18 & 19 April 2014
Why I run? When asked about my “running career”, and I refer to that term very loosely, as I feel much like a Jamaican bobsledder finding his way in a whole new world! And when I think of the word "run" for me it means any form of movement forward!
I ran my first marathon in 2010, aged 28, thanks to a good friend who roped me in to the Sani Stagger in Underberg. Little did I know that half the marathon was straight up a mountain and the other half coming down, and running in a speedo was probably not the wisest of moves but in the end I finished in 6hrs24minutes, 6minutes inside the cut off. I had never felt so proud almost finishing last. I mean I had grown up in a competitive sporting environment, where the love of the game was important but whether intentionally or not, a lot of this boiled down to whether you won or lost.
Then, the story of Phil Masterton-Smith crossed my path, and because of his inspiration, in the context of my life and the story of the red socks I felt like "it was written" to follow his path and ride a bike from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg to run the Comrades Marathon. All in honour of a man who completed this epic journey in 1933, who's nickname was "Unogwaja" meaning hare in Zulu. At the time, and only 5months before Comrades 2011, I didn't own a bike and my only experience of long distance marathon running was the Sani Stagger.
When I ask myself now “why I run?” I realise a whole lot has changed.
One of the greatest lessons I have learnt from long distance running is to never judge someone’s running ability by the way they look. Their size or their awkward running style seems to count for little. What seems to matter is your determination, your heart, your ability to just keep moving forward and not give up! I can remember at Varsity being very judgemental and borderline “rude” about my ex-girlfriend’s running. She was just starting. She now absolutely kicks my butt! I mean it wouldn’t even be a contest! Running is a great leveller. (I have apologised to her for my attitude back then).
But for me running isn’t about kicking anyone’s butt, it is about putting on your shoes and getting out there. No matter how fast or slow you go, it’s the getting out there that is important. Just because you can, there is something so liberating in its simplicity. All you need is a pair of shoes and strictly speaking you don’t even need those!
Being part of and witnessing red sock Friday runs spreading all over South Africa of late has been truly special and for me highlights at their core what makes running so special. People of different genders, ages, sizes, cultures, athletic abilities have been coming together to run/walk/jog! It’s a celebration of living! It’s not about how fast you can run, it’s about taking part and the spirit of togetherness and belonging that this brings!
I just run. I don’t have a plan. Don’t have a programme. Don’t own a watch. Don’t have objectives for races, other than to run and have fun. When I feel good, I run faster and when I feel tired I run slower (walk!). I can now honestly say “I love running” and I have a feeling that running is going to become a more and more important part of my life! I cannot wait to see where these red socks will take me!