Gold label status is the highest standard which is awarded for both races and athletes. All IAAF Gold Label Road Races must have an ‘international elite field’ with a minimum of 6 men and 6 women from the relevant level, this international aspect brings more excitement to the race. Gold label athletes are rare, even more so as a huge bulk of them come from Kenya and Ethiopia. Unlike Olympics and World Championships Marathon where there are only 3 Kenyans and Ethiopians, at the World Half Marathon Championships countries can enter as many as 6 athletes, which makes it even more tougher.
For athletes on the other hand, this means entry and full contract into the prestigious IAAF Gold Label races which includes the likes of London, Berlin, New York ect covering all expenses as well as appearance fees. Running a truly world class event is special, the atmosphere, the competition, the route is spectacular. I have had a taste of this when I competed at the Valencia marathon last year, it being an IAAF Gold Label race. It would allow me to race against the worlds best athletes and have opportunities to race on fast courses to improve my times. Athletes can obtain IAAF Gold Label status in the following ways:
- Those having recorded on or after 01.01.2016 at least one legal performance within these standards:
o Marathon: 2:09:30 for men and 2:28:00 for women
o Half Marathon: 61:00 for men and 70:45 for women
o 10KM Road Race: 28:00 for men and 32:00 for women o 10,000m: 27:45.00 for men and 31:45.00 for women
- o 5KM Road Race: 13:30 for men and 15:00 for women
- Top 25 finishers in the marathon at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
- Top 25 finishers in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
- Top 10 finishers in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
- Top 10 finishers in the 5,000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
- Top 25 finishers at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Cardiff 2016
- Top 25 finishers at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018
- Top 25 finishers in the senior races at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017
- Winners of any IAAF Gold or Silver Label road race on or after 01.01.2016
- Top 3 finishers at any marathon and half marathon valid as Area Championships held on or bafter 01.01.2016
- Top 3 finishers at any marathon and half marathon part of the official programme of
- Commonwealth Games, Pan American Games, Asian Games, Pacific Games and African Games held on or after 01.01.2016
- Winners of any IAAF Cross Country Permit race on the 2017/2018 calendar
- A top 25 finish at IAAF World Championships
I always knew that I could have a shot at achieving gold in the Half Marathon, as this was my strongest event. By focusing my training on the Marathon distance and ensuring I still improve my speed over the 10km event, I was positive in my ability to improve my personal best of 72 minutes over the distance. The decision to aim for a TOP 25 placing and sub 72 at IAAF World Half Marathon Champs in Valencia, was planned at the start of last year already.
My preparation for the World Champs went very smoothly, except for the Upper respiratory tract infection I picked up 2 weeks before the championships. I was very happy with my preparation leading up to the event. My one month training camp in Kenya greatly improved my fitness. On my return from Kenya I competed in two races – Peninsula Half Marathon and Century City 10km to test my fitness prior to the Championships.
Running with the World’s Best
The team was due to leave to Valencia on Wednesday 21 March, however due to visa’s being dated 23 March (instead of 21st March) our flight was cancelled and we had to fly out the next day. That was quite disappointing and frustrating and left the team quite upset as arriving in Valencia 2 days before the race was already tight. We needed time to recover from the long flight and adjust to the race conditions and this mistake could jeopardise one’s performance. When I realised we would not fly to Valencia the Wednesday evening, I tried to stay calm and relaxed. I realised that there was no point in working myself up, it is what it is! So we checked into the city lodge at the airport and stayed over until our flight the following evening. I knew that I would need to get good rest on the flight and drink lots of fluids and luckily for us we were upgraded to first class, which was nice. It Definitely made it easier to have a good nights rest and I was entertained by Lebogang, she helped to take my mind off the situation. When we arrived in Valencia, we checked in and immediately went for a short run to loosen up the legs.
The first thing we noticed on our run was the gusty wind, I was worried about the wind as I knew it would be tough to run into a head wind especially because I only weigh 40kg. Post run we had lunch and then took a loooong nap for the rest of the afternoon. The next morning I saw Elana and Janet, they were in Valencia for the IAAF seminar. It was very special to have them there and support me on route as they have been really instrumental in my journey to achieving gold. As we only competed at 5:05pm, the rest of the morning and afternoon was spent in bed resting. Even after a few tries to fall asleep, I struggled- guess the excitement got the better of me.
Standing on that starting line I had flashbacks of the training that I have done for this moment. To be standing on this starting line, injury free and in the best shape of my life was truly a blessing. I took the moment in my stride and promised myself to enjoy the race and to just do my best. As the adrenaline rushed through my body, i positioned myself right behind the front row. My plan was to run my own race but to also find a group of girls that I could run with in the beginning stages of the race, position myself in the top 30 and then in the 2nd half work myself up the field into the top 25. As the gun went off , it was a mad sprint, lots of pushing and shoving as everyone tried to settle into a group with the right pace. I noticed at the 3km mark that I was running faster than I had intended to, my 1km splits was 3:10, 3:15, 3:15 and my aim was to run 3:23’s. Coming through 5km, I was feeling great, i was taking in the amazing atmosphere of the crowd, as I was so happy to be back in this beautiful city. My time on the clock was 16:23 which was quicker than I wanted to come through but I was feeling relaxed and I was positioned in the top 30 which was where I wanted to be at that time. As we approached 10km we had a few tough spots as we were struggling against a nasty head wind.
Regardless my 10km time was 33:33; just a mere 13 seconds off my personal best in the 10km. Thats when I thought to myself “I am going to run a PB today”. Our group disintegrated to only 4 athletes we were catching a few girls falling off the leading group. Between 10-15km I was feeling strong, it was then that it started raining. The rain did not bother me, it was quite refreshing, however it caused the road to be very slippery which was hard to get a grip, at times when going around a corner I slowed to be cautious of falling. My 15km split was a new PB 51:06 and I was in 23rd position then. The last 6km would be crucial if I wanted to finish in the top 25, so I worked aggressively over the next few km’s catching the Spanish athlete ahead of me. The last 2km’s I could smell the finish line as we approached the home stretched, I was listening out for Janet and Elana’s voice as I knew they would be around 20km. After I heard them shout 23 I had to sprint the last km as I heard athletes coming behind me. Two Australian ladies passed me with 800m to go but I continued sprinting not giving up. When I crossed the line, I saw I had run a PB 71:44 but I was anxious and worried that I just might have finished in 26th spot, which would mean that I would have lost out on Gold label status.
So when our team Manager told me I finished in 25th, I was so happy i could not contain my excitement, My calve even cramped as I jumping up and down. That was the perfect result, all the hard work, the sacrifices, the countless hours on the track and in the gym for this incredible moment, it was so worth it. There is nothing more motivating to me than improvement, I have competed at 2 previous IAAF World Half Marathon Championships (Bulgaria 2012 & Cardiff 2014) where I placed 77 and 34 respectively. My times being 1h17 and 1h13 at there Championships.
This experience has taught me that I need to accept that things won’t always work out perfectly . You can ensure that you prepare yourself physically and mentally to do well, however there are just certain things that are beyond your control. You can only control the controllables. I also cannot emphasise enough the importance of planning! Every race and training session that I did had a purpose and contributed to the goal. I believe that you must know what you want, then have a clear idea of how you will get there and be prepared to do whatever it takes, because nothing worth having comes easy. I am thankful for the opportunity to represent my country and to compete with the World’s best athletes, it has been an amazing experience.
Stay tuned for my exciting announcement regarding my next big International race, coming soon……