My Running Mate is Back

Running Feels Great! Andrew (right) and I (left)
Running Feels Great! Andrew (right) and I (left)

My colleague and friend from the office is back. Andrew Khoko has been swamped with work lately often knocking off in the night. As a running partner we haven’t hit the asphalt together for sometime now. Until yesterday.

Cathy, my lovely wife, came to fetch our laptop bags and office attire. We slipped into sportswear, said our goodbyes and fixed our eyes on the road.

 

Running In the Dark

I’m trying to motivate Andrew to tackle one of the routes for Be More Race. He looks to be in a better shape than I am. I’m sure he can easily end up in the top ten if he put his mind to it.Yesterday, we started off from our office in Area 43, a quiet low density suburb in Lilongwe, the Capital City of Malawi.

The streets were deserted except for a dog and someone who was busy playing with his phone. The lights of an approaching car made it difficult to see the road. Shielding our eyes, it became obvious that this was going to be an interesting run.

Soon enough we reached the main road and decided to run next to it. When the sun is not set yet, we sometimes take the little trails a few meters away from the road. We brush against grass, and the trail offers a few of off-road sections that are a delight to the coordination algorithms inside our brains.

But last night, we could not take those trails on account of the darkness. Perhaps, in hindsight, we should have brought along headlamps. In any case, we settled in and easily avoided trucks that were hogging their lanes and shooing us away with aggressive honking.

 

The First Three Kilometers

We took a comfortable pace to allow Andrew to warm-up and also to be gentle to my legs due to subdued aching left after last Saturday’s 21 km run with Cathy. Andrew’s chest was on fire, as expected and my Achilles’ tendon was protesting loudly.

From previous experience we knew we just had to endure the first three kilometers. After that, once the body figures out that you are ignoring the message to stop, it resigns to its fate and gives you what you want – mileage.

My estimation was that we would take about roughly an hour and ten minutes to get home. And that was alright, after all running in the dark should not be done in haste. Andrew took the lead, and the running elephant followed. (By the way, I got that title from one of the guides on Kilimanjaro some two years ago.)

There was not much to see but the air was fresh. Nature was doing an excellent job cleaning up the fumes coming out from the cars on the road.

 

Tragedy Strikes

After five kilometers Andrew dropped the pace drastically. I thought he was getting tired. I overtook him and urged him to spring back to action. Then I took off. We didn’t see each other again until after the run.

It turns out his right knee had given in. He was in pain but managed to mask his limp. Instead of stopping and canceling the run, he decided to persevere to the end. And he knew that if he had indicated his predicament that would have halted the run.

What a hero.

 

The Outcome

The Running Stats
The Running Stats

In the end, the run finished at 54 minutes 22 seconds, covering a distance of 6.99 meters. Certainly, not a record breaker in any way. But the point is to get out there and do your part. Even with a busy day, one can squeeze in a work out or two. We did it, so can you.

An Easy Weekend

My Recorded Performance

This Saturday was about taking it easy after a hectic week at the office. So what better way to unwind that waking up at 4 in the morning and heading out for a run. Cathy, my lovely wife, was by my side as a companion and cheerleader number one. She knows how to nurse back my bruised ego to perfect health.

Sampling The Goods

I’ve been following the preparations to the Standard Bank Be More Race slated for 9 June in Lilongwe. The routes for the three categories are out. So I thought of sampling the main route and experience it for ourselves.

Since the main dish has not been served yet, I’ll reserve the detailed narration for later. Suffice to say whosoever settled for the route has a taste for finer things in life.

Walking parts of it, and running the rest of it, the experience was awesome.

The Recording Glitch

I had wanted to record every inch of the way. I set up the running app and got going. After playing the first power song, everything went quiet. Nearly two kilometers later, the system went back online.

Fortunately, Cathy’s app worked smoothly. So we have a perfect record of the distance covered, thanks to her alertness.

Cathy’s Perfect Record

The Verdict

I intend to sample out the remaining routes in the days to come. But for the main route all I can say is it is JUICY, ENGAGING and totally SUCCULENT!

You cannot afford to miss the day. So keep the date: 9 June 2018.

See you there.

A Tiny Little Detail for Professional Athletes

Consolation for Your Sweat!
Consolation for Your Sweat!

 

So far my coverage about this year’s Standard Bank Be More Race has focused on the casual runner on a quest to achieve physical fitness and wellness. But Be More has more to offer.

As the race is open to professional athletes, financial rewards await for those in the 21 kilometre heat. Like the promise of a treasure at the far end of the rainbow, Standard Bank too has dangled a total of K2.9 million at the finish line for the first three to cross the line.

Winners will receive cash prizes in ranges of K550,000, K900,000 and K1.5 million on third, second and first positions, respectively.  Now that’s something to smile about! It is commendable that Standard Bank has considered rewards for athletes. Apart from cash prizes, all participants will receive a bag stuffed with branded Standard Bank goodies. That is the way to go.

Many professional athletes out there have been crying out for motivation and the more sponsors like Standard Bank come forward with prizes, the better for the sport. The bar has been raised.  These cash prizes should motivate more athletes to get back on the track, and new ones to join. Ultimately, standards of the sport will improve.  The overall picture of success looks bright. We can now look forward to the moment when more than just the regular local athletes participate at global competitions. Surely the gold medals are coming on home soil.

Be More!

Lilongwe City Race: Done and Dusted

Lilongwe City Run - Be More!
Lilongwe City Run – Be More!

It’s all a matter of perspective. 10 km passed in a modern plane at cruise speed will be fleetingly small. In a car, on the open roads 10 km is nothing. In busy cities like Lilongwe, it will be noticeable. But on your feet, pounding the hard asphalt to the rhythm of your heart, 10 km becomes 10, 000 metres!

PREAMBLE

As covered in previous articles, the city run was designed to bring Standard Bank customers, staff and the community together. It was a day where runners were encouraged to come along with their family and friends.

THE TURN OUT

The turn out was great. I made out a few familiar faces including Walter Nyamilandu, the current president of Football Association of Malawi (FAM). I couldn’t resist getting a photo opportunity with him. And his deep baritone voice helped set the mood for the race. I met Kelvin Mphonda, an old friend from college days. He’s an Assistant Director of Roads, Ministry of Transport and Public Works. There were peoples of all races, ages and gender. The youngest was 8 years old and the oldest perhaps was in his 70s.

THE START LINE

After signing the indemnity forms and getting the race number, we all gathered at the start line. This was a proper affair with the modern square arch marking the spot. There was an ambulance and lots of Police and race officials. Then a trainer appeared in front of the crowd and took us through a warm-up session. It was more like a dance-aerobic session. I felt the warmth of blood surging in all the four corners of my body. I was ready.

When it was 2 minutes to the starting time, Malawi National Anthem played on the loud, high-fidelity speakers. Some runners cheered, and others stood at attention of sorts. Exactly at 6:00 a whistle was blown and we all took off.

HERO OF THE DAY

I decided to take a comfortable pace and watched a sea of faces run past me. Steady and Easy was my strategy. What’s more, there was a high chance of catching up with some of these runners later on in the race. As I was busy fiddling with my phone, an athletic pulled up next to me. He looked like a smaller version of Bolt. We struck up conversation and got to learn that he was Ian Msampha. He was a survivor of a nasty car accident that left him with a broken leg – in three places, and a broken left hand. The accident occurred off Lilongwe City limits in September 2015. After surgery, where they inserted a metal bar to support his femur, the doctors said he would never walk again unassisted. The family then decided to involve a physiotherapist from Blantyre who had strict routines, some starting off as early as 4:00 am.

Bit by bit, he started going to the gym. He started bench pressing a 50 kg bar, and went as high as 140 kg. And here he was actively participating in the race. To me he was the hero of the race.

THE ROUTE

The route that was selected was very scenic. Starting off from the heart of New City Centre, the part of Lilongwe without dust, it went past the majestic Reserve Bank building, the only structure that is thin at the bottom, and wides out like an inverted stepped triangle. At the far end of that road, the route brushed shoulders with the boundary of Lilongwe Sanctuary, where wild animals are rehabilitated and released into the jungle, if they are still capable of fending for themselves. Then the route turned north and went past the American Embassy, the new South African High Commission complex and the DFID offices (Department For International Development). On the opposite side, there was a forest composed of indigenous trees. It was green everywhere.

At the Malawi Parliament roundabout it turned west. The Parliament buildings were in sight, and this architectural marvel does not disappoint. The route had been steady until this stage. It sloped down a little bit, and then started going up. Further down the road, it turned north again at Area 18 roundabout. This is where the first challenge emerged. The slope was considerably significant. In the mornings when going to work, it is not uncommon to see loaded trucks that have broken down on this section. People and machines alike find this section difficult to navigate. The road from the Parliament roundabout and this road bordering the popular Area 18 form two sides of a rectangle housing the Botanic Gardens. This is a favorite spot if one is looking to pray, study or reconnect with nature.

Further up the road, the route turned right into the low density Area 10. The road sloped down and offered some respite to the now tired runners. An undulating pattern led the road to a junction between Area 12 and Area 11, and the road turned right. This section, thankfully eased on the ankle, offering a gentle negative angle. In front of the road was The Golden Peacock Mall, and Golden Peacock Hotel in the background towering everything. The mall is one of the biggest in City Centre and boasts of shops, restaurants and office space.

At the bottom of the road the fun abruptly vanished. The route turned right, and up, and up and up, towards the finish line. This was the last challenge meant to test the resolve of both the experienced and the uninitiated. Capital Hotel was to the right, and Mungo Park further up the road. The latter has the only five-star hotel in the country, and also has the prestigious Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC). All these are beautiful compounds, but at this point, it was likely that the runners were not noticing these, only focusing on completing the race at BICC.

There was three watering points along the way, and at each junction a race official would pair with police members showing directions and controlling traffic. The preparation that went into this must have been massive considering the attention that was given to the details.

THE TOP TEN

Then came matters of ranking. The first position went to John Waldron who clocked an impressive 47:22 minutes, and the second position went to Jochebed Mpanga who did 53:55 minutes, followed by Maya Kachenga with 54:29 minutes. Here’s a complete list of the first ten runners to hit the finish line:

Joni Waldron 47:22

Jochebed Mpanga 53:55

Maya Kachenga 54:29

Cynthia Mahata 57:49

Lindiwe Nkhambile 57:51

Rose Chapola 1:00:08

Iris Borsch 1:02:47

Orama Mwase 1:03:06

Racheal Shilup 1:03:29

Nyasha Vera 1:05:59

Other than the first three positions, the top ten list was dominated by valiant ladies who sailed through the route as if on the wings of swans. A big congratulations to the top ten. You did us all proud.

THE INTERVIEW

Between the first and second booths, as we were negotiating the slope of the Area 18 road, I spied a towering figure pumping up the slope without effort. He could easily be twice my size, and than fascinated me. He was accompanied by a companion, whom I assumed was a wife. When I got close, I decided to introduce myself. I assumed he was the CEO of Standard Bank. He was gracious enough to respond to my questions while we were still in stride. After introducing myself as the blogger for Be More, I reached deep within and tried to increase my pace. I mean, I thought it was important to make the right impression being our first meeting.

I took off and left them in the distance. But by the time I was negotiating the last slope towards BICC I spotted the pair approaching with strong intent to overtake. I reached for the dregs of any energy reserves that were left in the tank and took off awkwardly. I silently promised myself that the only thing left that mattered was to be ahead of them, even if it meant just a metre separating us. I crossed the finish line with a short distance between us. I don’t think he knew there was a competition at play here.

Later on, I got formally introduced by Thoko Unyolo, the Head of Marketing and Communications and the chief engineer behind the Be More Races. I was fortunate to be granted a short interview. William and Debbie le Roux are a power couple, having participated in the Mzuzu City Race already. Debbie is a kindred spirit having a passion to hiking. She has already been to Mulanje Mountain, our famous and tallest massif in Malawi.

Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

Kondaine: “What is your message today?”

William le Roux: “We want to see more interaction between our customers and the staff. We want to see our customers and staff spend more time outdoors than being in the banking hall. For that reason we have introduced Digital Channels, and with it a digital app that is best in its class. It is linked to Airtel Money. It is an App 247, that will allow you to easily access your account anytime, anywhere. Together with online banking, you can easily access the bank services from the comfort of your bedroom, or anywhere.”

He paused. After a brief reflection he continued.

“We believe that wellness is good for business. It is good for the community. We believe that wellness is good to our customers and to our staff. And we would like to encourage everyone to embrace the outdoors lifestyle by participating in the Be More Races. That’s the message today.”

We shook hands and parted our ways. I must say this was a classy appetizer. Time and opportunity willing, I’d wish for a more comprehensive interview that will tackle a wide range of issues concerning Standard Bank, the athletics and of course the Be More Races. But for now, this was a timely glimpse into the most powerful man at Standard Bank, participating, and engaging with customers and the business community.

William & Debbie le Roux (left & right), myself (middle)
William & Debbie le Roux (left & right), myself (middle)

 

THE STARS

The stars for the day were all those that showed up, without whose presence the City Race would not have been a success. This was fun, and to say that it was an achievement would be making an understatement. The run/walk has given us all an idea of the scope of the main race. Be More Race on 9 June will be twice the fun, twice the challenge, and twice as long.

Be More.

Lilongwe City Race Is Tomorrow

If you happen to be in Lilongwe over the weekend, look up the calendar and you’ll see you had put a small cross on 12 May. That’s because that was a day reserved for Be More City Run/Walk.

Come and join the athletes ,families and fitness enthusiasts who will breeze through 10 km as an appetizer for the main race in June. The rest of us will run – at our pace or even walk. Some will run a little bit, and walk some more. Whatever the strategy, it will be important to participate.

The race will start promptly at 6:00. These races are known for time keeping. So it is best to show up early. You can register online or via Whatsapp for free . Check the details on the poster below. If you are busy, you can also register tomorrow. Just make sure you give yourself enough time for the registration.

To all of us, remember to have plenty of sleep and hydrate ahead of the race. Dehydration is a show-stopper. So drink lots of water and other fluids. And as usual, stay away from the hard stuff.

See you at the start line. And remember the main race is coming on June 9, 2018 in its inaugural city, Lilongwe.

Be More!

The Last Of the Triad

Be More Race has introduced interim runs this year as a way to raise awareness of the main race on 9 June that will take place in the scenic Lilongwe City. This triad has targeted the three main cities, Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Each hit has been aptly named City Race and it covers 10 km. The races for Blantyre and Mzuzu have already taken place. The first one was in south on 14 April and in the north on 21 April.

Now it’s a golden chance for Lilongwe to have a taste of this sumptuous race. 10 km is just enough to get you sweating and give you pointers for the main race to come next month. The Be More Lilongwe City Race will take place this coming Saturday on 12 May 2018. It will start at exactly 6 in the morning. It will start from Standard Bank Capital City Branch at City Centre. Admission is free of charge. I guess it doesn’t get any better than that.

I’m planning to attend and see how far my preparations have been. It will also be an opportunity to learn from other runners and pick up a technique or two. If you happen to be in town please plan to attend.

Be More!

The Three Peaks and other extreme sports in Malawi

We may not have an ultra marathon yet but as far as extreme sports is concerned Malawi is not far behind. We have the Yacht Race on Lake Malawi, we have the Porters’ Race on Mulanje Mountain, we have the Be More Race in Lilongwe. And we also have the Three Peaks walk in Blantyre. These are all annual events.

I have been covering the Be More Race, and I’m planning on attempting the 21 km race. I expect nothing but fireworks and fun. I’m not so sure about the Porters’ Race. Perhaps that could be sampled next year. But I’m having an irresistible temptation to try the Three Peaks walk this year as well.

The Three Peaks walk covers 48 km in a day and that includes hiking three mountains in Blantyre and reaching each summit. The mountains involved are Michiru, Ndirande and finally Soche, in that order. To say this is very challenging would be making an understatement.

One family friend of ours gave it a try last year. Esnat Chilije completed all the three mountains. It’s no wonder that this year she attempted the City Race in Blantyre organized by Standard Bank as a runner up to the Be More Race. It took place on 14 April. We were inspired by her accomplishments and are planning to follow suit.

In the meantime, I’m reaching for the straws and trying desperately to assure myself I can do this. The only comfort is that I did several long walks in Cape Town back in 2012. I could take almost the whole day to walk 34 km from the end of the train line in Simon’s Town to Mowbray.

And in 2016 (I’m not so sure about 2015) in Lilongwe I walked several times from Bunda Hill to Area 47 covering a distance between 34 and 36 km. That included reaching the summit of Bunda Hill. Besides that I have also done Three Peaks in Lilongwe, but drove in-between instead of walking.

Not much compared to what is to come, but somehow that should count a little bit. No? Cathy my sweet wife is eager to participate in the Three Peaks walk and I can only reflect the enthusiasm. Ahem!

So keep June clear and start preparing for the Three Peaks in Blantyre and/or the Porters Race in Mulanje. The City Race for Lilongwe will be on 12 May at 6:00 am at Standard City Centre and the one for Mzuzu already took place on 21 April and the main Be More Race, again in Lilongwe, will be on 9th June.

I haven’t had time to research about the Yacht Race in Mangochi, but keep an eye on it too. (I only hope it hasn’t taken place yet! 🙈)

To all those that love outdoors, extreme sports and nature, now is the time to get active. Get started!

Read It Again: I am the way, the truth and the life

Not a bad spot for a walk with God.
Not a bad spot for a walk with God.

The Bible contains some of the greatest stories ever recorded in human history. One such story is the narration of Abraham having a physical and visible visitation from God. It happened on this wise. One hot afternoon, Abraham was enjoying the shade under a big tree in his compound. He saw three men approach his tent and it looked like they were going to go past his home. He ran quickly to them and addressed to one of them as Lord. He asked them to stop by his house for refreshments. In the course of their fellowship, the Lord revealed His plan for Sodom, the metropolitan city for that day. He also told Abraham about the promised son who was just a year away.

Then there is the story of Jacob who wrestled with an Angel for the whole night before getting his blessings from above. Not much talk was recorded for our benefit but I do not think the overnight tussle was muted. There must have been some exchange worth transforming a life and name from Jacob to Israel. Talk about having an animated talk!

Hundreds of years pass by. Then Moses appears on the scene. He gets to see the Pillar of Fire in action at the burning bush. He gets to talk to God directly. Not in a dream. Not in a vision. But in the same way you and I talk to our family and friends. And these are not just one-liners. No. It is a comprehensive conversation. And part of the recorded conversation shows that the issues being tackled were wide ranging from strategic planning to destroy the biggest gentile kingdom of that day in order to free people that were in bondage to curing fear and unbelief engulfing the heart of Moses.

Which takes me to my thought for today. Have you ever had a priviledge to talk to someone who has discovered something big in our times? Or talking to someone who has accomplished a great achievement? It is always very refreshing. I have had such a privilege and one thing is for sure. Great achievers do not like idle talk. Every conversation has to be worth the time and attention it deserves.

So what about having a conversation with God? I mean not just praying to God or worshipping God, but having a direct talk with God? Wouldn’t that be the greatest achievement of all time? Just imagine the impact that talk would have on your life.

Some 2000 years ago, the disciples were walking and talking to the Son of God. The book of John says He said He was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). He did not say He knew the Truth. That goes without saying. And He did not say that He knew the way, which would be impressive in itself. And He did not say He would take them to life, or show them the way to Life, which He did. But He said He was the actual Truth. This is beyond someone who has discovered something, say, atoms. To discover something, it means it was there to begin with. This is not inventing something, which in our times relies on using preexisting material or medium. This is the same as saying I am the maker of atoms, or the electromagnetic spectrum. I am the designer of the mountains, the soil, the air, and you.

So read it again. Who knew the Truth was a person? And who knew the way and Life were a person? Not three people, no. Just a single person. Did the disciples know they were talking to God? Or they all thought they were talking to The Son of Man, as Jesus liked to call Himself? Who can ever say I am the Truth but God?  Oh! What I would give to have a conversation with Him. I would want to know how He created the world. How He designed it. I would want to know how big the universe is. (I also want to visit every corner of the visible universe – like, literally. To climb mountains on Mars, or get to the cold deserts of Pluto, now that’s an adventure worth its name. But shhh! Don’t tell anyone. They might think I have lost it. This is my secret longing.).

But first things first. Get saved first. Submit to His current program. Then everything else will follow. Just like Abraham, Jacob and Moses, God’s conversation has a transforming power. He wants to bring out something out of us that will make us achieve our widest dreams. Of all promises in the Bible, I want the most to walk with Him and have a long conversation with God. But I can wait. After all, we have the whole eternity ahead. What’s the rush?

Straights and Bends

In life, most times what we are looking for is out of reach. It could be that it takes time to develop but we do not have the patience to see it through. Sometimes, we may have the patience but we do not have the skills to accomplish it. But usually, we may just not have the stomach to see it through. This is mostly true when we want to change something about ourselves. After a while, with a taste of defeat in our mouths, we go back to our old ways, defeated, dejected, run-down. But it should not be like that. We were made to conquer. We were made to overcome.

Such was the case yesterday, when my running partner, Andrew Khoko entered my office to say hello. I told him I had my Monday evening run without him, and that it was tough. He immediately demanded that we run the evening of yesterday (Tuesday). My ankles felt a bit shaky so I declined. He insisted. I then proposed a 7 km walk instead. He did not want a walk. He wanted to run. So then, I suggested we go for a sprinting session. It would take less time but it would also give a chance to relax the body by working on a different set of muscles. He accepted. So come evening, we headed for Civo Stadium, built in the heart of Lilongwe, the Capital City of Malawi. I believe the full name is Civil Service Club, and it was built for civil servants back in the days of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the first state president of the Republic of Malawi.

Pachisi, the athlete (right) and myself (left)
Pachisi, the athlete (right) and myself (left)

On the way, I decided to contact my good friend and one of the best athletes in town, Pachisi Nyasulu. He is a seasoned banker and doubles as a sports management expert. He was the fastest man in Malawi between 2001 and 2004. Last year he was the third fastest man, being comfortable in the categories, 100 m and 400 m. Moreover, I think he is also okay with the 800 m category. I wanted him to give us some pointers and demonstrate a few tricks. Being that he was very busy, he briefly waited for us at the stadium, but by the time we go there, he had excused himself to attend to other matters. However, he suggested a routine that we could follow. He suggested Straights and Bends. “What is that?” I asked him on the phone. “Simple.” he said. “Just warm up first. Then jog around the track for 10 minutes. Then jog on the straights and sprint on the bends for the next 10 minutes. Lastly, sprint on the straights and jog on the bends for another 10 minutes.” he advised.

It sounded simple. I did my best to hide my disappointment. I had really wanted him to be present at the stadium when we got there. Anyway, I passed on the message to my friend and we walked to the start line. We warmed up and then started the jog. The sunlight was fading, and the stadium did not switch on the track lights. The temperature was alright. Not cool, but not hot either. We settled down for a jog around 7′ 41”. That was okay for a first day on a new track. The first 10 minutes elapsed rather quickly, and now came the time to start doing the bends. We were going to keep on jogging on the straights that are 100 m long, and then sprint on the bends. When we reached the first bend, we took off. The heartbeat shot through the roof, and it took forever to reach the other side of the bend. Whoa! This was a very new experience. When we reached the other side, instinctively, my body wanted to stop and rest. But that was not the instructions we had been given by Pachisi. We had to drop down to a jog, but not a stop.

It dawned on me this second stage was not going to be an easy one. We dutifully went around the track, sprinting on bends and jogging on straights. When 10 minutes elapsed, we completed the last bend, groaned like old men, and with joint consensus stopped. We had another 10 minutes to go of sprinting the straights and jogging the bends. We were sweating, and at the end of our wits. We resumed going round the track. But we were not sprinting this time. We were walking. We cooled down with two laps of walking. Once we cooled down my groans were replaced by glee. This was a routine worth our challenge. This was something that would have made me throw up my hands in the air and give up a few years ago. Not this time around. I sensed that this was a door to a new level of physical fitness. This was it. And I wanted to know more about such routines. So after dropping Andrew home I drove to Pachisi’s house and had an animated discussion on athletes, hiking and physical fitness.

Andrew Khoko, my running partner (right) and myself (left) at Civo Stadium.
Andrew Khoko, my running partner (right) and myself (left) at Civo Stadium.

I don’t know about you but yesterday’s straights and bends was not a defeat to Andrew and I. It was an opportunity to face a new challenge that will open up new avenues. It was a peek into the world of athletes, and we found something that will help with our routine jogging sessions. This new routine might very well be the one that allows us to drop down the number of minutes per kilometre. By the way, the stats for yesterday say we covered 2.8 km in 19:50 minutes at the average pace of 7′ 04”. Although this is far from what elite athletes clock, we were very pleased with our results. I went home walking on Cloud Nine, took a very hot bath and slept like a baby. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I laughed in my sleep.

I am no longer afraid of daunting challenges. That is a gift from God. I will go back for more, God willing. I want more! I want more challenges. Big, daunting, hairy challenges.

See you on the track.

 

Stats on my first Straights and Bends.
Stats on my first Straights and Bends.

 

Heavy and flat-footed third run

Third run, done!
Third run, done!

Yesterday’s run was both interesting and very challenging. Last week was no action in terms of jogging because I had given myself a week to recover from the hiking adventure on Mulanje Mountain from 13 to 15 January. By Thursday, I could feel that my body was ready to hit the road, but I thought there was no need to be too eager to resume the workouts.

So yesterday came with a feeling of rest and complete recovery. I was feeling invigorated and motivated to hit the rubber (the sole of my shoes) on the asphalt. I searched for the theme of the run. Was it just a casual trot, a speed session or a range session? I thought I could settle for the speed session. I wanted to cover the same distance I had covered during my second run over a week ago in less time.

My first run covered a distance of 5.41 km in 39:54 minutes at an average pace of 7′ 23”/km. My second run covered a distance of 6.91 km in 57:22 minutes at an average pace of 8′ 18”/km. So could I push it to say 5′ 30”/km? I could see myself bathed in the glory of great performance. This was reinforced by the images I saw over the weekend when I was watching the Paris Marathon. Those athletes were running with grace at a pace that looked like a gazelle in motion. They were flying over the trail and covered 42 km in just 2 hours and a few minutes.

Soon after knocking off from the office, I changed into my sports kit and hit the road. I was alone as Andrew Khoko, my running partner, was away on a short break. My legs felt heavy and my chest refused to rise and fall in the expected rhythmic pattern. My mind screamed against me and advised me to stop. How could I stop when I had just started the run? This did not make sense. This is not what I was expecting. I was fresh, eager, motivated and focused. I had my game plan ready and had considered my approach. Yet, my body refused to kick in.

What to do? I went into brute force mode. I pushed the body and told myself things will improve once the body warms up. I covered the first kilometre very miserably. I heard from my running app that I had covered the kilometre at an average speed within 6 minutes. Oh? Really? So I was going marginally faster than the last run. It did not feel like it. Well, if only I could maintain the momentum. By the second kilometre my body was warmed up but I was still feeling heavy on my feet.

Then I was hit with a nasty smell. I thought to myself, “Am I turning into a sniffing dog?” My senses seemed to be heightened with the jog. I then traced the offending smell from an informal, and perhaps illegal refuse damp, just few metres away from the road but hidden out of sight. This did not improve my situation.

I kept running but I needed help. My condition was worsening by the minute. I raised my voice to God and cried for help. I prayed while my legs were pumping. “Dear Lord, please, help me. I want to get lighter on my feet and find the motivation to complete this run.” I prayed along those lines but I kept running.

Just after completing 3 kilometres I was engulfed in another foul smell. I recognised it immediately. It was coming from a roadkill. Someone had run over a dog, which probably had hobbled into the bush and miserably died from its wounds. The city council garbage collectors had missed its presence and failed to remove the decaying carcass.

After four kilometres, I chased out of my mind any lingering thoughts about quitting this run. This was going to be done. My pace had somewhat slowed down, but kept on pushing. “Hey! Am I getting lighter on my feet?” Wow! This was exciting. My prayer had been answered. I was not super light, yet most definitely I was not heavy anymore. I felt energy infusing my body. A kilometre later, I started my countdown.

When I reached Bwandilo, a trading turf at the entrance of Area 47, a low-density residential area in Lilongwe, I was greeted by a welcome aroma of roasted beef. Hmmm… I think that beef came from cattle that was feeding on alfalfa. “Ha! That must be chicken. Organic, local, hybrid?” My mind was having a nice time, and when I woke up from my fantasies, the run was nearly over.

I clocked 6.88 km on my running app, which was covered in 49:14 minutes at an average pace of 7′ 09”. Not bad. It was not the envisioned speed of a cheetah, but I noticed an improvement of 1′ 09”. I reached home relieved and happy that it was all over. Well, at least for now.

A bit of stats.
A bit of stats.