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.

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.