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!

Guest Blog: Deloitte Pretoria 10k Race Recap

Ticha has many labels – my bestie’s husband, a phenomenal father of two boys, my friend and brother, and a blogger extraordinaire. He is now also my Johannesburg Race Correspondent and will be guest blogging on “The Gaborone Runner” throughout the year. 

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I’ve been inspired to start running again because of my sister Shathiso. She told me about her plan to run 17 races in 2017, which I thought was a great idea. Shathiso is new to running, has little experience but has determination and organization as part of her genetic makeup. So far, she has completed three 10k races including smashing her personal best in the process! So I figured if Shathiso can do 17, the least I can do should be a minimum of 12 races this year (one per month I figured).

Before I tell you about my first race of the year, let me tell you about my last race. 1 March 2015 – I arrived at the start of the Hyundai Rock the Run 10k race. I arrived early and, as I was by myself, took a couple of pics on my phone and found a decent place near the start line.

I had no race strategy other than “keep running” and as the gun went off we started the race. Now, in most races, if you start in the middle or at the back you spend the first 1-2 kilometres weaving through the fun runners and walkers – as I started near the front, I had a clear road ahead and set off really quick (I didn’t realize how quick until I looked at my GPS long after the race – I ran a 5:36/km, 5:09/km and a 4:43/km! The first 3 kms were flat and downhill but as we all know “every action has an equal, and opposite, reaction”.

From 4-8 km, my pace slowed to a more normal average of 6:30/km as we went into the up hills and then I slowed right down to a 9/km as I started to run out of gas. At precisely 9.7 km, my legs finally gave in and literally buckled underneath me. My race was over and I had to get the medics to take a look at me.

Which brings us to 26 February 2017 and the Deloitte Pretoria 10k. This time I had done some (okay, minimal) training before the race, in running 6.7 km in my neighborhood a week before. The traffic was insane getting to the venue and I finally managed to find parking about 1.5 km from the start, which served as a warm up for the race!

I didn’t manage to collect my race number during the week, so I had to get to the registration tent to collect that. After all that, I was still at the start line with a good 15 minutes to spare. I managed to find a decent spot about 200m from the start line, and then it was a matter of waiting for the race to start.

My strategy this time was to keep it slow and steady – I don’t have a watch to keep monitoring my pace – and make sure I still had gas in the tank for the last stretch of the race. The route meandered through the leafy Pretoria suburbs and was not too bad at all – there were the obligatory hills but nothing as bad as the ones Shathiso and Ditiro encountered in their Mini Monster!

I was feeling quite strong all the way to the 8 km mark, and then there was an undulating uphill until just after 9 km which I really battled through.  When I cleared the hill it was all downhill/flat to the finish line but it was a monumental struggle for me. My breathing was ok, but my legs felt like lead and each step was a gargantuan effort to complete. I focused on literally putting one foot in front of the other to get to the finish line.

I was pleasantly surprised that I finished in a new personal best of 1:05, considering that I battled through that last kilometre. Looking at my splits I had a nearly identical time of roughly 6:30/km for 1-9 kilometres. That 9-10 km was a split of 7:21/km!

So now I need to register for my next race, so I can keep pace with Shathiso who is hitting them out the park at the moment!

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