On the 5th November, 2017 I ran the Soweto Race (10 km) in neighbouring South Africa – probably one of the most vibrant and exciting races I have participated in. This completed my “Road to Soweto Training Plan” and was the 14th Race in my “17 in 2017 Challenge”. It was a fantastic and well-organised race. I didn’t break any personal records but I fought very hard for my medal! Unfortunately with end-of-year work deadlines, more training and more races, nativity plays and Christmas shopping, I haven’t had time to sit down and gather my thoughts. But here it is at last and a huge THANK YOU goes to my friend Tich who took most of the photos and helped write parts of the blog (the race expo and some sections of the race). His input really helped to make this blog a lot richer. Enjoy Number 14. I sure did! 🙂
Race Expo: Tich who is based in Johannesburg collected our race packs on our behalf and reported: “The Soweto Marathon has been running for a number of years, and one can tell that from the efficiency of the organisation. During the build up to the race, there were constant email reminders about the race itself, stories about some of the competitors and important messages about practical matters, like collecting race packs. The collection started on Thursday 2 November from 10h00, and I arrived there just after 11h00. There were plenty of signs and it was easy to navigate into the stadium basement where I spotted the 10 km area.
I’d carefully collated all the required documents (authorisation letters, copies of runners IDs and copy of my ID) to collect race packs on behalf of the Gabs crew and myself. Imagine my disappointment when the lady simply took the race confirmation letter, scanned the bar code and then asked me to check the runner’s details on the computer screen! All that admin for naught! But in about 3 mins I’d collected the race packs. Over to the 21km collection, and no problems there. I estimate I spent a total of 10 minutes collecting the race packs.
The exit from the collection area took me through the expo zone. The race organisers had set up various stalls for all running-related companies. Everything from apparel (Totalsports, Cape Union Mart) to nutrition (Futurelife) to supplements and medical supplies to registration for the Comrades and Two Oceans Marathon was on display. There were a lot of enthusiastic stall holders trying to get people to check out their products/services and it was working as I spotted quite a few runners leaving with full bags.”
Road Trip: With the race packs safely in Tich’s hands, the rest of us in Gaborone prepared ourselves for the big trip! Those of you who are regular readers know this running crew very well as they have featured in several of my posts. We travelled down in two cars – Elisa joined Polelo and Paul in theirs; Tapiwa was with Ditiro and I, and Thuna navigated between the two cars! We arrived at the border around 06:30 in the morning but border inefficiencies meant we spent two hours at the border post which really threw a huge spanner in the works. But being in each other’s company kept us in high spirits.
Once we were through the border, everything ran quite smoothly. We stopped for breakfast in Zeerust and as we approached Joburg we stopped at the Mall of Africa where I bought a new pair of running shoes. We then proceeded on to Taffy and Tich’s place around 4/5 pm where they had made a phenomenal welcome dinner. Once everyone had eaten and gone to their respective places of accommodation, I had a fantastic catch-up session with Taffy. Our catch-up sessions usually take us to around 04h00, but because of the race we had to keep it short and by 22h30 I was safely in bed! I was a lot more restless than usual, but settled down after Elisa sent a message that she had managed to collect her race number from the person who had collected it on her behalf.
Race Morning: I was up at 04h00 and by 04h30 Tich, Ditiro and I were out of the house. We met Paul, Polelo and Elisa at our designated meeting spot and then in two cars drove to the FNB Stadium. As we approached the Stadium we were met with a very long queue…
Fortunately, we had plenty of time and once we had parked the cars, we took a beautiful photo in front of the FNB Stadium, also known as Soccer City and The Calabash as it resembles the African pot/bowl. The stadium underwent a major upgrade in time for the Football World Cup hosted by South Africa in 2010. With a capacity of 94, 736 it became the largest stadium in Africa.
We quickly rushed to the toilets where there was quite a long queue and no toilet paper! However, being the expert runners that we now are, we made a plan! Once we were done, Elisa and Ditiro ran quickly to the start as their 06h30 Half Marathon start time was fast approaching. Tich, Polelo and I took a slower walk and soon met Tapiwa who had arrived earlier. She also reported that she had seen Elisa and Ditiro make it into the relevant 21.1k crowds!
We tried to look out for them as we made our way to our starting pen but with all those people our attempts were futile!
We tried to find our relevant starting pens but in the end we just joined any crowd. What a comfort to know there would be mat-to-mat times!
The music was pumping, the energy was high, and we literally danced to the beat as we approached the Start Line. As people made it closer and closer to the start, the race commentator shouted “You are a hero”; “You are amazing”; and “This is your race, go for it”. And on that note, we were off!
The Race: The race started on Stadium Avenue just outside FNB stadium and then made a left turn onto the Nasrec Road, which led to a slight incline (nothing like the real hills later!). There were crowds and crowds of runners but I never really felt like I had to battle to get through them. Miraculously, in that crowd and with that incline the slow pace suited me and I always managed to navigate passed people where needed (1 km Split: 08:36). We took a right turn onto the Rand Show Road over the N1 highway and into Diepkloof suburb. Diepkloof is the home of Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital which is the main medical centre in Soweto and the third largest hospital in the WORLD! The route meandered through the houses and shopping areas, and there were some spectators out and about cheering the runners on. I felt so comfortable and happy. I was pushing hard but at the same time my body felt strong. My splits for km 2 – 6 were solid: 07:41/07:04/07:01/ 07:20/ 07:05. Just after 6km, the road turned right onto the Soweto Highway and the start of the hills that humble you! Oh boy, did these hills humble me! I pushed and pushed, but at one point like Elisa said, “There is no shame in walking” and I walked for at least a km. A police officer actually came up to me and said, “Lady, keep moving, keep moving lady, keep moving!” And I told him, “I am moving. I am moving!” It was also so hot and I remember thinking, “You are from Gaborone. Why are you struggling in Joburg heat? Come on girl, you are better than this!”
This seemed like a never ending hill, but eventually we were greeted by the glorious sight of the FNB stadium – at least we now knew the finish was almost there. My splits for km 7 – 8 show that the struggle was real: 08:47 (!)/ 07:43. I then started pushing again and my km 9 split was: 07:24. It was at this point that Tapiwa came up from behind me and shouted my name and some encouraging words, “You’ve pushed Shats. You’ve really pushed” and tapping her head she said, “Follow my cap. Just follow my cap” and off she went. I tried to keep an eye on her cap but she was going for her trademark sprint finish and was just too fast. The final kilometre was a gentle descent into the stadium, through a tunnel and then into a cacophony of noise that made us feel like football players about to kick off for a cup final! Coming through that tunnel was one of the most amazing experiences of my life – I used what little energy I had left to stand up tall and just sprint home like a champion, like a warrior coming home! Last split: 07:20. Thankfully, we didn’t have to complete a full lap of the track and then it was over the finish mat!
I found Tapiwa and then held onto a rail struggling to catch my breath, demanding a drink! I felt so nauseous but held it together. We soon found Tich, or rather he found us as he had been keeping track of us on the app so he knew as soon as we were done. Ditiro was soon done with his Half Marathon, and when Polelo and Elisa came through our running team was united again. We took in the glorious atmosphere, shared our individual war stories and made our way out of the Stadium where we soon met Paul.
My time: I ran the course in 1:16:36 minutes (07:40 pace). Oh my word, I was so happy for two main reasons, 1) My watch reading was the same time as the chip reading! Those of you who have been following me for some time know that this has been my biggest issue with races I have done! Thank you Soweto!!! 🙂 But even more importantly, 2) My time was almost the same time I recorded for the GC Mayor’s 10k race (1:16:09) in mid-September – one of the flattest courses in the region! So for me to have done hilly Soweto in the same time was a monumental achievement.
After the Race: We had such an amazing time after the race – once we had washed and changed we all headed to this beautiful restaurant where we were joined by our chief supporters Taffy and the kids, Thuna and Tumi! We wined and dined in style and it was the most special way to end such an amazing day.
We hit the road at 16h00 and after another long wait at the border, we were home around 23h00. By far, one of my most amazing race experiences ever. Thank you to my friends – the whole experience was made that much more special by the fact that you were all there.
Would I do this race again?
What do you think?! YES! YES! YES! And next time, I think I may just take on the Soweto Half Marathon! 😉
I am so excited to be linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! I am also linking up with the Wild Workout Wednesday crew – Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama and Nicole from FitFul Focus! Linking up is such a great way to get motivated and to get to know other bloggers! So please take some extra time to read some of their stories and link up if you can!