Race Recap

BDF AC Half Marathon | What Went Wrong?

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?

I’m so happy to be linking up with these fabulous bloggers, My First 5K and MoreRunning With AttitudeRun Laugh Eat PieRuns with Pugs, and Zenaida for Fit Five Friday

13 thoughts on “BDF AC Half Marathon | What Went Wrong?

  1. The half marathon can really be a humbling distance. You can’t do it without actually planning and training for it, and if you haven’t trained and prepared, well, you know the consequences. I cant tell you how many I have done – 2 x 2 Oceans half, 5 x Knysna 1/2; 7 Buffs and Masters 1/2’s; and that’s just off the top of my head. My only goal, once my ankle is better and I am running properly again is to match Kipchoge’s sub 2 marathon time for a half. I need to find an accommodating course to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a key lesson Robyn. It doesn’t matter how many Halves you’ve trained for or run, you can’t get complacent and do it on a whim! The consequences are painful! I’m not sure I’d ever reach 2 hours, but I’m hoping for at least 2:10! Maybe once I get there 2 will seem more realistic for me. I can’t wait to see you get sub-2 and if you’re looking for a fast and flat course… Diacore Gaborone may be just the thing for you!

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  2. Thanks for this recap, Shathiso! So helpful for us runners because we’ve all been in that spot at some point.
    I can especially relate to point 3 – letting my ego take over and then crash and burn mid-way. Oh, the agony!
    But it’s a great learning opportunity. I am sure your 10th half marathon will be incredible!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Ego is a very dangerous thing! And the more I think about this race the more I realise just how much my Ego played a role. Each time I knew I should dial it down, my Ego said, NO. And look what happened! But as you say, it was a great learning opportunity!

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  3. There is a book by Ryan Holiday called “Ego is the Enemy”, which talks to your point 3. I had a similar experience when I ran a 10km in 2015. No training, set off super fast and then tried to overcompensate – ended up at Sunninghill Hospital for ECG tests after collapsing around the 9km mark.

    As you said, these events provide great learning experiences for us though. Onwards and upwards!

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    1. I remember this so well as we were so worried here in Gabs. Oh my heart hurts thinking about what Taffy felt and how worried we all were. Our Ego (that plus lack of training!) can literally land us in hospital! Onwards and upwards my friend!

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  4. This sounds like the race I just ran. We sometimes learn from our mistakes and other times, we let them go and change our goals.

    As you said… there will be many more races… some good,, some bad but always worth the effort.

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  5. Great to pull the lessons out of this! I was horribly arrogant doing my first Birmingham Half-Marathon after my first marathon. Having done a mara in August I thought I was somehow still fit enough to do a half comfortably in October. I gave up yoga and just ran around a bit. Come race day I got myself in a state, I was taking a friend round her first half and had to hand her over to another friend, and my glute twanged on a hill and I had to walk up every hill (and my friend Rich photographed me struggling up one, clutching my bum!).

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    1. I always love how honest you are Liz!! My heart goes out to you with this whole story – for having to hand your friend over to another friend to being caught on camera showing all signs of the struggle! But it just emphasises again that a Half is not to be played with – there is no room for arrogance or ego in training for that distance!

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