Road Running certainly exposes one to how the other half of South Africa lives. To be more mathematically correct: how most South Africans live. Last Saturday, the Solomon Mahlangu half marathon ran through Mamelodi and today’s race – on Youth Day – was held in Kagiso in the far West Rand.
When I first started running about 31 years ago, running through the black townships was considered life threatening for whites in light of the “antipathy” with which whites were regarded in the townships. Most whites would boycott such races but by participating in the 1000 Km Challenge as well as the Around the World Challenge, certain of us had no option but to participate in all races including those running through these supposed death traps.
Main picture: The township of Kagiso is surprisingly clean. Very few corrugated iron shacks are to be seen. In fact, the township has uplifted itself over the the past two decades to represent a lower middle class black stratum with mainly well-maintained livable houses maybe not with the opulence of Sandton or Steyn City but certainly comfortable.
Having recently settled into portly late middle age – that sounds preferable to early old age – I still had one physical challenge outstanding in my life’s inbox to complete: run around the world. Perhaps lack of fitness would be too charitable a description of my physical condition. It was not only the slightly stout demeanour but also my back to consider. It had forced my withdrawal from the Paris Marathon in 2011. With 6000kms still to run, it could even have prevented the achievement of my RTW Goal.
Climbing Mountain Everest was never seriously on my bucket list. Even if I had obtained sponsorship which was highly unlikely, there were the more serious factors such as lack of leave and an irascible wife to contend with. Aside from these considerations, it was utterly inconceivable in that as a South African I would not be able to obtain a visa to 80% of the world, Nepal being one of them, at that time in South Africa’s turbulent history.
Main picture: At the start of the Pick ‘n Pay 21km race at Saheti School together some some of the runners who would accompany me: Ken, Laurie, Nigel, me, Myer, Mike, Amanda and Kurt. They had the heavy work to do: carry the banner for 21,1kms.
This is a poignant tale of taking two novices through their first marathon. On 22nd March 2009, two unwilling victims – Arnold Paikin and Johann Scholtz – were dragged through their first marathon. This blog chronicles the pathos and pain of that experience. The first half of the blog is my experience of that baleful race and the second is Arnold’s plaintiff riposte to an uncaring slave driver – that is me. Tell me which version that you believe. His or mine?
My version of that momentous day
Clearly it would not be terra incognito for me having already done in excess of 90 marathons & ultras. Contrary to expectations, I have a view that, despite having completed so many, one’s body is not designed to run that far; especially mine. The reason that I say terra incognito is that if one has never run a marathon before, one probably extrapolates from how one felt after a half marathon & imagines – wishful thinking really – that another 21kms cannot be that difficult. Surely not? How can it? What is not factored into that equation is that the body exhausts its glycogen supply after approximately 30kms and then one hits the wall. Apart from that, the body at that point is no longer making timid suggestions that would the mind please desist from such stupid behaviour but now throws a tantrum in the form of pain, blisters & generally becomes bolshie.
It is not just the record breakers in Road Running, such as Bruce Fordyce, who are the heroes. Heroes come in a multiplicity of shapes, forms and even abilities. One does not want to detract from the winners’ performance, but these unsung heroes are what breathe life into a sport.
Recognition in sport is normally only accorded to the winners. They are lauded and receive the accolades, prizes and sponsorships. Many others also need to be recognised for their achievements. One such program that aims to do just that, is the 1000km Challenge.
Over the weekend of 16th / 17th August, two road races were held which highlighted Gauteng’s gracious & glorious past. Too focused on their running, many failed to notice or care. But I did. Isn’t that partly what running is all about?
What is the essence of a great race? What ingredients does it require before the majority of the runners will exclaim, “That was a superb race!” Of course all situations will all have their cynical detractors who will censure or dismiss with scorn even the best organised events. One such runner was Eugene. Perhaps due to his brilliant mind, he would deprecatingly scoff at the organisation of even the best organised events.
A recent spate of high entrance fees culminating in Old Eds charging R100 for a 10km race and R120 race has revived the issue. Does this herald the change in road running from a cheap to an expensive sport?
The race that leads the pack in terms of high fees is the 702 Walk the Talk which cost me R140 for a 20km walk. Considering that participants no longer even receive a free T-Shirt, I considered it exorbitant. For whatever reason in my mind, this race is viewed as an event rather than a “race” and hence it was forgiven.
This would be the coldest race that I have ever run in my life. With snow on the Berg and a wind off the mountain, there would be both a gusting wind and sub-zero temperatures to contend with
At five thirty on a wintry May morning in Warden it is usually cold. The tentacles of frost cover the fields as the subdued cattle in the stubble fields patiently await the first yellow brightness in the eastern sky.The desiccated mielies whisper in the breeze, shrugging off their frosty appendages. The pre-dawn mist hangs in the dips and valleys mapping out the twists and turns of the water course.
But this day was different. Extremely different. The temperature gauge in my BMW reads minus 5 degrees but with the wind chill factor from a snow covered Drakensberg, the actual temperature must have been below minus 10 degrees.
Standing amongst the throngs on a chilly May morning in Pietermaritzburg waiting for the starting gun, one is both inspired and in trepidation in equal measure. One banishes the thoughts of pain awaiting one and attempts to focus on the result: utter jubilation and delight at being able to conquer ones mental and bodily constraints.
The Journey from Searing Back-Pain in late 2013 to Running Races again in Respectable Times
Last Saturday’s [31st May 2014] 10km race entitled The Great Race produced an eponymous result for me: a great race. After battling for 6 months to run even something as short as a 10km race without leaving me almost comatose, finally I experienced a running redux.
A redux means to be brought back or to arise but it does not imply or denote any religious connotation like a resurrection but rather an activity that occurs in some non-religious manner.