Heels over head: Better to be a wildmouse than a cow

2014-06-08 15:00

Not long after the Lion Park, Robert the Rhino lost his head. It was turning out to be a hot day, and Robert looked even hotter.

He was wearing a chubby rhino suit, which drove especially the white-girl spectators mad. “Save the rhino!” they squealed. That was before the head came off and the suit slowed to a walk.

That was also the last I saw of the horny one. It’s near impossible to say whether his battle with the Comrades Marathon 2014 was more successful than the war against rhino poaching.

But Robert had a purpose, like those people who run in ­synthetic cow suits for kids with cancer. I’ve seen them suffering in the heat and the wind, and wondered why.

I run for no reason, out of principle. At ­primary school we once did a fun run and had to get sponsors. Asking friends and ­family for money to run spoilt the fun. I do have a heart and I give in other ways, but my running is only for me.

Behaving like students at the annual Rag jol, many people run with funny wigs for welfare or for pink-ribbon bits. Good for them.

Large city marathons like New York and London sell sought-after entries for small fortunes in the name of fundraising for charity. If it’s good for their business, cool.

But it often feels like a diversion. If running is a ­religion, charities are the church.

Why do we need to go and look for something above and beyond running? I guess a good cause is what it takes for some people to step out to do the Comrades in the first place, and others want to “give back” – good for them. But running is good enough reason for me.

Take the wildmouse, for instance. Recent studies have shown they actually enjoy running on exercise wheels placed in the wild. They did so voluntarily, with no reward.

In that sense, wild mice are running purists. Runners already know the meditative benefits, or how 12 hours of running can lift months-old clouds from the head and heart. If you’re not running for the good of running, then why are you running?

Skipping the Comrades altogether and donating the R10 000-odd you would have spent on running shoes, therapists, funny supplements, petrol and hotels to the Comrades and qualifying races could work out to be more profitable than raising a few hundred from ­recession-ravaged colleagues for a cause that might not be all that close to their hearts.

Or does raising a few rands make some runners feel better about the vanity project that is the Comrades? It’s a big mind test, that’s true, but the brag factor is flatteringly sizeable.

Go ahead, run with your goody two-shoes if you must, but don’t ever expect me to dress up in a cow suit for moo-tivation.

»?This was Du Plessis’ fifth Comrades. She earned another bronze medal

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