Friday, December 26, 2014

Unogwaja 2016 is On

I am not a runner. My family and I have a history of lower back issues. We have all dealt with it in our own ways, but I have been told that running is just nasty to the body. It seems like people who run regularly also get injured regularly. Nothing messes with my mojo quite like being injured. I become a lazy slob, start eating badly and basically wait for my body to heal before I start doing anything active. Not a great strategy since you start again from square minus one. Over the last 5 years, I have somewhat changed course by doing regular yoga and have slowly started undoing the damage. It is slow but effective and I enjoy the yoga classes. I don't have to motivate myself to go to yoga since I am not beating myself up as I exercise and I come out feeling incredible. As part of this new venture I am on I have been challenged to run a marathon. It is one of the less unusual challenges since long distance running is fairly popular. 

Part of my '100 hours idea' is that you need to be careful about defining who you are. I am not a runner. The truth is I do not know, I have not put the effort in to get to the other side where lots of people seem to get a great deal of pleasure. The pain angle puts me off though. A particular mythical marathon stands tall in the mind of every South African. I have always dreamed of running the Comrades Marathon. But I have healthy respect for this beast. As a kid living along the route, we used to wake up early. If the Dads were organised, there would be a skottel braai and the almost 89km would be full of people. The winners were awesome, but there was always a very long tail. The end of the Comrades is what made it magical. Broken people of all shapes and sizes helping each other, crossing the line arm in arm. You have 12 hours to finish. 12 hours of running. 12. Eish. I don't like the idea of destroying myself, but the Comrades seems a part of who I am. I have always felt like I would have to let the beast nibble at me once. So now that I have capacity to train properly, and a friend had suggested a (normal) marathon as one of my projects, I was primed. Enter crazy man, John McInroy.

Perfect running form includes a big smile

John used to play hockey for South Africa but is now involved in various exciting initiatives. After meeting him at a friend's wedding a few years back and a small incident with a rock (another story for another time), we clicked. At the end of the trip he handed me a pair of red socks to wear on Fridays (another story for another time). I kept my eye on what he was up to and one of these things is the Unogwaja challenge. In this apparent lapse of sanity, the participants cycle from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades (roughly 1600km) and then run the 89km race! Since I am not a runner, and I am not a cyclist - John challenged me to join him in 2016. He also suggested I read to book 'Born to Run'.

Basically this book says I am wrong. Quite the opposite of my belief that running destroys you, its central claim is that the reason we suffer from many of the niggles and diseases we suffer from is because we don't run. In a world where I believe sometimes you can't even trust the experts, I am wary of lavish claims that run counter to what I have experienced. It really seems like common sense that long distance running is in part pleasurable only because you are able to push yourself to places of extreme discomfort and survive. Top athletes don't stop hurting. They typically hurt even more. This books claim is that done right, we are designed to run. Our hairless skin lets us sweat, our upright stance lets us breathe, and our mind lets us strategise and self-control. It is an incredibly motivational book. I am really excited about the idea that I can do the Comrades, not as a once-off self-sacrificial homage to the comradery of South Africans, but as a real source of pleasure and fulfilment.

So I said Yes to John. Unogwaja 2016 is on.

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