As a domestic worker in her younger years, Judith Ngubo used to watch her “madam” exercising and she liked it, but never got around to doing in herself.
Today Judith (61) is one of 22 elderly women who run and exercise in Soweto.
Clad in doeks, skirts and pinafores, they crisscross the streets of Soweto, covering between 5km and 8km every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
A few months ago, the grannies caught the attention of TV and radio personality Rorisang Thandekiso.
“I remember it so clearly,” she says.
“I was driving in Soweto around 8am and I saw this elderly woman running wearing a skirt, an apron and a doek. And I thought to myself ‘well that’s strange’ and continued on my way. Then as I was driving I saw another two lagging behind, then another and another.
“They were running in the opposite direction I was going in, I turned around and went on to ask them what was happening and I was blown away when I found out they were are group of grannies running together. I joined them the following Friday and I have been running with them since.”
Seeing that the women were not using proper running shoes, Rorisang took it upon herself to raise funds to buy the women the correct running shoes.
“I reached out to my friends at Adidas, and I got a quote and started working towards that target. They came and did demos with the ladies to see what type of running shoes each woman needed. Remember they are elderly, so some have problematic joints so they needed shoes that are specifically for their needs.
“I finally reached the goal, Adidas then topped it up by providing proper gym kits. Tights, bras, the works. I am so incredibly excited about our first training session will everyone their kit. These women are so inspiring. We were running in the middle of winter and no one complained, they were all just happy to keep active.”
She says the grannies have even inspired her to go to the gym.
“It is not common to see elderly people in the black community exercising, especially women. They are often sidelined and so to see women so dedicated at their age is remarkable. They are not only changing their own lives, but their families and communities at large.”
Judith says the morning exercises are the highlight of her days.
“I went to the clinic last month and the nurse said my blood pressure is looking really good. She asked what I was doing differently and I said it was the exercising. She told me to keep it up,” Judith says.
The grannies, aged between 56 and 76, run three times a week and they exercises on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“I am so excited about my new clothes and the takkies. We usually run in our skirts of those with tights or tracksuits wear blankets around their waists because we are not used to wearing pants our publicly,” she says.
Judith has five children, four of whom are still alive and has seven grandchildren.
“If I could open my chest and you could see my heart, you would see how happy I am. I used to watch the madam doing this and I would love it. I never thought that I would one day be doing the same.”
They started this last year and during winter they started at 8am and 7am in summer.
For Rorisang this is following the word of God.
"A lot of people say I do what I do out of the kindness of my heart, but the truth is, its being obedient to the Word. The Lord says we must take care of the elderly. So its not about me, its about doing what you can when you are in a position to help somebody else."