Run Comrades, run: In Cape Town it’s all about (the) race

2012-02-15 11:13

Race is a topic as hot in the Mother City as the recent alleged heat wave, but it shouldn’t be all black and white.

Sometimes it’s more productive to talk about it in the context of running.

Like the never-ending and seemingly always unresolved debates about oppression in the city, there are many things that make Cape Town wrong. There is the wind, and the people who pretend that what they are committing in the road with a car is called driving.

People are rather crowded with the sea and mountain limiting the space for movement, which means they end up a bit gatvol with each others’ company and start fighting about whether Cape Town is, in fact, awesome or awful.

Even the rain in this place is the wrong way around, because it really should be cooling down the place in summer when it’s hot, and not rain in winter.

But there is a glimmer of hope when it comes to the sport of running, especially when it’s done along the Sea Point promenade with the first light breaking over the misty sea (even in summer this is only around 6am).

Then I am prepared to forgive Slaapstad all its sins.

It’s actually so good that you forget how good it is every time, until you step out for a run – and once you’re out there, you never want it to stop.

For those who normally train at high altitudes, like in Johannesburg, a coastal town like Cape Town is a good place to spoil those legs and spare the lungs.

The oxygen-rich air makes you feel like you could sprint forever.

This I discovered when going for my run last Thursday morning. I had “saved” myself by not drinking the night before (at the British High Commission, and government communicators’ party) and going to bed by midnight.

As luck would have it, it was my “fast” training day, meaning I’d run for 20 minutes easy, then 8km flat-out (or about 45 to 50 minutes, as a rough and generous estimate), then another 20 minutes easy.

I started my run in St George’s Mall. By the time I got through the Waterfront, it was time to speed up.

But I didn’t get out of breath and my legs didn’t get tired, so I ended up running at a pace that would frighten the Russian twins (okay, not quite, but I’d like to imagine so). I overtook fat women and thin men, and thin women and fat men, and fashionably dressed runners.

The sea to the side of the promenade became a pleasant blue blur. Even my ponytail blew back with the speed of it all. It was a thrill, good and proper.

On Saturday I was at it again, but for an easy 20km, and on Sunday afternoon (due to unforeseen circumstances in Cubana the night before, we didn’t make it to bed before morning, so we had to take the unusual step of running at dawn) I went back for more.

This time, with the luxury of having to do a 30 to 35km run, I took a detour up Kloof Neck (to get some hills on the legs), and ran past Camp’s Bay.

I returned to Kloof Neck on my hill training morning, on Tuesday.

Of this session I can only say one thing: Higgovale se ma se hillside. In the City Bowl suburb, halfway up Table Mountain (that’s how it feels, at least), you can die a beautiful death while running up hills too steep to run down, with a view of the sun rising through the clouds. Awesome.

For those who pound the CBD pavements, there’s the added benefit of shop windows – great for checking out your running style, aspiring six-pack and hair in the reflection.

Sadly if you run at a racey pace, the reflection, like the rest of Cape Town, will only be a flash.

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