect the distance and go back to putting in the work.
But with all that said and done, I want to highlight a few things I’m grateful for. The race was well-organised, and the soldiers, policemen and volunteers were extremely patient and professional, ensuring that every runner was kept safe, especially when we had to cross busy roads. I love that I met someone who follows my blog, Maggie, (yay!) and I’m grateful for the 7km we ran together. I’m so thankful for my friends who did the 10km route but waited for me until I had finished. It was a long wait but they were all there at the end. And to Ditiro – for putting up with some right snarkiness! You were right, LOL!
And, last but not least, I’m grateful for another medal and all the valuable lessons.
What are some of the lessons you’ve gained from a poor performance at a race?