When I registered for We Run Jozi, I thought it would be a fun thing to do. I did not realize what a massive spectacle Nike (the run’s sponsor) had in store for us.
Firstly, the We Run series is truly an international race. It’s not just Johannesburg but 34 cities in 17 countries participating. For a total of nearly 400,000 runners. Phew.
Secondly, Nike employed a “slow reveal” of the race route so no one knew at registration just where we were going. The final course was on display when Shayda and I picked up our race packs but even then it was a bit of a mystery. We got as far as to see it started in Sandton (the richest area in Joburg and most corporate) and seemed to make its way through some sort of township.
The township turned out to be Alexandra, a community with a less than stellar reputation among South Africans. Then again, what townships have stellar reputations?! It is the usual story of violence, poor resources, and more violence. I can’t imagine many runners were thrilled at the prospect, but I was.
Townships aren’t super easy to visit for someone with white skin. I remember in Cape Town, the minibuses headed to Gugulethu and Khayelitsha would never never stop for me. On my volunteer trips, I would have to organize my own transportation.
So yes, I was thrilled. And my anticipation paid off.
The run through the streets was spectacular. It was hands down the best part of the run, even with all the crazy hills the community had in store for us. People lined the streets. Old men with big smiles. Kids spraying runners with water. Big round women, looking in disbelief at the spectacle that we were. A big thank-you to the people of Alex who really showed us the love that is South Africa.
Lastly, the race started at 9am and it was CRAZY hot out. The route offered NO shade and we were ALL wearing BLACK shirts. Yowzers. Fortunately, there were plenty of water stations (which I took FULL advantage of) and it didn’t seem that any other them ran out. It did mean though that I took my time and slowed down a great deal for the second half of the race. So no personal best but it was still a once in a lifetime sort of race.
Next up? Soweto on 4 Nov!! This was a race I was really hoping to run as a full marathon but there simply wasn’t enough time to train (note to self, you need a full six months to train for a marathon not four and some change) so I’ll be running the 10km race.