I went for my first jog today since the Soweto Marathon. While I was running I could still remember every little detail. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this experience, I had prepared to have fun and enjoy the journey. But I won’t lie, it was not all fun and games.
3rd November 2019, the day was finally here. After months of preparation [and drama], the Soweto Marathon was here. But it actually started on the 1st November with a cru culture event called Soweto Bridging The Gap [BTG]. Every year now and then, running cru’s comes together for a “catch up”. BTG is a beautiful concept for those who are new to cru’s because you get to understand cru culture and it forms a sense of community.
Day 1 of BTG hosted on the 1st November was an informal meet and greet. The captains of the cru’s were on the spotlight and asked questions about their crus and what cru culture means to them. This also helps us to learn from one another, and also get to know what differentials one cru from the other. Although the common thread is our love for running, each cru has their own core values.
Day 2, 2 November was a shake out. We ran a young 5km, had a stretch session and had fun activities. It was beautiful to meet people who were running the next day, those more nervous than I am and those who were just as dressed as I was. The morning was slightly chilly so I wore and ran in a hoody. Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone with this decision.
On the morning of the marathon, the cru met at a mutual place at 3:30am. Funny enough, waking up wasn’t that hard. I was nervous, and my body woke me up before the set time to wake up. I got a few wake up calls as well. I made sure to put aside everything I needed the night before; I packed my energy bars, gels and most importantly, I strapped on my champion chip (a chip that tracks your running time and officiates if you really qualify for ultra marathons).
We got to the stadium just before peak traffic. At 4:30am we were parked and off to the start, the 42km started at 5am. On my way to the start line, I gave up looking for people I know were running 42km. I stood wherever I could, not too far from the start and not to far back. The 15 minute delay didn’t help with the nerves. I’m not a fan of the “Uber” song, but they played it so many times, most us danced the nerves away. I came across a friend, spoke to other runners, took a few selfies and 20 minutes later, we’re ready to start.
The first 5km was easy, relatively quick. Before I knew it was 8km down, 36km to go. I joined a bus [a group of people running together at a certain pace]. One of the guys seemed to be coaching two guys, they went from two people on the bus, to seven. We got to the half way mark, then I let them go because they did not stop at the water point and the pace got faster after every 2km’s. We swiftly ran past a 4:20 bus (a group that projected they would finish in 4 hours and 20 minutes), and a 4:50 bus. I could tell if I stayed on this bus I would bomb out soon. However, I was grateful they got me to that point.
Just after the half way mark; there was a band of young girls and boys singing and dancing. That was such a lovely treat, my dizzy attempt to take a video slowed me down a bit and a guy I met at the BTG from Thesis Run Cru spotted me and said “Queen. It’s so good to see you.” I laughed, spoke to him while we ran and joined their their bus.
At 30km the mind games begun. It was mind over matter because my mind was over the whole thing. I had to prep talk myself until we came across a church, I was tempted to make a short left. A guy who was running with me said “gospel sounds amazing when you’re in pain”. I needed the chuckle, I later found out that guy was my Twitter friend Todd. We ran together for a kilometer and I didn’t even recognize him. Fam; the sun, my legs, my mind, my everything was pushed because the most I’d ever run prior to the race was 27km. I know…
Around 35km, my body was dehydrated. The one water point ran out of water, and the next one was 3km ahead. At this point I appreciated that there were water-points every 3km’s. A lady from another run cru spotted me and gave me an energy drink. But even then my body wanted more; more water, more coke, more energy drinks but I had to control the amount I take in to avoid cramps. The tug of war between more water or avoid cramps. I drank more water and coke in the next two water points.
At 37km I spotted two buddies from another cru who had body aches. Yes, time was a factor but I stopped to massage them. You would think I would be rushing to finish line with my 4:30 goal but at that point, this was the reality and I lived in the moment. The least I could do was help them to keep moving. Funny enough, helping them energized me.
38 km; dehydrated, tired, almost 5 hours on the road… I looked up and saw familiar faces. My run cru was there waiting for me; loud music and loud voices. I heard Tsholo’s [my friend] voice; “there’s Kgadi…” that followed by a loud scream, I blew kisses and continued running. I purposely didn’t stop because if I did, I probably would’ve cried and dehydrated myself even more. Seeing them, hearing them, was enough and now I was looking forward to seeing them at the finish line.
We ran together for a kilometer and I didn’t even recognize him. Fam; the sun, my legs, my mind, my everything was pushed because the most I’d ever run prior to the race was 27km. I know… But I felt a hand grab me and encourage me to keep going. It was one of the ERC captains, I was so happy to see her. We pushed each other to the finish line, a walk/run strategy to the finish line.
Just when I thought this was it, we finally got to the entrance of the stadium and I spotted a friend from Braamfie Run Rru, Thabo. I waved and blew kisses and he set aside his camera, opened his arms and I went in for a big, long hug. At that point I knew it was done, we did it. My first marathon done and dusted! Seeing the finish line was heavenly! I was a mixed bag of emotions; including excited and in disbelief. This was the furtherest I’ve ever run. Physically, I was exhausted; my feet hurt, the sun burn was setting in but I was happy.
After the race, for the first time in hours I felt my feet. I had my medal in my hand so nothing else mattered. I finished in 5 hours and 15 minutes. I didn’t get a qualifier but I am happy.
It was great training for the qualifier. And next year, I am going back. I have a score to settle with this race. 4 hours and 30 minutes, here we come!