My son turned to the missus the other day and ducked a query about whether he should be wearing shorts on the coldest day of the year by quietly reminding her to, “Take a deep breath, Mom. I’m a tough boy from Africa.”
I can’t decide if the gods hate runners personally, or if running just throws the machinery of the world up against the light, that they may taunt us all the better. Because I know of no one who can describe their relationship with our sport in less than about half a page. I like chocolate. I love my wife. I feel joy when we beat the Aussies. I feel sad when Pravin Gordhan sends me letters inquiring thoughtfully about my financial affairs. But running is a slippery eel. I like, love, loathe, fear and fight it every step of my life. It’s like having a secret affair with Madonna, or possibly Boy George . Fascinating, all consuming, breathtakingly enriching and likely to make you swear regularly to ‘never again’.
Last week, I read the most disturbing article, published in the British Medical Journal. The likelihood of heart attacks, the BMJ warned, has little to do with how regularly you get out for your morning run, and far more to do with how sedentary your day is.
South Africans love public holidays and none of us love them better than I. True, working in media, public holidays can sometimes tip past without even being noticed but generally, the opportunity to light a braai fire and crack open a cold beer at lunchtime on a Tuesday makes me smile.
The first time I realised I was a Dad came as such a profound shock that in the next year, almost all my hair fell out. I had already been a father for half a decade when I walked past a wall mirror one day and caught sight of my reflection. A slightly overweight, pasty-jowled guy with stress lines etched down his face, holding the hand of a small boy with a melting ice-cream. I have no idea what suddenly made this moment an epiphany, perhaps the presence of a gaggle of Varsity age girls now a full decade younger than me.
A mate of mine is training for an Oceans’ silver. Like MBA’s and pilots, how can you tell someone is training for an Oceans’ silver? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. And he’s been telling us for 3 years. Year one it seemed like he had everything going for him.
In World War 2, fewer than 20% of combatants ever fired their weapons. That’s not including the guys drafted in to peel potatoes and polish Spitfire windscreens. That number refers to the guys who were there, on the battlefield, with a gun in their hands and bullets whizzing past their ears
I’m not alone in feeling that running should be more directly linked to gifts from above. When I’ve packed on a few pounds and I’m struggling to get back from a winter’s break, I really do believe that the first long run should miraculously transform me into something lithe, supple and fast as lightning. Or at the very least, a marathon should be an automatic ticket to a perfect body mass index and guilt free snacking through the next year.
Maybe it’s that we spend a lot of time on our own. Perhaps it’s that we do what we do when cyclists are still in bed and cricketers are still coming home from nightclubs. Maybe it’s that the pain that we inflict, we inflict on ourselves. Because lets be honest, it’s easy to be brave if you’re Bakkies Botha.
Have you ever noticed how only the good people run? There’s long been a debate around our training group as to whether we are all similar people, and so are attracted to running by some common strain of character, or whether running shapes us into a personality type instantly recognisable to other runners.