It started out as a bet. But I ran with it anyhow.

It started out as an agreement. A dare. Our trail running buddies, Dan & Linda agreed to run a road race if I would come along and try out a trail run. They stuck to their word and ran Varsity Kudus (*gasp* of all races!) in January. The pressure was on!

So last week, I headed off to run the Biogen Love Run 2016 night race at the PWC Bike Park to close off my end of the bargain.

The PWC Bike Park

The PWC Bike Park

All set up & ready for the runners

All set up & ready for the runners

It was my first trail run. I have never even run Park Run before.

Here’s some differences I noted compared to road running:

  • The field is smaller. We’re used to a couple of thousands of runners lining up at the start of a road race. Here there must’ve been a max of about 350 runners. You can imagine my panic thinking I would come last in such a tiny field!
  • It’s casual. Very casual. Runners arrived and sat on the grass embankment, some snacking on crisps, others playing on their cellphones. No one was doing any serious warming up. No lubing or vaselining.
    Before the race. Notice how relaxed everyone is!

    Before the race. Notice how relaxed everyone is!

    More runners gathering and relaxing before the race.

    More runners gathering and relaxing before the race.

  • No ASA or temp numbers are needed. We each received a little bar-coded card to pin to our clothes. Race results were up the very next day too!
Runners ready! The first batch, ready to go. Headlamps being turned on.

Runners ready! The first batch, ready to go. Headlamps being turned on.

  • Runners go out in batches. On road races, everyone goes off when the gun goes off at the same time.
  • The paths are quite narrow. This means that passing someone slower in front of you is quite a challenge. I was unsure of the trail race etiquette, but goodness me, hardly anyone moves out the way for anyone else. It’s as if, sorry Jack, make your own way around me.
  • People walk. They walk and no one else gives a damn. In road races, the walkers get a bad rap. Faster runners are always complaining that walkers should have their own start or that they get in the way of ‘real runners’. Trail running is different. If you want to walk, you do, and no one gives you any grief about it.
  • You get dirty. My socks and my shoes were so dusty when I got home!

I really enjoyed it. It’s way less competitive than road running. It has a very relaxed vibe to it. And everyone seems to do their own thing and have fun.

Super bright headlamps! I look like I'm about to go looking for gold!

Super bright headlamps! I look like I’m about to go looking for gold!

img_1980 The best part? My time was fantastic! I averaged 8:14 mins per km. I thought I’d be much slower. And, I came 9/26 in my category and 109/234 total of 5km runners!

The question I’m sure you’re asking is, “has the trail bug bitten?” A little. But I’d definitely need to go shopping for the right trail running shoes and a camel pack and perhaps try out a more technical course? And a daytime run. But yeah… It was fun. Dan and Linda, you guys were right!

Running thoughts

When we went down for the Comrades marathon last year June, I happened to observe a group of mourners on the Umhlanga promenade scattering a loved ones ashes into the ocean. The memory of your sudden passing was still fresh in my mind and as I dug my toes into the beach sand, it stung to know that you too were gone.

saying last farewell

As the wind blew through their hair and one of the mourners started to play a bagpipe, the family and friends each said their few words of goodbye and then stood watching the ocean pull the scattered ashes further and further away from them.

I truly did feel as if I was an intruder in a very intimate gathering and taking a photo felt so unnecessary because the image would be cast in my memory forever anyhow.

It’s your birthday week so you’ve been in my thoughts and while running track the other night, I remembered that scene.

What struck me then and still does today is just how lucky those people on the promenade are that they are able to walk down to the ocean, look out and see their friend and ‘talk’ to their person.

Happy Birthday Conrad.

The green vase is empty

For my birthday last year, you gave me the most exquisite green vase. It’s not something I would’ve bought myself but I fell in love with it immediately. What’s particularly special about it is the beautiful bird perched on the top of the lid. It sits on the table in my front entrance hall and is a daily reminder of how precious friendship and life is.

Green vase

Every so often, I open the vase and look inside. I don’t know what I’m expecting to find in there. It’s empty. You’re gone. It’s been 8 months already.

Unlike the empty vase, I’ve been filling up inside with news. I have so many stories to share and issues that need discussing and problems which need your advice… but you’re not there. You’re still gone.

Some days I feel like I’m bursting and only you will understand. Some days I worry that there’s going to be too much news and I won’t know what to do with it all. I need to tell you and I can’t move on unless you know what’s happening and can tell me that it’ll all be okay. But there’s a silence…an emptiness.

I opened the vase up tonight, and looked inside. It’s still empty. I miss you so much. I love my vase.

Happy Birthday Conrad.

A surprise visit

It was an unexpected Facebook message which read, “Hello! Hope all is as well as can be. I am going to be in South Africa from 4th to 8th August (work-related) and I will be in JHB on 4th and 5th August near Melrose Arch. If you can spare a coffee or quick meal, I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to see you both!”  OMG! One of my best friends from high school was coming from Portugal to SA!

From left to right: Vicky, Me, Monica (who moved to Portugal) and Karen

From left to right: Vicky, Me, Monica (who moved to Portugal) and Karen

The last time I saw Vicky was when my parents bought me a plane ticket to Portugal for my 21st birthday 18 years ago. Our only contact since then had been via Facebook. So I was incredibly nervous as my other best friend from high school and I sat on the couch waiting for her to come down and meet us in the hotel reception. What would we say? How would it all go down?

As I saw her, I could not control my tears! And in those first few minutes, all we did was stare at one another and hug and stare and giggle. It was so surreal. We had aged but still felt like teenagers looking into each other’s eyes.

Later, as we sat around baskets of dim sum, the emotions flicked between moments of uncontrollable laughter to those of intense sadness. The storytelling went from exotic travel destinations, new inventions on to tales of separation and death.

BFFs

It’s weird. It felt like yesterday that we were strolling around the school corridors but here, 18 years later, each one of us had or is living through some of the toughest times of our lives. Comforting one another seemed natural and instinctive.

BFFs 2

A lot happens in 18 years. We grew up. I never would’ve thought that I’d be sitting around a table chatting to my best friends from school about what I had planned for my 40th birthday. Crazy!

Pals, thanks for a wonderful evening of reminding me what great friendship is all about. You guys are awesome! X