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!

Inspiration Series: An Interview with Victoria

A few weeks ago I launched a new series on the blog centred around people who I really admire and look up to in the world of fitness. So often we look for inspiration in the celebrity world and we forget that we can learn so much and gain so many insights from the people around us. Victoria is based in Oxfordshire, UK and I first met her in 2003 when we were both volunteering at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in Cape Town. She was a few years younger than me but fiercely independent and she showed a maturity beyond her years. She was quick to show me the ropes and we spent several weeks bonding on the bus to/from the sanctuary and in between penguin bites! This is her running story…

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When did you first start running? I was quite sporty at school, but was never really that interested in running.  I went on the occasional run every now and then during my university days (2003-2006), but never had the staying power to get into it properly.  I wanted to be good immediately…so often went out too fast, huffed and puffed my way around, pulled lots of muscles, and then didn’t go out again for months!  I only started running properly, or rather, sensibly, in 2010.  I was working in the TV industry at the time, working long hours, eating really badly and had recently broken up with my boyfriend.  I was feeling pretty lost and low and just needed something that I could focus on and do by myself, for myself…something that wasn’t defined by my job title or relationship status.  I needed to do something that would give me a sense of self-worth and the satisfaction of achieving something I had set my mind too, so I started running…and entered myself into a 5k race to hold myself to account!

How did that first race go?  I ran my first official race in May 2010, only a few weeks after I decided to take up running.  It was a 5k Race for Life in Regent’s Park in London.  I ran with my housemate Becky and a couple of her friends.  I remember being very nervous at the start line.  There were lots of people taking part, it was a very hot and sunny day and I started doubting whether I would be able to do it!  I was so relieved and proud of myself when I crossed that finish line.  I can’t recall my finish time as I just wanted to complete it.  I also learnt a very important lesson too that day…re-hydrate! My housemate and I had pre-planned a celebratory BBQ at ours for that afternoon with around 20 of our friends.  However, whilst my friends partied into the small hours I was laid up in bed with sunstroke!!  It was rather embarrassing at the time…but I can laugh about it now!

LOL! A lesson learnt the hard way! What would you say is your weekly mileage? Do you also do other fitness activities? At the moment I am running around three times a week, totalling 15-20kms.  In the last few years I’ve gone through stages of doing workout DVD’s (mainly Jillian Michaels) and Yoga.  However, at the moment I’m only running.  I’m not really a fan of gyms (all those people and mirrors!), however, being married to a military pilot I have free access to a host of amazing facilities: gym, swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, spinning classes, yoga, climbing wall etc. so I really should start taking advantage of them!

Looking back at all your races, what has been your favourite race experience?  It’s difficult for me to highlight one specific race.  There are 3 races that I have fond memories of for very different reasons:

Toronto Zoo 10k (Sept 2013) – this was the first 10k race I had ever done….but not the longest distance, having completed my first Half Marathon earlier on in that year.  It was the first race that I had entered where there were thousands of entrants, so the atmosphere was really good. Despite it raining from start to finish, and the course having some of the most horrific hills I’ve ever encountered, I really enjoyed running this unique course.  I set off with no real expectations (I wanted to run close to 1hr, but didn’t think that was achievable with all those hills!) so I just ran with the aim of enjoying the surroundings and trying to spot as many animals in the zoo as possible!  My boyfriend (now husband) was running with me and we spent practically the full 65mins pointing out giraffes, rhinos, chimpanzees etc. to each other!

Blenheim Palace Half Marathon (Oct 2015) – this was my first race back in the UK, having returned from living in Canada for 3 years. It was also my first race as Mrs Whitfield, having got married a couple of weeks beforehand. There were three motives for entering this race: to lose weight for my wedding, to have something planned for afterwards to try and avoid the inevitable post-wedding blues, and to try and put some demons to rest from my first half marathon experience…and I managed to achieve all three!  I was lucky in that I knew the race course inside out and back-to-front as I lived within walking distance from Blenheim Palace and used the grounds for all my training runs.  It was a completely different experience from my first Half Marathon (a small locally run race with around 200 entrants, 2 laps of a straight out and back, where I started right at the back and finished 3rd to last…they were packing up as I crossed the finish line!).  I managed to knock 14mins 15secs off my PB, finishing in a time of 2:19:48 and smashing my goal of a sub 2.5hrs!

Royal Berkshire 10k (May 2017) – this is the latest race that I’ve run.  I just really enjoyed this race from start to finish.  This photo pretty much sums up how I felt about it!

That smile really does say it all! We will come back to that race in a bit but first tell me about the Half Marathon you completed earlier on in the year – I think it was Bath if I remember correctly! Yes, I completed the Bath Half in March this year.  I’m not going to lie, I had mixed feelings about the race.  I didn’t run as well or as fast as I would have liked to.  I’ve always wanted to run the Bath Half…I love the city and it’s a relatively flat course where lots of people achieve their PB’s.  So I had high expectations and was very excited when I entered the race.  I had also promised my husband that this would be the last race I would enter for a while before concentrating on family life…tick tock biological clock(!)…so I wanted to finish on a good one. However, I suffered with two bouts of flu during the winter and missed 6 weeks of training.  I went into the race knowing I wasn’t as fit as I would have liked to be…and I felt it.  It’s the first race I’ve ever done where I actually walked sections, and where I’ve had to mentally, as well as physically, battle with a blister for half the race!  I crossed the line in a time of 2:28:48…not my slowest time…but I felt like I had failed.  I beat myself up for about a week after that…disappointed that my final run hadn’t gone to plan.  But then I picked myself up, put it behind me, (postponed our family plans…again…sorry Tim!) and entered myself for another race!

And that would be the Royal Berkshire you mentioned earlier! I remember crossing all my fingers and toes that you would do it in under an hour and was overjoyed when you did! Yes! I still can’t believe that I’ve finally managed to break that elusive sub 60 barrier!  I really enjoyed this race – the Royal Berkshire 10k, in Green Park in Reading.  I came into the race with a completely different attitude from the Bath Half.  First and foremost, I wanted to enjoy this race.  Regardless of whether I ran a PB, this would be my last race for a while and I wanted to come away with a positive experience.  I also knew that my training had gone well, I had stuck to my plan and was in good shape.  I had run a 59:56 in a training run 2 weeks prior to the race so I knew that I was capable of running that pace again.  So, as I lined up at the start, positioning myself a few metres in front of the 60mins pacer, I didn’t have any niggling negative thoughts.  I had no idea what the course would be like.  On paper it looked like it could be quite boring, running on roads close to a very busy motorway, but it completely exceeded my expectations.  It was a straight forward, one lap along country lanes, which really made me feel like I was on one of my regular runs…with a few thousand people tagging along!  It was easy to find a nice pocket of space and found myself running alongside some lovely people.  There were lots of spectators for the first and last 2k’s, but other than that we were on our own, bar a few marshals and some lovely horses in the fields we passed.  We crossed over the motorway twice and actually had cars honking their horns at us in support!  Having looked back at the professional photos from the Bath Half (in which I look like I am having the worst time ever!) I made a pact with myself that I would actually seek out those photographers…and it really wasn’t difficult to find that smile!

And my resolve didn’t waver even when the 60mins pacer overtook me just after the 5k mark.  My running watch was telling me I was still on course for a sub 60 and I could hear the pacer shouting out that he was on target for a 59:25 finish time.  So as long as I could keep him in my sights I knew I would be ok.  It was a bit touch and go at the end though, as, like with most races, my watch beeped that I had completed the distance, but the finish line was still around 100m away…and the seconds seemed to be ticking by very quickly!  I dug deep though and was so pleased to have crossed that line with a finish time of 59:56. I felt great!  I had gained a new PB…but more importantly I had really enjoyed the race.  I came away with a great sense of achievement, good memories and excitement about the thought of running that course again in the future…oh, and some running photos where I’m actually smiling!  It was definitely the right decision to enter that extra race and be able to finish this running chapter on a high!

What would you say is your favourite distance? The Half or the 10k? If you had asked me this question a few months ago I would have said the half, as you get a huge sense of satisfaction completing those long training runs as well as the races themselves.  However, I really enjoyed training for my most recent 10k!  I loved being able to push myself to go faster and it’s certainly easier to fit those training runs in around your everyday life. I would definitely like to enter more 10k’s in the future…but I would also like to re-do the Bath Half as well.

What has running taught you about yourself? I’ve never really thought about what running has taught me until just now!  And now I’ve thought about it…the answer is lots!  Running has given me the confidence to go out there and achieve the things I want to do.  I am good enough and I can do things by myself.  It has also taught me that sometimes things don’t go the way you wish…but rather than throwing in the towel, you just need to brush yourself off and carry on.  Obstacles and set-backs only make you stronger and more determined to achieve your goals.   Running is great for your mental wellbeing!  No matter how badly your day has been, or how awful you might feel whilst actually running, the post-run feeling cannot be beaten!  That sense of achievement, having space to clear your mind, fresh air and the endorphins running through your body…it’s amazing!  Running is not only good for your body, but it’s good for your mind and your soul as well.

What are some of the fitness or running goals you have for the future? As mentioned earlier I’m shifting my focus to concentrating on family life and trying for a baby, so my running goals are going to be very different.  I’m going to try to carry on running for as long as I can, without putting any pressure on myself…so no races for the moment!  I know people who ran up until 38 weeks pregnant, but also know people who couldn’t run much after around 10 weeks…so I’m just going to go with the flow, listen to my body and see what happens!  And if I fall into the latter camp then I will definitely come back to running when the time feels right.  There are so many more races I would like to do…and there’s still that marathon box that needs to be ticked! Ha ha!

What advice do you have for new runners who have either just started their running journeys or would like to start but just don’t know how? My advice for those who would like to start running is to just go for it!  The only thing stopping you from taking the first steps is your mind…your body can definitely do it!  Ignore any self-doubts or negative thoughts and just get out there, putting one foot in front of the other.  I would also recommend downloading a training plan (even if you have no desire to run an actual race) as it gives you the structure and takes the decision making out of the process.  I’m a procrastinator and can talk myself in/out of anything so without a plan in place the words “maybe tomorrow” work themselves into my vocabulary and before I know it I haven’t run for months!  However, I’m not a quitter, so love having a plan to hold myself accountable to.  I’ve always used the ASICS website to generate my training plans (www.myasics.com) – it’s free, you just have to create an account, and I’ve found them easy to follow and to get the results I want.

Another thing I would advise (and something I have to keep reminding myself about too!) is to not compare yourself to other runners.  It is great to find inspiration from others and look up to them for motivation, but damaging if you are then criticising yourself and putting yourself down.  This is your journey, not theirs!  And it is always good to remind yourself about how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved.  It’s all about the small improvements.  Last month you might have been able to only jog for a few minutes before walking, this month you can now run for half an hour without stopping! Celebrate those moments and be proud of all your achievements!  Before you know it you’ll be running 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons too.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I love your beautiful honesty and authenticity. I love all the personal lessons and practical advice you shared about running. I love that you ended on such a high note before closing this chapter for now. But most of all, I love that big, bright, shining smile that you have after each race. That to me is the best part about running – and the reason we keep coming back! Best of luck to you and Tim as you enter a new stage of your journey! 🙂 

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I am so excited to be sharing this interview with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! Be sure to check out their blogs too! 

Winter Training Cycle: Goals and Races

“Head pulled down, shoulders hunched up, toes curled in, Boris the vulture is sulking.” (The Sulky Vulture, by Sally Grindley) 

At the start of the year, my plan to run 17 races in 2017 was daunting to say the least. I loved the catch phrase “17 in 2017” but wondered whether it was possible. When I got to my sixth race, I felt unstoppable. Unfortunately, something did stop me – my left knee. Some of you may recall that in mid-April, I started complaining that my knee was sore after runs. However, I ignored this and continued to push hard, running my best times in two races, one week apart – the Palapye 10k and the Diacore 10k. However, when I returned to running on Wednesday following the Diacore my knee finally caved in. It was excruciatingly painful. I took a week off and then tried again – this time it felt even worse. My physiotherapist quickly diagnosed patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), more commonly known as Runner’s Knee and I have had several physio sessions over the last few weeks.

It has been an emotional time for me. I have been sulking like Boris, hence no blogging! 🙂 There was huge disappointment at having to stop running and cancel races; there was fear that the one fitness activity I had grown to love could so suddenly come to an end; there was anger at myself for having pushed too hard and too early on in my running career; there was envy at others who could still run; and there was sadness… But things are starting to look up now and I am resuming my training plan this week hopeful, a little bit wiser, and quite humbled by the lessons I have learnt. I have lots of catching up to do if I am to run 11 more races this year… but let’s see what happens! I am taking it one run at a time and aiming to finish races comfortably with my knee intact, rather than to focus on finishing times.

My revised winter race schedule looks like this:

  • 08 July: The Kgale Cross-Country/Trail is a 10k race in the Gaborone area.
  • 29 July: I am so excited to be doing the 30k Desert-Bush Walk in Jwaneng. I did this last year in SEVEN hours and it was such a phenomenal experience.
  • 05 August: Exactly a week after the walk I will be tackling the 10k Road Race in Selebi-Phikwe. This race is one of the oldest in the country and I have always wanted to do it.
  • 20 August: I will be joining Ditiro and our friend Leruo for the Time Team Challenge in Mokolodi. Leruo will do Stage 1 which is a 10k Trail Run, Ditiro will do Stages 2 and 3 (the mountain biking) and I will do Stage 4, the 5k Trail Run. I am really looking forward to being part of a team!
  • 09 September: To end my Winter Training Cycle, I will cross the border for the 10k Road Race in Mafikeng, South Africa.

Disclaimer: If at any point I feel I may need to forfeit a race, I will do so. I don’t want to aggravate my knee again. 

My 13-week winter training plan looks like this:

  • Pilates Classes on Mondays and Wednesdays
  • 2 Treadmill Runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a long Outdoor run every Saturday (for each run I am going to focus on lots of stretching before and after)
  • Conditioning/ Strength Exercises every Thursday
  • Upper Body Work (with weights at home)
  • Fortnightly weekend hikes up Kgale Hill

I am so happy to still be working with Coach Nicola from Running Happy. She has been amazing during my “injury period” and I am so pleased that she will be guiding me over the next few months. It feels good to be back.

Does anyone have any tips for dealing with knee problems? Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

I am pleased to be linking up again with Courtney over at Eat Pray Run who is busy training for the Berlin Marathon!

Inspiration Series: An Interview with Elisa

On my mission to complete 17 races in 2017, I have most enjoyed running with friends and family. It has been more fun than I ever imagined it would be and I have drawn so much inspiration from them. This is the first post of my “Inspiration Series” where I plan to interview different people who inspire me in the world of fitness. The first person I have chosen is my dear friend Elisa who recently completed the Diacore Half Marathon. We have been friends for over 20 years and I have always admired her determination to be the best she can be in anything she puts her mind to. This is her running story…

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When did you first start running? I have always been fitness conscious and active, but  I think I can truly say I started running during A-Levels when I was boarding at Maru-A-Pula Secondary School in 2000. A lot was going on in my life. My parents had just relocated to London and with the biggest exams of my life looming I took up running to de-stress and of course keep healthy and keep any weight gain at bay.  I started doing short runs around the school track and on the road around the neighbourhood. Then I  participated in the annual school cross country event before heading to university and that is when I discovered and got a hint of the true joy of long distance running; however it would be a decade later for me to take up long distance running again and to run my first official race!

I remember those High School days where you would run around the track after class and also that cross country race! How did your first official race go?  My first official race was the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (10k) in 2010. I was working and living there and stumbled upon the craze of race events. Some close friends had participated the year before and I promised myself that I would not miss out again. I started focusing on my running and less on gym classes which I have always loved. As a first timer the whole experience was exhilarating, right from the excitement and build up of collecting the race pack to the morning of the race… the crowd, the glee on everyone’s faces waiting at the start line… the pride and amazement that we were running on the same tarmac as legends like Haile Gerbrselassie, who took first place that year for the full marathon. I was not used to running such a distance so my time was a very modest 1 hour 19 minutes but a PB for me, therefore a victory.

What is your weekly mileage? And what does your fitness regime look like? My weekly mileage is about 15 km; a combination of outdoor running once a week and treadmill running. However I increase this to 20 km when a race is coming up. I also do group classes, Pilates twice a week, Yoga, Boot Camp and Step classes once a week.  I am training to be a yoga teacher so I also incorporate 30 minute yoga sessions four times a week; usually after my classes or during rest days.

When I am focused fully on running training I replace the Boot Camp and Step classes  with some resistance training. I truly have to say I enjoy everything about fitness and all the exercises I do…whether I’m running or focused in a group class on getting the routine perfect while maintaining the tempo or the mindfulness of yoga – getting deeper into a stretch or holding a position. It is the challenge,  that push on myself, the feeling that I am doing it and knowledge that tomorrow I will be better;  it’s such a high and that keeps me looking forward to more!

How are you able to balance training with your daily responsibilities? Thankfully, depending on how you look at it I’m in the middle of job hunting and only freelancing now, therefore I have the time. I also look after my three year old champion of a little girl. She goes to nursery school in the mornings and we spend the afternoons and the rest of the day together. As a result I do most of my fitness when she’s at school. However, if because of work I can’t fit in exercise in the morning, I take her with me to the gym where she gets looked after for two hours. A brilliant concept at Virgin Active! If it is too late, I work out at home and of course she always wants to do what mummy is doing so I include her in my workouts; I use her as extra weight during reps and getting deeper into stretches.  We both get great play time together and I get a fantastic and challenging workout!

That’s an amazing way to incorporate kids into workout routines! What would you say running has taught you about yourself? Running has taught me a lot, it has taught me about being my own cheerleader. It has taught me more about my body, listening to every twinge and adjusting myself accordingly to get rid of it…it has taught me to appreciate the big things, which we deem little and always take for granted; the clear air in the morning before the pollution of the rush of traffic…watching the sun rise. Running has taught me patience;  I’m not  ‘naturally’ athletic and it has therefore taken me time to shave off minutes from my runs with some hard work and training.  Running has taught me to not be self-conscious…the number of times I have had to spit while in motion on the side of the road… I have shamelessly become an expert (discrete and neat) spitter!

Your dad has been at a couple of races now and I love his expression as he crosses the finish line! What have you done to motivate him and other family members to run? To be honest, not much,  it is all them. It is simply through watching me; day in and day out, going to the gym, getting up early on weekends to run. It struck a chord with them immediately! When they ask how I do it, I  stress to them that there was a time I could not even run a full kilometre.  I stress to them that if I can do it, so can they. They see the joy and excitement that running brings me and of course the health benefits and being in good shape, and they too want that for themselves.

Looking back at all your races, what has been your favourite race experience?  My favourite race experience  is the one I just completed.. the Diacore Gaborone Half Marathon…mainly because I felt strong throughout…I had a strategy and stuck to it and it paid off.  Best of all I was at the race with some of my greatest friends, such beautiful human beings including my mother.  Sharing the excitement and buzz of the morning with them was truly a wonderful experience.

We loved cheering you on as you came towards the finish line. You looked so strong, your face was so relaxed and you had the perfect stride. Tell me more about that Half Marathon. Absolutely amazing experience… I was strong, I completely enjoyed the route, finishing in at 02:18:49, a PB. There was a lot happening on the road that morning which truly added to the fun factor. A section of the route went close to the National Stadium and we came across people who were just emerging from a long awaited concert by local artists; so we gained ourselves some very happy, overzealous cheerleaders!  What I wouldn’t repeat is having a coke…I got a bit excited at the 15 km mark and desperate for some sugar for energy so,when presented with a cup of the sugary drink I jumped on it…the gas build up seconds after could have cost me but fortunately I just let out a huge belch and all was well again….lesson learnt… never have a fizzy drink during a race; not even sure why the race organisers had them!

How did this race compare to your first Half Marathon experience? My first half marathon was  in 2011, the Johnson Arabia Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon which I completed in a time of 02:32:57. It was also a great experience.  However, I wasn’t as strong, as well informed and educated as I am now with running. It was my most challenging race up to that point and the route around Dubai was spectacular… it took us through a souk (a traditional Arabian market), the Dubai creek, over and under bridges. A huge negative was that I hit the so called “runners wall” at around 14 km and had to walk up to a kilometre….my legs simply refused to run any farther and my mind couldn’t convince them. However, once I regained my strength on the walk and gave myself a little pep talk, I continued relatively well the rest of the way.

What are some of the fitness-related or running goals you have for the future? My goal is to run 10 km in under an hour…my PB right now is 1:01 hours. Similarly, to edge my way to two hours for a half marathon culminating in participating and completing a full marathon the year I turn 40 (2019). I have just started my yoga course, so within a one year period I plan to become a fully qualified and internationally certified yoga teacher with a body of a dancer to boot!

I have absolutely no doubt you are going to achieve all those goals. I may even join you for that marathon! What advice do you have for new runners who have either just started their running journeys or would like to start running but don’t know how? Start now…start by walking and when you feel up to it jog a little and each time increase the jogging distance and you will soon be running. Listen to your body, be conscious of your breathing and use breathing to help you with fatigue; don’t run in isolation, mix up your running with other exercises, to complement and make you a stronger runner; take a yoga class or a pilates class for guidance on great breathing techniques; building of a strong core for ease and comfort when running. Don’t be concerned about what others are doing, how fast, how many kilometres they are clocking…race against yourself and enjoy seeing the progress. If you love gadgets and have the means, get a fitness watch or load up an app, get a strap for your mobile phone… just seeing  a picture of what you have achieved spurs you on immensely. Take a friend with you, join a running group and most of all have fun!

I absolutely loved doing this interview. Thank you so much for your time, your honesty, and such valuable information. I love your whole outlook to fitness, the varied exercises you do, your determination to be better and stronger, your encouragement of others, and also the fact that you involve your daughter in some of the activities. Fitness and running is such a beautifully personal journey, but one which is made so much more fun when sharing it with friends and family!

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I am so excited to be sharing this interview with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! Also joining Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner linkup! 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!