Friday Five: FIVE Lessons from Running the Berg

I am so excited to be linking up with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for the Friday Five 2.0! Please hop over to their blogs and others for some great inspiration.

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know who Tapiwa is. She has featured in several training and race recaps! We often start our races together, have a good chat before she pushes off for her powerhouse finishes. We have a great running partnership and if I am to define it, I would say we bring out the best in each other. We have had some great adventures and mishaps – getting mugged in one race and spending half the time thinking we were lost in another. But we always come out stronger… and laughing! Tapiwa was a top athlete at school, excelling in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. In her adult years she has made the transition to longer distances. She mostly does road races but her heart is most content when she is out in the wilderness on some mountain trails. In September 2017, she did the Runtheberg which is a 2-day stage race in the Drakensberg, Africa’s premier mountain range, stretching from the Western Cape to the Limpopo in South Africa. This challenge was in the Northern Berg, between the Highveld and the Indian Ocean, 300 km out of Durban. There are two options for the race, the “Challenge” which is 15 km per day and the “Extreme” which is 25 km per day. Tapiwa did the Challenge and for this  post I asked her: What FIVE things did you learn from Running the Berg? This is her phenomenal answer.

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1 – When anxious I find ways of calming myself

I don’t usually get a good night’s rest the day before a trail race. I lay awake, trying to convince myself that it is going to be fun. Even after completing the first 15 km on Day 1, I have to prepare myself psychologically for the next 15 km the following day. I tell myself I am going to complete the race. I tell myself that if all else fails I will just walk to the end. Waking up is not a problem. That weekend the mornings were clear, sun was out but it was cold. Looking up into the majestic mountains simply takes one’s breath away. Looking up, it was CALMING.

2 – I am privileged to have a healthy body and sound mind

Day 1, the first 6 km is uphill. This is when my ability to zone out kicks in. I take in the views and listen to my breathing. Weaving between forest trees and climbing rocky cliffs. At this point in the race I tell myself to just keep running, just run this minute, just clamber up the next rock outcrop, just don’t stop. On Day 2, it’s harder to keep running when your toes hurt. But that pain was not enough to hurt my race. I just kept going.

3 – The Power of the Human Spirit

On Day 2 the terrain changes from the first days of rocky cliffs to an open savannah type of grassland. With 5 km left to completing my 30 km challenge, I had a mantra, I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS; I GET TO DO THIS. I was among the slower trail runners and I connected with other people who needed encouragement. We were all helping each other. We were just those ordinary people being extraordinarily courageous. We were not elite athletes. We just didn’t want to fail. The amazing power of the human spirit…

4 – No one reaches their full potential without learning from others

On both days there was a lady out on the trail, Mbali. For the last 2 km of Day 2, she helped me find ways to keep moving at a decent pace. I actually ran fastest in those last 2 km! I could even jump and pose for a picture. I wanted to live up to the role I had set myself – that I had the audacity to try something great and inspire people in the process. In doing so, I faced my own fears, I faced the fear of pain.

5 – I just don’t quit and I am always up for a challenge

No matter how much things hurt, not once during the race did I feel like quitting. The only person I was racing against was myself. The goal – to finish. And I finished what I had started. After crossing that finish line, 30 km completed through such treacherous terrain, there was no big clock to remind me that I was slow. There were only cheers, a beer truck and wors rolls. I met up with my crew of Zulu maidens and we planned our next trail. We were all ready for an ULTRA TRAIL. And indeed, the Cape Town Ultra Trail in December was our next race….but that is a story for another day.

Thank you Tapiwa for taking the time to reflect on your journey and some of the lessons you took away. I think we often forget what great things we are capable of, what phenomenal challenges we can accomplish, and what obstacles we can overcome if we put our minds to it. The resilience of the human spirit. I for one have always been inspired by your determination to get the job done. My daughter Kaia reminds me of you – you face each challenge with a quiet confidence and formidable strength. It leaves the rest of us wanting to push ourselves even more. 

Friday Five: FIVE Things I Gained from BOOT CAMP 

I am so excited to be linking up with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for the Friday Five 2.0! Please hop over to their blogs and others for some great inspiration.

My dear friend Polelo is no stranger to this blog! She has been right beside me, physically and emotionally on my journey to fitness and on my mission to conquer 17 races this year. She has encouraged me when I have felt down and she has held me accountable for getting my workouts done. I might be in the slower half of the races but according to Polelo I am just a few seconds from qualifying for the next Olympics! Of the 12 races I have already done, she has joined me for seven – the Jack’s Gym Trail Run, the Gabs 1/2 Marathon, the Lady Khama Trail Run, the Palapye Race, the Diacore Gaborone Race, the Gaborone City Mayor’s Race and the Botswana Independence Race!

For many of these races she has brought her mother, husband, niece and nephew along for the ride and their smiles as they cross that finish line have quite simply been heart-warming. A few months ago she signed up for an intense Boot Camp. This is her story, in her own words. Enjoy the read and BE INSPIRED

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Three months ago I made the decision to do my first ever Boot Camp. I had reached a point where I decided my mental health was the most important thing to me; I wanted to feel less tired, I wanted to have more energy in my life and to finally find some work-life-balance. I knew to achieve this, I needed to make a mental shift. I’m a planner by nature and I started to realise that over the years I had begun to be more “relaxed” in my approach to life and as a result I had started to let things slide a bit. In some aspects it was the best decision I ever made; I was less uptight, a lot more willing to go with the flow but on the other hand I became less accountable to myself. Upon realising how far from myself I had strayed, I decided I needed to make a change and that’s when I joined Boot Camp.

Here are the Five Things I Gained From Boot Camp:

1 – The mind is a powerful thing: It’s not about the amount of time one puts in at gym, it’s about one’s attitude. Boot Camp started in the dead of winter and getting up at 4am three mornings a week wasn’t easy but my attitude kept me committed.  I made a commitment to being prepared for the week ahead and that meant having to prep days in advance to make sure my work clothes, gym kit and meals were all sorted because being disorganised had the potential to set each day off course and affect how my whole week turned out. Everyone wants to start the day right!

2 – Form is everything: This cannot be understated. I walked into the gym on Day 1 of Boot Camp totally pumped!  It had been years since I stepped into the gym and I was beyond ready.  I could not wait to get stuck in and boy, was I disappointed.  The first 6 sessions, that’s two weeks, were just about form.  Everything from how to use the spinning bike, to how to do lunges correctly, to how to lift weights properly.  Those first two weeks turned out to be critical to our fitness journey. Our personal trainer was clear, knowledge is power, it’s about getting the basics right. We are not about getting injuries!

3 – Teamwork makes the dream work: I’ve had the privilege of getting to know eight incredible women on this journey, all of us in it for different reasons but for one hour three times a week we were each other’s greatest fans.

As the weeks went by our camaraderie extended beyond the gym.  We had each other’s backs in and outside the gym. We posted on our group to check on those who were off sick, we shared our meal plans and encouraged each other to resist the junk food cravings during the tough times.  We are in this thing together!

4 – The secret is to keep going: The exercise is the easy part, understanding food is the nightmare…

I haven’t dropped the weight I expected to.  It’s been three months and I was certain I’d be back to my 27 year old self but I’m not 7 kg lighter than I expected and I had beat myself up over it for some time.  I’ve had to counsel myself and remember why I started this journey in the first place.  The truth is I didn’t get here in 3 months, I got here over 7 long years.  My life has changed drastically since then and I’ve picked up bad habits along the way. My mission was to feel better, have more energy and boy, do I ever!

5 – Forgive thyself: A lot has happened over the last 3 months.  I’ve had moments of pure triumph along with major setbacks but the difference is that I now have a very different conversation with myself.  Ordinarily, if I was doing well, I’d get comfortable and quickly slip into my old bad habits then subsequently beat myself up over it. And when life dragged me through it, I’d wobble and start slipping back into my bad habits and yes, you guessed it, I’d beat myself up over it. I’ve learned from Boot Camp that the choices we make outside the gym are the most important.  70% nutrition, 20% attitude and 10% exercise.

I could spend my entire life in the gym and go home to eat and drink all wrong things, binge on other people’s successful weight loss stories on Instagram and Pinterest and so goes the vicious cycle. But now, since Boot Camp, my good times are celebrated and I know how to deal with the challenging times better.  I forgive myself for the slip ups and I don’t dwell on them long enough to wallow any further.  I simply get up, dust myself off and carry on; tomorrow is a new day. How lovely is that?

What I do know, unreservedly, is that it’s been an education and it feels marvelous to be where I am right now!

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Thank you Polelo – thanks for being so authentic, vulnerable and honest in describing your challenges but also in sharing these beautiful lessons! I for one look forward to seeing you a lot more on the Friday Five 😉