The team woke up at 3 am and promptly began to get ready (shower, eat etc.) for our races scheduled to start between 5:00 and 6:30 am. We were on the road 45 minutes later and on our way to the FNB Stadium where the race would start but we didn’t anticipate what we would find on the road…TRAFFIC! It was so bad my dad & I had to abandon the vehicle with my wife & mother in it to start running towards the start of the race. It was 2+ kilometers but we made it on time. This served as a forced warm-up!
The race begins:
I started off feeling good, feeling strong and decided to pay attention to my environment because I mean, WE WERE RUNNING THROUGH SOWETO! It was so exciting to be running the ‘people’s race’! Barely 5kms into the race we had our first encounter with the people – they were holding out beer and ciders and offering it to runners! They were bizarrely marketing them as energy drinks! LOL! Some runners grabbed the alcoholic beverages and consumed them, while others laughed and ran past but all in all it was an entertaining introduction to the race. These offerings were a constant feature throughout the race.
10+ kilometers into the race and the unforgiving sun started to dish out some serious punishment on all runners. We endured the heat with the help of residents who were outside with hose pipes ready to help you cool down from the brutal temperatures. Others had potato chips and plain old salt to help you hydrate and replenish sodium, while the rest offered various fruit and foods from their personal homes. It all culminated into amazing support that was freely provided out of the goodness of people’s hearts.
20+ kilometers into the race they had speakers blasting South African music with people merrily dancing along at various checkpoints. It was fun to witness and the music (and dance off) gave runners a bit of a push; some boostele! It reminded me of times when I’d be on a training run with my favorite earphones plugged in and the activity started to feel challenging but enjoyable and bearable because of the music. Music keeps you in motion.
30+ kilometers into the race and things started to get real. All marathon runners had name tags pinned on the front of their jersey and when my struggles became apparent bystanders began to encourage me by name – “C’mon Nicholas! You can do it. The finish line is just around the corner.” The part about the finish line being close was mostly a lie but it gave me hope of eventually making it there if I just kept moving forward. I really appreciated the support and the well-meaning lies. I can’t really explain how grateful I felt towards the people and now I know what it feels like to be cheered on and encouraged by strangers when you need it the most.
42.2 kilometers later I was at the finish line exhausted and proud. The Roadrunner Zambia concept was conceived at that very moment and now we’re here.
This is what I learnt from this experience:
Beautiful people of Soweto, I hope to see you again soon.