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!

Lady Khama, 10k Trail Race Recap (4/17)

My fourth race of my ’17 in 2017′ Challenge was the beautiful Lady Khama 10k Trail Run held on the 9th April, 2017. The organisers promised that this race was “not just about the RUN, but about the EXPERIENCE” and I think they delivered. 

The Lady Khama Trail Run is in its fifth year and it just keeps getting bigger in terms of runner and spectator participation. In 2013, there were only 200 runners but this year there must have been over 2000! There was a Lady K Wellness Area with various fitness and health exhibitors. There was also an iPad up for grabs for the fanciest dress! Once we heard that, my friends and I quickly started thinking of outfits to wear! 🙂 I finally decided to go as a Ladybird and my friend Polelo also organised fabulous Team #17 t-shirts for her family and mine to support my 17 in 2017 Quest! The t-shirts looked absolutely amazing!

I am usually quite tense before a race but this time I felt slightly better maybe because 1) I had no real expectations as I had just recovered from a cold, 2) A trail run is a different experience from a road race, 3) I was in fancy dress, 4) There is no luckier race number than 888, right?!, and 5) I was so pumped and inspired after watching “Remember the Titans” starring Denzel Washington. 🙂

The Race: The starting point of the race was the National Stadium. It was really exciting arriving in Fancy Dress, but also disappointing that there were so few of us! In our small team we had a moth, Nala from the Lion King, the Easter Bunny, Girl Power and a pirate! We really stood out and people commented so positively.  The vibe and energy was fantastic and aerobics instructors helped to warm us up. At 06:39, the gun sounded and we set off!

It was a really nice route, a combination of tarmac, uneven dirt track and some grass. We also ran along the fence of the Gaborone Game Reserve and those doing the Half Marathon were lucky enough to run inside the Game Reserve with all the antelope, warthogs and other wild animals. It was a relatively flat course with a a slight uphill section around the 3 km mark. There was also a special bridge that had been made for the race.

Photo Credit: Run 21 – 2017 Facebook Page

Towards the end, the course went through parts of the University of Botswana campus and then back to the Stadium. The uneven terrain made it seem like quite a tough course. There was also a lot of congestion at the start of the race. I almost sprained my ankle at one point, but luckily recovered quite quickly. I had a very steady pace for most of the race with my last km being the fastest at 07:15 min/km. My slowest pace was around the 2/3 km section.

I felt strong for most of the race. There were also some interesting comments thrown in my direction, “You are doing quite well ladybird, keep going!” or “Wow! The ladybird is managing!” I guess ladybirds are not expected to do too well on a 10k trail run?!? LOL! The last km seemed to take forever, but entering that Stadium was a fantastic feeling and I had a nice sprint finish, with my signature move – hands up in the air and a big smile!

My time: I ran the course in 1:16:44 minutes. My pace of 07:34 min/km was actually faster than my average in the last race, which was 07:38 min/km but because the last race was a slightly shorter 10k course (9.84 km) and this one was slightly longer (10.1 km), it didn’t work out to a PB even though the pace suggests it should have!

After the Race: As usual, I don’t think I could have done this without the support and camaraderie of my friends. We all went to High School together. We have studied, lived or worked in other countries, but at this point in our lives we find ourselves right here, getting fit together and having so much fun doing it. We truly make a great team!

All of us in Fancy Dress had to get on stage and put forward an argument as to why we should win.

Sadly, we lost out to the “Chocolate Cinderellas” but I got a hug and a picture with Vincent Crosbie! Vincent Crosbie became a national hero this year when he became the first motorbike rider to take the Botswana Flag across the finish line at the Dakar Rally.

Photo Credit: Vincent Crosbie Facebook Page

This photo is WORTH ten iPads in my books! 🙂

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. Very well organised (map routes out early, structured pre-race package pick up, very clearly marked routes)
  2. Brilliant atmosphere and spirit – such a great vibe in the Stadium and brilliant warm-up aerobics session
  3. The route was quite congested at the start
  4. It was a very late start even though everything else was so well-organised (06:39 instead of 06:15 because of some problem with the timing chips)

Would I do this race again?

Yes, yes, yes! I loved the atmosphere. But next year, I am bringing home that iPad! 🙂

Once again I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap! For the FIRST time, I am also very 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.

Jack’s Gym, 5k Trail Run Recap (1/17)

**For an introduction to who I am and why I am doing this, please click here**

My first race was a 5km trail run on the 4th February 2017. Since January, I have been following a walk-run programme and two weeks ago, I joined a pilates class twice a week. I usually run when I get back from work on a treadmill as the kids are too young to be left alone, but where I can – I squeeze in a run outside. What a difference there is between the two! By the time the race came, I had really not trained as much as I would have liked but I had a good run on Thursday where I managed to run consistently for 3 km (around 21 minutes).

The Race: I felt surprisingly good at 04:20 in the morning when I woke up. The weather was cool and humid as we had enjoyed some light showers overnight.  We had a nice aerobics warm up session at the Wharic Rugby Grounds and we set off at 06:22.

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I managed to jog for the first 2.5 km (at a pace of between 7.52 min/km and 8.34 min/km). However, it was most definitely a struggle. I have never run on a trail before so although there were not a lot of ups and downs, the surface was uneven and I was probably a bit too cautious. I also struggled to breathe properly and started getting exhausted way sooner than I expected I would. The route though was absolutely beautiful. The rain over night meant that the track was not as dusty as it otherwise would have been. It was beautifully green which is not a common sight in Gaborone, and we ran up a section which allowed us to catch a glimpse of the Gaborone Dam. There were also lots of cattle and donkeys along the way. At around 2.5 km I found myself on my own. Many people were doing the 12 km race, and those doing the 5 km one like I was were either way ahead of me, or way behind. Trouble struck when I missed the 5 km turn that would have taken me home. So I ended up redoing parts of the path I had started with. I panicked when I realised that something was wrong but then decided to backtrack as far as I could until I saw the turn-off for home. By then I had lost so much time and when I finished the race, I had actually covered 6.11 km!

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So it was not the best way to start my running journey. I am extremely disappointed, but I keep telling myself that at least I did it; plus I did an extra km and survived and as my cousin put it, “You got more than what you paid for!” 

Route: Started at Wharic Rugby Grounds and ran in the bush surrounding the area. (So from Point 3, I should have gone straight through to Point 6. But I went all the way to Point 4, then back to 5 then 1 and finally 6!)

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My time: When I had done 5 km, it was around 44 min. Of course, by the time I finished the race it was a different story. So my final time was 53:53. (Thoroughly disappointed that I got so lost and ended in that time, but it can only get better from here!). My husband Ditiro did the 30km trail cycle in a time of  1:20. He was very pleased!

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Lessons/Discoveries: 

  1. Keep your eyes up when running so that you don’t miss any critical signs! This is a big lesson for me so early on in my running “career”
  2. I need to learn how to breathe: I really struggled to breathe. I was already panting during the first km and I haven’t figured out how to time my breaths to the steps I take. Too inefficient and in the end I just felt like I was huffing and puffing. I have to work on this, otherwise, I may be struggling for a long time.
  3. I run funny: I have a very strange running gait. Firstly, I am knock-kneed (which I knew) but when I run my “thigh internally rotates during ground contact” (thank you Dr Google) and on top of that (or maybe associated with that??) I have major over-pronation of the foot. So I need to figure out what I can do to fix this before I damage my knees.

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. Lovely aerobics workout session in the morning. It reminded me of my aerobics days and definitely helped to warm me up.
  2. Beautiful track – can’t emphasise this enough. A really scenic track with cows, donkeys and all! 🙂
  3. 5km and 12km markings were the same green colour which seemed to contribute to some confusion on the track not just for me, but for others too. I think if they had been a different colour, then when I went off track I would have quickly noticed and turned around before adding a whole km to my run!
  4. Signing up/ collecting packs for the race was a struggle as the organisers didn’t seem to know what was expected. The collection process took almost 2 hours!

Would I do this race again?

Yes! In a heartbeat – and this time I would probably try the 12 km race!

Till next time, keep fit!