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Photo: Facebook/Kim Nicola Stephens

Scenes from the burbs: Runners out of the starting blocks

Kim Nicola Stephens has been making waves on Facebook with her lockdown chronicles. Kim has permitted us to post the piece. Enjoy!

rondebosch commons

Photo: Facebook/Kim Nicola Stephens

1 May: First day of lockdown Level 4

I know that cyclists and walkers were also granted partial parole, but because I fall solidly into the running category, I’m choosing to dedicate this “Coronalysis” to my second family: Runners. I’m sorry in advance, this one isn’t funny.

Today, just one hour after Level Four exercise allowance began, I left the front garden with my watch on full GPS mode. Not the bullshit indoor running setting, and not the wanky “Unspecified Sport” setting. Total run mode was activated, and, my soul, it felt good.

My first encounter, in our empty road, was the rubbish collection truck. As I trotted towards it, a rousing cheer broke through my Freedom Playlist (available on request) as the driver and collectors acknowledged my return to tar. I know this crew well, they are such fun.

‘Breaking the tape at Comrades’ feeling

Felt pretty much like I was breaking the tape at Comrades. I gulped back tears and gave the team in the truck thumbs up that I wished were hugs. Their jobs are tough, and their risk of exposure so high. Salute! Also, sorry about all the banana peels and wine bottles.

Then fellow runners began to pass by. Deep joy! Eyes smiled above every manner of fabric mask imaginable. A particular favourite, the upturned sleeping mask. There were buffs and bandanas, scarves and designer patterns. The kids’ masks just about undid me. Never thought we would see the day.

Up a familiar hill I went, passsing two running friends who were coming in the opposite direction – such excitement. Woops and cheers!

Springy step through the mist

I trotted down the road where my old childhood home is situated, and felt wave upon wave of emotion. Running has defined so much of the last 10 years of my life. Friendships, adventure, work, growth. Every springy step through the mist felt close to normal.

I ran in to the road where my parents live. Mom and I did our usual teary thing from metres away, and wished we could hug, and then they set off on their walk. I ran on.

Runners have this new dance. As we approach each other someone has to decide who ducks to the left or right to make the 2m gap possible. It’s hilarious.

What isn’t hilarious, is the stuff I saw or read after the clock struck 09:00.

The mountain isn’t going anywhere

I heard about the runners who had hit the mountain this morning, selfishly triggering the wrath of SANParks as they tagged the peaks that so many of us are desperate to see again. And I saw the photographs of hordes on the Prom in Cape Town, and the Spruit in Jozi.

So here’s the thing. The mountain isn’t going anywhere, but we aren’t permitted to use this space right now. And the more you piss the authorities off, the longer they will lock it down, for all of us.

They will not trust us not to swarm on to our favourite trails if we keep showing them the middle finger. Its selfish, arrogant and we risk losing every kind of exercise allowance.

Our government is not playing here, can you see that?

Skip, walk, run, ride…but stick to the 5km radius

Yes, trail runners are desperate for their mountain fix. Surfers need their sea, rock climbers crave their vert, swimmers are desperate too. But what we have got, for now, is access to our roads within a 5km radius of home. So use them. Skip, walk, run, ride. Hopefully in the next few weeks more will become available to us, but not if we stuff it up.

And as for flocking to areas known to be running hotspots in non-pandemic times, what did you think would happen when we all unleashed our pent up running beasts in a limited time frame? You have a radius of 5km.

You can use so many alternative areas. The Prom, the Spruit are not compulsory exercise strips. If you are privileged enough to live in areas with numerous open roads, use them. There will be others around, but you will be able to distance.

And as always, check your privilege. Many could not enjoy three hours of freedom because their place of residence and surrounding roads are too unsafe.

I’m deeply grateful. And I promise to be funny next time.

Stay safe, and well. Much love.