Friday, 26 April 2013

Bleed and heal

A land so fair yet her people's hearts are wroth with pain. Pain whose pangs are evident in the hunger and illness Mother Africa's children suffer daily. Ailed by violence her children cry out, yet their cries fall on deaf ears. Perhaps Mama's children speak a language undecipherable to the rest of the world. Perhaps the weary cries have become all too familiar, rendering what they resound, to be of no consequence.  A land where possibilities abide in abundance, yet her fertility is eroded by tears awash her countenance.
Africa bleeds, I bleed, does anyone hear?

A gaping wound long inflicted
Festering with a puss my all corrupts
Resistance rising mingled with blood
Tears long shed their meaning lost
Voices choked to silence by lies
The wound throbs a broken wince

Galleys abreast where hope once laid
Draining with them substance to enrich
Barrenness dousing the desire to birth
Offspring a mere figment of dreams past
Aflame with yearning yet to possess cannot
The wound throbs a feeble wince

Thrones upon rolling hills manicured
Watered by sweat from children spent
Songs of praise turned venomous slander
Thundering feet unable to dance so plunder
Melodies once known long forgotten
The wound throbs a stifled wince

Gagged by toxins through scarred veins
Looking unto scales unjustly inclined
Paying a price dear for which is owned
Hands tied by inequality dipped chords
Disinheriting and stripping rightful heirs
The wound throbs alighting defiance

Monday, 22 April 2013

Journey to the West

I can hardly call myself a morning person, let alone am I an early riser. I could attribute this to being a very light sleeper and something of an insomniac but due to my defiance to being labelled anything other than Monsieur Columbus' sidekick or the very least, Shakespeare's apprentice, I will rest my case at "I have trouble waking up in the morning"
So as one can imagine, waking up at 2am on Saturday 20 April was no exception. I wasn't whistling a tune, neither was I fully aware of what I was doing up at such an ungodly hour. However, a shower always does the trick and in no time, I was trying to force some left over baguette with peanut butter down my throat. With my digestive system slightly in shock, I continued the motions of getting ready for another momentous occasion. 
Every race I have run has had some significance, great or small but this year's Weskus Marathon came with a lot more. Not only did it come a few days after the Boston Marathon bombings but it was a reminder of the reason I run. Pleased that I wouldn't have to drive, I found myself the passenger of probably the best running club shuttle ever. The Afrikaans chatter that went on around me, reminded me of the television show I watched as a child growing up, "Journey to the west". Though the show had English subtitles, one cannot help but marvel at how language can be a key or barrier to communication. Sitting there listening to Afrikaans folk chatter away, was like trying to decipher Morse Code amidst blazing guns and exploding grenades for a novice ear. Once in a while I caught a phrase or two but for the most part, I was lost in translation so I resolved to take a snooze.
The race in itself needed no interpretation, a straight forward route that took you to the finish. A moment of silence held for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and we were all set to go. We had to run our hearts out for those who could not run for themselves. The sights around us, dreams that others would have loved to see for life has placed upon them one permanent restriction or another. Pondering upon these thoughts, the desire to press on despite the pain and weariness, was awakened. Undulating through the West-coast National Park, the route had its way, taking both seasoned runner and novice to the same destination - home.

3 hours and 48 minutes later, elation - a personal victory. A victory for those who inspire me daily. Those long gone and those recently lost. The fallen comrades some who remain unsung. The dreams that were meant to be lived but were cut short. I breathe deeply once again, as I sit and listen to Afrikaans chatter on the way back. I am sure I recognised a familiar word "hard-loop" or something along those lines. concluding my journey to the west. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Safety at the Comrades Marathon

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has sent a message of support to the organisers of the Boston Marathon, as well as the runners and families of the victims after the event was rocked by two bomb blasts on Sunday, 14 April 2013. 

In a statement released by the CMA, Chairman Dave Dixon, empathised with the organisers of the Boston Marathon, saying: “The CMA can identify with the myriad risk and safety challenges race directors all over the world face because of the nature of road races being mass-based events and generally supported by hundreds of thousands of supporters and spectators at the start and finish of the events, as well as along the race route.”

“These circumstances leave the events vulnerable to these kinds of attacks and makes it all the more challenging to stage and manage”, he added. 

In light of the concerns raised about the safety of runners at the upcoming Comrades Marathon, CMA Race Director Johan Van Staden has assured Comrades Marathon entrants that the CMA has a tried and tested security system in place to ensure the safety of all Comrades Marathon athletes, supporters and spectators during the 2013 Comrades Marathon.

“Over the last 20 years, the CMA has maintained stringent risk and safety measures to protect the event against any kind of disaster.  A key measure entails a bomb sweep at the Comrades Marathon Start and Finish Venues”, he added.  The bomb sweep is carried out by the SA Police Services Bomb Squad.

Van Staden stated that “everyone is evacuated from the Start and Finish Venues of the Comrades Marathon from about 01:00 (am) on race day in order to conduct the bomb sweep. Thereafter, the premises are locked and guarded until control of the venue is handed over to the Head of the Comrades Marathon private security contractor, Bhejane Special Events Security.”

Van Staden went on to assure Comrades Marathon athletes, supporters and spectators alike that “the CMA will continue to work closely with the SA Police Services and Bhejane Special Events Security to protect the Comrades Marathon against any kind of attack or activity that will jeopardise the safety of runners, supporters or spectators”.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Verdict – Two Oceans Back to Back Challenge

Before the 30th of March, many thoughts were going through my head. Having taken the challenge to run the Two Oceans Marathon twice seemed incomprehensible for most in my close circle of friends, family and colleagues. For most, this somewhat reserved unassuming individual was taking a gamble beyond measure. If truth be told, there were instances I thought they could be right. The longest distance I have ever run in my meager two and a half years of long distance running was my single Comrades marathon which I practically wobbled to a finish on a bad knee.

Those who had witnessed the effects of those 10 long hours were right to think that taking on 112km was being overambitious. However, the reason and motivation for taking on the challenge compelled me to stick to mission at hand. More than 3 million orphans in South Africa whose muffled voices cry out for help, day in day out. More than 3 million dreams waiting to be born. More than 3 million destinies waiting to be fulfilled and a simple gesture such as 112km could very well ensure at least one is carried to full term. All fear that I would fail or hurt myself, was eroded by a vivid picture of millions of dreams being dashed as many broken beings infiltrated society. Putting my body on the line for a day would be incomparable to the generations of broken individual the country will see if nothing is done here and now. While my body would heal after a few days of rest, some Arnica anti-inflamatories and at the worst, a visit to a medical practitioner, nothing could take away the pain of an orphan growing up feeling like an unwanted child.

The Newkidz on the Block philosophy is simple, “There is no such thing as an unwanted child, just an unfound family.” With this in mind, the 112km journey was something of a pilgrimage of sorts for these millions of children.

When the 30th finally came, I had developed a certain kind of numbness on the inside, a peace that surpasses all understanding. Neither was I afraid nor was I doing somersaults. Lining up at the start of the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon this time around, had much more significance than the previous time I had run the race. This was not my race, it went far beyond me in every sense. Alone, I had no strength nor will to start, let alone complete it but with an invisible legion of lives in pursuit of hope, I trotted across the start line. Being seeded E meant I had to start at the back of the field and the last minute bathroom visit  meant I had to start right at the back. Unfazed by neither this nor the gale force winds that greeted the runners as we ran along the coastline, the first 56km was completed.

It only hit me at the start of the second lap that this was a lone journey. By mid-day, the roads had been cleared and any evidence that there had been a race in progress had been carefully taken away. Despite the tired body, the journey continued, slowing down as the kilometers went by. Fighting against the wind reminded me of the many challenges the orphans in our country faced while at the same time stirring up the determination to defy the odds. Through the terrain this lone traveler progressed, with shouts of encouragement coming from the support vehicle from time to time. When the going permitted, a team member from Newkidz on the Block would run alongside, making light of the journey.

The most difficult mile was the last, when I had to dig in deep. The body was long spent and all that carried me was a Lover who kept whispering “ it is for 3 million dreams…” Looking up literally at times, He gently tugged at the heartstrings, playing a tune that numbed the pain. Almost dragging my feet, the last kilometer was completed with the team from Newkidz right by my side all the way.
Never have I appreciated a bath, a salty snack and above all the love of the Creator like on this day. The love that frees us and spurs us on to do what many perceive to be impossible. The love that makes one do crazy things without standing to benefit anything from it. The love that knows no limits nor boundaries. The kind of love that Newkidz and many other organizations selflessly  display daily.
After close to 14 hours of running and walking, I can safely say Two Oceans Back to Back was a Mission Possible!