The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
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The shift is tangible. With the Comrades Marathon less than
two weeks away, running friends have begun to view everyone with suspicion. For
them, the dangers now lurk everywhere.
No runner can risk the incubation period between contamination
and the day of the race. Hand shaking has ceased (along will all other human
contact) in fear of catching a cold (or something) and the same people that intend
pounding the road for 90km walk gingerly to not (heaven forbid) twist or strain
Everyone smells like Deep Heat.
Running talk has increased from boring to deathly-boring. If
10 was the maximum level of mind numbing conversation, the chatter has now
peaked at 12.5 as arrangements for the day of the Comrades, meeting points,
flight details and dietary strategies consume all others. Tactics, gear, chafing
and bleeding nipples, anticipated times and race time completion disclaimers
are what they are able to talk about.
Everyone is strapped with something blue.
Runners are the thinnest they will ever be.
Over the next ten days, those who have run before will
recount details of each kilometre of each Comrades run in magnificent, painstaking
detail. Injuries will be explored and re-hashed with no tendon left unturned. Friends
will be forced to listen to past achievements – much like watching home movies
of someone’s holiday with their children.
Only no one grows up. And you don’t get tea and cake after.
Runners' spouses have it particularly hard. They might have initially
been proud of their runner person. They might have bravely and even willingly accepted
living their life as a single parent dominated by Comrades. It was a sacrifice
that they would make in the name of love and commitment. But now they have just
They just can’t anymore. They are sick to death of people
telling them how wonderful their spouse is when it was she (or he) who has
suffered the early mornings, the stench of soiled running clothes and had their
life dominated by their partner’s irrational need to run from Pietermaritzburg
I witnessed this myself when one of the sweetest people I
know turned on her runner husband with ferocity that had us gathering our
children protectively in our arms and running for the door. It turned out that apparently,
he had closed his eyes while sitting on the couch after a long lunch. She
claimed he now did that everywhere and she was sick of being married to an old
man. And it was because of the running.
I didn’t see the actual “closed eye” event myself as I was
sitting on the same couch about to hit a REM sleep state when the eruption
occurred. And I am not doing Comrades.
If spouses could send the runner to the start right now to
wait for the gun, they would. But they can no longer pretend to smile with pride.
They stopped that 2 weeks ago when training was at its peak and their mouth had
set in what can only be described as a psychopathic and dangerous grimace.
Relationships are stretched, and spouses are ratty. They are
now resentful and angry, and they hate what they have become. Worse than that,
the runner hasn’t even noticed. Because as long as they are doing the mileage,
as long as their ITB isn’t playing up and they are achieving PRs (formerly
known is PBs) and as long as Strava is recording it, then all is good in the
world of the runner.
Ask a runner’s spouse when was the last time the athlete
asked how their day was and they will struggle to remember.
I am the world’s second worst runner – having recently
discovered that my wife is actually less talented than me. I struggle to do
10km “fun runs” but do them anyway, and always find there is something
spectacular about race day that I have difficulty describing. The atmosphere,
the sense of comradery, the nerves at the start of the race, the blending of
all South Africans, the marshals, the music, the weird runners all add to the
magic of the day. Even the after-the-race-pain feels good and rewarding as
though your body is thanking you for being so stupid.
I also understand the fear that a runner might experience.
The training is gruelling, the sacrifice is significant, and the expectation is
substantial. To blow it now because someone has a cold that they don’t mind
sharing must be frustrating as all hell. And worse than that, it means starting
it all over again next year when one’s spouse is a lot smarter and
significantly more cynical than this year. It’s not a risk worth taking.
Apparently, Comrades runners are about to taper. That means
that they become moody because they aren’t running enough. Which means that although
they might be home for a little bit longer than they were last week, they are
less pleasant to be around. Especially when all the extra time does is to give
them more opportunity to talk about running.
- Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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