Resolutions, Tar & Medals

Adventure | By Rodrick Longwe, Economist | 02 October 2015
PHOTO: © Rodrick Longwe

I have never been good at keeping new year’s resolutions and 2015 was no different! The year’s list was; exercise more, save money, read more books and take the family on an exciting, adventurous holiday. Well, by the end of January I had not started any of those goals and was actually further from achieving them than I had anticipated. I have learnt that talk really is cheap and taking the first step in attaining your desired goals is the hardest thing to do and to maintain. I never thought I would find myself saying this, but my first step in achieving my new year’s resolution to exercise more came from seeing my wife’s steel determination in wanting to take up running after her brother in law Batsirai Nyamugama.

 I mean, this is a woman who never enjoyed sport at school and a few years ago when I tried to introduce her to jogging she brushed it aside and said what benefit do you get from just running aimlessly? The same woman who had said these words a few years back was the same woman waking up in the early hours of the morning to walk and run, for twenty minutes while I enjoyed my sleep.  I am a natural sportsman since school and my family always encouraged me but despite all this, taking that first step in doing anything is always the hardest thing. After a few weeks of my wife Chipo waking up to run and brisk walk, she began running straight without walking for 30 minutes and there after her fitness levels began to improve .

 This is what challenged me to also follow suit and I asked myself, “How can I be out done by a woman?” I got up early the next morning just before Chipo, got my running gear on and waited like an eager beaver for her to join me for the run. Big mistake! One golden rule when starting to run, take it easy. Start by brisk walking and running in between and keep your distances short. Well, this eager beaver was not having any of that and thought I could match my wife stride for stride! It did not end well with me because for the next few weeks my legs where sore from trying to run too fast and too far on my first run. After a bruised ego and a few weeks’ rest, I got back on the road and this time I took it easy. I started with brisk walking and a light jog in between, and during all this I came to appreciate every runner’s effort in simply getting out of bed! The fact that you got up, means you have gone further and have done more than one who is asleep. I began to appreciate and understand how running can become addictive during my short runs. The sound of your feet pounding the ground, the sound of your breathing and each stride taken in achieving that desired distance is so challenging yet so liberating. What joy when you have done your three kilometres. 

One thing I quickly picked up when running in my neighbourhood is that running is for everyone; just one foot forward. I have seen youthful, elderly, fast, slow, big, slim runners and all running their desired distance. Running with Chipo has made me appreciate my wife more for her determination and the resilience to achieve weight loss, living healthy and above all to compete in the Victoria Falls Marathon.

Training for a half marathon is tough, let alone a full marathon. Joining a running club was not an option since the Friday afternoon running times were not conducive. Running has always been associated with black Afrikans who have dominated the sport especially Kenyans in the long distance marathons and Afrikan Americans dominate the short distance races. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when you look at the previous winners for all our local marathons, the winners are mostly blacks. This got me thinking about why black Afrikans do not train for races. Could it be in the genes maybe? This could be true but when you delve deeper you notice that some, if not most of these marathon race champions come from impoverished backgrounds and this is a way out of poverty unlike for others who run for exercise, weight loss and just the sheer thrill of achieving a non-competitive long distance race. There is nothing wrong in running to get out of poverty, but the challenge is that the career life span of these elite athletes is short lived due to the extreme limits they push their body to. Well, for Chipo and myself that was not the route we were taking, but we were happy to just compete in a half
marathon (21.1km).

Still, the half marathon looked impossible from where I was starting, because just being able to run 3km without a rest was very hard work. Waking up at 5:30am to run 3km was tiring as was doing it for five days a week with only Thursday and Sunday to rest. The beginning of April was the start of our training and 28 June was race day. My brother Batsirai Nyamugama was our inspiration, having run for over 20 years. He has run the Victoria Falls, Kariba, Vumba, 2 oceans and Comrades marathons on numerous occasions and when asked why he kept doing it, his reply was, “I am now addicted.” Running has kept him very fit, it has afforded him new friends, business contacts, and family holidays because when you begin to run these marathons and fun runs you begin to see the familiar faces at these events and before you know it you are part of a running community. This now is what got us hooked especially the family holidays when you can double up a run with a mini holiday away with your family. 


This is  contrary to running to get out of poverty but, waking up to achieve that task was still tough work especially in winter. Often, we ran 10km and had to be up by 5am when it was pitch black and freezing. Although I had gloves and a sweater on, Chipo just wore her running gear with no extra warm clothing because she didn’t want the hassle of removing them when she started sweating from the run. The worst runs we had were on a Saturday where the 19km, 23 and 21 would be done because waking up early was a nightmare for me, but I was elated when I finished the race. The biggest mistake we made however was not having considered the terrain we were to expect in Victoria Falls which was a bit hilly. My word, did I not sweat, dry up and sweat again. By the 15th km mark, I brisk walked for 2kms as I had done in my early days on practicing. On the day of the Victoria Falls Marathon, we met participants from all backgrounds, but the one that blew me away was a 67 year old lady who was running the full marathon and passed me before the 21.1 km mark. I love my wife and I thank God for her perseverance of wanting to achieve her new year’s resolution because without that I would not have started running and above all I would not have spent 3 months bonding with my wife and toping it off having one of the best weekends ever with her in the resort town of Victoria Falls. Run your race, you only live once!