All posts tagged running

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. 

Long-Term Whatnots

Published March 7, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

I write a lot about my primary work of availing health service in the villages, which is very fulfilling and takes up the bulk of my time here, but there are a few small projects I’ve kept up throughout my Peace Corps service that I feel it’s time I finally pay homage to. These are things I’ve consistently been working on for 2 whole years and although they don’t really qualify as community health development or HIV prevention work, they contribute to Peace Corps’ unofficial Goal #4, which is that of transformation: personal growth and development. Now I’ll share with you how collecting coins, books, and medals has helped me work towards being more present, knowledgable, and integrated.

  1. Lost and Found Jar

I keep a jar on my fridge that holds all of the coins I have found on the ground over the last 2 years. Only coins I’ve found are allowed into this jar, and I never take any coins out. The jar is filled with coins valued at 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents. The 1, 2 and 5 cent coins are no longer produced or in circulation in South Africa, which means these ones are super old! You may be asking yourself- “How is this contributing to personal development?” Well, my answer to that is this- when I’m walking somewhere, I take my time. I stroll around and pay greater attention to everything around me, which causes me to be more present in every moment. Who would’ve thought something so silly as picking up lost coins on the ground could influence presence and consciousness? This little project has led to me being hyperaware of my surroundings and seeing everything, even the littlest of things. I have yet to take my jar to the bank to cash it in, but when I do I’ll let you know how much ended up being in there!

2. Book List

Early in my service I told myself I wanted to read 27 books in my 27 months of Peace Corps. I’m happy to say that I have reached my goal, and thanks in large part to people who have sent me books! I couldn’t have done it without you! I really enjoy spiritual fiction and non-fiction, and also works involved in the topics of health and wellness. Thanks to my nagging volunteer friends and their obsessions, I did start dabbling in sci-fy/fantasy, and the infamous Grey series as well. Some books were just excuses to stay under my electric blanket through winter, others were slightly more impactful in my life but altogether I’d say I gained a great deal of perspective and developed my creativity and imagination further. See my reading list for a complete picture!

3. Corner of Accomplishment

There’s a huge running culture here in Africa and the general welcoming nature of its people means it’s easy for an international runner like me to break into the local running scene. I hang my race bibs and medals in a corner in my bedroom and I love looking at it to reflect on my experiences here in South Africa. I look at this corner and think about the challenges I’ve faced, the joy I’ve felt and the relationships I’ve built all because I have a love for this crazy thing called distance running. I have developed an obsession over growing this collection and subsequently I’m constantly training and running races wherever I can in this huge country. Running is incredible release, comfort, solace, escape, presence, growth, influence, challenge, and the most insane mix of pain and pleasure. But I think most of all, for me at least, running provided a coping mechanism for the trials of Peace Corps service…of living and working in the developing world and all that comes with it.


 Find opportunity for growth and experience in even the smallest of things. Thanks for taking the time to read about my small projects. 🙂


Races. #17: Deloittes Pretoria Marathon

Published February 28, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

I ran the half marathon yesterday at the Deloittes Pretoria Marathon. The course was lovely, had a couple gnarly hills, but totally worth it. It ran through a lot of residential areas, but like nice residential. Then we climbed some hills up and up until we overlooked Pretoria, the Union Buildings, and there was even a band playing the bagpipes to add a little something extra to the already beautiful moment.

The field before the start.

Deloittes offered 4 distances at this race- 5, 10, 21, and 42 kilometer options. In total, 10,300 runners pitched up.

Runners toeing at the start line!

Casual band playing bag pipes

Pretoria Boys High School Band

I like half marathons because they’re kind of an ideal distance. It’s long enough to be slightly challenging but it’s mostly just for fun. State of flow!

Ok, now let me digress into something a little more serious. I really dislike the lack of eco-consciousness that exists in the running culture. On a race course there will be a water station every 3ish kilometers and subsequently those areas become littered with plastic water sachets. The race organizers place plentiful recycle bins strategically to help runners have a place to throw their trash but sadly, most runners just toss their rubbish wherever.

Do you ever have moments in nature where you get misty-eyed because everything is so beautiful? I get those frequently and I love them. Yesterday I experience extremes ranging from gratitude for the beauty, and utter shame of the human condition of carelessness. Here we were, running through gorgeous scenery, but every time I look down I see trash created and left by runners. The race organizers hire a crew to come clean after the event but the reality is that some trash does get overlooked and we’re slowly but surely destroying our natural environment by not discarding garbage into a bin. Plastic doesn’t readily decompose in nature and can take well over 20 years to break down!

These bins exist all throughout the course…

I won’t lie, once or twice I’ve caught myself throwing my empty sachet to the ground, but I have committed myself to never allowing that to happen again. Now I shop for my running shorts in the men’s sportswear department specifically because men’s shorts tend to have larger pockets. When I’m running I carry all my trash with me until I find a proper bin to throw it in. Runners have got to start being more aware of the impact we are having on the environment and not allowing laziness to dictate actions.

…yet trash always ends up here….this makes me really sad 😦

Many runners have been hasgtagging #runclean to promote eco-conscious athleticism, and the #runclean campaign has gone viral. Strides are being made toward bringing awareness to this issue as many runners are unhappy with the state these events leave the ground in. I encourage you to think about your impact on the litter that exists in your realms of life and how you can influence it.

All in all, it was a good race with friends. I met some cool people along the way. Shared some ciders at the end. And I’m sad to say that I think next weekend will be my last race in South Africa! Wild. 

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: #15: Bronkhorstspruit. And the Buddhist Temple.

Published February 15, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

I’ve been wanting to visit Nan Hua, the largest Buddhist Temple in Africa, for the longest time. They offer meditation retreats and lunch with the monks and it all just sounded so intriguing. It’s in a town called Bronkhorstspruit- only around 250 km from my house so it would be feasible to get there by public transport.

Then I heard there would be a race in Bronkhorstspruit (10k) this past weekend, so I decided this is my opportunity.

After work on Friday I went to the taxi rank and after nearly 7 hours of public transport, I arrived in Bronkhorstspruit. It was a short 2 km walk to the hostel (called the Sink Shack) a friend told me about, and luckily they had a bed in a dorm room available for me! This place had walls of shiny tin and a maze of hallways and made me feel like I was in a fun house at EDC. I’m not complaining. They had a huge bar/restaurant area with indoor/outdoor seating, and live music! As much as I wanted to chill there enjoying the music all night, I knew I had an early morning and wanted to feel rested for the race, so I hit the sack pretty early. Conveniently, the Sink Shack is located directly across the street from the high school where the race would be hosted (could this be any more perfect?). So I woke around 5am and walked over to the starting area.

The 10k course was all tarred road and ran around the neighborhoods of Bronkhorstspruit and the temple, ending at the high school where we started. I placed 7th for women which wasn’t good enough for any prize money but whatevs. I had fun so that’s what counts! After watching the prize givings I showered up and headed to Nan Hua.

The temple is huge, with many buildings for different things…a meditation hall, prayer, a dining hall, a guest house.

There were long corridors and staircases everywhere. It made me feel like I was in some Asian variation of the Labrynth LOL

Meals are eaten in silence, with and without the monks. Everything is vegetarian, served buffet style, and donation-based. While eating we’re encouraged to contemplate how our food got onto our plates, considering all the people and steps involved and showing gratitude for each one. Also thinking of food as nourishment or medicine for the body and believing in its healing properties. We also think about greediness- a trait we want to avoid- and when given the opportunity to serve oneself in a buffet, practicing self-control, only taking as much as one needs and not more.

Through the years I’ve developed my own unique set of spiritual beliefs that don’t ascribe to a particular religion, but I do believe in the power of meditation and the formidableness of inner peace. As a person who’s very energetic and restless, I try to use yoga and meditation to quiet myself down for some soul check-in time, and I find it very helpful. I saw this weekend as an opportunity to practice meditation in preparation for the Vipassana course I’ll be taking in a couple months. It can be challenging to sit still, in silence, and focus on myself; but this weekend I forced myself to do so and left the temple feeling so light and clear.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. The race felt good, the temple was fulfilling, and I managed to be home just in time for Sunday family dinner with the host fam! I brought home some pink and white cupcakes for our Valentine’s Day dessert! ❤




Born To Run

Published February 3, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

“I never really discussed this with anyone because it sounds pretentious, but I started running ultras to become a better person. I thought if you could run one hundred miles, you’d be in this Zen state. You’d be the f**king Buddha, bringing peace and a smile to the world. It didn’t work in my case- I’m the same old punk-ass as before -but there’s always that hope that it will turn you into the person you want to be, a better, more peaceful person. When I’m out on a long run, the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn’t going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It’s just me and the movement and the motion. That’s what I love-just being a barbarian, running through the woods.” 

Born To Run. By Christopher McDougall 

One of the most accurate descriptions of the reasoning behind the love of running that I’ve ever found. 

It’s not for fitness, health, a medal or glory. Those are superficial benefits. Distance running, for me, strikes a chord much much deeper. There’s something about the movement that calls my name. 

I fall into a flow state. I straddle a line that falls perfectly between ability and challenge. I become immersed in the task at hand; engulfed by a single-minded channeling of every drop of energy, thought and soul. It feels good to commit myself to a goal and to achieve what I set out to do. The physical act of running is just the medium being used. 

Peace Corps Goal #4: Personal growth & development 

Races: #14. Dis-Chem Half Marathon

Published January 18, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

Sunrise overlooking the finish area

You wanna know what the dominant emotion is that I feel when I run these races? : Gratitude. Through and through.

They say running is supposed to be one of the only ‘free’ sports out there. But if you take into consideration the cost of a running license, race entry fees, good shoes, clothing, and food for fueling, it can quickly become a very expensive activity…available only to those with privilege.

Being a Peace Corps volunteer and not having earned a real paycheck in over 2 years, running is also something that can be a bit out of the reach of my pocket book. This is why I am overwhelmed with gratitude for those that contribute to my racing habits and make it all possible for me.

Athletics Gauteng North, a division of South African sports that oversees running and athletics clubs here has sponsored me with a running license under their athletics club. Without being sponsored, I would struggle to come up with temporary licensing fees and entry coverage. And some races wouldn’t even allow me to participate without a license. Thanks to my family and friends, I can afford to keep fresh running shoes on my feet and a dry-fit shirt on my back, and appropriately fuel myself for training.

Privilege is a complex topic. Some could say I’m privileged in ways for being white, American, and educated. Contrariwise, things like being female, young, and unmarried are qualities that make me oppressed and a target for harassment here. I think about all these things when I’m out on the road.

This past Saturday I was told by the club director that they had a race entry and license for me if I wanted to come run with them at the Dis-Chem Half Marathon in Boksburg. It was the first half marathon in Joburg after the new year, and this race is incredibly popular. 6,500 runners registered and entries for the half marathon were completely sold out. Initially I was planning on taking a taxi home from Pretoria that day, but the allure of this race was just too tempting to resist. So I pitched up.

The race was very well-organized, plentiful aid stations with great music. The traffic marshals were delightful! They had signs and music and always had fun chants to shout.


Loved her sign 🙂

The course was gently challenging with a few annoying hills but mostly it was a smooth 21 kilometer ride, with a long and fun downhill stretch at the end. Finished the race and celebrated with a couple friends and beers. I barely had time to shower and get to the taxi rank to begin my 7 hour journey home. And while on my way, I thought a lot about how I end up in situations and experiences like these. How much of it is societal positioning versus how much is just the stars aligning and the universe shining down on me? To what degree of it all is influenced by my own leaps of faith and constant pursuit of new experiences? Am I really in control or is it all privilege? Society? The universe? Some combination? All I do know is that I’m grateful for the opportunity. ❤


Races: #13. Kaapsehoop Marathon

Published November 7, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

~Run With The Wild Horses~

It’s nice to know that in 91 degree heat, being sick and missing a toe, I can still run a 5 hour marathon HAHA

But really though. 

This is my life. 
I was so sick this week and completely bed ridden after running the Soweto marathon and my doctor deciding it was a good idea to cut off the tip of my toe due to an infection (oops, I suppose pretending a problem isn’t there won’t make it go away, my bad). Buuuut I had already registered for this marathon in Nelspruit and what’s more important is that once I get an idea in my head there’s no stopping me. So I bit the bullet and hobbled my sick, injured booty down to Nelspruit for some camping and marathon running (casual). 

Plus I was really stoked on this race because it starts in the pear orchards of Kaapsehoop and leads through wide open plains where we run amongst wild horses! Then run down into Nelspruit and finish at the Mbombela Stadium. Who would wanna miss a race like this!?! Not me. 

 I was not disappointed. This race course was absolutely stunningly gorgeous. Rolling green hills and sun shining through the trees, the smell of pine floating all around, and I actually ran alongside wild horses. Sweet Jesus, this experience was once in a lifetime. 

I won’t lie, this was definitely not my best marathon time, I struggled, wobbled, winced and cursed the Gods for the pain in my foot but that was all pushed to the back burner in comparison to the beauty that surrounded me. There were magical moments where I just felt like I was flying. *sigh…I’ll never forget that* 

I took my time hobbling myself into that stadium for a smooth 5 hour finish and it felt great to sit down! 

I wore my Soweto marathon shirt and every time I noticed someone wearing it or someone noticed me, we’d congratulate each other for surviving the heat of Soweto and praise each other’s bravery for running another marathon with just 5 days’ rest in between. 

The running community is all about lifting each other up!! 

Oh, and I was pacing with a man whom I also paced with at Comrades- let me tell you- this man runs marathons backwards. :O He’s run Comrades (a 55 mile race) multiple times and always runs the entire thing BACKWARDS. I saw him again today and was still in awe. Plus, I really enjoy seeing runners who add elements of pizazz or fun to races…it reminds me to not take things so seriously. To just enjoy myself and have fun with it. 

Another Peace Corps friend ran this marathon with me today and while we were waiting at the start line we came up with our 3 running goals-

Goal 1: Have fun! (If you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right)

Goal 2: Don’t die. (For obvious reasons)

Goal 3: Make Dr Armstrong proud (Our Peace Corps doctor, haha) 


Races: #12. Soweto Marathon

Published November 2, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

‘The race of the people.’ ~ South Africa’s most iconic marathon.

This race was super cool–its course runs past all the historic sites and monuments in Soweto- a subdistrict of Johannesburg that’s incredibly rich in history and culture, thus dubbing this race as South Africa’s most iconic race.

From the day I registered for this race, I had exactly 5 weeks until race day…5 weeks to commit myself to train and prepare after taking some off-time in September.

I read the course description and it indicated a few hills, but the actual course was nothing like I had read.     
What the race course actually was= 

 Still worth it though!

The marathon course took us past 6 important sites:
Hector Pieterson Memorial
Vilakazi Street
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital
Regina Mundi Church
Walter Sizulu Square
Morris Isaacson High School
We started and finished at the Nasrec Expo Center (the same place where Ultra Music Festival is hosted!)

Running up Vilakazi Street was amazing- this is the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Peace Prize winners- Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.   
Although the novelty of the race was enjoyable, there were factors that caused the runners to struggle. It was very hot out this day, and by hot I mean 35 C with no rain and not a cloud in the sky, with occasional bursts of dust storms. (35 Celcius = 95 Fahrenheit). Running in this intense of heat could have been bareable had there been adequate water supplies but unfortunately the hydration stations ran dry, and I remember sometimes running for several kilometers before finding water again. There was immense crowd support so many of us took to asking spectators sitting in front of their houses for something to drink and they were all very helpful! In times of race struggle I find that the comraderie actually increases, and spectators get involved, and we are able to cross finish lines because of the support we each give and receive. 

There were a few phrases that kept tumbling around in my head. The first being “I figure if I’ve gone this far, I might as well just keep on going.” –channeling my inner Forrest Gump during challenging times, knowing that I refuse to give up and must persist. 

Another is a line from a book I’m currently reading called The Power Of One, in which the main character is training to become the welterweight boxing champion of the world, and he always tells himself- “First with the head, then with the heart” when he goes into a fight. I feel this accurately described my experience with this race- I went into it with my typical race logic- having a pace in mind, a hydration plan and nutrition strategy; but there’s a point where all that logic goes out the window and I’m running purely on my heart’s desire to finish. When you’re running in 95 degree heat and you have no water but too much pride to give up- you just start running from the heart. 

All in all I’d say this race was a fun experience with so much to be said about it’s history and culture. I was never without the support of the crowd, and I loved seeing all the traditional dancers and drum circles scattered around the course- it added an extra element of fun. 🙂