Nike's Run Jozi in three parts

Starting line, We Run Jozi. (Pic: Instagram by @mb786)

Starting line, We Run Jozi. (Pic: Instagram by @mb786)

Quick as a flash with a side of "ill"

By Matthew Burbidge

6:40pm: Last cigarette in the parking lot.

7:00pm: At the front. 10 000 (or so) people behind me. Great rendition of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika gets huge roar from the crowd.

7:10pm: We're off. Tickertape machine blows a piece into my ear.

7:15pm: On to the M2, curl round the city; would enjoy the view if my lungs weren't trying to turn inside out.

7:20pm: Running next to a woman with well-turned calves, but then we split – red shirts head off in one direction, grey shirts head off into the dark streets of downtown Jozi.

7:25pm: Annoying man with a blonde wig in front of me. Resolve to pass him.

7:30pm: On to Nugget Street and its permanent lakes of stinking town water. Sex workers watch the passing runners, no business among them.

7:35pm: We miraculously merge with the red shirts. I see the same woman with the calves. The race is on. Begin to take it personally when a red shirt passes me.

7:42pm: Down Wolmarans Street, past kids and high-fives and then a nasty little hill up Rissik past the Metro centre and into Braamfontein. Then the Mandela bridge, round the corner and the end is in sight.

7:48pm: Some red shirt bastard tries to pull a sprint at the end. No way this is going to happen. Cross the line and suddenly feel quite ill.

I did not move Jozi. Jozi moved me.

By Haji Mohamed Dawjee

It started as an effort to support my strong-willed sister who always seems to one-up the diabetes she lives with. I would run Jozi in allegiance, with the words "sugar run" printed boldly on my back. All this humanitarianism was severely tainted (obviously, because I am not Oprah) by the blemish of thinking lowly about these Nike Move Jozi events, which seemed like such a transparent, gimmicky marketing scheme. 

These thoughts raged on when I fetched our shirts and realised most people stopped at the store afterwards for supplies: R300 shorts and R1 200 sneakers. Me: "This is such bullshit. If you want to 'run the city', then do, surely no one cares what you're wearing or if it's sponsored."

Jog to Saturday night (see what I did there?): 10 000 people and about 3km into the race in Newtown. We chose the downtown route and followed the other grey shirts as the up-towners (red shirts) forked the other way. "This is it," I thought. "This is how I die. Falling off a highway ramp on to some dark street during some sad populist event. This is not what I planned for my life."

Two deep breaths later and I found myself picking up the pace, but still lagging behind with the conviction of a saint casting stones. Conviction so pure, I could bottle it and sell it: "I will make it out of here, just so I can announce 'NEVER AGAIN'." I sorely underestimated my fitness. Can you tell?

The marshals with their mentoring and kilometre counting were mute to me. My mind was elsewhere, on my legs, on a beach somewhere, resting. Not. Doing. This.

And then, suddenly, the sounds of the tearing remnants of muscle and ligament behind my knees were replaced by children calling and chanting hope. Clapping their hands, laughing, singing and high-fiving.

All this in a portion of Jo'burg where I felt this city could not hate me more. And every time I felt it would spit me out, their joy would ground me and bring me back home, running that last stretch. Yes, running. Okay, it was more of a light jog.

I did not #MoveJozi. Jozi moved me.

Dealing with the early-life crisis

By Sipho Kings

A strange thing happens sometime in your 20s – you realise that you're fallible and somewhat human. Things take longer to be less painful. Going for that quick jog that was easy in your teens makes you wince and wonder why you aren't crawled up under something fluffy.

People also start to tell you about horrid inflictions some relative has had. All of it chips away until you realise one day you will die. But life is good, so you want to postpone that day. Right. Sport. Exercise – anything to make you sweat is now a priority. A pair of running shoes sculpted to your freakish feet is the first step, then creaking runs around the neighbourhood.

Soon you realise everyone seems to be going through this phase. People's social media walls are filled with pictures of marathons and medals. Overachievers they may be, but you need to beat them or at the very least make them not look at you with something bordering on pity as you talk about a day in bed. 

And this is where #RunJozi comes in. Last year, a few friends did it and the prospect of running 10km seemed a tad ridiculous. But it set something in my head bouncing along and I signed up this year. There's no use running alone or with friends if there isn't a medal and some sort of a Noddy Badge to validate your new fitness phase, right?

A quick google on the day of "How to prepare for a 10km race" turns out to be a bad idea. The recommended warm-up is lots of running in the month before and eating vegetables and all that healthy stuff your mother recommends. There weren't any handy links to "How to prepare for a 10km race on the day of the race". Bother. 

But the true magic of the run. Everyone is there. Fat people, skinny people, greyhounds sprinting off into the distance, and those struggling to get one foot in front of the other. It's a community. And when you get to the horrendous uphill stretches, they are there to feed you energy. Some sing, most huff and puff. Everyone smiles.  

This is the power of the collective. #RunJozi may leave a dent in your bones and creaking calves, but everyone achieves their own little goal. So, success. I have earned the ability to look back at those doom-mongers and say I won't die of laziness. And I, too, can brag on Facebook.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee became Africa’s first social media editor in a newsroom at the Mail & Guardian, where she went on to work as deputy digital editor and a disruptor of the peace through a weekly column. A stint as the program manager for Impact Africa – a grant-disbursing fund for African digital journalists – followed. She now pursues her own writing full time by enraging readers of EWN and Women 24 with weekly and bi-monthly columns respectively. She also contributes to the Sunday Times and a range of other publications. Mohamed Dawjee's inaugural book of essays: Sorry, not sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa, is due for release by Penguin Random House in April 2018.Follow her on Twitter: @sage_of_absurd
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