“Sleep proved difficult; a part of me remained on edge and anxious but also excited about D-day. I knew I had to be well rested and free of any sort of worry to make good on my promise,” shared local actress Loretta Mekgwe on the restless night she spent before embarking on her birthday date with destiny.
To celebrate her 30th birthday, Mekgwe had publicly committed to raising funds for underprivileged children by walking from Pilane traffic lights to Airport Junction by Virgin Active – a distance of 30 kilometres. The idea was christened #30for30.
As the day of the walk finally dawned, Tuesday 12 July, Mekgwe enjoyed support of The Voice Newspaper, Fitness Bootcamp Botswana, Metro Clinic, Gabzfm, Cresta President, Unicef Botswana, Nicopolatis Apartments, City Physiotherapy, Motswako Invasion, Botswana Police, Osego Maseko and Ona Ranyera from Gloo and DJ Zamix.
This was how, surrounded by darkness on a bitterly cold night, whilst the rest of Gaborone slept I got ready to meet the other team members at the meeting point at five in the morning.
Despite layers of clothes, the paralysing cold seeped through to my bones, causing me to momentarily question the sanity of being out of bed at such an ungodly hour..
However, meeting up with the rest of the team and seeing their cold but determined faces, I was reminded of why Mekgwe and team were emabrking on the walk in the first placeand this and this stiffened my resolve.
After a quick warm up and prayer the walk was finally underway and we set off slowly for Gaborone. Admittedly, it was somewhat comforting to have Dr Seketeme amongst our numbers, as one can never be sure of the emergencies that could arise!
My greatest concern, a fear echoed by others, was the lack of proper (or any) training and thus not knowing how our bodies would fair. Determination was all we had – thankfully, it was to prove enough.
Initially, the team huddled together during the first part of the walk, finding solace (and warmth) from the shelter of others.
However this didn’t last long and soon everyone found a speed and rhythm that better suited them.
The walk was livened up by excited chatter, with everyone expressing how grateful they were to Mekgwe for embarking on this project.
Praise for the innovative idea was widespread, with Motswana Invasion owner, Massie Hule, saying, “I have never walked 30km in a day before. I did this to show support to a friend and sister who has in the past been there for me and my projects. I also walked as part of my social responsibility contribution towards underprivileged kids in Botswana, ensuring that they receive warm love and care by providing assistance which will undoubtedly improve their lives.”
The walk afforded Hule time to reflect, as he explained philosophically, “When you walk such a distance you get a lot of time to think and reflect on life, and I needed that in my life right now.”
Through conversation we tried to keep each other motivated and upbeat but at some point everyone withdrew into themselves, searching for the strength to carry on.
As the sun finally rose, bathing us in its warm gloriously golden rays, the road started to fill with motorists as the A1 road slowly came to life.
Those not familiar with the cause must have wondered what we were doing out walking so early on such a chilly morning.
Some rolled down their windows and asked questions while some cheered us on.
Throughout the 30 kms, despite suggestions to cut the trip short, Mekgwe nobly maintained her steadfast commitment to walk for the children.
After what seemed like an eternity, I reached my limit and had to stop after 12km.
I had only committed to five km and felt a sense of pride at the distance I managed to walk.
I stayed to cheer on the rest of the walkers before heading off to the finish point.
Virgin Active played host to all the other sponsors, allowing the use of the space next to the gym to set up a welcome station for those walking.
The make shift station also had massage facilities, music and Unicef Botswana encouraging people to make their 50 minutes for children pledges.
Seven hours after they first set off, and under police escort, Mekgwe and team wearily arrived at the finish line.
Waiting amongst the welcome party were her delighted grandparents, Samuel and Ruth Mekgwe.
“I had hoped to join her before her arrival to walk the last kilometres with her but was surprised to be told they were literally just around the corner. To say we are proud is an understatement. We are thankful for her health and hope her dedication inspires many more,” gushed Ruth happily.
For her part, Mekgwe excitedly shared, “There is no greater feeling than giving someone hope for the future. I am truly grateful to everyone who contributed their time and money to this movement. Le kamoso bagaetsho.”
Incredibly she is already contemplating her next challenge, saying, “Next stop is the Makgadikgadi midnight walk in August as I continue to contribute towards charitable initiatives.”