Having fun

by Maretha Langenhoven

It must be said that as adults we have definitely lost our inner child and with that I mean the ability to have FUN.  We come up with a thousand and one excuses why we can’t do FUN things and with FUN things I don’t mean shopping, watching a movie or walking the dog.

Yesterday I went boogie boarding with Hanno & Christo in Munster during high tide.  At first the inconvenience of the cold water (which wasn’t that cold after all) played a major factor why I postponed this event for nearly a week, the chance that my bathing suit will become undone or expose part of my body was another constant “what-if”.  Then there was the intimidation of the big waves swelling in the back and the paralyzing fear of the unknown.  All of these concerns and fears were forgotten once my head went under the first wave, the perception of safety surrounded me and together Hanno and I swam to the back waiting for the perfect wave that will take us back to the shore.

“kick-kick-kick” I heard him say and the next moment the power of this wave griped me and not so smoothly carried me to shore. WOW! This was a thrilling experience and for a moment I forgot all about remembering to check my bathing suit and you know what, I actually caught myself not giving a damn about it as all I wanted to do was swim back out and experience more FUN.

Regret always comes too late and with a price but as our dear friend Christo says, it’s not a sin, its just not good for you!  So I am letting the regret go and embracing this amazing experience as a lesson learned.

Advertisements

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!

IMG_3130 IMG_3119 IMG_3187 IMG_3155

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

IMG_3021 IMG_3053 IMG_3055

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.

 

IMG_2981 IMG_2985 IMG_3009 IMG_3011

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

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?