Monday, July 15, 2024

Gaborone Striders changing perspectives of ultra marathon

Once a thriving sport in Botswana in the 1980’s and early 90’s, road running or long distance as the race is affectionately known, fell into obscurity and became an imperceptible, almost forgotten sport in Botswana. Where once Botswana boasted of excellent runners in the mould of the John Tapelas, Phillip Masseys and in the late 90’s the likes of Kabo Gabaseme who ran the ultra marathons out of passion, the same could not be said as the 21st century dawned in on the country. Despite running for fun back then, the country would attract foreign long distance runners to compete here.

 However, all went bust in the mid 90s, giving way to the more cash ready and less taxing track and field and occasionally the cross country challenges. For a long time since, road running went into a lull, save for a few individuals who ran in solitude. At least that is until recently as companies came on board to resuscitate the long distance races.

However, even then, this left out passionate runners who are not professional. That is, at least, until a group of local road runners decided to form their own club and revive the passion for marathons.

Registered two years ago, Gaborone Striders Runners Club has slowly but surely gone about reviving the once popular sport. From just a handful number of runners when they started, the club has seen a tremendous growth over its two year existence and now boasts of at least 70 fully active members.  Where there were individual runners, the club has strived to organise them into a group for an enhanced and shared running practise.

“The club was formed to promote health and wellness amongst everyday people who might not have run beyond 100 metres. Someone whose competitiveness might not qualify him for the Olympics but who pushes his boundaries and redefines his limits. That runner who arrives long after the elite runners have completed their race but can still hold his head up high as he has beaten his previous time and run a personal best. As a club we offer that kind of group running, different pace groups from the fastest to the slowest,” Gaborone Striders Runners Club, Public Relations Officer Kealeboga Pifelo explained.

With this intention of bringing this kind of passion back to the sport, aside from making an effort to participate and support all local marathons, the Gaborone Striders Runners Club has since its inception made an effort to compete in marathons in neighbouring South Africa.  These marathons include City of city ‘Ultra marathon, the Soweto marathon, the North West, Ottosdal marathon, 2 oceans ultra marathon in Cape Town as well as the gruelling Comrades Marathon, which is regarded as the world’s largest ultra marathon race as it unites 22 000 qualified runners from across the world.                                                                                                                            

“Our club sent 12 members to this year’s Comrades marathon which was on the 29th of May. On the coming one, we plan to have 24 participants from our club,” he said, adding that the marathon takes a lot of training.

“We also have a local marathon where we race from Molapo crossing to Lentsweletau, Lentsweletau to Kopong then back to Lentsweletau. The route adds up to a total of 60kms. This marathon, including all the upcoming South African marathons, is in preparation for the big, international one, The Comrades marathon. Which is the most challenging of them all,” said Pifelo. 

Pifelo urged Batswana to take part in running as it benefits a lot health wise in cases such as heart disease, high blood, diabetes and being fit.  I encourage those interested in running, especially those who have made it a regularity to run (as an exercise) along the western bypass road and other visited exercise routes not to hesitate in joining our club. First time runners are also most welcome,” he said.


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