• Annie Bothma

A blog post in the celebration of Women's Month: The Totalsports Women's Month campaign, a race report about successfully defending my Totalsports Ladies Race 10km title, and call to all women to chase their dreams.

I competed in the Totalsports Ladies Race two times as a junior athlete. The Totalsports ladies race, that use to be hosted in my hometown Stellenbosch, has always been something I dreamt of winning. The race is very special to me as it was the race in which I completed the 10km distance for the very first time. I was only 13 years only and had never run that far before; I entered just for fun. At the time I didn't even have a watch, I found someone to run with and talked the whole way. 


I fell in love with the sport, the vibe, the crowds, the adrenaline and the sense of accomplishment after crossing the finish-line. The next year I entered another 10km road race with the goal to race it. I clocked 38:17 that night. In 2012, at the age of 16, I entered the Totalsports Ladies Race again and won the Junior category. I started to dream of one day being one of those top Senior Women on the podium. 


Last year, I finally got the opportunity to line up at the Totalsports Ladies race again after I returned to South Africa. I didn't compete in road races for three years while running on an NCCA D1 scholarship in America and the Totalsports Ladies Race 10km was my first race back in my home country. Breaking the tape in 2018, I finally reached my goal: That childhood dream came true winning the 10K Totalsports Ladies Race Title. 

"Little girls with dreams, become women with vision."

The past few weeks I was privileged to be part of the Totalsports Women's Month Campaign.

Totalsports celebrates women in sport this August with women influencing others in their sport. Head over to their website to hear our stories of perseverance, commitment to overcome obstacles and ultimately influencing others to starting our sporting journeys.

"Don’t limit yourself just because you have a disability/illness or some sort of adversity holding you back. Dare to chase your dreams and don’t let others tell you what you are capable of doing or not. If you have a goal or a dream write it down, put it somewhere where you can see it every single day and then do something every single day to work towards it! Don’t do it for someone else, do it for you! This is your dream and your story!  Make it worth telling!"

The Totalsports Ladies Race is a run in honor of women and support of PinkDrive. Suffering from a chronic illness myself - I have hypopituitarism and celiac disease - I understand the financial strain and stress associated with fighting for your health.  I think it is amazing that they made this initiative to hold this event in honor of the PinkDrive.  It is a great way to create and promote awareness about cancer in South Africa, and potentially beyond. It was amazing seeing so many women in pink to support this cause!

The things I enjoyed most about the day was the vibe, and the thousands of women coming together to celebrate Women’s Day. Totalsports did a fantastic job at organizing the event and I feel so privileged to be part of it. Seeing so many women unite on one day and compete together in something I am so passionate about. It was great competing in my home city, conquering the Cape Town hills and enjoying the beautiful view from the top!

It is a very hilly course with a lot of sharp turns and steep climbs. However, I came prepared having run the course last year. I try doing most my long runs on hilly courses and supplement my running with a lot of strength training in the gym.  This is one of those tough courses where you have to break it up into pieces. I just run it hill by hill - trying to focus on my form - engaging my core, using my glutes and arms to push me up to the top!

While warming up, coach Garth came to me and gave me a small note saying:

"Someone may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it."

Suddenly, I felt at peace in my heart that even if I don't win - I will go out there and give my absolute best!! I came to this race with the burning desire to defend my title and I did show up ready and focused to do it. I knew I was stronger and faster than the previous year, but I also knew others also work hard to win. I just stayed relaxed, concentrating on my own race and continuing with my drills, while soaking in the amazing vibe at the start.


I went with a mission to break that tape first and I ended up leading from gun to tape. I ran hard up the the hills and were able to complete the race about 30-seconds faster than I did last year! 


My fondest memory was seeing my support system standing there waiting for me when I broke that tape:

My parents - who is not pictured, because they took all the pictures. Haha

My brother Francios - who has played such a big role in my preparation; really going the extra mile for me, biking with me on almost all my long runs up-and-down between the mountains.

My best friend and gym training partner Jana Du Preez - who made sure I ran the last kilometer the fastest by shouting her heart out when I came around that last corner!!

My fiancé Heinrich,- who has stood with me through all the ups and many downs this year

My coaches Bennie Stander and Garth Dorman - who has helped me become stronger and faster than ever before!

Behind a successful athlete there’s a whole group of people contributing to that success.- My sponsors Nedbank Running Club, Nike South Africa, BiogenSa, FutureLifeSA, Nick Bester, and Oxygenate plays a big part in getting me to the start-line geared up, fueled, healthy and ready to run. I am thankful to have a support network behind me that is routing for me every step of my journey of pursuing my passion and chasing my dreams.

I am busy preparing for my first marathon; and considering the high mileage I have been running in training, I feel good about my performance. I have been training hard - my long runs has been further than ever before, my tempo runs have been consistent, and track workouts have been faster than ever before. Most importantly, I am feeling stronger and healthier than ever before! 

Running is my biggest passion. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles to be able to run - rising above my medical condition, many unfortunate accidents, and setbacks. However, somehow every setback I had made me come back even stronger and more determined to succeed in the sport.


Running is what makes me happy and feel free, strong and beautiful.  I would like other women to also experience this feeling and share in the joy running has brought me. Road running unites people from everywhere. It's for everyone - not just for the elite runners - anyone who dares to take a step forward can participate and become healthier, fitter and stronger. 




I would love to hear your story and how running/sport has changed your life. Email me at anniebothmarunningblog@gmail.com to get your story featured as one of my guest posts on the blog. Don't be afraid to share your journey; it may just help and inspire others going through the same struggles.


Happy Women's Month


- Annie

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  • Annie Bothma

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

From overcoming my fears after falling at the Two Oceans Half Marathon to getting back on track - increasing my long runs, some race reports - and everything in between; this is the journey of training for my first marathon!!

Just eight weeks after recovering from my back injury I lined up at the TWO OCEANS HALF MARATHON. However, after slipping and falling over a water sachet just before the 4K mark I was unable to finish the race. *The following two weeks after my fall was everything but easy or ideal. I was extremely stiff and had to undergo a lot of treatment for my back to be able to make it to the SPAR LADIES 10K CHALLENGE in Port Elizabeth.


I walked away from SPAR PE frustrated after my race was ruined with GI distress the day before and on the morning of the race. I felt dehydrated by the time the gun went off, and my normally *low heart rate was already pumping around 180 bpm during my warm-up. The whole race was a battle, my legs felt like jelly - powerless and useless. The hilly course and wind didn't make it easier, either. But I finished. I crossed the line in 34:40, placing in 12th position, as 5th South African. I wasn't dissatisfied with my position as it was the most competitive Spar race ever hosted, sporting a field filled with talented international runners. However, I felt extremely disappointed with my time and the way I felt during the race. All my time-trials on the road proved that I was ready for a new PB. All I wanted to do was to BEAT THE OLD ME.


-> FLASHBACK

In 2015, at the age of nineteen, I ran my PB on the road in a time of 34:39. The following three years I was unable to compete on the road while running on a NCAA D1 scholarship; in fact, I didn't compete at all during my first year - due to a car accident.


The three seasons I did compete for the university, I won four Sunbelt Conference titles (Cross Country, Indoor 5000m x 2, Outdoor Track 10 000m) and two NCAA Regional titles (South-East Regional Cross Country and East Regional Outdoor Track 10 000m). I bettered all the personal best times I had on the track, whilst hardly having any experience with track running. I focused on the cross country and road racing growing up in South Africa. I also competed in the 10000m for the first time and after winning in a new track record of 33:37 at the NCAA East regionals. (The fastest track time by any South African in 2017) I was chosen to run in the NCAA 10 000m final and became an All-American in the 10000m.

Coming back last year, after going through a second car accident in January, I was so sure I would beat my old personal best times. However, it wasn't that simple. At the TOTALSPORTS LADIES RACE, I was only 8-weeks back after my back injury flared up again. On that hilly course, with the Bo-Kaapse wind blowing, it wasn't a PB race for me either, but I couldn't be more thankful to have claimed the title on Women's Day.

Since then, I chose to compete in longer distances, such as 15-21K, as my dream was to run my first marathon at the beginning of this year. My plan failed after falling again in December when an Uber driver slammed his door against my chest. (Read my blog post Even if I fall I will still fly) I was out for a total of two months and only started to make my comeback 8-weeks before the TWO OCEANS HALF MARATHON.


FLASH FORWARD ->


This run wasn't about anyone else. This was about me, and all I wanted to do was BEAT THAT 19-YEAR OLD ME. I was trying to see perspective in everything that has happened, but there was just no end to this deep, dark tunnel. Due to all my "freak accidents", this was only the second race of the year that I was able to complete. I have never been an injury-prone runner, in fact, since 2014, I have not had a single serious non-accident/illness related injury. So why am I always the one falling or the victim of some freak accident?


The struggle continued when I got sick 3 times in less than three months. I had a bad cold and flu and no matter how much I tried to boost my immune system, that cough, runny nose and dry burning throat didn't want to leave. I was entered as elite for the FNB 12K ONE RUN. However, on race day I still felt really sick and decided not to race as I knew the following weekend was the second leg of the Spar Women's Race Series hosted on my training ground in Cape Town.


At SPAR CAPE TOWN, I failed to start. I had no confidence in my training or my abilities, due to being sick and hardly getting any training done, but my mind was even more unfit than my body was. I had a big battle raging in my mind, and although it may seem stupid to the world...


I was overwhelmed by fear.


I had a fear of falling again. I feared the big starts. I feared my back injury relapsing. I feared to disappoint my sponsors, my coach, those who look up to me and, obviously, myself. My fears and doubts became so strong and the voices of those around me became so loud that my own disappeared...


After my fall at Two Oceans even my parents told me to stop running competitively, and it wasn't the first time this year - or in my life - I heard it. In February, a doctor told me to reconsider my career choice and rather not run more than 10-21K races. (Read my blog post Changing the Plan, not the Goal). My heart felt crushed and my dreams seemed shattered. All I wanted ever since I was a little girl is to one day be one of the top female long-distance runners in South Africa - I wanted to be a marathon runner.


Feeling lost and uncertain of what to do next, I went to the Green Point Track the following week. Every Tuesday morning at 6am the Atlantic Triathlon Club, Embark, and their coach, Garth Dorman, trains on the Green Point Track. He invited me to join in on a 400m session with the group and it ended up being the best session I had in months! Rain or shine, I haven’t missed one 6am Tuesday Track session since that day. I use to run all my track workouts alone; not only did running with others bring my times down, but it gave me a sense of community and allowed me to enjoy my workouts again. I want to thank coach Garth, for allowing me to run with his group, but more importantly, I want to thank him for the support and new hope he has given me. Coach Garth has a great ability to gear the sessions for all different running abilities at the track, motivated and inspire his athletes to work hard, always give their best and NEVER EVER GIVE UP.

So, the journey began and I started chasing my marathon dream again...


Since Comrades, I have had uninterrupted consistent training with weekly long runs, track sessions, tempo runs and solid mileage. My gym session and rehab exercises have been present every week, as well as some recovery sessions in the pool and daily foam-rolling, stretching and mobility work. I feel extremely thankful for my brother who bikes with me weekly on my long runs - he has been going the extra mile (literally!) to support my dreams.

I have completely changed my training and also my mindset. I feed my mind the same way I do my body: with things that will make it stronger. My day starts with visualization, motivational videos or some mental training while having my breakfast and coffee. I don't even look at my phone until I am done to avoid any distractions or negative inputs from the world. I write down three goals at the beginning of each week and set one smaller one every day. Whether, it be to run at a certain pace, hit target times in a workout, complete a certain distance, or just to recover properly before the next day's harder workout - I prioritize that and do everything in my ability to achieve it.

I had a small breakthrough last weekend after completing my first half marathon of the year at the CAPE TOWN FESTIVAL OF RUNNING 21K. I finished the hilly loop course in a time of 72:56, as the first female, as well as the 6th runner overall. I ran the whole race not really knowing how to pace myself since all the markers were so far off - the leading bike made a mistake by taking us around the wrong mark in the first kilometer (resulting the route to be a few 100m's short), so I just ran on feel. I felt disappointed that it wasn't an official PB, due the short course, but I will just keep on working and focusing on the main goal! This wasn't a target race, but to me it was a big victory to have the courage to line-up again and REALLY just enjoy racing again.


Yesterday, I completed my longest run so far in my marathon build-up. I slowly increased my long runs over the weekend these past few weeks peaking at a high of 36km yesterday morning. It is crazy for me to think that I am only 6km away from that magically marathon mark! I managed to run strong the last 6km and finished below my goal marathon pace.


To me, training for my first marathon has been the most rewarding and exciting journey I have ever taken on. It has bought purpose and enjoyment back to my running. You get to know yourself on a different level while training for a marathon - I realized I am capable of so much more than I thought and really fell in love with the sport again. I am pushing my limits again and working towards beating those personal best times. I may never be the best, but I am going to be the best I can be!


Follow my journey the next few weeks, as I work towards this big dream of becoming a marathon runner.


- Annie

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  • Annie Bothma

Running Clean is something that is very important to me. Today I went to the Helderberg Harriers's Spookhill Road race to help promote the #RunClean movement and encourage runners to think before they throw. This race participated in an initiative to help reduce litter where they had runners carry their own water bottles that they could refill at the water stations on the route. Not only does this reduce the impact of litter on the road, but it also aids in safety for runners and helps makes it easier for the organizers to clean up the roads after the race is completed.

I have never taken water during a race, I just make sure I rehydrate before and immediately afterwards. However, depending on the time or distance you are running on the road and the weather conditions, you may feel the need to take in fluids or gels during the race. At the races thousands and thousands of water sachets are being thrown down mindlessly, oblivious to the obligations it leaves to the race organizers who has to clean up or the dangers it may have to other runners on the road. When I fell less than 4km into the Two Oceans Half Marathon my race was over. It was pitch dark, raining, and the road was wet I stepped on a water sachet slipped and fell straight on my back. Coming off a very serious back injury it was absolutely terrifying falling on my back again and risking being re-injure. (Read my post #RunClean for the whole story.) Since my fall, I have felt even stronger about the #Runclean movement than before and will do my best to promote it on the roads


I participated in the 5K Fun Run as a tempo run. It was a hilly course and an extremely windy run, but I certainly had fun while clocking 16:50 for 1st overall. The organizer did a great job and the event had a lively atmosphere despite the dark clouds and gusty winds. Thank you to everyone from Helderberg Harriers Running Club who contributed to the success of the day, as well as Sean Falconer from Modern Athlete for being such an animated host.

There was a small clip going of the 2019 Comrades Champion Gerda Steyn throwing away her trash while running on record breaking pace for the Up Run. If even elite athletes can throw away their water sachets everyone can. Nedbank Running Club runs clean and we encourage other runners around the country to join us in this movement to create safer and cleaner running environment for all.

I feel privileged and proud to be associated with this movement and are thankful for race organizers, like Helderberg Harriers, who deiced on encouraging runners to run clean by taking out water sachets completely and following alternative methods to keep runners hydrated on the road. It doesn't matter whether you are an elite runner in the front of the pack or socially jogging at the middle or back, we all have the obligation to #RunClean.


Think before you throw

#RunClean


- Annie

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