Heels over Head: How to run a designer 10km race

2013-10-17 08:40

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The most difficult part of a 10km is the last 9.75km. Yes, this is the kind of blasé in-joke that entertained my Comrades-running friend and I as we breezed through the streets of central Johannesburg on Saturday night, doing the Nike We Run Jozi race.

Or maybe the word isn’t exactly breezed, it was more of a run-walk to enjoy the scenery and fold double should our jokes be funny (and because my sore Achilles isn’t 100% happy yet). We think of 10km more as the liberating last bit of run that remains after you’ve completed 79km in the Comrades – not exactly something to get worked up about. Most Comrades training runs are longer than 10km anyway.

But for most people starting out, a 10km is a nice, round distance to aim for. It’s just long enough to get the nerves going, especially if you’ve never done 10km before (I remember needing some help to cross the finish line during my first 10km run, aged 11).

It’s also quite a sociable distance, one you can do with not too much training, and it only keeps you busy for about an hour or so – unless you’re a winner, in which case you only need about half that time. It’s not quite as challenging as a 21km, and doesn’t quite kill you quite as dead as anything longer does.

And it’s a lovely distance for a designer run, as Nike’s was. It got 10 000 people moving in Johannesburg alone, and, because running can be a really simple and cheap sport, hopefully it inspired some of those who spectated too.

The race was one of 26 international races in Nike’s We Run series, held in cities all over the world and involving more than 350 000 runners in the last three months of this year.

The winners from Saturday get to go to Brazil to compete in the 10km there.

Most people, though, didn’t run to win. If they were like me, they did it for the T-shirt (there was the grey for downtown, which I did, and a red for uptown), the medal (which is about twice the size of a Comrades medal) and because of a fear of missing out on fun.

It was the kind of run that will make you fall in love with Jozi all over again, especially if your heart has been having itchy feet of late, like mine.

We ran on the smooth elevated highway that gives you one of the best views on the buildings in the CBD, and the hobbly city streets themselves. Amused and incredibly enthusiastic inner city dwellers lined the pavement or cheered the runners on in passing. Children high-fived us.

Even though the class difference between most of the runners and the spectators was obvious, for an hour or so most people present were touched, because that’s what running does.

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