My Running Redux

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.

After I started experiencing severe back pain last year akin to that which I suffered prior to my previous back operations, I was forced to abandon running and join the lessor mortals: the walkers.

Since I had disparaged and disdained their abilities and haughtily despised their sport, I disassociated myself by walking incognito. It was nothing as fanciful as using an assumed name or concealing my true identity as an ex-runner but rather something more prosaic. Whenever I encountered a walker, I would breeze past them at a canter and then pretend that as I required a breather, I would stroll for the next kilometre.

Running #3Possibly my cover was exposed on numerous occasions when I would start the race with the walkers instead of with the runners. My ruse was that as a non-wearer of a W on my vest, I could not be classified as a walker. That meant that by default that I was a runner.

Sneaky was it not!

Anyway, who can I fool? Certainly not myself. I knew that I was walking but my body was in disobedience mode. It was akin to herding cats. Intention and cajoling never achieves its goal.

The Breakthrough

Then on the Jacaranda 21km race, my body relented.

It let me run.

I must have been good the past week for it to let me run again

And I ran

And I ran past Lucas

And I ran

And I ran past the 2:30 bus

And then I walked at 20.8kms as my body decried my running

But I was overjoyed.

I only walked the last 300 metres

Finally I had been transformed from a pseudo runner into a bona fide runner again. Now I could stop avoiding other runners and no longer lie about my times. Instead of the facetious sub lunch time, it became the respectable and confident “2:36 and I even ran all the hills.”

I was a runner again

What I had always been

What I had always wanted to be again.


Faint confirmation

Then came the 10km in Eco Boulevard.

Nigel’s wife would be there too as a walker. So as not to humiliate myself, I was obliged to run at her walking pace of 7mph. In my copy of the Rule Book entitled Manners for Respectable Runners, it reiterates that it is a profoundly disgraceful act to allow a walker and a novice to boot, to beat one.

Fortunately before my lungs deserted a sinking ship, the 3km water table arrived. Just in the nick of time too. Spluttering and couching, I strolled to Nellmapius Road while sipping my water sachet. Margie too had slowed but only to a brisk walk.

I girded my loins and my loin cloth too.

I would use the oldest trick in the running book, listed under the chapter on Orwellian Tricks much beloved of Bruce Fordyce as he surged past an opponent; the inconsequential wave as he sped away leaving his opponent devastated. Instead mine was variant five of this stratagem.

The key to this delicate manoeuvre is to pretend that one is running well within one’s capability so as to intimidate one’s running partner. Under normal circumstances, this tactic succeeds and one’s opponent mentions nonchalantly that if one so desires, one may move ahead.

Well it worked.


At the traffic lights before Denel, Margie made a suitable gesture indicating her intention to slow down the pace.

Given my break finally, I surged ahead down the road past ARCC.

I ran

I surged

I was proud to be a runner again and not some low-life nondescript inconsequential walker.

Not me

Not I

But after every downhill – I re-learnt – there is an uphill

And I was not fit enough for an uphill

But I cajoled myself

And swore

And people turned their heads in amazement, their eyes threatening to admit me to Weskoppies Hospital.

But I never relented.

Finally I finished

My watch read 1:06:59

It my book that was solid 1:06 and bugger the seconds

Six and a half minutes a kay is respectable even in my book on Manners for Respectable Runners.

I had won my spurs as a runner again.


Would my body cope with two back-to-back 21km races?

Now for my first back-to-back 21km races in months during the following weekend!

First it was the tough as takkie 21km at the Hatfield Christian Church on Saturday. I let Nigel surge ahead as I nonchalantly jogged along and strolled the hills.

Finally my saviour arrived in the form of Peter Darroll, an erstwhile runner but now dedicated walker, to whom I attached myself and engaged in some serious topics unrelated to running. Before I could again he classified as a Walker once more, I made my move and left Peter in mid-sentence.

It was then the turn of Myer and Sue to rescue me from the insane belief that I was again capable of running. Happily we gaily chatted as we ambled along until I again felt the oppressive weight of a W badge descending on me so I hurriedly rushed off.

Sunday was a little-known half marathon in Eldorado Park in the south of Joburg. With a field of 150 runners, it would possibly be a lonely run. Not expecting my body to obey any of my commands, I jogged along sedately. With Ric, accompanied by his latest appendage, Michelle, barely 200 metres ahead, I was forced to make an effort. At the 5km mark, I finally reeled them him. After my soliloquy to a taciturn Ric furiously guarding his catch, I moved ahead of him.

And the body kept going. At a steady 7.5mpk, I reeled the over-exuberant starters in.

Then finally at 19kms at the foot of a steep incline, my body protested.

No way, Hosie, it declared, in no uncertain terms.

Enough is enough.

It forced a steady but not too brisk pace on me which I churlishly could not decline. After a walk-run finish in 2:36:14, I was elated. My credentials as a runner had finally been reclaimed.

But now for the Ultimate Challenge.

No, not Comrades.


The Ultimate Confirmation

With Nigel at the Comrades, Margie had offered me lift to The Great Race at Weskoppies Hospital. With Margie’s running performance steadily improving, I would have to prove that my credentials were well deserved by unreservedly thrashing her while she walked.

Taking a leaf out of the well-read book entitled Driving Hints for Over-Hasty Taxi Drivers, I shoved in at the front just as the gun went off. The first km was a speedy – for me overhasty – 7:05 but I was enraptured. Just hang in there and do a 1:10. That should be sufficient to beat a walker like Margie.

I was elated as I depressed the accelerator and sped onwards up to a speedy 6mpk. The 4km mark arrived at 25:23, a tad too fast for a first run as an elderly 61 year old runner. I would have to slow down or face the consequences.

Before the plan could be implemented, Margie drew level to me and in a scorching walking pace, eased past me up the hill. My male ego was dented but not yet irreparably damaged. I would have to overtake her but first a precipitous 500m hill lay ahead.

Once at the crest, Margie was only 200 metres ahead. It was now or never. I would have to brace myself for a trip of a lifetime. I sped off around the barrel at 5.5kms and zoomed off back down the hill. Finally only at the 7km mark was I able to exercise the notorious Fordyce Wave as I sped past Margie.

Between lungs in apoplexy and legs battling to turn fast enough, I made it around to the finish in 1:06 beating Margie by one minute.

Honour was restored.

In the end, my body had redeemed itself.

Maybe it had even been resurrected from the dead.

But being non-religious, I prefer to refer to it more prosaically as its REDUX.

Long may it last.

Articles in a similar vein about running:

My Comrades Marathon: An Abiding Memory

My Comrades Debut and Swansong, all in one Race


My Running Redux

The Journey from Searing Back-Pain in late 2013 to Running Races again in Respectable Times


Poisoned Chalice or Fool’s Errand?

Report back the Dawn to Dusk 80km Running Race in August 2013


My Mid-Life Crisis: How did I attempt to regain my lost youth?

What did it take me to get over my mid-life crisis in my early forties?


Ashley Wood – In Memoriam


IoT: What impact will it have on Road Running?

The possibilities of the latest technology – the Internet of Things – are ruminated upon


A Drab and Unremarkable Race with Pretensions: Gauteng Sports Challenge

Gauteng requires a big city marathon on the scale of the London Marathon but the Gauteng Sports Challenge doesn’t fit the bill


A Running Experience: A Hill too Far

On this day, the Loskop 50km ultra marathon running race had one hill too many, Faraday’s Hill. It was to be my nemesis.


The First Time


Andre Hydenryck – In Memoriam

Andre Hydenryck – In Memoriam

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