Friday, September 28, 2007

The un-barefoot doctor: My Swazi half marathon - Cultural encounter series (2 of 10)

I ran a half marathon last Saturday, the "Standard Bank Slojos Half Marathon", to be exact.

Some of the competitors wore the latest running apparel. Others wore dilapidated Converse high-tops and worn-out khaki pants. Some ran in bare feet.

Most of the competitors were Swazis. Some were from neighboring countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc.)

The course was about a third dirt road, two thirds pavement. Hills there were plenty.

The highlights of the race for me were two:

1) Running km 14-16 with Goodness, a barefoot Swazi women around twenty years old. She spoke to me in easy, full sentences and ran the downhills fast, claiming that she could not slow down. I have never run shoeless down a gravel road, but, if I did, I would do so slowly.

2) Handing out chewing gum to the kids on km 17, after several volunteers gave me two handfuls. As I cannot long-distance run and chew gum at the same time, I tossed them one at a time to the clapping, waving, singing, dancing, and sometimes just staring children that stood in groups along the road every few hundred meters. They not only reminded me why I was in Africa to begin with, but provided me with a much-needed distraction from the inevitable pain experienced when running just a little bit too far.

Speaking of which, the Nedbank Soweto Marathon is November 4th. I just registered. Registering, of course, is the easy part.



At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ran my first half marathon on Saturday, each waterpoint was a pleasure, such eager, cheerfull people, sorry I didn't take more chappies for the kids, I was beaten easily by a guy in a long sleave jersey and tracksuit pants ? Still debating which was more awesome, the medal or the cold bottle of coke ! Thanks Swaziland. Fabian


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