On Sunday 27 November 2022, I participated in the UB Marathon (10K race) in celebration of the University of Botswana’s 40th Anniversary. This was actually a bonus race for me as I was to travel to Ghana that weekend for work but when those plans suddenly changed, it meant I could participate after all. I’m so glad I did as it turned out to be such a beautiful experience.
But… it was not without some drama – at 03:30 on the morning of the race Ditiro got an emergency call-out to attend to a poisoned dog (the work of thieves as part of a house break-in). He was to do the Half which was scheduled for 05:15. By the time my alarm rang at 04:15, he was still at the clinic. I got ready as fast as I could, grabbed his running clothes, bib, shoes and socks, but in the frenzy, left his cap, sunglasses, and waist bag which had his gels. At least I remembered the essentials! It had rained that night and was still very dark, so I drove slower than I would have liked. When I got to the clinic, Ditiro quickly changed, and we drove into the University Stadium, finding parking just as they said the Half Marathoners had four minutes until the start. He quickly tied his chip device to his shoe and ran to the gantry, next to the UB Indoor Sports Centre. [Given his very early morning, I was worried how he would fare. But turns out lack of sleep may be the secret to success – he landed a 4-minute PB with a very respectable 1h 35 min Half time!] Meanwhile back at the parking lot, I made my way to the Start.
I found a comfortable place inside the crowd. Not seeing anyone I knew, I was just lost in my own thoughts until I spotted Botswana’s Olympic Medallist Isaac Makwala, slightly ahead to my right. He was standing quietly by himself and wearing headphones!
I took a photo and played with the idea of asking him for a selfie, but I was just too nervous even when I saw others bravely do it! Just as I was thinking of a way to do it, someone behind me said, “Hi Gabs Runner” very quietly! I looked back and immediately recognised Natty Kraft who I follow on Instagram. We exchanged a few words and shortly after, the race started.
FIVE Things I Loved About the Race
1/ We Started on Time! Something that I’m always complaining about is the late start of races in Botswana. And when I say late, I mean 30, 40, 60 minutes late as you will have seen from previous race recaps! Given how early the race was scheduled (05:30) and that it had rained overnight which could have disrupted the race organisers, I expected to start closer to or past 6am. But very shortly after 05:30 the gun for the 10K race sounded, and we made our way out of the University Gates which had a huge “Start” Banner at the top. We ran out onto Notwane Road and then took a right at the UB Circle onto Chuma Drive.
2/ Running in the Heart of the City: We continued on Chuma Drive, passing the famous Notwane Tennis Club, the Gaborone Golf Club, the Avani Resort and Casino, all on our right. When we got to the Maru-A-Pula traffic lights, we turned left onto Nyerere Drive. This is a road I run on any time I do the school-drop off. Once we got to the Bull & Bush Lights, we turned left onto Nelson Mandela Drive before exiting left onto Independence Avenue, eventually making our way on the North and South Ring Road, and finally left onto Jawara Road, then Mobuto Road and back to the University Stadium. I always love running in the heart of the city – it evokes such a sense of pride and patriotism and as it is fairly flat it makes for a comfortable run.
3/ Running in Step with Strangers: As I’m still working my way back to fitness, my aim was never to race this 10K. In fact, I hadn’t run longer than 6km for many weeks. But I was keen to run strong and to maintain a consistent pace. I am so happy I was able to do this, completing the race with a 7:20 min/km pace, and running stronger than I have done in a long time,
I finally experienced the sense of flow that I’ve been missing recently. This can probably be attributed to a number of factors – I had a great music playlist, I was inspired by the route and the cloudy weather was a welcome relief from the torrid weather leading up to the day. But above all, I got strength during the race from the strangers I ran with – there were several moments where my steps would be beautifully synchronised with the person next to me. After a while, I would push ahead (or they would), and I would find another person to run in step with.
4/ The Medal: At the end of every year, I choose a medal of the year – and this one is definitely one of the top contenders! I loved its design as well as the wording, which both emphasise the university’s 40th anniversary with the tagline, More Miles of Excellence. Perhaps more significantly, the 40th logo is also inscribed on the medal – this logo comes from the anniversary theme, “Motho le Motho kgomo” (one man, one beast) which signifies a unified campaign by ordinary citizens in the 1970s following an appeal by the President to raise funds for the construction of the University, whether it was in the form of cattle or baskets of grain. It was a truly remarkable effort by the community, and I love that they are recognised in the 40th logo.
5/ Meeting Botswana Legend, Isaac Makwala: As part of this race, the University also wanted to pay homage to Botswana’s globally recognised elite athlete Isaac Makwala for his contribution to sports development in the country. The race was a touted as a chance to see Makwala wrap up his outstanding athletic career with a 10km run and the final 400m SOLO RUN around the track. During the event, he was also awarded a full university scholarship for any course of his choice. It was an incredible feeling to see him at the start of the race but when I spotted him in the stands at the end of the race, I made a beeline for him, interrupted his stretching route, and politely asked for a selfie – while thanking him profusely for his contribution to sport in Botswana. He was so gracious and humble, and put up with us taking several shots including a selfie! Is there a better way to end a race?!
This race was part of the 40th anniversary celebrations – but I hope it becomes part of our annual race calendar. It had all the key ingredients – it was well-organised, had a fun route, included a celeb factor, and with 2000 runners including international athletes, it had a great turnout. And of course, a special shout-out goes to the supportive marshals on the road and all other volunteers. Thank you to the race organisers for a successful and fun event!