I’ve recently become serious about long distance running. It began as a challenge to myself to run the Sugarbush Challenge, a popular race on the Lusaka running circuit. I set myself a goal of running 10km in March, having begun training in October. I’m not an inexperienced runner but hadn’t run very much in recent years.
Two weeks earlier I ran 16km, surpassing my target. Yay for me.
The challenge with the upcoming Sugarbush race is the terrain. It’s hilly. Which is super tough. So, the practice becomes essential if one is to cover the distance without stopping.
On Saturday, I joined the Lusaka Fitness Squad for a practice run along parts of the run route. I had done the route twice before so I felt it was manageable.
But the final result was not at all what I expected.
As always, every night before the 4:30am wake up, I set out all my gear – my clothes, water bottle, music, headphones, phone, keys, trainers are set by the door. All I have to do is get up and dress, and grab a banana.
The first mistake was I couldn’t bring myself to get up right when my alarm went off. That cost me ten minutes. Which meant when I did finally get out of bed, I had to leave immediately in order to meet up with everyone at 5am. This meant, I didn’t leave myself enough time for stretching before the run; I only squeezed in a few stretches right before the group took off up the hills. Mistake. I could have hurt myself terribly.
The second mistake I made was I forgot to eat. Sounds unbelievable, huh? I don’t usually eat an evening meal. I don’t like that feeling of food in my belly at night. But on running days, I eat something the night before to give me fuel for the course. This night, I don’t know what happened, I plain forgot, so the last thing I ate was at about 4pm, just over twelve hours before. Stupid, right? It’s a terrible mistake to make and can be quite injurious.
The third mistake I made was changing my mind halfway through the course. My running distance for the Sugarbush race is 10km, and on Saturday morning I planned on running that distance to gauge my pace and power levels to be properly prepared for March 10. When I got to the water point at the 5km mark, which would have been where I’d turn around, I felt I still had enough in me to keep going another two or three kilometres before turning back. This was fine until I realised I’d gone 7.7km and would have to run the distance back. The combination of the hills, not enough stretching and no supper came together right then – I had no power in my legs to see through this new distance. Why did I change my mind, why didn’t I stick to my plan?
I wasn’t pressured into it. I just wanted to do it. But it cost me.
I walked about two and a half kilometres on the return, which slowed down my heart rate and made me feel cold midway through a run, which shouldn’t happen. But I also let myself down and didn’t give myself a chance to properly assess my fitness for the race. Duh!
One of the support vehicles manning the water points met me and a couple of runners along the way, offering water. The trunk of the car was filled with water bottles, a couple bottles of soda, some bananas and lollipops. When I saw the lollipops, my heart jumped. I reached for one, promptly unwrapped it and started sucking on it like I was a three-year-old. It was the boost I needed to get me through the home stretch. Did I ever think I would see myself running with a lollipop in hand, sucking on it now and then? No. And hopefully I never will again!
Lessons learned: stretch, eat and stick to your plan!