Admiration

by Maretha Langenhoven

I was searching for a quote on “admiration” but could not find one that truly reflects what I feel for Hanno and this project.  Perhaps I mistakenly call it admiration.

It is true that due to unforeseen injury and illness, Hanno was not able to run the entire route from Johannesburg to Pietermaritzburg and he had to make a very difficult decision to at some point call it a day and rather rest and recover to ultimately be ready for Comrades 2014.

This decision you can imagine came with heavy hearts, lots of disappointment, baskets full of frustration and what I admire most of this is that his ego was not too big to make the better decision.  It would have been so much easier to listen to Mr. Ego and out of concern of what others might say or think, continued running/walking and in the end, most likely have compromised what the entire project is about… running Comrades barefoot.

With less than a week to the big Comrades day, we are resting and preparing in the beautiful little town of Munster on the South Coast.  At the hospitality of Miems and Christo de Klerk, we can rest, enjoy sunrise walks on the beach, watch the excitement of their dogs playing in the surf, explore the surrounding areas and somehow prepare for next Sunday.  I for one am constantly busy with anticipation, a bit of anxiety and trying to make sense of the magnitude of next Sunday in my head, perhaps because I cannot imagine how running a marathon such as this is possible let alone barefoot.  I salute every athlete, friend and family member running the Comrades this year or who had done so in the past with great respect.

When “Barefoot Comrades 2014” project conceptualized a year ago, we knew from the start it was not going to be easy but rather frustrating, challenging and painful at times.  We have learned so much from this experience, met so many awesome people and made lifelong friends.  We never thought this project will be so huge as just over 221km has been sponsored and as a result Real Life will be planting vegetable gardens for around 100 schools later this year.

With Comrades kilometers counted, Hanno will have run 245km’s in total for this project.  He did this selflessly and apart from having the fuel and some logistics sponsored he did it with no personal gain as he did not draw a cent or received any income through this project in fact he had gracefully accepted the financial impact it had on our lives as well.

I want to say publicly that I am proud of Hanno.  Not many people in my opinion have what it takes to do a project like this for a greater good, alone with no support (other than myself and our little Marhané), no matter how hard it gets.  Not many people in my opinion have the courage and the determination to do so barefoot.

I am also so grateful for every positive message, every motivational phone call, every person who supported Hanno in any way without judgment and negative criticism as I’ve seen the effect each one had on him…. Thank YOU!!!  It isn’t over yet so please keep it up J

Next updates will be on COMRADES DAY!

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A place to stay: Poelanie’s Guesthouse

by Maretha Langenhoven

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world.  But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney

This is a true reflection of this beautiful place and its people, Neels & Poelanie Craven, who’s dream started with one room in the Guesthouse and now there’s 25 different type of rooms, a wonderful breakfast room, relaxing gardens and the most amazing coffee and gift shop called “Chocolat”.

At “Chocolat” you will find something unique and special around every corner at very reasonable prices.  The cakes, home baked by Poelanie, are all so delicious and you have to try the cappuccino as it is truly remarkable and has a special ingredient, which I will not reveal as it is for you to discover.  J

So much care goes into making every guest feel at home and this is exactly how we felt during our 3-night stay.  The hospitality, friendliness and warm smiles of each team member are commendable.

The rooms are spacious, equipped with a mini-bar fridge and coffee station; the beds are very comfortable and fitted with electric blankets for the cold nights.  There are family rooms and even a donkey family and some other farm animals to keep the kids busy (and me company during a 2am feed).

We made friends! Friends we are looking forward to seeing again.

This is a destination, a place we will visit not only when passing through.

Lesson Learned from Neels & Poelanie:  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them” – John F. Kennedy

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A place to stay: Lions Rest

by Maretha Langenhoven

You have to meet Thabu and Ethel Masihleho as well as their lions to truly appreciate Lions Rest.  I have little words really to describe their huge spirits and they waved us off, leaving us with an immense sense of inspiration, respect and hope.

My personal highlight was of course the lions.  The big camp adjacent to the lodge homed the biggest lion & lioness I’ve ever seen, the male had such a presence and in the dead quite of the night while feeding Marhané he kept me company through his constant vocalization. These two lions had two very tiny cubs in a small adjacent camp but to my disappointment they were already feeding themselves.  Thabu explained that they don’t allow cuddling (SAD) but I admire them for this decision, as they want to keep the lions as wild as possible.  3 more lions, about 2 years of age wondered a bigger camp a few hundred meters from the lodge.

Thabu and Ethel joined us for dinner and we had such an awesome evening sharing stories about each other’s journeys, our country’s journey and many more a subject.  The food was superb, so well presented and very tasty.  The chef prepared it in the open kitchen and introduced the food with each serving.

Yet another unforgettable experience with new friends made and most of all filled with hope for our country.

 

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The journey: Day 10 ‘The Testing day’

Today should have been a rest day, the last few should have been running days but sometimes life simply doesn’t go according to plan. An uncomfortable Achilles tendon made walking uncomfortable and running down right unpleasant. After two visits to the doc, Johan Taute, being poked by sharp objects from which I usually steer clear, and rest prescribed and executed, I was ready to hit the road again and follow the doc’s orders to the T.

A rather windy and chilly morning couldn’t keep me from heading out and have a go at running. The first kilometer was spent walking, doc’s orders, followed by some stretching and then onto a slow, very slow jog.

I was pleasantly surprised by the road surface; I could run barefoot without effort. Thus the minimals went into the backpack and I set off to see how far I could get. Running and walking was intermixed and when I finally called Maretha to come and fetch me 11 kilometers lay behind me. I covered another 2 before she reached my and I could get out of the chilly wind into the comfort of our trusty steed.

The run went well enough however it was accompanied by moderate pain and a fair amount of stiffness. Not quite there as hoped. This was soon confirmed when all my muscles cooled down back at Poelanie’s Guesthouse. It seems a little more rest, stretching and meds are at the order of the day.

For the rest I am feeling great and frustrated at not being able to run. The primary objective is still Comrades and rushing the recovery to get back on the road might put this in jeopardy. So for the moment I am biding the time, doing everything I can to get back on the road as soon as possible.

So what ever you do, don’t follow my lead. Stay injury free and on the road and just keep on going.

The Journey: Day 6

What a day. The morning started gloomy, windy, cold, and the expected early. After getting everything ready to go, say our thank you and good byes to our awesome hosts at Lekoa Lodge, we set off to the start point of the day’s stage.

I felt amazingly good considering the distance I have covered since the 1st of May. So after the now customary photo at the start of the run I set off in the direction of Villiers, still a little behind schedule but ready to catch up even more during the morning.

Then I made one of my mistakes of the morning, I ran like any good citizen would, against the flow of traffic. I was not only challenged by a cold wind buffeting me from the front but also the substantial wind cushion coming with every passing truck. This combined with the blisters on my foot sufficiently changed my stride to have a very real effect on my Achilles tendon. After 9 kilometers my steady pace was reduced to a walk.

 Luckily Maretha was waiting another 8 kilometers down the road and after a little more than an hour I arrived at the first mark of the day. Here I had to make the hard decision to stop walking or running for the day to try and get a sore leg resolved. So we buzzed through to Frankfort, checked in to our stunning accommodation for the night, De Hoek Guesthouse, and went to look for a physio.

Frankfort delivered in style. We met Johan Taute at his practice and he quickly assessed the problem and went to work. His calm manner resulted in me agreeing for some dry needling, and that takes some doing. The result is that I need to rest two or three days, allow the blisters to heal up a bit and the Achilles to recover and then I can head out again; once again Johan, thank you for your care.

The sad part is that I am most likely going to miss a few kilometers on the road. This is unfortunate, but necessary if I am going to line up for Comrades on the 1st of June. So watch the space, I’ll let you know how it goes.

For now, remember, stay on the road and just keep on going.

Sometime the tool is desperately needed but not a pleasure to use. My feet after a few days of minimal shoes.

Sometime the tool is desperately needed but not a pleasure to use. My feet after a few days of minimal shoes.

 

Physio Johan helping to sort out a little case of inflamation of the Achilles tendon

Physio Johan helping to sort out a little case of inflamation of the Achilles tendon

The Journey: Day 5

A little moment of beauty next to the road.

A little moment of beauty next to the road.

Quickly becoming a best friend on the road. A gift amongst gifts. Thank you Karin Wessels.

Quickly becoming a best friend on the road. A gift amongst gifts. Thank you Karin Wessels.

Today was the start of a new week and the second running week. Day 4 were spent at home resting with the rest of the gang and enjoying Janno’s company. The morning started out a blur; the final cleaning up of the house, dropping Janno at school, packing, buying a few last supplies, dropping the house keys (how lucky can one get with a friend like Alexandra, we are so grateful), dropping the last dvd we tried to watch from the video store, before we finally headed out of Jozi and onto the open road at elevenses.

Yes you guessed it; for the third time in four I started my run around noon. With this in mind I think it is appropriate to thank Karin Wessels for organizing the very generous Annique sponsorship with a special mention of the sunscreen. And like Baz Luhrman said in 1998, trust me on the sunscreen. After three days of hours spend in the sun with very little protection other than Annique’s Rooibos sunscreen, I can say without a doubt in my mind; it works! So if you are faced by the possibility of going for an extended time in the sun, choose wisely choose Annique.

The day’s running was split into two. During the first part, with the sun beating down on me from above and the black top returning more of the same from below; I covered a little more than 17 kilometers; all of it barefoot with a different levels of comfort or discomfort. After a quick break and a late midday lunch I started the second part of the day to complete the day’s assignment and to make up some ground on the lost kilometers of the first and second day. The second run of the day took me to 27.5 kilometers for the day and 4 kilometers gained back on ground lost.

So tomorrow I will be running into and through Villiers, out of Mpumalanga and into the Orange Free State, where there are no oranges, nothing is for free and their football is in a terrible state (hat tip Leon Schuster). Maybe, as a Stormer supporter, I should keep very quiet about the latter.

The thought for the day and one that kept me busy for kilometers on an end; how often do we see the beauty next to the road we travel? The long kilometers, the slog, the hard work, and the lonely hours are easy to spot and so often fill our vision. But amidst all of that, if we are willing to slow down and take a look around, beauty is to be found.

So remember, slow down; stay on the road and just keep on going.

The Journey: Day 3

Today the road is where pure mathematics and theology met and it was beautiful. The alarm woke us at 06:00, Grant Hayward phoned me at 06:05 and by 06:07 he was heading in our direction to join the day’s run. And what a day it turned out to be.

Grant is a fellow time-trialer at Pirates even though he belongs to Kudus. He is not only that; he is also and ardent believer in minimal running and choose to spend thousands on his synthetic barefeet, Vibram Five-fingers. Courtesy of the support team we were delivered to the starting place somewhere between Jozi and Heidelberg. Together we tread many a kilometer in the direction and finally through Heidelberg on the way to the N3.

It was at the N3 that things went from great to excellent. Suddenly there was a road shoulder to run on and the surface as a baby’s, well almost. The moment we hit the highway I could say adios to my minimal shoes and revert to my preferred way of running, with naked feet.

The next 11 kilometers was spent musing on a number of things. Amongst others the possibilities that –infinity equaling infinity creates, the likelihood of a neutron hitting you in the back of the head, and the chances of our support vehicle meeting us under the next bridge that was up ahead. And you guessed it, about 50 meters before we reached the bridge Maretha, Janno and Marhané came roaring past us to stop under the aforementioned bridge. Maybe the true prophets amongst us are the mathematicians.

After a little rest and a welcome meal we continue heading towards Mpumalanga, finally crossing the last river in Gauteng, the Suikerbosrand River, and up the hill into the second province of the journey. We finally came to a stop at the De Hoek tollgate; certainly a day that will be fondly remembered.

Remember: stay on the road and just keep on going.

Grant Hayward leading along a worn out single track next to the black top somewhere close to Heidelberg

Grant Hayward leading along a worn out single track next to the black top somewhere close to Heidelberg

Saying good bye to my shoes for the next 11 kms. Not my first choice of running attire :)

Saying good bye to my shoes for the next 11 kms. Not my first choice of running attire 🙂

The Journey: Day 2

The day smelled of burnt veld, looked like the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust and felt like Jack the Dancer was listening to the newest Rave hit. Fires already turned yellow into black in anticipation of the immanent winter, but the winter wasn’t in attendance quite yet on a day that reached 32 degrees centigrade. What didn’t help the cause was the fact that I only started my run at 12 noon.

The choice to compromise on minimal shoes when needed paid of today. The road was sans shoulder from the start due to road works and sometimes plain old South African back roads. For that reason I did the off road version of road running for most of the day. I think a picture paints where words have run out.

The run itself was good enough although I did stop 6 kilometers short of the planned end for the day. That is 6 to make up in the coming days. The only reason I opted for an early duck was to get the hell out of dodge, ahem, to get out of the popping sun as soon as possible.

Suddenly 40 kilometers a week does not seem that difficult to achieve, simply go on a pilgrimage somewhere far in the distance and try and reach the finish line in double time. So Jozi is starting to be a distant view in the rear view mirror and the road is stretching out ahead.

So stay safe and keep on moving.

 

No shoulder and a very rocky off road section. Either minimal compromise or very slow and painful progress.

No shoulder and a very rocky off road section. Either minimal compromise or very slow and painful progress.

The result of a day in the sun. Tomorrow morning I am running earlier.

The result of a day in the sun. Tomorrow morning I am running earlier.

The Journey: Day 1

A day of little mishaps, a few delays but finally a start. Well, both the celebration of a start as well as the start of a journey of self-discovery and celebration. The 1st of May will always be a day of celebration in South Africa, a day of remembering and celebrating the freedom we hold so dear.

This turned out to be one of the highlights of the day, starting the journey down to Durban at the Johannesburg Civic Center and running past and through numerous celebrations of May 1st, Freedom Day! However, running through Jozi started almost an hour late due to a few changes to my running set-up in the form of a newly acquired sim card and telephone number for the journey. Thus you can reach Barefoot Comrades 2014 en route on 0825155116.

Finally out of the city I headed out towards Alberton, truly starting the journey to Durban. 40 minutes later and heading into Alberton the first mishap struck, getting lost; at least a little. The result little extra twists and turns during the day’s run. Luckily this was not to be the final step of the day. I finally left Alberton behind and headed out toward Heidelberg.

The final little mishap arrived in the form of my wonderful back-up team struggling to find me, partly because I explored the unbeaten path and the team struggling to work the more advanced aspects of our trusty Daihatsu’s onboard GPS 😛 Luckily this was also quickly resolved and everyone headed back home at the end of stage 1.

We are grateful for a successful first day with a number of lessons learned. The first, make certain of the day’s route. The second, know how to work all the functions of the onboard GPS. And finally, know when compromises are needed.  The last came in the form of the surface of the blacktop somewhere between Alberton and Heidelberg. The road suddenly turned into minor blades and forward motion slowed down drastically. This made me realize that during the course of the journey down to Durban Barefoot might need to make way for Minimal in order to line up for Comrades Marathon on the 1st of June. I am certain this will make my friend Grant Hayward smile, but sometimes a tool is needed for the job, and then it is wise to use it and not to be stubborn and persist with ego or preconceived ideas.

So tired and grateful, a nights rest is welcome and Heidelberg around the corner. So stay safe and keep those feet moving.

Hanno Langenhoven, proud member of Pirates Running Club, at the start of the Barefoot Comrades 2014 journey in Johannesburg

Hanno Langenhoven, proud member of Pirates Running Club, at the start of the Barefoot Comrades 2014 journey in Johannesburg.

Why Barefoot Comrades 2014?

Why Barefoot Comrades 2014?

The obvious answer is that I am a barefooter and Comrades 2013 inspired me to run Comrades again in 2014. The initial idea was to run Comrades 2014 barefoot. This idea germinated and grew into the project which is called Comrades 2014 and consists out of two parts, the first to run from Johannesburg to Pietermaritzburg in the days leading up to Comrades 2014 and the second to run Comrades to complete the Johannesburg to Durban journey.

The idea came to fruition when it was decided that the project will partner with a community development partner as a fundraiser. The initial question was which partner to choose. Seeing that social and eco justice issues are part of the reason that I go barefoot the obvious type of partner would also be involved in these. It was with this in mind that the project started looking for possible partners. It was with great excitement when Reel Gardening agreed to be the community development partner in this exciting project.

But who is Reel Gardening and why them. Reel Gardening is the company that was founded by Claire Reid and works closely with their partner NPO Reel Life, headed by Emily Jones. As a teenager Claire developed a seed tape to be used in the planting of vegetable gardens. Using the seed tape it becomes fairly easy and straight forward to plant a garden. Seeds are protected in the seed tape, spaced correctly, fertilized, and the correct planting depth indicated. All you need to do is to plant the tape and keep it moist. Due to the protected space in which the seed germinates up to 80% less water is needed in the process of germination. A product and company that makes it really accessible for most people to start their own vegetable garden at home.

Reel Gardening is not only involved in the production of seed tape, but created a box with the specific goal to aid in the development of vegetable gardens in communities, at schools and orphanages, and other places where food is desperately needed. The box includes seed tape to plant a 100m2 vegetable garden with a variety of vegetables which will feed up to 50 people once a day for 30 days. However, that is only one aspect of the community garden box; the other aspect is the training that goes along with it, as well as an initial assessment of the area the garden will be developed in, equipping the community in terms of spades and forks et cetera, the training of the community and the transfer of skills via workshops, garden layout plan, information cards, as well as telephonic support and follow up meetings. Typically a complete garden developed at for instance a school will consists out of four community boxes, four training sessions, a selection of tools, information cards as well as telephonic support.

The development of vegetable gardens becomes essential in certain communities that are faced with an ever increasing threat to their food security. In a later blog I will look at the challenges faced by some communities in regards to food security and the amount of households in South Africa that’s faced by food insecurity every day. It is worthwhile to keep in mind that those who suffer most from a lack of food or limited access to food are children.

Thus the purpose of the Barefoot Comrades 2014 project; to raise as much funds as possible to develop as many as possible vegetable gardens, especially at schools and orphanages with the aim to feed children who have limited access to food.

How does it work? Every community box consists out of 280 meters of seed tape, a complete garden of four boxes out of 1 120 meters of seed tape, as well as the assessment, training, information cards, tools, as well as follow up. To implement a complete garden costs R15 600, or translated to cost per meter, R16.67. And I know you can already see the way that the project is structured. You are invited to become part of the project by sponsoring a certain amount of meters. This can be done in different ways.

  • You can sponsor a certain amount of meters at R16.67. For every 1 120 meters sponsored in this way, we can develop one complete garden.
  • You can sponsor a leg of the run, for example the run between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, the 89 km Comrades. The amount per meter is up to you to decide. If you sponsor 18c per meter for the distance of the Comrades, you have sponsored one complete garden.
  • You can sponsor the whole journey from Johannesburg to Durban. Once again the amount is up to you to decide. For every 2.5c sponsored per meter will implement a complete garden.
  • You can donate a fixed amount, for example R1 000. We will convert this to an amount of meters by dividing your donated amount, R1 000, by R16.67, the cost of one meter of seed tape. In the case of the example R1 000 / R16.67 = 60 meters of seed tape.

Throughout the project a seed tape indicator, on the website, will show how many meters of tape contributors have donated to the project.

Claire Reid with a few seed strips. This is where the funds are going. To plant these for schools and orphanages.

Claire Reid with a few seed strips. This is where the funds are going. To plant these for schools and orphanages.