Botswana Independence 10k, Race Recap (#12/17)

On the 23rd September, I participated in the Botswana Independence Race (10 km). I had a great run but struggled to contain my emotions afterwards. For those of you reading my blog for the first time I am a newbie runner on a mission to complete 17 races this year! Enjoy Number 12! 

The Race: The mornings of my races don’t really change much – I wake up at 04:30, hop into the shower, get dressed, and then have some cereal in the car. This morning was no different. When we arrived at the University Stadium, I used the toilet one last time (very clean) and then found Ditiro and Tapiwa in the aerobics crowd! We soon spotted Elisa and Kuma who were doing the Half Marathon, and we later saw Polelo with her hubby, niece and nephew! So once again we were all united on the race track! The aerobics was fun but dragged on a bit; I think we all just wanted to get started! The good thing though is that my legs got a great warm-up. We took some photos at the start, and we were beautifully coordinated in our Botswana Flag colours – even our caps by complete coincidence were blue, black and white! The Half Marathoners took off first and at 06:37 we were off!

The Route: University of Botswana Stadium, right at the UB Circle, then left at the Maru-A-Pula intersection, left at the Bull and Bush Lights, left at Attorney General’s Chambers, along the wall of the State House, back of Princess Marina Hospital, to the Hospital Circle, through UB Campus and then back to the Stadium.

My main goal for this race was to go 3 minutes faster than I had at my last race. I started the race with Tapiwa and we were together for at least 8 km. As usual, I felt sluggish in the first 2 km (splits, min/km: 07:30/ 07:43) but I felt a lot better by the time we got to the 3 km point (07:12 pace). I didn’t realise when I was running but my watch suggests that the very slight elevation for kms 4 – 6 reduced my pace a bit (splits, 07:44/ 07:35/ 07:30). After that I picked up the pace (07:16/07:23 for kms 7 and 8). As we approached the 8 km point, I could feel Tapiwa’s engine rearing to take it up a notch so I told her, “Girl! Take it home”.  She set off but I tried to make sure I always had her white cap in my sights and it helped as my splits for kms 9 and 10 were, 07:03 and 06:55. So I got to km 10… with no end in sight. I was now on the University Campus but I knew I was still very far from the Stadium. At that point, I stopped my watch so I had an accurate 10 km time. But of course the race needed to be finished so I continued running but was getting increasingly tired. I met others who were also struggling and grumbling about the fact that we had long done 10 km! As I approached the Stadium Gate, there was a Running Club cheering for us! Someone knew my name so I heard, “Go Shathiso! Go! Go Shathiso Go!” I entered the Stadium and sprinted hard for a very strong finish! I even took some time to turn for my hubby’s camera! (He works hard for this blog! LOL!) 

And then Polelo managed to get this AMAZING photo! One of my favourite running photos and I was so pleased to see how much my form has improved!!

My time: I ran 10 km in 1:13:59 hours for my 12th medal of the year. Goal almost achieved! I debated with myself whether I should use the 11.4 km time (probably around 1:24) but have decided to stick with my time for 10 km which I think is fair.

Pros of the race:

  1. A nice flat course 
  2. Lovely and vibrant atmosphere in the Stadium
  3. Good warm up and cool down aerobics sessions
  4. Clean, lockable real toilets 🙂

Cons of the race:

  1. As my dad-in-law who is a Maths Teacher said, “14% error! Totally unacceptable!” I agree. It was so demoralising to get to the 10 km point and to look around and realise the end was not even close!! I had started pushing at the 8 km mark knowing that I only had 2 km left, only to find that in reality I had 3.4 km left. I read in this article that you should expect a 1% error with GPS watches… but 14%, I don’t think so!
  2. Not enough water at the 10 km stops. Marshals told us point blank that the water was for the Half Marathoners. Hhhmm.

Would I do this race again?

Probably – although still a bit irritated by the distance error.

After the race: I was so emotional. Not immediately after the race. It all started in the afternoon. I was a weepy mess! I think it finally hit me that I have gone from zero fitness to completing 12 races this year. I have had great races and so much fun even in the most disorganised ones. But until this race, I don’t think I ever stopped to think “You know what… this is big.” So I was just quite emotional – even overwhelmed and I think a little bit race fatigued! My training since this race has been erratic and inconsistent because of work/family load. But I think there is also a small part of me that feels a bit tired. So I am going to work hard to get my motivation levels back up to complete the five races I have left!

I am linking up for the first time with the Wild Workout Wednesday crew – Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama and Nicole from FitFul Focus! I’m also linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for the exciting Tuesdays on the Run! 

Gaborone City Mayor’s Race 10k, Race Recap (#11/17)

On Saturday, I participated in the inaugural Gaborone City Mayor’s Race. I chose the 10 km distance and after a very disorganised and rocky start to the day, it was such a brilliant experience! Here is the story of Number 11… 

The Race: The hype around this race was amazing – the huge billboards, exciting social media posts, and several interviews with our charismatic mayor! However, we started getting a bit worried when we picked up our race packs and there was no information on start times. The promised timing chips also appeared to be missing. Around 22h00, a start time (06h00) was given on their Facebook Page. On this same post, we were also told that timing chips could be collected at 05h00 from the National Stadium (starting point). When we got to the race around 05h30, a huge crowd had gathered in the hall where timing chips were being handed out. After standing in the room for 30 minutes, we decided it was just not worth the hassle. We then went into the Stadium and started warming up. There was a great aerobics session with fantastic music, but I chose to take a nice slow jog around the stadium instead. We then made our way to the Start Line.

The Marathoners took off first and shortly afterwards at 07h10 we set off.

The Route: What a lovely route around Central Gaborone! We started at the National Stadium, ran onto Botswana Road, then headed to the flyover by the Bus Station, behind the CBD, right onto the flyover, through the Bull and Bush Lights, right at the Maru-A-Pula intersection, passed Gaborone Avani Hotel/ Golf Club and back to the Stadium.

My goals for this race were simple – this was a training run and I wanted a nice comfortable pace; I was hoping to do it in around 1:15/ 1:16 hours; and I wanted to run without my knee support. After my disastrous training run mid-week, I was also very keen to make sure I started out slow and then gradually increased my pace after the halfway mark. I managed to do exactly that – my splits (min/km) for kms 1 -4 were: 07:46/ 07:51/ 07:45/ 07:40. As I approached the 5 km mark I was feeling really strong (07:19 pace) and around the 5.6 km mark the best thing happened! My cousin Tapiwa who was at work in the CBD came out to cheer me on! My first ever mid-race supporter!

This gave me such a boost of energy and my splits for kms 6 – 8 were 07:12 (!)/ 07:24/ 07:30. With 2 km left, I started to feel a bit tired and my split for km 9 dropped to 07:42; but as the excitement started building again, I increased my pace as I headed towards the Stadium (last split: 07:16)! With 500 metres to go I spotted Polelo and Ditiro who were standing outside the Stadium’s entrance.

I then entered the Stadium for the last 400 metre stretch!

As I turned the bend, I took it up another notch and had a very solid sprint finish at the end… that wave of energy, excitement and happiness as I crossed the finish line was phenomenal. Another race in the bag!

My time: I ran the course in a comfortable 1:16:09 hours and claimed my 11th medal of the year.

Cons of the race:

  1. It was completely disorganised – most of the stores/ outlets that were listed as ticket sellers didn’t know anything about the race. Ditiro was buying our tickets and he had to see three people in Choppies before he found someone who knew something about the race. Polelo was sent from pillar to post, from JB Sports to Liquorama to the Shell in the Main Mall, and eventually got her tickets at Rail Park Choppies. The actual registration process was also lengthy.
  2. Information on start times provided too late.
  3. Chaotic timing chip collection process that left most of us without chips by the time the race started.
  4. A 70-minute delayed start to the race… hhmm…
  5. No toilet paper in the National Stadium toilets (but thankfully I had some toilet paper in the car!)
  6. No distance markers on the road.

Pros of the race:

  1. Running in the oldest part of our city was such a great feeling. It was a beautiful course. Polelo summed it up beautifully: “The race itself was fantastic! Great starting point; the National Stadium has such a fab vibe. Awesome route; love love love my city!”  
  2. Although the race packs didn’t have much in them, they did have a route map and I was able to visualise exactly where I would be running.
  3. Hats off to the Botswana Police Service! They provided great support on the course ensuring that runners were given priority at all times. I overhead one police woman tell an impatient driver, “You can swear at me if you want, you just stay put!” 

Would I do this race again?

Polelo’s answer is “Would definitely do it again” and Ditiro’s answer is, “I enjoyed the race and I will do it again. The GC Mayor’s Marathon has the potential to be the best race in Gaborone. They just need to get experienced race organisers to help them out”. My answer? I know the cons seems to outweigh the pros! I know there was complete chaos at the start… But my answer is YES. Are we crazy? Maybe… But there was something so special about this route. Something that stirred something deep inside of us. Something that really gave us a reason to be proud to call this city our very own. So yes, they get one more chance!

Once again I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap! I’m also linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for the exciting Tuesdays on the Run! 

Rustenburg Mountain Race 10k, Race Recap (#10/17)

Last week the family and I (including my parents) went on vacation! After months of intense work schedules/ challenges, we all really needed the break and we had a fantastic time exploring the beautiful Mpumalanga Province of South Africa. Mpumalanga’s literal translation is “The place where the sun rises” and what a stunning place this was. It took us around 8 hours to drive from Gaborone, Botswana to Hazyview, the quaint little town we would be staying in. We had a fabulous week zip-lining with the kids, going to the spa, visiting some historic national heritage sites, and exploring the stunning natural wonders and beauty of Mpumalanga.

Bourke’s Potholes, Blyde River Canyon

God’s Window

It was a well-deserved break for us all, and I am ecstatic that we were able to get time to do this. I squeezed in three training “hilly” runs, a Long Run on Sunday (50 min), a Steady Run on Tuesday (22 min) and an Easy Run on Thursday (20 min).

With my mind always on my #17in2017 Challenge, I organised a stopover in Rustenburg on our way back from holiday so that I could compete in my tenth race of the year! In my search for races, I landed on the Keystone Milling Rustenburg Mountain Race (5k, 10k, 25k). Not the ideal race to choose considering I am from a very flat city, and most of my training does not involve any inclines! But I felt up to the challenge and we signed up for the 10k race. Some of you may remember that in my second race of the year, I tackled the Sunrise Mini Monster (also in South Africa) which had a 286 m ascent and was quite a tough introduction to hill running! With a few more races under my belt, I felt a lot more confident going into this one. Enjoy Number 10! 

The Race: We arrived in Rustenburg on Friday evening, just in time to collect our race packs (and our temporary license numbers which are compulsory in South Africa). On Saturday morning, we got to the Rustenburg Kloof (Gorge) around 06:30 and the race MC was already calling for the 25 km runners to come to the Starting Line. At 07:00, the 25 km runners set off – the crowd was not very big but runners included some of the running greats of South Africa, so it felt great to be there with running royalty! After some stretches, a last trip to the bathroom, we took our positions at the Start Line.

At 07:12 (3 minutes early), the gun went off! Although it’s called the “Mountain” Race, I didn’t quite expect us to start on an incline! But yes, we did! Before we even got to the first km marker, I told Ditiro (who was pacing me as he is nursing a hip injury) that I was out of breath, uncomfortable and just felt blehh. When I later looked at my Splits for the first 2 km (min/km: 07:42/ 06:57) it is no wonder I was feeling a bit out of sorts. I was powering up the incline at a faster pace than I usually do on my normal flat runs! I think I got intimidated by the other runners and went out too hot. So I reminded myself that this was my race/ my pace, and slowed it down a bit in the 3rd and 4th km, Splits: 07:45/ 08:13. But after passing the 4 km mark, I felt awful and did what I haven’t done since my 2nd race of the year… I walked. It was a strong walk, but I was initially disappointed in myself.  So it was great to hear Ditiro say that all we have done by walking is “adapted to the conditions and downshifted to save ourselves from burnout and collapse.” That actually made me feel tonnes better. My splits for km 5 and 6 are, 09:21/ 09:16. The more manageable pace gave us a chance to look at the beautiful cliff as we approached it, before turning around.

The last part of the race was so much better! It was a nice gradual descent, and not hard on the knees. I went from, “I am dying. Get me outta here” to feeling like I was floating on air! For km 7, 8 and 9, my Splits were: 06:59/ 06:55 (hello!)/ 07:32! With a km to go, I started feeling a slight niggle in my right hamstring, almost like a cramp was coming, but I stayed positive, drank more water, and kept going. Ditiro then set off with 750 m to go so he could get some photos of me as I pushed through the finish line! There was an unexpected climb at the end of the race which slowed me down so my last split was 07:52 min/km. As I came through the finish, I happened to be alone at the time and the MC cheekily announced “Here comes another runner. Very fast, she must have taken a short cut!” I ignored the possible sarcasm and laughed out loud as I hopped across the Finish Line, like I was born to do this! 🙂

Route: It was a straightforward route but with an ascent of 177 m. We started at the Rustenburg Kloof  and headed into the beautiful Kgaswane Nature Reserve. Our route was almost tarred the whole way, but as we were in a nature reserve, the scenery was beautiful and there were even a couple of bridges over quiet streams.

My time: The only race I can really compare this one to was the Monster I spoke of earlier which I did in 1:28:33. I did this one in 1:19:20. Nothing spectacular and most certainly not a PB, but for me a whole lot better than I did on a similar race 7 months ago. It gave me such a confidence boost!

Lessons/Discoveries: 

  1. My knee is ready to rock n roll!: When I injured myself back in May, it took physio and a lot of self-talk to keep my eye firmly on the goal of getting to 17 races. Since I returned from injury, I have done four races. I have been careful to stretch before and after all my runs, no matter how tedious I find it. I think this has helped. I have been patient and maybe even too cautious. But I think I am now ready to step it up a gear and I am optimistic for a 70 minute 10k finish time in the next race or two!
  2. I am no longer a toilet snob:  I just go. LOL. I used to struggle to use public toilets/ porta-loos! But since becoming a runner, I. Just. Go. I’m in and out in no time. 🙂
  3. I am ready to add more to my regime: I would like to start doing more cardio, strengthening and toning exercises. There is a Virgin Active Gym very close to home, so in the next couple of weeks I think I will sign up.
  4. The importance of adjusting to race conditions: Although I didn’t have any race expectations as such, I did expect to run the whole way as I have done since March! But I had to walk for around 1.5 km of the race… and although initially disappointed, I really see that this was what needed to be done to finish the race. I could have stormed ahead, and then simply burned out before time. This was an important learning for me.

Pros of the race:

  1. I do admire the South African race organisers for their overall efficient and well-organised races that START ON TIME!
  2. The marshals were also very cheerful and enthusiastic.
  3. It’s not an over-crowded race. A big race with a small crowd if that makes sense!
  4. A beautiful route through a lovely nature reserve.

Cons of the race:

  1. A lovely medal, but with the wrong date! “2015” – oh well, I believe in recyling and not wasting so I wasn’t too bothered to be honest!
  2. There were no chips/ transponders – so I’ll use my GPS watch as my official time.
  3. No bibs – we just had our temporary license numbers at the back and then a small tag with our details on the front.

Would I do this race again?

If I lived in South Africa (or was in the area again), I would definitely do this race again. However, with so many races cropping up in and around Gaborone, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to do this. But a lovely race all round!

I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap who are today joined by Pretty Lil Mudder as guest host) Please join in on the fun! You will find so much useful information and many inspiring running stories! 🙂

Time Adventure Team Challenge, Race Recap (#9/17)

My ninth race of the year was on the 20th August 2017. It was my first ever team event and I earned myself a nice 13-minute PB on a 5k Trail Run! What a fun and exciting day we all had! Enjoy Number 9…

The Time Adventure Team Challenge is a four-stage event held at the beautiful Mokolodi Nature Reserve, a 20 minute drive from Gaborone. It is home to a variety of species, including rhinos, giraffes, zebra, warthogs and various antelope. It also has an abundance of gorgeous bird life. Stage 1 of the Challenge was a 10 km Trail Run, Stage 2 was a 15 km cycle, Stage 3 was another 15 km cycle, and Stage 4 was a 5 km Trail Run.

Our Team: We had three members – my friend Elisa was our 10 km runner, my husband Ditiro was our rider for both Stages 2 and 3, and I took on the 5 km Trail Run. We arrived at the race, excited and READY for action! Our team’s name was “Trail Attack”. How fabulous do we look in our green outfits!?!

The Race:

Stage 1: At 08:30, Elisa set off into the wild bush. Standing on the sidelines, we felt so excited that our little adventure had begun!

In Elisa’s words, “The Time Team Challenge was a very tough and challenging trail run but at the same time incredibly enjoyable. The surroundings were beautiful; savanna bush, hills and lakes. I didn’t come across any animals but the sound of hippos as we ran past the lakes was a lovely reminder that we were running in a game reserve! The time just flew by in this race. There was a lot of focus on many things which distracted from the actual activity of running. You really had to watch where your feet landed so as not to break your ankle on the abundant sharp stones along the paths and in between your eyes had to keep darting up to check the markers to ensure that you were on course and did not veer off and get lost! The trail was fairly flat until 6 km where there was a sudden and steep ascent to the top of the hill, which they call World’s View. Just when we thought we had made it… we were confronted with stairs to take us all the way up. After finally making it to the top, the descent was such a relief and a chance to make up for the slow ascent. From there it was home free, with a sprint finish at the end!”

Stages 2 & 3: Ditiro was determined to do both riding stages, meaning that he would ride a total of 30 km on the somewhat unforgiving terrain.

In Ditiro’s words,“I found a place in the line-up where Elisa could easily spot me, and once she did we had a smooth baton handover.”

“The first bit of the track was hard but slightly rutted and within 3 minutes of the race, I lost one of my water bottles. After a few minutes of solo riding, I caught up to a few riders who I passed. The track varied from beautiful winding single track to extremely bumpy bits to thick patches of sand. There were some hills and two dry riverbed crossings. I maintained a brisk pace but was slowed down a couple of times where riders couldn’t move out of the way or where I had to negotiate obstacles. It was beautiful scenery although I only saw one impala. After finishing the first leg, I was quite tired but also anxious as the second leg had a big climb. About halfway, I felt my left quad starting to cramp slightly. I quickly sucked on my electrolyte gel and tried to increase my water intake which I had forgotten to do in the first leg. I also spent a few minutes helping a guy fix his bike. I managed to do the big climb with the cramp still niggling and I stopped to get more electrolytes and water at the top of World’s View. I also took a selfie with one of the marshals who just happened to be my dad-in-law!” 

How cool that my dad was a race marshal!!

“I then blazed down a very bumpy downhill. I nursed my cramp slightly using lower gears but just as I got to the dismount area, my left leg caved in! Shathiso came running and the marshal helped to transfer the batons.”

Stage 4: At 11:30, under a beautiful blue Botswana sky, I set off like a bullet. Don’t laugh! I really did set off quite fast. But then 30 seconds in, huffing and puffing, I thought, “Hold on! Relax. Run your race!” So away from the crowds, I slowed right down and found myself alone in the quiet bush. I made sure I focused on where I was stepping to avoid any loose stones, but I also made sure I looked out for the bright pink markers on the trees as on my first race of the year (also a 5k Trail Run) I ended up getting so lost, finishing in 53:53 minutes! Within the first km (07:40 min/km pace), I had caught up to two runners who I overtook quite comfortably.

The Route: I was very happy that my section was quite flat. Compacted sand and not too many loose rocks and stones. Sadly, I didn’t pass any wildlife on the way! 

There was a slight elevation in the second km and my pace slowed to 08:18, but after that I stepped it up and hit a 08:02 pace in the third km and 07:39 in the fourth! I know I was working hard because my average heart rate was 170 bpm! I remember looking down at my watch and seeing 4.1 km and thinking, “Okay I am almost halfway” but then realising that this was a 5k and not a 10k run! That jolted me into action and I took it up a notch, hitting an average pace of 07:33 for that last km! Ditiro says he was pleasantly surprised to see green emerging from the bushes. I could hear the crowds cheering… and the MC shouting “Team Trail Attack!”

That’s when I lifted my arms, held up nine fingers to signify my ninth race and came storming through the finish line! Oh, what a beautiful day! What a special moment.

My time: I did my 5k stretch in 40:05 minutes, a massive 13 minute PB on a 5k Trail! I was beyond ecstatic!! Our Team Time was 03:42:17 hours and we placed No. 67 of the 102 Teams/ Individuals who completed the race! Just look at our beaming smiles!!

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. Team Events add a whole new dynamic! I absolutely loved it – it’s not about individual performances, it’s about what the team does. We had so much fun, rooting for each other and hearing how each of our races had gone! There is also a bit of added pressure because you don’t want to let the team down. But what a fabulous time we all had.
  2. As I am slow and steady, I do prefer the longer distances, but having said that – it felt good for the race to be over so soon, especially in that heat!

Pros of the Race

  • Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! The setting, the natural surroundings, the stunning blue skies, just everything.
  • The brightly coloured markers were fantastic – there was no chance of getting lost this time! I kept chanting in my head, “Follow the Pink on your Left”. It was always clear where I needed to go and what direction I had to take. The marshals were also strategically placed in the ambiguous spots!
  • Executive porta-loos with sinks and even air-fresheners. Big plus!
  • Very clear instructions on how to do the “baton” exchange
  • A kids’ play area with lots of activities and childminders. We didn’t bring our kids along, but now we know we can for next year’s event! A HUGE plus point for people with small kids.

Cons of the Race

  • No medals! I was looking forward to adding one more to my growing collection! 😉

Would I do this race again?

Oh yes! Most definitely! Yes! Yes! Yes!

I’m linking up with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap! This week they have Finding Fabulous at Fifty as a guest host! I’m also joining Courtney at Eat Pray Run who is busy training for the Berlin Marathon! 

Jwaneng Desert-Bush Walk 30k, Race Recap (#8/17)

I am on a crazy but wonderfully fulfilling mission to complete 17 races this year. Here is the story of Number 8 – a gruelling, exhausting, intense, and dare I say just plain UGLY 30 km walk through the desert!  

Road Trip:  On the 28th July 2017, I set off for Jwaneng which is a 2 hour drive from Gaborone and is home to the richest diamond mine in the world. My hubby was still in the US so my mum volunteered to join me on the trip for moral support! We set off around 15:00 on Friday and arrived just after 17:00. After checking in to the Hotel, we had a lovely dinner and then collected my race pack which was at the same hotel we were staying at. After dinner, we chatted for an hour or so, and then went to sleep. I was very excited albeit a little bit nervous as this would be my first event without any of my friends or family on the track! But I was also proud of my independence and my decision to take on the desert alone.

The Start: After a gluten free muffin and banana, I set off to the starting point of the race. The event this year attracted a couple of thousand people and when I got there, the place was buzzing with excitement. Some people were well-kitted out in boots, gators, backpacks and walking sticks. I made sure I looked the part of a “desert-hiker”, and having learnt my lesson from last year’s event, I bought myself a proper pair of trail sunglasses to protect my eyes from the glare. I also invested in a nice backpack where I carried my drinks and snack supply, as well as sunscreen lotion, tissues, a whistle, headache tablets and lots of packets of re-hydration salts.

It was fun to see big South African and Lesotho groups dismounting buses, waving big country flags with smaller ones perched neatly on their hats. There was a big aerobics warm-up session that I didn’t participate in though it looked like fun. After some welcome remarks by the organisers, we hit the road and within 300 metres we were in the sand.

The Route: The track was extremely sandy and the surrounding areas varied between barren expanse and thorny shrubs and bushes. There were also some cattle posts along the way. 

The Race:

1 – 5 km: This was a solo race for me but I wasn’t alone. I was always surrounded by people and in those first 5 kilometres, the walkers were loud, excited, enthusiastic, and full of energy. I didn’t actively join in on the conversations but I enjoyed the banter.  The thick sand took a while to get used to and the effort put into walking didn’t correlate nicely with the distance covered! I remember looking down at my watch and being so disappointed that I had only walked 2.7 km. At the 5 km mark, there was a drink stop and those doing the 10 km walk separated from us at that point. My splits for the first 5 km were (min/km): 14:42/ 12:31/ 12:19/ 13:08/ 16:17).

5 – 10 km: There was still quite a bit of banter in this section of the walk and when someone from Botswana made fun of those from Lesotho (who are not used to sand), they quickly responded with, “You guys must come to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, and we will see who struggles then!” As we approached the 10 km mark, people started getting quite concerned with the sand which was becoming increasingly harder to navigate. For some sections, we chose to battle the thorny shrubs just to get a break from the sand.

But the fear of snakes and scorpions always brought us back to the main track.

Close to the 7.5 km mark, two wild horses crossed our path with great speed. What a majestic sight they were!

“Find your happy place”

Looking at my splits, this was actually my quickest section of the whole race: 11:38/ 11:30/ 11:27/ 11: 14/ 12:31.

10 – 15 km: I started this section strong but around the 12.5 km mark I started to have some discomfort in my upper thigh area. It almost felt like cramps waiting to happen so I consciously slowed down a little bit. My splits for this section were: 11:50/ 11:41/ 11:43/ 12:20/ 17:20.  I was so happy to get to the 15 km stop and even felt brave enough to ask a fellow walker to take a photo of me! 🙂

15 – 20 km: After the short break at the 15 km mark, I felt motivated to continue. But around the 17.5 km mark, I started feeling blisters forming on my left foot and all I could hear was my husband’s voice, “Make sure you wear two pairs of socks” which I had purposefully decided not to do. Gggrrr! I didn’t want to stop as I felt I wouldn’t want to get up. I also didn’t want to start falling back. So I continued but could feel my blisters getting bigger and bigger.

I was generally good at listening to my body. When I felt dizzy or just weak, I mixed re-hydration salts into some water and felt better almost immediately. Sometimes all I needed was a cookie or a couple of sweets to feel energised again. The last thing I wanted to do was to get dehydrated so I made sure I kept sipping water.

20 – 25 km: This was the 20 km sign – how amazingly appropriate!

This is around the time I started to struggle. My back was sore from carrying my bag, my legs were aching from trudging through that thick sand, but even more – my mind started to play games with me, and I reached a point where I wondered whether I would finish. It didn’t help that this was around the time when we started getting casualties. Many people could not go on, either because of cramping, blisters, or sheer exhaustion. And that’s when the pick-up trucks/ medics started to come through and for the remainder of the race more and more people were carted off. That was tough to take. I remember passing a guy who was writhing in pain and seriously cramping. He was gutted that his race was over, but he just realistically could not go on.  It must have been at the 21 km point when I met a radio presenter who asked to interview me live for Duma FM, a local radio station. I must have really looked awful because he asked me, “Are you defeated?” I answered somewhat courageously that, “This race is tough. It takes everything – heart, mind and soul. But I still have 10 km left in me.” My pace was painfully slow though. It took everything to just put one foot in front of the other. I then decided to play a game, counting down from 10 as I did each km… 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 but when 1 km takes 15 – 16 minutes, it is tough… LOL! It was great to see the next two signs:

My splits for this section were: 19:09/ 16:07/ 16:13/ 15:50/ 14:56.

25 – 30 km: My mum called me just after the  26 km mark and I had run out of water. I sounded horrible. I just wanted to cry. I grabbed some salts and mixed it with the last bit of water I had left. It was a good pick-up. But I was overjoyed to see another water stop just around the 27.5 km mark.

What a relief. My lips were sunburned, my body was tired and I just wanted out. I told myself that I would never do this again. It didn’t help that we got to 30 km with no end in sight! The course ended up being 31.39 km according to my watch. When I emerged from the desert onto the tarred road, my mum was waiting for me. She later said I looked so dishevelled as if I had been at war and had narrowly escaped to freedom. If that’s how I looked, I most certainly felt it. The transition from walking on sand to tar was awful. Those 300 metres took forever, but as I passed other finishers who were sitting on camp chairs, grilling meat, I knew the end was near. Some of them cheered me on, and the radio presenter from Duma FM shouted, “You did make it!” I said to him, “I told you I would!” I shouted at someone else who had a medal, “How far to go? This is taking too long!” She laughed and said, “You are almost there!”  My splits for this section: 19:04/ 16:17/ 15:57/ 13:50/ 14:45/ 15:23.

My time: After 7:25:39 hours in the desert, I walked through the gantry to claim my well-fought medal! I sat down on a curb-stone and put my head in my hands. My mum was so excited and wanted us to take photos, I simply said, “Give me a moment!” We then took a couple of photos. How beat do I look? And I am not sure if you can see it very well, but the eight fingers I am holding up are completely swollen!

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. After 8 races I am beginning to see that my 17 in 2017 Challenge is more than just a physical challenge. It is a mental challenge too. I am learning so much about myself and who I am as a person. One thing that I know now more than ever is that I don’t quit. I just don’t. Out there in that desert, there was ample opportunity for me to throw in the towel, but I didn’t. So long as my legs could carry me, I was determined to push through until the end.
  2. Listen to your body: I did well to listen to what my body was telling me out there. That helped me to know when to eat or drink something or when to take a little break.

Pros of the Race

  • This event was really well-organised. It was easy to buy tickets, and t-shirt distributions started long before race day. This is only the third time this event is being held, but they did so well. Well-placed water stops and cheerful and enthusiastic marshalls at each one of them.
  • The distance markers were fantastic – and the motivational messages were so clever – it was always just what you needed to hear at that specific time!
  • All the money raised goes to fantastic projects dedicated to children and their education. That just makes all the blisters and pain so much more worth it. 🙂

Cons of the Race:

  • No porta-loos! Unfortunately for women, squatting in the open desert is not quite a feasible option! Even if there were just a couple at the 10 km and 20 km mark, I think this would have made such a difference. Many women probably got dehydrated as they were trying to avoid having to go to the toilet.

Would I do this race again?

Yes. But not alone. I couldn’t do it alone again. The sheer will power that I needed to get through those last 10 km which took me around 3 hours… It was just too mentally exhausting. I have proven to myself that I CAN do it alone but next year, I am bringing my crew along!

I’m linking up with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap! This week they have the lovely Ponder ‘N’ Wonder as a guest host! I’m also joining Courtney at Eat Pray Run which is such a great place to get motivated about your training! Last but not least, I am linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run. So please take some time to read some of their stories. You won’t regret it!

Kgale X-Country Series 15k, Race Recap (#7/17)

My Winter Training Plan has not gone that well. My runs and workouts have been erratic and my blogging has been non-existent! I had a lot of optimism, enthusiasm and energy when I launched my plan 9 weeks ago. As I was recovering from a knee injury, I was keen to really listen to my body. For Weeks 1 and 2, I did just that and kept things slow and easy on most days. But then the wheels came off… My husband Ditiro was selected as one of the 1000 African fellows for the Mandela-Washington Fellowship Programme (yay!) but this meant that he travelled to the USA for two months, leaving me behind with a 3 and 5 year old (boo!). Quite suddenly, my work situation changed with added work deadlines… Throw in a new course I had recently embarked on and things just got hectic. When I look back at the two months now, I am very proud that I survived and in some places even thrived. But I am keeping it real on this blog so I have to confess that my running and workouts took a big hit. On so many days I found myself too exhausted to squeeze in a workout.

But that’s okay. I did the best that I could under the circumstances and I still managed to participate in TWO races – bringing it to 8 of the 17 I have planned this year! And you are not going to believe what I have to tell you about the race that was Number 7! On the 8th July, 2017, I took part in the Kgale X-Country Series, 15k Trail Run with my cousin Tapiwa. I was ecstatic to be back racing but a little bit anxious for a number of reasons, 1) this was my first race since recovering from my knee injury, 2) this was my longest race distance, 3) it was the first one where I didn’t have Ditiro to motivate me, and 4) I had a slight cold. We arrived when it was still dark and cold, so we chatted in the car for a while. Once other runners started arriving, we started warming up, collected our race packs and had a last trip to the toilet. The slightly delayed start worked in our favour as we were able to put in a good warm-up session and take the mandatory selfies! At 07:17, we were off. There were only 41 runners. We purposefully started at the back of the pack with our strategy being to take it nice and slow, gentle on the knee. We were there to finish the race, not to set PBs, and not to be heroes.

The Route: This was such a beautiful and stunning trail that took us past a cemetry, alongside the Gaborone Game Reserve, around some farming land, water treatment ponds, as well as a stream that ran somewhat parallel to us for parts of the race. It was peaceful and quiet, and at times so hard to believe that this was actually part of our city. 

The Race: Looking at our splits for the first 5 km (min/km: 07:47/ 07:58/ 08:25/ 08:27/ 09:13), we started off a bit fast, but slowly pulled back. I felt so happy that my knee was okay – just a minor tinge here and there, but otherwise it felt well oiled! By km-5 we had dropped all the way to a 09:13 pace, but we didn’t get this low again. The splits for the next 5 km were: 08:37/ 08:30/ 08:40/ 08:35/ 08:25. As we approached the 10 km mark, we really got into our stride. Still slow, but comfortable and focused. We were deep in discussion about politics, life, family, our aspirations – it was like a fabulous coffee date only out in the open, on a trail in the bush, and without the coffee! I don’t quite remember what topic we were on when it happened. It’s funny, but what we were saying just before the incident has completely gone. I remember the feeling of contentment, the feeling of achievement, the feeling of peace at that moment, but I don’t remember the topic.

The Incident: I saw him walking towards us. By this stage the trail was quite thin. Tapiwa was in front. I was behind. I remember thinking, “He doesn’t look like he is going to move out of the way. Maybe he is drunk.” But at that point I wasn’t scared. Why would I be? But then he was just there. Up against us. Not moving. And then I saw it. The knife. Brown wooden handle. Dirty looking blade. It has been 5 weeks so some of the details are hazy. But not that knife. I still see that knife very clearly. Tapiwa had a camel-back on which had her water, phone, jacket and car keys.  My brave cousin. She was extremely calm in that moment, telling him that we didn’t have anything. We were just running in a race. He didn’t believe us. His wild eyes kept looking at the bag and at one point it looked like he wanted to rip the bag off. Tapiwa quickly told him she was removing the bag and shoved it at him. He then very deliberately opened the bag, and started searching. He took out her jacket where her phone was. I remember Tapiwa whispering, “He’s going to find the phone”. At the start, I prayed he wouldn’t find the phone but at some point, my thinking changed, “Please find the phone”. Looking at his frantic eyes, I felt… No. I KNEW that if he didn’t find anything, he would hurt us. And then he found it… He turned towards me and I started saying frantically, “I don’t have anything”. I remember Tapiwa saying, “It’s okay. You don’t have anything. Let him see.” And then he waved the knife at us menacingly, and he was off. Just like that. My watch reported later that “04:38 min: Stood Still. Removed from your overall averages to more accurately reflect your effort”. 4.38 min. That’s long.

Finishing the Race: Everyone says how well we did to finish the race. But the truth is, there was no other way out. We had to finish the race to get to safety. We had to keep following the markers to get out. It was about getting home. Tapiwa set off really fast and I remember telling her after some time that I couldn’t manage. After 10 km of running, I was exhausted. We soon came across another runner who had also been mugged by the same guy. She was completely deflated. Fortunately, not hurt. But she had been alone. I had had Tapiwa by my side. We kept going, at times stopping, at times crying. But we kept moving. I was no longer frantic. I had one mission and that was to get us out. So I tried to keep upbeat. I kept an eye on the kms we were clocking, remember we still had 5 km to go after the incident. But what became more real with each km was that, the phone saved our lives. I kept seeing those frantic wild eyes and I knew deep down that had he not found that phone, something more sinister would have happened on that trail. We slowed down considerably when we saw the finish flags in the distance. Our splits for the last 5 km: 08:46/ 08:32/ 08:51/ 08:42/ 10:12.

My time: I ran the course in 2:05:18. That’s the official time so it includes the time spent being mugged!

After the Race: We reported the case to the race organisers and of course to the police. All race photos were lost with Tapiwa’s phone but I got my mum to take photos once I was home.

What happened to us was awful. Five weeks on, I didn’t realise how hard it would be to write this blog. But I don’t want the story of the mugging to over-ride what was for me such a great achievement. I ran 15 km, my longest ever distance and on the back of a recent knee injury. I did it. I ran 15 km. And you know what, we didn’t set out to be heroes. But we were. On that day, we were heroes.

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. Run your own race: We started off way back. I think at the end there were only 6 runners behind us. But we were not intimidated or worried about potentially being last. We ran our own race. We stuck to a pace that was comfortable for us. We had our own vision for what we wanted. Not someone else’s vision. Our vision. I think that’s so important. We finished the race, and did it our way, in our time.
  2. We are all stronger than we think: Something so terrible happened to us out there but we dug deep, and we came out on top. We got out of that bush and lived to tell the tale.

Pros of the Race

  • Beautiful trail run – so scenic and well-marked.

Cons of the Race:

  • No safety/security measures put in place. Hey, we got mugged on an official race. Aside from a lady at the water point (around 7 km mark), there were no visible marshals. We were all alone out there. All alone in the bush to be mugged by some random stranger.
  • The race was not that well-organised in general. We weren’t told when/where to collect our race bibs. When I emailed on the Friday, I was told between 3 – 4 pm – a one hour slot during working hours. Fortunately, they then said we could collect them on the morning of the race.
  • After the incident, their handling of the mugging was poor. The MC kept saying he is just there to MC and he is not part of the organising team. That isn’t really the point is it? Listen to our story (we’ve just been mugged at knifepoint, we are upset) and then direct us to the right people to talk to. Tapiwa did return to the race later that day to express her concerns on how they had handled the matter. They said as soon as they heard our story they sent cyclists out to survey the area. And they say they will no longer be using that area for their trail x-country series.

Would I do this race again?

It was a beautiful trail run. I will choose to remember it for that. I will choose to remember it for being my first 15 km race. I will choose to remember it for bonding with my cousin. But I think it will be hard for me to return to this same place at least not without a team of bodyguards, police helicopter, maybe even some armed forces! LOL. No one should ever get mugged on an official race. Period.

So pleased to be linking up again after such a long while with Courtney at Eat Pray Run as well as HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap! Please hop over to their blogs and others to really get inspired with your running!

Diacore 10k, Race Recap (#6/17)

On the 7th May, 2017 I ran the Diacore 10k Race – my Goal Race and the 6th Race in my “17 in 2017 Challenge”. It was the first race where I found myself looking around and really enjoying myself… it was the first race, I felt I wasn’t faking it… I felt like a runner… in a sea of strangers I felt like I belonged. But I am getting ahead of myself…let us take a few steps back…   

Eight weeks ago, I had just run my 3rd race of the year. That 10k race was the first I did without taking any walking breaks. That in itself was a victory and the new PB time I set of 1:15:11 was the added bonus. With my new found confidence, I started an 8 week training cycle to get me prepared for the Diacore which is Botswana’s biggest race and a qualifier for Two Oceans, Comrades, Commonwealth and the Olympic games. In those 8 weeks, I got a coach, Nicola from Running Happy, and I ran two races – the Lady K 10k trail run and the Palapye 10k which gave me a huge (self-timed) PB of 1:08:02. Going into Diacore I felt nervous but prepared.

I enjoyed a relaxing Saturday minus the kids who were at my parents’ place. In the evening we enjoyed a nice pasta meal before heading to bed. In the morning, I had my usual shower to warm up the muscles and my cereal before we headed out at 05:20. On the drive to the venue I made a mental note of the Route:

The Route: They call it the flattest and fastest race in the region and aside from a gentle incline at the start, it really is. Grand Palm – Right onto the A1 – Left at the Rainbow Circle – Left at the Nokia Lights – Left at the CBD Lights – Grand Palm.

The Race: We only found parking about a km away from the start of the race. We tried waiting for Tapiwa but with all the crowds we quickly realised it was a futile exercise. So I walked Ditiro over to the Half Marathon Start and then headed for the loos where I found a long queue of runners. Knowing that I had to warm up my knee to ensure a good start, I started vigourously stretching in the bathroom. I swear, the others must have thought I was one of the elite runners! LOL. With just a few minutes to spare, I took a slow jog to the Start and my knee felt okay. Unfortunately, the long wait at the bathroom meant that I started quite far back. At exactly 06:30 the gun sounded and it took me 3 minutes to get to the Start Line.  After that I had to wade through several walkers so my first 3 km were not the most enjoyable and I struggled to get into gear (Splits, min/km: 06:51/07:41/07:29). However, just after the 3 km mark I found my stride and really started to enjoy myself. I felt truly happy to be out here doing this. I looked up and saw a man holding a banner, “Run it like you Stole it” and I burst out laughing giving him a thumbs-up. I waved at the cheerleaders on the track with their pompoms and as I started having fun, I started feeling stronger and my Splits for 4 – 7 km reflect that: 07:04/ 06:50/ 07:05/ 06:49. As I headed into the last 3 km, I turned it up another gear and remembered my pilates breathing to get me through the final stretch:

As I saw the finish line, I still had enough energy for my final sprint and despite some pain in my left knee I just pushed it until the end. I was elated and on the longish walk down the “passage” to get my medal, I truly felt like a runner. It being such a big race I didn’t see anyone I knew at this stage, and Ditiro still hadn’t finished his Half Marathon so it gave me some time to reflect and enjoy my moment. As I got my medal, a guy tapped me on the shoulder from behind and said, “You ran such a good race. You had such a consistent pace and were my pace maker for most of the race”. And that my friends was the cherry on top!

My time: I ran the course in 1:10:24 minutes (07:01 pace) according to my watch which I started at the Start Line, 5 minutes faster than my last officially timed race. Unfortunately, when the official race results came up, they had recorded our times from the gun start (and not from when we actually crossed the Start Line). So the 3 minutes it took me to get to the start are now included: 1:13:11. 

After the Race: I found a good place where I could watch the Half Marathon and Marathon finishers. Thankfully, my cousin Tapiwa soon found me and we chatted as we waited for Ditiro and our friend Elisa who were both doing the Half Marathon. At 1:42:12 Ditiro came through at a blistering pace and we started screaming, “D!! D!! D!!” and then we waited for Elisa who had such a strong finish and a 20-minute personal best! We were later also reunited with Polelo and were all so happy with our personal journeys. The Half Marathoners had some entertaining stories of Concert Goers who had decided to go straight from the Concert Venue, drunk as ever, to some parts of the course to cheer on racers with their camp chairs and cooler boxes!

Lest we forget – this was NUMBER 6

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. Start closer to the front of the race: I must admit I was very disappointed that the 3 minutes it took to reach the Start Line are included in my official time but I have learned that in cases where there are no corrals I just have to hustle a little harder to get to the front of the line.
  2. A good warm up is essential: In Palapye and for this race, I really made sure I warmed up and in both races I felt stronger than I had in previous races. I am a little bit worried about my left knee at the moment but I will just make it a habit to warm up even before short training runs.

Pros of the Race

  • Extremely well organised (registration was easy, the race pack pick up was very efficient, website provided all the information including route maps, all races started exactly on time!)
  • Fantastic vibe and atmosphere – on the course there were cheerleaders with pompoms, there was a stage with people dancing and singing at one of the water stops, cheerful marshalls). As a Gaborone resident, this was a very proud moment as we hosted people from across the country and 38 different countries! I saw on Facebook that there was an American couple who are on a mission to run a marathon in every single continent and they were ecstatic for having chosen Botswana and this marathon to represent Africa.
  • Our race bibs had our names on them! I have seen this on other running blogs but this was a first for us! That really was something special 🙂

Cons of the Race:

  • You know what I am going to say right?! For the 10k race which had the highest number of participants, they didn’t record the time we actually started. So I took 3 minutes to get to the start of the line which was included in my final time. Not fair.
  • No corrals/ seeded groupings meant that walkers/ people with no timing chips were in front and once we were through the start it took so long to pass people.
  • Apparently there were several porta-loos but in the dark and with no clear signs I couldn’t find them so I used the hotel loos!

Would I do this race again?

Oh yes!!!  For any Gaborone Resident this race is so much more than just a race. I am so proud to have been a part of it this year and to have run such a strong race. I will definitely keep coming back!!

Once again I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap! I am also excited to be linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! 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!