All posts tagged marathon

Races. #1: Honolulu Marathon

Published February 1, 2017 by kokoinsouthafrica

[I’m re-setting my race count and starting from 1 now that I’m back! New beginnings.] 

In January 2016 I got an email notifying me that early registration for the Honolulu Marathon was about to begin. I thought to myself…I don’t even know if I’ll be back in America in December, but I’ll sign up anyway, just in case. It’s only 26 dollars. Low and behold I ended up being in Americaland in time to start my training program. The challenge, however, was the fact that I had foot surgery scheduled in September. How the hell was I supposed to heal from foot surgery while training for a marathon? Have I completely lost my mind??

I set up a 17 week training program for myself, taking off 3 weeks in the middle to have the operation. The procedure itself was quite simple. I opted to forgo anesthesia, and requested only local anesthetic so I could be awake and see what was going on down there. My doctor had to slice open the tip of my toe and, using a mini power drill, saw off the extra bone that had been growing, sand down the remaining bone to be smooth, then sew it up. I came out of it with only 4 stitches and some ibuprofen. The first couple of days were painful but thanks to my good old friend Tramadol I was able to pull through. I was spoiled with food and wine and Netflix, family and friends making sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed as I was essentially couch-bound for several days. By the second week I was back to walking (with a cane) and by the third week I attempted running again. With mild toe discomfort I resumed my marathon training and began ballet again (the only logical thing to do after foot surgery).

What was taken out >.<

The remaining weeks of training were challenging to say the least, but I had a goal in mind and wouldn’t let anything get in my way. Between surgery, moving houses, and a trip to New Orleans, it’s still a mystery to me how I managed to get any training done at all. Probably the most motivating factor was that I was helping my best friend train for her first marathon ever, and knowing that I’m positively influencing someone is always fulfilling. By the taper in December I had accepted that I’d gotten as strong as I was going to get, and needed to relax until the big day.

Race day morning was very jittery. Partially from nerves, and partially because I allowed myself a cup of coffee after having been caffeine free at the end of my training. I always get giddy before a race. With so much adrenaline and excitement I can feel my heart pounding inside my chest. As my best friend and I approached the start area, we admired the fireworks show and stopped for a photo before hearing the shot from the starting gun. And off we all went! A slow shuffle across the start mat and a constant beeping of runners’ timing chips being activated, Angela and I ran along side each other for the first mile or two. We eventually lost each other and I took a deep breath knowing I’d be on my own the rest of the way.

I love seeing the wide variety of participants that show up to larger races like the Honolulu Marathon. People of all ages and sizes with their own reasons and goals. I saw military men and firefighters running in their gear with full packs on their backs. I saw tons of tutus and national flags. And I love looking at people’s race clothing to see what races they’ve ran or what running club they belong to. I was wearing my Soweto Marathon shirt and was surprised when I man struck up a conversation with me about South African races. He also ran Soweto the year I did, and ran Comrades the year after me. He and I ran together for several miles talking about running, traveling, international work, time (and distance) seems to fly when you’re mentally distracted. He and his wife travel all over to run marathons, they had just reached their 101st country they’ve ran a marathon in the weekend before, in Singapore. Wow. Just wow. At some point we lost each other at an aid station but I was thankful for the good conversation and amazed at this man’s accomplishments.

Distance running is made possible by the support the runner has. I am grateful for my friends who met me en-route with water and hugs. Those moments where I see a familiar face provide me with such a burst of energy that I forget the distance and pain. I was keeping track of my time and knew I wasn’t on pace for the 4:40 finish I wanted, which made me a little bummed but I accepted that. As I came back up Diamond Head I saw a girl cheering on the side of the course with her friends all wearing ‘free hugs’ t-shirts. I ran up to her and asked for a hug. I needed that. Then she handed me a cup of beer. I needed that too. There I was, only a couple of miles from the finish line, and I stopped for a beer break thanks to the Free Hugs girls. What goddamn angels.

Eventually I realized I needed to finish the damn race so I picked up my pace and flew into Kapiolani Park. I could see the finish line in the distance, I could hear supporters cheering all along the sides, I could still taste the beer in my mouth, and I knew the feeling of victory was coming. I crossed the finish line at exactly 5 hours and was so relieved to be done. I collected my medal and t-shirt, and sat under a tree with my friends to enjoy the libations they came with. The next couple hours were filled with champagne and foot rubs, and the sneaking emptiness from knowing that the marathon is over. All of that training and effort, months of logging miles, led me to this day, and the race is done now.
I tracked Angela using the marathon’s app, and could see her approaching the finish. So I laced up my shoes and ran back into the course to find her, hold her hand, and be there with her in the moment where she crosses her first marathon finish line. So proud of her. The rest of the day was a celebration complete with champagne, vegan pizza and more champagne. And some vegan s’mores (this does exist).

There’s nothing quite like seeing your friends accomplish their goals. It’s a beautiful thing to be involved in the process of helping your loved ones turn dreams into reality. I’m glad I got to share this Marathon experience with my best friend, and I’m hopeful there will be many more to come.

For the weeks following, I was left with post-race depression. I felt lost not having a set goal to work towards, and I was (and still am) unsure of my next step. I’m at a point where I want something harder. I want to push myself to try something different. Marathons are great and I’m already signed up for the 2017 Honolulu because why not? But I’ve done enough of them that I’m feeling a strong pull to try something different/more/longer. I’m told this is the natural progression of distance running.  I want something so challenging that I have to question if I’m strong enough to finish it. After the Honolulu I’m faced with the reality that I still have toe pain. I want to train for something more challenging but I don’t know how far I can push beyond this pain. In the meantime I’m keeping myself busy training for the Hapalua Half Marathon, my favorite distance. 🙂


Races. #18: Cape Gate Vaal Marathon

Published March 7, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

There’s was once a time when the thought of running a marathon was a far-off dream. A distant idea that seemed too challenging to come to fruition. I keep a Dreams List, a bucket-list of things I want to do in my life, and on this list I wrote #43. Complete a marathon. I just wanted to run 1, just to see if I could do it, just for the experience. Run 1 then I’ll cross it off my list and be satisfied. Little did I know, at the time when I logged this dream into my list, did I acknowledge that fact that when I set my mind on something sparkly- I chase it wholeheartedly. Nor did I recognize my habit for indulging in things that I enjoy and that make me feel good. 

So I signed up for my first marathon in Honolulu. I didn’t do very well, I walked a lot, winced and wobbled in pain due to lingering knee injuries from my tumbling days. But I finished, and that’s all I cared about. 

A few days of recovery was all it took for me to start daydreaming about future marathons and recalibrating my body for more precise training and deeper dedication to the process. At that point I thought- Well I’ve done one, I can do it again but make it better. 

Peace Corps service equips us with a lot of free time. More so just alone time regularly allocated into our schedules where many volunteers pick up hobbies, or binge watch TV series off their hard drives alone in their bedrooms. I filled this time with going to the village gym: teaching yoga and training myself for more marathons. I set my mind on Comrades: the Ultimate Human Race. The greatest and longest running ultra marathon in the world. Which just so happens to take place in South Africa, about 10 hours from my village. 

The rest is ancient history. In around a period of 16 months, I ran 9 marathons and ultra marathons; each ranging from 26.2 miles to 50 miles. I ran all over the country, got to meet amazing people and bond over these insane experiences. 

Yesterday I ran my very last marathon in South Africa- the Cape Gate Vaal Marathon, just south of Johannesburg. The race was well supported, and I had friends scattered throughout. I ran a pretty good time- just over 4hr40min. Not my best but not my worst. And although I’m quite happy with how I ran my race, I’m also incredibly humbled by my friends I ran with. Anthony Bond, who hosted me for the weekend and who holds the National record for the running festival- a 6 day circuit race where he completed 563 kilometers- ran the Vaal in 3:23. And my friend Talita who ran a 3:52. Both of these people are amazingly fast runners and they inspire me to strive harder. No matter what I think I’m struggling with or how much adversity I think I have, I remind myself that excuses are the nails that build your house of failure. And I will never allow myself to drown in self-pity.

  Today, trying to recover from the marathon, I went to the doctors for a lingering toe problem. I’ve been in pain for months and after X-rays this afternoon finally found out I have exostosis; extra bone growth on the top of my toe due to trauma from running. I’ve ran multiple races of marathon distance or longer, always chasing a medal or a time or some goal that helps me transcend pain and seek only my dream. I’ll deal with the toe problem when I come home, it’s painful and most often these situations require surgical removal. 

I must always remind myself that certain opportunities are once in a lifetime experiences and a little problem like exostosis won’t cripple me. I had the best time ever running my last South Africa race. I regret nothing. 

Races. #16: BMW Modern Autohaus Marathon

Published February 21, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

Yesterday I ran another marathon~ 42 kilometers or 26.2 miles. I ran it just for fun, and a lot of Peace Corps volunteers were there running other distance, and my host mom and sister came too! 

  My host mom has been coming to races with me and running 5k’s and working her way up to 10k’s now! So proud! After some coaxing my host sister decided she would do a little training to prepare for her first 5k- which she completed yesterday!! I believe any person can achieve remarkable things if they can push themselves beyond their perceived limits. I enjoy seeing this being done in the physical context, and find great joy in helping people discover their own physical ability. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have positively influenced my host family with running. 

My iPhone has a nike+ running app that I wanted to test out. I used it on my iPhone about 3 years ago, and I like the idea of having a log to track my runs. First I tested out the app on a treadmill. I ran 5k in 27:17 according to the treadmill. I had to keep running until about 29:30 for the app to log 5k. The app wasn’t recording distance properly; I thought, ok, maybe the app just isn’t accurate for treadmills but for sure running on the road would be more precise because the app is tracking distance via gps, versus treadmill running which uses an accelerometer through the app on the phone. So I took my iPhone out on the marathon course with me and kept it in my waist pack while running. Once I hit the 10k mark at 57 minutes I looked at my phone to check the accuracy of the app- it said I had only run just over 4 miles!?! Hence, the nike+ running app is horribly inaccurate not only on the treadmill but with road running as well. In the past I’ve used Map My Run and from what I remember it seemed to work pretty well, so maybe I’ll switch back to that because Nike is terrible. 

  The course itself was pretty flat with no major hills and on all tarred road. It was hot as balls, as the African summer is in it’s prime. Some aid stations ran out of water (rookie mistake) which forced runners to walk for a substantial amount of time. I also struggled with my asthma most of the race. I have a respiratory disease and it can be limiting at times. I have trouble finding a balance between my ambition and the reality of sickened lungs. I tend to set lofty goals for myself ignoring the limitations I know I have. Asthma causes me to struggle breathing just doing regular-ass things. Then I try running a marathon and get angry when I’m slowed to a walk because I can’t breathe. When I was young I used to be really self conscious about it. I was embarrassed having to carry my inhaler with me especially when running in gym class, always trying to control my breathing. Over the years I’ve learned techniques to avoid asthma attacks, but they can still happen of I’m not careful. But I love to run. I always have. As a kid my favorite recess activity was racing the boys across the blacktop. I’ve always loved running. So I still try my best to push through and manage my inner dialogue that flip flops through positive and negative cycles. There are moments where I curse the gods for damning me with a weakened respiratory system. Then I have to remind myself that despite my frustration and limitations, I still cover a distance that less than 1% of the world population will ever do. Running a marathon is absolutely crazy, and each of those 26 miles presents its own challenges I must overcome to get to the finish line. 

Some days are good; some days are not so good. I overcame the adversity, ran when I could, walked when I couldn’t breathe, and met some cool people along the way. I strolled through the finish line with a big smile on my face as I heard my friends cheering my name. One thought that kept me pushing through to the end was knowing afterwards I would go to my friend’s house and leap into her pool while simultaneously guzzling champagne. 🙂 

  I am constantly being humbled by my physical limitations, and at the same time motivated to keep pushing the limits to find out how far I can go. Asthma won’t stop me from running. 


Races: #6. MOTN Marathon

Published April 1, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

A.K.A. The Marathon With No Music.

(More on that later).

We were up by 4:45 and in the car on the road by 5am. It would be roughly an hour and half drive to the starting area, plus time to find parking and hit up the registration tent before the start gun went off at 7am…we had barely enough time for it all, but we managed. In the car ride we listened to the news radio and the weather forecast for Polokwane (Northern Limpopo) said there would be thunderstorms all day. I instantly took my iPod out of my race waist pack and tucked it away in the car for fear that it would get rained on if I brought it to the race. I’m so happy I did this because as I rushed to the registration tent, there was an announcement over the speakers that forbid the use of listening devices on the race course. Phew, dodged a bullet there.

The race was organized by Pietersburg Road Runners Athletic Club, and hosted at Mall Of The North- a small shopping mall in Northern Limpopo. This was a wonderful place to hold a race because it meant that afterward we wouldn’t have to go anywhere for lunch- we were already at a mall with a ton of restaurant options. My Host Mom and I attached our bibs to our shirts, we wished each other good luck on our runs for the morning (she was running the 5k race) and I ran over to find a spot around the start line near two other Peace Corps volunteers who were also running (Katie- running the 42.2km with me, and Nic running the 21.1km.) I heard the soft thud of the start gun and slowly all 200+ runners began slowly shuffling along, I waited for everyone to spread out enough to pick up speed. Although I was nervous to not have music to run with, I trotted along with my friends for the first few kilometers trying to keep my mind occupied with conversation. Eventually our paces scattered and we wouldn’t see each other again until the finish line.

The beauty of nature and running outdoors does keep ones thoughts pretty uplifted, and I thoroughly enjoyed this race course. I had studied the course description ahead of time so I knew what terrain to prepare myself for and when and where to expect the hills, other than that I trotted along at a meandering 10min/mile pace knowing I could maintain this and still make the 5 hour cut-off time at the finish line. I was quite impressed with the quality and selection of aid at the aid stations. Not only was each tent fully stocked with cold water and the typical Coca Cola, but there was Powerade(!!!!), bananas, oranges, gummies, biscuits, chocolates, you name it. Every other station or so also had Vaseline (which my thighs were thankful for) and sunscreen (which my shoulders were thankful for) and port-o-potties (which my tummy was thankful for). I’m still not exactly sure what caused my GI upset that day, and I’m not completely ruling out that it might have just been nerves and excitement that caused some rumble in the jungle. In either case, my potty breaks added at least 5 minutes or so to my final finishing time…ironically enough- I still PR’ed with this marathon.

The course was a double loop of the 21.1km course. I like courses like this because I run the first half of the marathon then run the same thing again…so I know what to expect and where and how it feels. Life is easy peezy this way! The course was ran through some back roads, dirt roads and quite neighborhoods of Polokwane, with a majority being asphalt running – which my knees didn’t exactly enjoy. Every now and then there would be a 1 kilometer stretch of dirt/gravel and I looked forward to these stretches because I knew I could pick up speed and gain some ground quickly on this terrain, then slow my roll once I hit pavement again. This is the second marathon in which I’ve left behind my knee braces. I’ve committed myself to rehabilitating my knees and re-strengthening my quads while also properly tracking my patellar tendons. My rehabbing has proven successful now I can run 26.2 miles without needing to brace up – it’s the little things 🙂 I was constantly checking the time and monitoring my pace, knowing that I had a full 5 hours to run this course, and having no doubt in my mind I would finish. I strolled through the halfway mark a little over 2 hours in…taking my sweet time, I figured I’d just enjoy the ride have fun…that’s what this about after-all, right!? The forecasted thunderstorms never hit during the race, but dark clouds loomed over us  almost the whole time and this provided relief from the anguishing sunshine. Boy, never have I been to grateful to have clouds in the sky!

With 2 kilometers left to go and 40 minutes left until cutoff time, I knew I didn’t have to rush so I started walking (lol). I walked with 2 very sweet older men who were wearing matching tanks from a local running club. We chatted about a lot of random things…pacing, diet, hydration, but they insisted on asking me what my vegetarian diet consists of (fascinated that anyone can survive without eating meat) and talking them through my meal prep. Lol, if only they knew. I simply said CUT THE ANIMAL FAT OUT OF YOUR LIFE and see where that takes you. 😉 I realized we had been walking and talking for almost 20 minutes! Where does the time go?? We had 1 final hill to climb and the finish line awaited us just over the top. I said “Lets go guys! Lets finish this strong!” Leading the pack, I sprinted upward and into the final loop then around the corner to victory!

I crossed the finish line and collected my medal and t-shirt. My host mom and 3 Peace Corps volunteers waited for me at the finish line with warm hugs and cold drinks. It was a whirlwind of congratulations and photos, then we made our way over to a tent to rest under some shade. I saw 3 other runners from my community gym, which made me very happy because I had been posting flyers and advertising for this race all around my gym in hopes that I could recruit some runners to join me. And it worked!! Two women ran the 5k, one ran the 10k, another ran the 21.1k and I ran the 42.2km. We waited at least another hour for the last volunteer to finish her 42.2, then we strolled into the mall for lunch and drinks. I felt a slight stiffness in my quads and tightness in my calves, but overall my feeling of accomplishment and joy overruled any pain that might have existed. I was floating on a cloud, happy as a clam.

I have taken a couple significant pieces from this race experience: 1. Confirmation that music is a big part of my life. Especially when running. Having to run over 4 hours without any music was pretty mentally challenging. There are dark periods of every race where the mind wanders into rough patches of negative thoughts and I always rely on uplifting trance to blow some melodic tunes through my brain…it dissolves any thoughts that might be detrimental to my performance. This race forced me to find alternate ways to maintain a happy mindset and break out of any negative cycles I found myself in. 2. Now I feel confident about saying I can graduate to Ultra-marathoning and successfully run a 50k next. I felt really good crossing the finish line, and if that finish line had been an extra 8k away, I know I would have crossed that as well.

IMG_2484 Stay tuned for more race updates!!

Races: #5. Modern Autohaus 4-in-1 Marathon

Published February 25, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

We woke up before dawn and had a solid 1.5 hour drive to the start line. Unfortunately we woke up late so that drive had to be done in less than an hour. We were super late to registration but luckily the 5km started 15 minutes later than the other distances, so when we arrived we were just barely able to purchase our race bibs and begin running.


It was a very flat race course and a short half hour later we were done and taking photos at the finish line. I saw a few other Peace Corps volunteers that had ran as well!

Although this was only a 5k run, it was significant because I got to introduce my brother-from-another-mother to the world of road racing. He definitely enjoyed his first race and looks forward to signing up for more! My host mother also ran with us, this was her 3rd 5k race in the last 5 months! After me dragging her along to so many of my events, she took interest in running and is really working hard to prepare for longer distances.

I love running, and I really enjoy sharing my passion with my loved ones. I’m so happy I get to work out and bond with people at the same time.

After the race!

After the race!

300 days in Africa.

Published November 20, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

Boy, that clock sure has been ticking since I landed in this beautiful place!

Here’s an update of what I’ve been doing lately, a glimpse of what’s gone wrong and a taste what my future plans are.

I haven’t written much about work-related stuff lately, but I swear I’ve been working every day! Sometimes I get so caught up in running and working out that I neglect my writing, but not to worry, I’m committed to my work and making the most of my time here. Not much has changed work-wise; I’m still helping develop the HIV Counseling & Testing outreach program at my organization and every week we go out to different villages/areas to offer free services (HIV counseling & testing, blood sugar testing, blood pressure check, Tuberculosis screening, etc). This type of work has been extremely rewarding for me, but it also has its challenges. Sometimes there are  language barriers, sometimes I get hit on/proposed to, sometimes I get people who cry, etc. It can be emotionally draining, but the rewards far outweigh the minor hindrances.

I’ve started up a couple yoga programs- one is at my gym and the other is held at my organization. The main focus is building strength, flexibility and equanimity amongst the mothers and adult women I instruct. Being a Kinesiology major, obviously I love all things related to fitness and I love opportunities where I can workout with others, share my knowledge and help cultivate healthy lifestyles. Having 7 yoga classes sprinkled throughout my weekly schedule can be taxing at times but I’m finding ways to make it work.

They tell us that our first year in country is all about developing relationships and fine-tuning ideas while the second year is where the real work begins. I am coming close to my 1 year mark and can say that even though I don’t feel I’ve made leaps and bounds towards changing the world, I have found fulfillment in the small victories and I’m looking forward to kicking off some more projects in 2015. As a community health volunteer my main focus is on HIV prevention, but any work I do relating to health promotion and education, nutrition, hygiene, fitness, healthy lifestyles and cultural exchange is acceptable in Peace Corps’ eyes. This gives me a lot of creative room to play and implement project ideas.

Peace Corps service isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and although I strive to preserve my blog for the purpose of sharing positive experiences with my loved ones back home, I wouldn’t be giving an accurate depiction of my life in rural South Africa if I didn’t include the bad with the good. There are more good days than bad, but the bad days/moments do happen. Some days I just don’t want to get out of bed, most days I know once I leave my house I’m going to be faced with uncomfortable amounts of “hey baby”, “come talk to me”, “I love you”, and “I want to marry you” from all the questionable men lurking the streets. These phrases may seem harmless but when you hear them constantly while living in a strange place and not having the secure feeling of being in your normal environment, it can be scary, it can seem threatening, and it is for sure mentally exhausting. I can try to numb myself to it but I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I can accept it as respectable human interaction. It’s just plain obnoxious.

I do, however, have several exciting things to look forward to in the upcoming months. In December I’m attending a Peace Corps conference in Gauteng with PCVs from all over South Africa. I’ll be spending Christmas and NYE in Cape Town with a bunch of other volunteers. Cape Town has a myriad of entertainment options and I know I’ll have plenty of time for the beach, to explore local wineries and to see the nightlife. In February one of my best friends is coming to visit from the States, we’re grouping up with some other volunteers to check out Ultra South Africa. I’ll probably lay low in March & April to focus on training for Comrades in May! Not to mention my 26th birthday, YEESH.

If my math is correct, I have something like 480 days left until my time in South Africa comes to an end. I have no idea what I’m doing yet post-Peace Corps, but I have a lot of time to figure that out. Until then, stay tuned for more adventure stories!


Races: #4. SuperSpar Bela Bela Marathon

Published November 12, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

It was hot as balls, but I survived!

My first alarm went off at 1:50am and by 2am we were in the car and on the road. We arrived at the race site by 5, giving us just enough time to check in at registration, use the restroom and get ourselves prepared. My host mom gave me a big, warm hug and we wished each other good luck [she was running the 5k]. The gun went off at precisely 5:30 and away I ran!

The SuperSpar marathon in Bela Bela was a race of contrasts. The first 20km or so was pretty flat and I was feeling good about it. It would be quite misleading to any runners that hadn’t already studied the course map for elevation gains. I was constantly checking my posture and making sure my alignment was good. I knew that if I was kind to my body in the first half, it would be kind to me in the second half.

I was making good time strutting along the streets of Bela Bela, drinking water whenever it was available with an occasional cup of Coke. I never drink soda- I detest it- but when that’s the only option, I had no choice. I knew that my body could not survive on coke and water alone, and was wondering when the heck I’d find some real sustenance. Alas! An aid station that had banana chunks! I slowed my pace to grab some snackies, inhaled the banana chunk and washed it down with a gulp of Coke. Just then, Bassjackers EDCLV 2014 came up on my playlist and almost instantly my feet pick up faster, my body felt lighter and my stride easier. I love these moments in running, I live for these moments where everything in the universe aligns perfectly and the race doesn’t feel like a race but rather a Saturday walk in the park.

I tried not to get too cocky though, I knew the real race began in the second half, where I’d face over 200m elevation gain in less than 2km of distance. I knew that hitting a sub-5 hour marathon would mean I’d need to hit the halfway mark no later than 2 hours in, giving myself the remaining 3 hours to climb some hills. I was making good time, and was super happy when I hit the halfway mark by 1:45.  The halfway point was disappointingly anticlimactic, there wasn’t even an aid station, just a marker saying “21.1km”. At this point I could ease up on the gas just a bit, I had 3:15 allowance to cross the finish line, which may seem like a lot of time but the African summer sun had been high in the sky since 5:30, and I still had 8 or 9 hills to climb.


I came running around a corner and that’s where I finally saw it, the first daunting hill. I gasped, this was not going to be fun. Luckily an aid tent was right at the base of it and I decided to bust out a sports gel I had stashed in my shorts pocket. I gulped it down along with a sachet of water and began the monstrous ascent up the first hill. I have mixed feelings about sports gels. I appreciate the consolidation of so many nutrients in 1 pocket sized packet, but I loathe the stomach cramps I get while my body tries to break apart the sticky, gooey glob. As I was taking my time up this hill, I was wincing and gasping verbally because my stomach was turning and it hurt. I forced myself to jog through the pain, but that was an unpleasant 2km or so.

I got atop of the first major hill and knew the rest of the course would be a roller-coaster of hill after hill after hill. By this point I had gotten in the habit of grabbing two water sachets at every aid station. The first one I would drink, and the second one I would squirt all over my body in an attempt to cool down. Also by this point the aid stations had water-misters for us.

There were tons of motivational signs set up along the race course, and I always smiled when I passed by them. They said things like-

“With every up there is a down”

“Enjoy the down”

“Remember why you started this”

By 27km I hit the last switchback on the hills and knew I would be doubling back all the way up and down to the first hill. For a bit I had been pacing a pack of 4 guys, 1 guy had set a cadence for his group by tapping a small tambourine against his leg. I stayed close enough behind that I could hear the chime over my headphones, and keeping this pace was helping me a lot. We didn’t stay together through the end, but there was a solid stretch of distance where that consistent chiming pulled me through the hills.

I saw the 30km mark and I still had 1:45 allowance left. I slowed my roll and just tried to enjoy the ride. It was hot, I was tired, but I had plenty of time left on the clock and didn’t feel the need to push myself any more than I really had to. My only concern was finishing under 5 hours, and I was on pace to do so. Eventually I passed the 32km mark, then 35km, and so on. I ran when I wanted to, walked when I wanted to, and stopped to chat with people at the aid stations. All the while I was checking my watch and making sure I was pacing myself appropriately. By 37km I decided to just run the final 5km and finish feeling good. We had come down the final hill a little ways back, and now we were on flat ground once again, I thought this final stretch would be a piece of cake. The only problem I faced was that my body was dyyiinnggg for some salt, but all that was available was soda and candy. I pushed past the cramping, but I would have given anything for some salted potatoes. I passed an aid station that had Simbas (similar to Cheetos) but I didn’t have enough saliva to chew them, so I just sucked the powder off and spit them out as I ran.

Then, I could see the finish line! Finally! It’s an exhilarating feeling to run with your eyes closed. It’s pretty stimulating. I did this for a minute or so as I approached the finish line. I opened my eyes as I came around the last bend and it was a straight shot into victory! This is exactly what I wanted, a sub-5 so I could qualify to run Comrades next year. Exact finishing time- 4:57:14. I don’t think my time was particularly impressive but I did what I set out to do, and I was incredibly humbled by the fact that the 1st place finisher had a time of 2:32:39 – he finished in like half my time! Gheez!

Personal victories for this race:

-Did not need to use my knee braces or my inhaler

-Finished without any blisters!

It’s the little things… 🙂

Races: #2. KLM Half Marathon

Published August 25, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

South Africa has offered me some really sweet opportunities to combine my passions, in this case- running and education! The KLM Half Marathon is a race that raises funds for the Kgwale Le Mollo Foundation– an organization that was started by Peace Corps volunteers, and its focus is sponsoring well deserving children to attend higher quality learning institutions that develop them into the future leaders of South Africa. The KLM Half Marathon is an annual event, volunteers have been raising money & running this race since 2005. I love races, and this event provided the opportunity to run for a great cause!


This guy was the first male PCV finisher, crossing the finish line at 1hr:36minutes! I came in as the 2nd PCV finisher, 1st female, with a time of 2 hours.

This guy was the first male PCV finisher, crossing the finish line at 1hr:36minutes! [Impressive] I came in as the 2nd PCV finisher, 1st female, with a time of 2 hours.

The course wasn’t too difficult, the race was basically road running through the Polokwane area which had some windy points, some small hills, and a lot of barking dogs along the way, haha. The Polokwane Athletics Club was kind enough to host us at the Peter Mokaba Stadium as well as providing hydration throughout the course and post-race. They even prepared some braii (BBQ) for runners to replenish themselves right at the finish line!


Some PCVs at the finish line!

Some of the PCV runners at the finish line! Will-busy inhaling a hotdog.



There were several PCVs who came to be our cheerleaders, there was a huge group of them cheering us on as we crossed the finish line! Afterwards we had a full day of BBQing and hanging out, celebrating our victories and enjoying the sunshine.


Me & my cookie post-race!

I really enjoy events where PCVs can get together and raise money while having a good time. Many, many thanks to my loved ones back home, whose generous donations qualified me to participate in this awesome race. Collectively we raised well over $3000, and all funds go directly into education.

I met someone from the PLK Athletics Club who has completed 13 Comrades races, he is definitely someone I will strive to learn from. After finishing this race in my goal time, I feel confident in running a  sub-5hour marathon to qualify for Comrades – The Ultimate Human Race!