The Jozi vs Western Cape Sessions: A Sea Level Softy Speaks Out

Back in London post three week holiday to South Africa.  Back to work, and invariably back to treadmill sessions and/or  bracing pavement pounding in the freezing cold. Spring brought snow and sleet, the poor daffs are literally freezing to death.

But rather then dwelling on the pretty dire training conditions i.e. ice on the Portobello Tuesday night, I’m much happier to recount my running sessions in sunny South Africa, while I load all my pictures over from iphone, making sure I logged all the activity on good old Nike+

I ran a lot in South Africa. Weird for me, because back in the olden days, a holiday was the perfect excuse to do NO EXERCISE whatsoever, so rejoicing in packing shorts and vests for my holiday down south was slightly ludicrous. But the crazyis here to stay. No more long running tights and waterproof jackets, hats and running gloves. Just shorts and a vest. Fan-bloody-tastic.

I was really looking forward to exploring a bit more of Joburg, and a lot more of the Cape. I have realised that I NOTICE more when I am running. I’ve become more aware of my neighbourhood in London as a result, rather than just rushing past everything while on autopilot en-route to work. When I run, I take it all in. So I was very keen to take this theory and test it on the big bad streets of Jozi, and the wild trails of the Cape.

But Johannesburg is another story. Its a city 4,921 feet above sea level and by mid February is pretty damn hot on the high veld. By 9am it’s close to 25 degrees and there are no clouds, no wind and no place to hide. There are also NO PAVEMENTS. I must first make it very clear that although I grew up in Joburg, I never did any running there, so this is the first time I have really paid attention to the lack of any kind of side walk action. I did a bit of light sprinting, once or twice while avoiding parents, teachers and the occasional lunatic ex boyfriend, but no sport. I famously came last in school cross-country when I was 8. It look me another 21 years to get over that humiliation, having convinced myself I just ‘wasn’t sporty’, so hitting the asphalt in this town was a mental thing too.

I’d love to say I smashed it. That it was 5ks of speed and agility.That the neighbours waved encouragingly and that I discovered some fantastic new coffee house/gallery/ cake shop on my route (a fav past time in London). But I didn’t.

First the altitude difference hit me like a ton of bricks. I could barely breathe let alone keep up my pace and form. After 2.5km I had to walk, heaving as I went, stopping to wipe the sweat which was pouring down my face and succeeding in freaking out a few neurotic Doberman as I stumbled past. A messy mess really. Oh and Jo’burg has some serious hills. I has not bargained for that. I had failed to notice these while driving around in my youth. I managed another 2.5km and limped home. Having had my ass handed to me, and being on holiday, I climbed back into bed determined to start the day over. Fail.

Respect to you Jozi runners. Call me a sea-level softy all you like, you guys are HARDCORE

Thankfully running in the Cape is a completely different experience. Betty’s Bay in particular has a fantastic mix of great tarred road along the coast as well as some pretty awesome trails that wind along the beach. You even get to see Penguins on your morning run. Yes really. I mean who doesn’t want to wake up to that? And it’s at sea level. YES!!

Over the two weeks we were there I ran religiously every other day, between 4 and 6 kms as per my training post injury, and took in the trails, botanical gardens, beach routes and got reacquanited with a beautiful part of the world that is very close to my famiy’s hearts, and part of our history now spanning five generations.

Here’s a taste of the place and a few snaps of me post run. Just to prove I actually logged the mileage!

Moody: There are actual Penguins behind me here at Stony Point , but this pic doesn’t quite show them!

View just before I hit the trail along the dunes/ beach path

Half way point in my 6K run having got to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. Not a cloud in the sky

Got to love early morning endorphins!

Breakfast back at Craigeburn, our family cottage by the sea, over looking the lake

I am hugely grateful to have the opportunity to take in the beauty of a place, almost like it was the first time, with just a pair of trainers.Smashed that then! WINNING

Sorry Jo’burg, you may be my birth place, but heart belongs to the Cape. That and I”m too much of a wimp to take on your altitude. And lack of pavements. Its too much  for this very amateur runner   (and there are penguins in the Cape. You can’t beat the Penguins).

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