Run Comrades, run: Kicking against the pricks

2012-02-07 14:48

Needles have taught me a lot about running – and vice versa. As a kid I dreaded those jabs we were forced to endure to inoculate us against some or other imagined future epidemic.

The most useless was the German measles jab girls have to go for to protect their unborn future babies.
Nobody believed my pre-teen self that I never intended to join the mothers’ club.

So I perfected the doctor’s-rooms-dash (a 100m sprint outside to lock myself in the car) and the round-the-corner-run (to hide underneath the bushes at home even before we could get in the car).

These rebellions were almost always futile, because the jab was inevitable.

It is only in the past few years that I’ve managed to voluntarily subject myself to needles without breaking out in a cold sweat or tears and suffering severe jitters right down to my toes.

It was ultramarathon running that helped me.

First, there’s the joy of dry needling, right into the injured muscles and sometimes straight to the bone. It’s done with an acupuncture needle and releases stiff and injured muscles almost instantly (in the case of a calf muscle it can leave you with an impressive 24 hour limp).

It’s not as painful as it sounds, but sometimes still brings me to the point of passing out – a small price to pay for the miraculous relief this treatment brings.

Then, a year or two ago, a homeopath introduced me to the vitamin B jab, which instantly revives an exercise and stress-worn body (it’s also an anti-depressant and a friend from gym swears it helps you lose weight).

So now I willingly subject myself to those jabs on a regular basis, and beg the physio to needle me whenever the calves get a bit tjatjarag.

Running makes you fearless like that – or at least teaches you to manage some phobias.

Nike recognised a fear of a different kind when they launched their Run Jozi race ( – a 10km night run through the Johannesburg central business district on Human Rights Day (March 21).

One of the slogans is “take back the streets”. It seems there are still some people in this city who won’t step out unless they can see the inside of a security fence.

They’re clearly not long-distance runners. One thing you’re forced to do when training for the Comrades, for instance, is to step off the treadmill and get out there.

When you try to hold down a half-decent job at the same time, its demands inevitably mean you will at some time or the other find yourself pounding the pavements alone in the dark, be it 4.30am or 10pm.

Being scared of cars, muggers, potholes, solitude or the dark won’t get you anywhere.

Hopefully the “take back the streets” run will convince a few treadmill types to get out there.

It will in any case be a unique experience to explore together with 10 000 others the roads passing the Old JSE, Luthuli House, City Hall, Carlton Centre, Jeppe police station, Standard Bank Arena, Ellis Park, Ponte building, Joubert Park, Hillbrow, Constitution Hill, the Civic Centre, Johannesburg train station, Mary Fitzgerald Square and the Market Theatre.

There’s just one snag.

Nike didn’t say anything about those of us who are afraid of big, sweaty crowds, but then again, I guess when running to take back the streets, one has to take it one step at a time.

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