Which way to run?

2009-12-30 00:00

“What’s a good run around here?” I was in Cape Town, in the Bo-Kaap where good friends live and with whom we were staying for a brief weekend before Christmas. They hike, they climb, they cycle and swim, so I knew they’d be able to suggest a good route. There are some days you just want to throw yourself into; abandon yourself to nature’s lap, or drift about with occasional, random forays up side streets and hidden paths. This was one of those. And judging by the amount of lycra on display on the sidewalks, the whole town was in agreement.

That morning Dirk had lured us down to Clifton beach for a swim. “It’s warm,’’ he said. “Whose warm?’’ I asked, knowing that the waters of Durban are the Latin cousins of the more Nordic attractions of the Atlantic. At about 18 degrees Celsius I know I get brainfreeze, and my friend Sue did the Robben Island swim when the temperature was 11 degrees and she had to be pulled out and revived before resuming her mission several times. So I was sceptical that I’d even be getting wet. It took three attempts to persuade myself that the pain in my bones would go away, which indeed it did because beyond the breakers the current was warm. This was something Dirk knew because when the wind comes from there and there’s been rain for so long before the sun shines for so long then everyone in Cape Town knows that the water’s swimmable in.

Exhilarated by the swim, it still took about an hour to warm back up properly, and by the time we got home, I was ready to put on my running shoes and explore. So, which way? Well, just go up behind the house to Lion’s Head, says Dirk. Okay, say I. I can’t decide whether to go all the way to Signal Hill and double back to Lion’s head, or take the direct route up. It’s a day for Englishmen. I can’t say it’s for mad dogs because it’s a bit grandiose to apply that sobriquet to myself when it properly fits trans-Saharan marathoners, Paris-Dakar racers or Roof of Africa bikers. The air is still and dry, the sky clear. The pines sweat out their fragrance and I notice that the fynbos holds on tight to its juices in the heat. My eyeballs dance, or is that the shimmer on baking ground? Even the cicadas have gone quiet. What kind of a run is this, I ask myself as my steps get smaller and calves start screaming. I’ve decided to go the direct route, and eventually I’m on Lion’s Head, paragliders soaring overhead, and the peninsula lazing deliciously below. I’ve brought water, but I’m not sure of distances and so decide not to go all the way round and double back to go down the hill. I start getting some energy back and my stride lengthens as I get closer and closer to home. All in all it didn’t take much more than an hour, which was less than I wanted but good enough to make me feel as if I’d embraced the day. An arabesque of note.

That was a 40 kay week, which for December I’m not going to moan about.

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