A few months ago, I asked if there were any international runners out there who would be willing for me to interview them for my ‘Running the World’ series. And then it went a bit quiet. It’s hard to find people to interview, but behind the scenes there are a couple of interviews moving slowly forward and today, it’s happening…the first ‘Running the World’ interview for over two years!! I’m so excited to publish this post!
I was introduced to Sharonne via Julie who I interviewed in Running the World: Zimbabwe. Sharonne lives in Zambia which is just north of Zimbabwe. and the light she sheds on running there is fascinating.
Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about who you are and what you do when you’re not running.
My name is Sharonne Watt. I was born in Israel but I live in Zambia with my husband and two boys. We moved to Zambia in 1999, when my husband and I started a charity in Ndola (another town in Zambia) called Mechanics For Africa, where we trained the under- privileged Zambians in Motor Mechanics. We did that for 16 years, I was the administrator for the charity.Two years ago my husband was offered a job on a new mine in a new town, in the North Western part of Zambia, a place called Kalumbila. We moved here in August 2014. I am now a housewife, but also involved with the community. Once a week I help at our small school where my boys go, I also started a swimming club for our small community here in Kalumbila. We currently have 35 swimmers.
How did you get into running?
I did a cycling race in 2009 just a 21km, but really enjoyed the competition. The same friend that got me to do the cycling race, encouraged me to take a new challenge and do a 10km race. And that was it!! I was hooked!!
At the same time I found myself suffering from depression, and running was a drug, I still went on medication, but the running was a big lift-up for me, it still is.
Running has so much to offer, and it’s much more than the physical benefits; friendship, enjoying nature, praising God, often amazing revelations come to my mind when I run.
How popular is running in your country? Is it growing in popularity or has it always been popular? Or does no-one really run?
A few of my friends like running, most of them are in the Copperbelt (a region in the North West of Zambia). Here in our new town, there are very few of us who are running, most seem to be into cycling and HIIT classes, which I like and do, but running is always my TOP sport.
How popular is it amongst women?
I have seen more women runners in Zambia than men runners. I think that running in general is not that popular in Zambia as I wish it would be. Saying that, over the years I have seen a slight increase in popularity especially among the women.
How popular is racing in your country? What are the biggest or most important races? What kind of distances are popular?
Maybe if we had more races running would be more popular, as far as I know there are maybe 3-4 races in the country, and most of them are not longer then 21km.
Our capital city,Lusaka is holding the Lafarge Marathon and Half-Marathon for the third year. The Leopards Hill race is good fun. There is one in Makusi a farming community not far from the Copperbelt.
My friends in Ndola just started a new 21km, 10km & 5km race. Last year was the first one. Unfortunately I was out of the country when it took place, I heard it was good.
And we here in Kalumbila are just planning our first 21km race in July 2016.
Is trail running popular in your country? What are the trails like?
All our races here are trail, we have so much land in Zambia, and as the towns are not always safe, it’s easier to do the trail runs.
As a woman, how safe do you feel when you run? Are there any particular issues facing women runners?
When we lived in Ndola, I used to get my gardener to cycle behind me with a bat, for protection. I had one or two incident where I felt threatened. As we lived very close to a big town, the population was quite dense and even if I ran in the outskirts of town, you still had people around.Where we are now, it’s totally safe (so far). I run in the bush all on my own or sometimes with a friend and my only concern are snakes and stray dogs.
What do female runners wear in your country? What kind of brands are big there?
I always felt strongly about my dress code when I run. As I am mostly on my own, I am aware that I am more vulnerable, therefore I must be modest.
Covering the knees and shoulders is very important. I feel comfortable in my outfit, and I personally never had an issue. Saying that, a few of my friends in Ndola have been harassed, verbally and physically, while running in town.
I am not sure about brands, I use Nike, but have just started to change to TS (Total Sport).
What do runners in your country use to fuel and to hydrate?
I am not sure about other runners. As for me I drink water and orange juice, and often I would eat an energy bar, preferably with nuts and cranberries. If I can ship here without great cost, I use the BLOCK gel, which is good. I often also make my own energy balls, with peanut- butter and honey etc.
Does the weather cause any challenges to runners in your country?
The weather here is fantastic for running, but you do have to learn to hydrate yourself well, – before, during and after every run, especially between the months of October and April, when it is hot and VERY humid.
Even when it’s raining, you can still run – most of our storms come in the late pm or night. I always run in the morning.
How big is social media within the running community in your country? Which are the most important magazines and podcasts?
These do not really exist, as far as I know.
If I was going to do any race in your country, which would you recommend and why?
The Victoria Falls marathon! Although it is in Zimbabwe, many Zambian runners take part in it, as I think it’s the closest marathon to Zambia.
If you want something shorter, the Leopard Hill race is good, and I know that in a town not far from us, (Salowazi), the mine organizes a few short races.
What are the best and worst things about running in your country?
I guess if there were more of us runners, there would be more organized races, so that is a bit of a minus, as I really enjoy the atmosphere and the competition. And of course being amongst like-minded people like me, who love running, is always fun.
Also not having people to train with or train me, is a bit of a minus as I am sure I could excel if I had a club to guide me through my running.
But apart from that, I love the freedom, I love the nature where I run, I love experiencing the different seasons, and most of all I just simply love running, and I love what it does to my mind, spirit and body.
Sharonne, thank you SO much for all the time you spent answering my questions and sending me photos, I really appreciate it!
For other Running The World interviews, click HERE!