Befriending an Ex-Gangster: Planting the Running Seed
After meeting inspiring runner Peter John Moses, Sue-Ann, feeling motivated wrote about her experience.
Befriending an ex-gangster from Bonteheuwel was never something I saw in my future as I went about my relatively sedentary, relatively priveledged daily life. I pride myself on having a pretty diverse social circle, but boy was I in for a shakeup.
Running was a foreign concept for me two years ago, actually exercise of any form was just too 'outside the box'. I was lazy, full stop.
Then one day in July 2014 I put on a pair of takkies and attempted a 5km. I sucked at it, but a seed was planted. Maybe I could get myself into relatively decent shape and eventually run a half marathon. I did just that in 2015 when I did my very first OMTOM Half and went on to complete many more. However I'm not a natural runner, despite being built like one. Something was keeping me out on the road and it wasn't the 'love of running' it was the love of the people. Never in my life have I seen and experienced such a united spirit, the comradery out on the road is electric.
I've met many different personalities out on the old tar, but none has had more of an effect on me than PJ.
PJ is an ex-gangster, he looks like an ex-gangster and I gaurantee you that if we had crossed paths in a dark alley I'd have been very nervous. But we didn't, instead we met through running and because of the magical equalising effect of the road, I didn't shy away from him. Instead we crashed headfirst into each other's lives and I'm richer for it. He's made me a better human and taught me to take nothing for granted.
I've never known such a humble, driven, determined and compassionate man. He made the decision to turn his life around when his boys were born and running provided that catalyst for change. He's had to work hard to achieve that change though. While most of us roll out of bed a couple of hours before a race, groaning about the upcoming drive and the tousle for parking, PJ has run to races, slept in bus shelters or police charge offices so he can get to the start. He's been shot at, dodged muggers and generally put himself through the ringer just for the opportunity to do what he loves. He's now a regular houseguest at Chez 'Runkle' (his rather embarrasing nickname for me) so hopefully his days of dodging bullets to get to races are in his past.
He runs for himself. He runs for his boys. He runs to raise awareness for Down Syndrome and he runs to combat bullying.
He's an inspiration to many and I know his late Granny is smiling down on him each day, proud of the man he's become and hopefull of the future before him.
We make an unlikely pair, the skinny City girl and the 'boy from Bontes' but we #RunAsOne to break down barriers and shatter stereotypes.
Come race day, I'll run my second Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathn and then I'll be the one near the finish line screaming like a crazy person when he completes the Ultra.