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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Why I choose a Barefoot Lifestyle

Question: Where are your shoes?

Answer: I don’t wear shoes.

Question: Why?

What a good question! It is the question that always stops me in my tracks, captures my attention, and will most probably result in a 10 minute conversation with anybody who is brave enough to ask it. So allow me to engage with you for a few minutes on why I choose to go barefoot almost all of the time.

The initial motivation to go barefoot was purely functional; I simply feel more comfortable not wearing shoes than wearing shoes. The discomfort of walking barefoot was lighter than the comfort of shoes but the loss of connection. I love the feel of air over my feet, the textures underfoot, and the way your body responds to the connection with the environment. Thinking back the seeds of the answer to the why was there from the start.

The four plus one reason I am going barefoot is as follows, in no particular order:

  • Creating an awareness of eco-justice issues,
  • Creating an awareness of socio-justice issues,
  • An anti-consumerism action,
  • It slows me down,
  • And the plus one; in my opinion it is the healthier way to live (at least in most situations)

Creating an awareness of eco-justice issues

Humankind is part of an immense web of life. It seems that most of us can agree at least to this. The sad reality is that it seems that we as humans have somehow elevated ourselves to the pinnacle of this web of life, part of yes, but certainly the very top part, the most important part; to some extent, not part of at all but instead wholly different. And in this process we have succeeded in destroying whole parts of the web, for example the nine species of Moa in New Zealand, the Dodo on Mauritius, the Passenger Pigeon of the great plains of North America, and the Bluebuck from Africa to mention only a few. It seems that, although we are intrinsically a part of the web of life, we have the unique ability to knowingly destroy parts of the web. We pollute the very water we, as well as every part of the web of life, are dependent on, we kill species to extinction for the benefit, even luxury of a few, we transform biodiversity into deserts of monoculture or barren wastelands of brick and mortar, and we create doomed islands of species populations where the same species once celebrated life in all fecundity. This list is not even remotely exhaustive; the history of mankind is littered with example on example of how we have an apparent near suicidal disregard for the web of life as a whole.

I go barefoot so that we remember that which is underfoot and to remind us to tread lightly.

Creating an awareness of social-justice issues

The apparent disregard that we have for the intricate web of life does not stop at the way we treat other species but seems to shape the way that we treat other people as well. Poverty is a reality that most of us face every day, maybe not as a part of our own lived experiences, but certainly at the corner of traffic lights, on early morning and late night drives from or to home. It confronts us when we see a hunger child begging or a homeless person settling down in a doorway for another cold and uncomfortable night. We turn a blind eye to the part that we play in upholding a system that creates haves and have-nots. We find ways not to make eye contact with the person standing with cupped hands begging or argue that giving hand-outs perpetuates the problem rather than solve it. We use this excuse to not give at all, not to the person nor to those who might make a difference. And if we give, we give money; because it is easy and clean, soothes our consciences and helps us avoid the harsh reality of poverty, the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.

I go barefoot so that we remember to treat others with dignity, respect and compassion.

Anti-consumerism action

It seems that society moved from valuing substance to valuing labels. What we wear, what we drive, where we live, what we earn et cetera seems to be the primary criteria in deciding one’s place in society. This approach to evaluating people purely focuses on external criteria and fails to give any credence to the internal gravitas of a person or persons. It seems that the equation holds true, the more money you have, the better labels you wear, the more society can see your wealth, the higher society values you as an individual. Going barefoot challenges this construct. It constantly and non-verbally asks if the criteria we use to attribute value to people are a valid one. People intrinsically have value because of who they are, not because of their net worth. The challenge is to remember not to fall into the label fallacy, but to treat everyone with equal respect and compassion. Stuff does not matter nearly as much as we think it does, in actual fact, more often than not less is indeed more. It might even be true that when we choose to leave the status equals stuff equals happiness behind and opt for a simpler approach to life we’ll find that living a life of simplicity and frugality increases our self worth as well as our sense of well-being and happiness.

I go barefoot so that we remember that labels don’t matter and that less is more.

It slows me down

“People are born and married, and live and die, in the midst of an uproar so frantic that you would think they would go mad of it” A quote from William Dean Howells that seem to capture the reality of our every day rushed lives. The catch, William Dean Howells said this in 1907, and since then the speed of lives as steadily increased. It seems that the best way to describe the era we are living in as the ‘age of rage’, where speed is of the essence, people suffer from “time-sickness”, and life is reduced to a superficial experience in service of the economy. Going barefoot helps me to slow down, to walk slower, and to take note of where I put my feet. Slowing down is an inevitable result of living barefoot, however to me it is also the biggest challenge. Going fast-er seems to be ingrained in every aspect of our lives, so much so that slowing down becomes an intentional lifestyle decision. One which influences the way we eat, the way we dress, the way we drive, the way we spend time with others, and the way we think to mention only a few.

I go barefoot so that we remember to slow down and breathe.

Plus 1: The healthier option

The science is still out, but it seems from personal testimonies that going barefoot has a number of health benefits. These include physical, psychological, and emotional improvement in health. At the very least going barefoot helps in the alignment of our skeleton as a whole and specifically our spines, it improves balance and blood flow, as well as strengthening and stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments in our feet, ankles, and calves; it increases a feeling of emotional and psychological well-being, decrease anxiety and depression, and creates a feeling of connectedness to our environment. Even without conclusive evidence that proofs the health benefits of going barefoot I think it would be safe to argue that barefoot is the most natural way to live. We weren’t born with shoes on our feet!

I go barefoot so that we remember that everything society creates is not beneficial to our health.

I hope this starts to answer the Why?

 

 

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.