Madness of running a said beloved’s age in kilometres

Tshwantsho Media

Tshwantsho Media

Published Mar 24, 2024


ORDINARILY I should have run 72km. That’s what we crazy social runners do to celebrate a loved one’s birthday. We run the said beloved’s age in kilometres.

Now 72km is long. It is particularly long when you are not training for the Comrades Marathon. For if you are, you’d use that as your long run. But I am not going to be doing the Ultimate Human Race in June.

My sabbatical from the world famous KwaZulu-Natal ultra continues unabated, the fun of riding in the media truck watching the elites is a much more exciting undertaking, thank you.

And so it was that on my mother’s birthday that yesterday, I chose to run a half marathon at the Makoro Village Marathon in Ga-Molepo just outside Polokwane. No I did not run it in 72 minutes, although that would have been the ideal given I chickened out of doing mommy’s age in kilometres. But I am not that fast you see.

The next best option was to finish first in my age category (50+) as a happy birthday gift to the woman who passed on her speedy genes onto me. She was a pretty fast track runner in her youth, she tells me.

And that was the objective when I headed to Molepo Dam from home in Lebowakgomo in the morning’s darkness. It was the objective when the start gun sounded at 5:30am and we headed off into the villages alongside the full marathon runners.

I had been told it is a tough race and that there is a massive hill at the 6km mark. I don’t like that. I prefer to tackle a race blind, but what could I do.

Pretty early in the race, just after the 1km mark, we turned left off the tar road on to the gravel as the full marathoners went straight on and with the lead car in view I was confident I’d do well. And then my shoelaces got untied, precious seconds lost as I fixed them.

But I quickly got up and was soon passing a couple of runners when a young boy from Faranani AC joined me. I asked him what time he was after and he said 80 minutes. Let’s go then, I said. But no sooner had I said that than he was lagging behind as I climbed the so-called tough hill at 6km in a speedy 3:56 (minutes). But I saw there was more climbing coming as I spotted the lead car high up ahead of me.

Feeling strong, I pushed on only to slow down tremendously for the 8th kilometre which I completed in a pedestrian pace of 5:10. This is going to be hard, I thought to myself – running all alone with the leaders way up front and those behind me some distance back.

I am used to running solo though, so I soon recovered and was now enjoying the race – taking up the encouragement from the village gogo who stood by her gate blowing the vuvuzela. I loved the undulating nature of the route as it wound through the villages going up and down like a roller-coaster.

The downs were not too severe and so I motored away and used the momentum to tackle the ups. I was chuffed as I reached the 15km mark in an hour and 60:34. I was on to a good time. A sub 90 was definite and I believed I’d run under 85 minutes.

Was I the leading runner in my age category? I knew not, but with about five kilometres to go I asked the marshal how many people were in front of me. Her response got me excited.

“There’s a lot, but you are the first in your category.”

I speeded on, imbued with confidence and excitement that glory beckoned. On the home straight the 10km joggers clogged the road and I had to run on the edge to avoid bumping into them. I could see the dam and felt I was about to finish. My app said so too. But then there was still some distance despite it telling me I’d completed the 21.1km distance. What the ****?

I ended up running an extra 1400m, one of the organisers telling me afterwards that he’d rather over-measure the route than under-measure for the sake of not messing up those running qualifiers. Whatever!

Just as I was approaching the finish arc, I heard the announcer Donald “Tembisa Mile” Mathipa congratulating somebody for being the first 50+ home. It was not me though. I was beaten to first position by a runner from KWay Jeppe.

I had to be content with second place as a “gift” to mommy dearest. She was happy for me that I got a podium finish and did not even ask what time I ran. It made it all worthwhile.

Happy birthday mommy!