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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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

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.

Race Report – Breakthru Midrand 15 km – 21 July 2013

Dawn 21 July 2013 and the day of my first ASA licensed race on the journey towards Durban arrived. Luckily the venue was fairly close to home, 20 kilometers on an easy road, so everyone in the house was afforded a tad bit more sleep than the average race morning would afford. This was not the only good news; the blustery wind of the previous evening died down and the morning looked bright, fresh, a little bit chilly but absolutely runable.

On the way to the venue I was hit with a sudden awareness, with a serious lack of recent racing exposure, I did not prepare my kit as well as I should have. I left my running jacket, my hat, as well as my Garmin Forerunner 305 at home. Maretha, my wife, solved the latter by giving me her iPhone, app’ed with Runkeeper, to run with. Pacing and documentation of the run sorted. Running cap, not really needed so that wasn’t too much of a hassle. The most severe result of my lack of preparation was the cold I had to face just before the start of the race. Unlike Orchards, where we live, Midrand was downright cold. Thus I stayed in the car till the very last moment.

Luckily the car was parked right at the start line so I could wait out the 15 minute starting delay in relative comfort. I did however have to face and brave the cold for the last two or three minutes, which made me even more grateful for the proximity of our parking spot to the start line.

Eventually the start gun sounded and we were off. Imagine the surprise that waited for me when we exchanged asphalt for some serious dirt road running within the first kilometre. Most of my training is done on asphalt and I am still a little hesitant to run extended distances on trail-like surfaces. What to do? I attentively made my way across the next three kilometers, knowing that if the surface continued like this it was going to be a long morning.

Of course the comments, questions, and remarks flowed right from the start. The most common: “Did you forget your shoes?” It seemed that I was indeed the only barefoot runner in a race of about 1200 runners. After the race I met two guys that ran in minimals, but no other barefoot runner surfaced.

Luckily the surface changed from dirt road covered with loose rocks to interlocking paving, a stretch of raw concrete, and a few stretches of lawn. With the change of surface, the good company of fellow runners, and a few conversations on the benefits of barefoot running, my pace picked up and the my average pace heading towards my goal for the day.

And then the race was over! At 11 kilometers the news started filtering through that the run was 2.2 kilometers short. This was a distinct disappointment as I really wanted to do a 15 kilometer run. However, with my son waiting at the finish line I decided to finish my run at the line on 12.8 kilometers, 1:09:01 after the start gun signaled the start of the race earlier the morning.

I ended the race in 266th position (out of 1235 runners) and completely content with my time and the way the morning went.

All in all an enjoyable race and morning, with one or two glitches, which once resolved, will result in a race I will definitely returned to in the future.

My race in numbers

My race in numbers

Enjoying the company of fellow runners

Enjoying the company of fellow runners

The Challenge by Numbers

5 May 2014. That is the day my training journey is headed to, the day that the Barefoot Comrades 2014 journey will start at 158 Loveday street in Johannesburg with the aim to be in Durban on the 1ste of June 2014 any time before 17:30 the afternoon.

In the process I will run a total of approximately 664 kilometers (664 000 metres).

The Challenge comes in two parts. The first part of the challenge is to run from Johannesburg to Pietermaritzburg which hosts the start of Comrades 2014. The second part is to line up on the 1st of June at the start of the Comrades and complete it before the cut-off gun sounds the end of the race.

The first part of the challenge consists of 577 kilometers (577 000 meters). The plan is to complete this distance over a time of 23 days, which include 4 rest days.

  • This comes down to an average of 30.37 kilometers (30 370 meters) for every running day.
  • The longest running day will be on the 23rd of May when I will be running from Mooirivier to Howick. The total distance of the day will be just shy of a full marathon at 41.2 kilometers (41 200 meters).
  • The shortest running day will be on the 27th of May, the final leg to the Comrades office at 18 Connaught rd. The distance for the day an easy 10.8 kilometers (10 800 meters)

This part of the challenge concludes on the 27th of May and will be followed by four days of rest. I am certain I am going to need it!

The second part of the challenge is a one day affair, the Comrades marathon. It might be fair to call the Comrades the world’s premier ultra-marathon. 18 000 Athletes will line up to tackle the 89 kilometers (89 000 meters) from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

  • The start gun sounds at 05:30 in the morning.
  • The final gun that signals the end of the race sounds at 05:30 in the afternoon, a twelve hour window to finish the race.
  • On average there are 50 refreshment tables
  • 200 000 sachets of water
  • 660 000 sachets of Energade
  • 800 kilograms of bananas
  • 7 840 kilograms of oranges
  • 1 ton of assorted chocolates
  • 2 tons of potatoes
  • 800 000 bottles and/or cups

Thus, if everything goes according to plan, I will start the journey in Johannesburg, arrive in Pietermaritzburg in time to start the Comrades marathon and complete the journey 664 kilometers (664 000 meters) down the road in Durban.

If you’ve been wondering why every kilometer is translated to meters, there is a good answer, which you will find in my next blog which will detail the purpose of the Barefoot Comrades 2014 project.

Comrades 2013 T -1

Tomorrow morning, just before the crack of dawn, a cock will crow, a gun will erupt and thousands of pairs of feet will start the last, but most essential, part of a journey that started months ago. Tomorrow morning, just before the crack of dawn, Comrades 2013 will be in progress.

Usually this is somewhat of a non-event in my life, at least during the last few years. This year it is slightly different, and no I am not one of the pilgrims that will line up tomorrow morning. No, I am just in the vicinity of Durban, Ballito to be precise. And what a difference locality makes. Suddenly the path rolling along the seafront is bustling with eager (addicted) Comrades runners, the restaurants and coffee shops are filled with carbo-loading bodies and the airwaves filled with Comrades chatter. There is simply no avoiding it, Comrades fever is in the air.

And it seems, like in 1999, I caught a good dose of it. If you want to journey with me, stay tuned, it’s going to be an adventure not to be missed. Starting just before the crack of dawn tomorrow morning, I am starting my journey to Barefoot Comrades 2014.

Barefoot Comrades 2014 – The Challenge

Almost 1250 days ago, 1 January 2010, I decided to stop wearing shoes. With the odd exception, going mountain biking, running further than 10 km’s, and the odd occasion I get onto my scooter, I’ve been barefoot.

I go to shops barefoot, I attend weddings barefoot, I drive barefoot, I preach barefoot, I sleep barefoot, I take showers barefoot (sic!); all year round. Excluding the exceptions above, I do not wear shoes at all. Why? I’ll get to that in a later post. For now it is only important that for almost 3.5 years I’ve been going bare, at least as far as my feet are concerned.

So I think the time has come for a serious barefoot challenge, and Comrades 2014 is it. The challenge comes in two parts.

The first part; start, run, and complete Comrades 2014 barefoot. That is, run close on 90 km’s from Pietermaritzburg to Durban barefoot.

The second part; start the run not in Pietermaritzburg, but rather in Johannesburg. This will mean a run of approximately 600 km’s to get to the finish line of Comrades 2014.

At the moment this is an idea, a challenge, a journey, an adventure that is beckoning. More on the journey, the joys and pains, the ups and downs will follow on this blog.

Please contact me if you would like to become part of the journey!