David Moseley

Get high, naturally

2012-10-02 08:31

David Moseley

The first time I tried it was in 2003. My friends had been doing it for about three years, and with every passing month they'd been egging me on to have a go too. Nervous about the effects, I repeatedly, but politely, demurred. Constantly rebuffing your closest allies, though, takes its toll and eventually I folded to the nagging pressure.

That first hit was intense. In the beginning I stood dead still, not sure what to do as an intense cold washed over my body and what felt like a biblical downpour washed clear my thoughts. Everyone was doing it. Everyone was experiencing similar sensations. To look around and see the same nervous, happily expectant smiles on the faces of others put me at ease. I knew I'd made the right decision.

By the end the emotion was overwhelming. What a rush. Two hours of highs and lows, with time slowed to a standstill in some moments and rushing past like a rocket at Ludicrous Speed in others. As the finish neared, tears flowed. To come down after the experience was nearly impossible. A thumping heart, rapid chatter and renewed enthusiasm for life filled my next few days, weeks.

I needed more. I needed those moments of trippy enthusiasm to happen more frequently, to last longer. I needed to fill my workdays and weekends with that elation and share it with people who could really appreciate the experience.

Run along now

And so since that day in April 2003 I've done more than 70 half-marathons, countless 10km and 15km runs, a few marathons and an ultra-marathon. And the giddy feeling of accomplishment when crossing a finish line has barely diminished.

I think that's why so many people run in this country. It's hard to achieve something meaningful on a daily basis. But even entering and finishing a 5km fun run gives you a sense of achievement that otherwise goes missing when you’re plodding from client to deadline to office memo to check-out till.

It's well documented, the soul-elevating, smile-inducing sensation of the runner's high. But here, in beautiful, dirty, angry, friendly, graceful, savage South Africa, running is more than that. Running connects us.

Running is the one time, the one place, where everyone is equal. Everyone has the same goal. Everyone has the same problem. Everyone, from lithe pro to wobbling fatty at the back, has the same answer to the problem; run.

It's nothing new to me to see friendly faces at running events. But I think it would surprise quite a few South Africans to witness the banter and solidarity of wildly disparate groups that take to the roads or countryside on weekend mornings.

It's a far cry from what we're told to believe about each other on a daily basis by the thought leaders, opinion makers and "inspirational" leaders out there. Mingling with like-minded runners over 10km, 21km or even 56km shows that we're not all that hateful, that we're not all ready to slit each other's throats over which colour is best.

Perhaps it's an overly simplistic view, but it's my view and I believe it to be true (aren't so many issues overcomplicated in this fine home of ours anyway?); running is where you meet real South Africans; the people who just want to go about their lives with as few hassles as possible, who want to enjoy what's on offer and hit that high with people who feel the same way.

It's where men, women and children can all be free for just a few kilometres and forget about their deteriorating school books, dire office jobs, even forget, for a moment, where the next pay cheque will come from.

It's the natural drug that's available to everyone, and pulls everyone together. Running shows you that there are happy people out there, that we're not all one misstep away from a hateful future. This is not to say, forget the burning issues of the day, but rather to highlight the fact that there is a place where we're all on the same footing, equal at the start, equally shattered at the finish, triumphant regardless the result.

I like running. I like running with my countrymen and women. It makes me feel South African. But more than that, it makes me feel like we all belong here.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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