Parkrun South Africa

I know that Parkruns are nothing new but as I plan my New Year’s Day run I thought it worth writing a bit out this great ‘activity’.

It was thanks to Discovery Vitality that I came across Parkrun . This is an international movement which encourages people to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and have some fun outdoors. Participation in outdoor activities are becoming a bit of an anomaly in most households so it’s great that someone thought of a way to encourage people to get out there – and for free for that matter.

Parkruns tick quite a lot of boxes for me: Outdoors, physical activity, quality time with my dogs and husband, an opportunity to compete in a non-threatening environment because you’re ultimately only competing with yourself, taking part in a social activity – Parkrunners are friendly and Vitality points. What more could you ask for really. Yes, we don’t have a mountain or ocean but there’s nothing I can do about that.

In South Africa Parkrunning is most important for two reasons: We have a real obesity problem and historically a lot of people can’t afford to exercise or have a safe place to exercise for free (jogging in your neighbourhood alone not always the best idea). Parkrun now gives people access to safe venues and because you’re timed you can measure your progress. You can also run/walk at your own pace so no matter how unfit you are you can start (at the proverbial) “somewhere”. Physical activity has always been a chore for me but now I look forward to the weekly run and my future self thanks me for it.

The second reason is more obvious in that it brings South Africans together.  It’s great to see the same people week on week and know that they have gotten out of bed for the same reasons you have. It’s easy enough to have chat with them and so you can make new friends. Being a volunteer really open up potential for this as you spend quite a lot of time together setting up. Also It’s become popular to Parkrun no matter where you are over the weekend and so Parkrun has become a way for people to explore each other’s cities. JHB is infamous for having ‘nothing’ to do and ‘nowhere’ to go other than a mall so it’s nice to show off a bit of our natural beauty and social tendencies to people from other parts of the country. Jo’burgers are not all money driven snobs.

I hope that 2016 will see several more Parkruns starting up as it becomes more and more popular. Some runs now easily have 1000 runners a week and I suspect these numbers will only grow as people realise that Parkrun is also Parkfun (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

So, this is my new thing, it could be your new thing. Try it out.



The Good and Bad bundle

The last few weeks in SA have not left me feeling particularly optimistic and that’s why I have reserved the urge to comment on so many things that have been going on the in my country recently. However, today I feel considerably better and I thought I should do a very brief retrospective on news stories which have caught my attention recently.

Before I do that though I think it’s important to say that although a highly passionate person I do try and see things from all perspectives. I did a year of Philosophy at university and am actually qualified as a Journalist so I fully appreciate the need to be measured and empathetic. Below is not a news report though and should not be seen as such. This is my opinion on matters based on how I have interpreted issues based on the information I was exposed to at the time.

#feesmustfall :

This topic makes my head spin a bit as there are so many ways to look at this. I could have dissected this in an entire blog post but in the spirit of a retrospective I will be pointed. Firstly, I believe education should be affordable. It is sad that qualifying people can not study because they do not have the funds. Yes, they can get loans but there seem to be issues and irregularities there so this might not be the optimum Plan B to pay for your studies.

However, I do believe that there should be qualifying criteria for people who want to study. You can not simply be “entitled” to a tertiary education. There are worldwide expectations for someone who has a degree and it aggravates me that people do not want to work in order to obtain a degree. The benchmark for educational standards in SA has become too low and it’s disgraceful.  We are sending young people into the world ill prepared of what the working world should be expecting of them. I do think that a lot of these people are often the cause for protests of this nature and want to cause ructions because they believe in this entitlement. That is not acceptable. These people should be taken to task.

Ultimately #feesmustfall was a victory for students but it does concern me that now young people think that violent and disruptive activities will get you what you want. They need to learn that there are alternatives to such behaviour and at the end of the day you should still need to study for your qualification.

The disenchanted youth:

This is not a defined issue or headline but it’s something that I am recognising as having an ever increasing presence. There are so many talented young people in South Africa who simply have not seen the dreams of a free and fair state realised. These are often the people who have just been left on the sidelines and they don’t know what their options are. These are the kind of people who respond to radicalism and will believe whoever seems to be making progress on their behalf. The government missed the boat completely on these young people and it’s sad and will have negative consequences over and above a few statues being pulled down if things carry on.

Oscar Pistorious:

It makes me ill even thinking about him and all the drama around his conviction(s). This is why I write about it here though because people should really ask themselves why they are so interested in such a sad situation. While the brutal killing of a person makes me sad its people’s obsession with this killing that makes me sick. This trial gets all the attention because he is (in)famous but what about all the other cases which often just don’t get resolved because our justice system is so bogged down. While people suddenly pretend that they care enough about Reeva to want “justice” for her and her family I do wish we would care enough about all victims to demand the same justice for them. Most people are following this case for all the wrong reasons.

Heineke Meyer:

I’m so glad he’s gone .He was bad for SA rugby because he does not seem to have the ability to analyse his opponents or even his own players. He had access to some of the best talent in rugby and let South African’s and the players down.

Strike season:

Yes, that’s a recognised term in South Africa. I have no problem with people taking action within the confines of the law, but unprotected strikes are unacceptable. Even worse is that often strikes lead to the damage of property and willing workers getting victimised and hurt. That is not acceptable. Damaging the infrastructure your company requires to provide the service that provides your salary is not logical. Unions need to start reflecting on what they tell their members and made responsible decisions regarding true economic matters.

The water crises:

We’re clearly in a drought and so it’s no surprise that municipalities have put water restrictions in place. However, some questions were raised around whether failing infrastructure was part of the problem. I have no evidence to that extent so I wouldn’t carry on with that. However, what I have evidence of is people who still blatantly waste water. Why are companies washing their parking lots in a drought? Why does my neighbour still water his perpetually green lawn? Why do you taps still leak? People need to also take responsibility for themselves and realise that a group effort could curb a lot of waste. One encouraging this was how many people took to Twitter to report burst pipes and in JHB the municipality did respond quickly as far as I could tell – may the trend far outlast the water crises. 

Three finance ministers in four days:

This is the topic of the moment. From the second I heard about Nene being replaced I have had the following Kimya Dawson’s lyrics stuck in my head “And we’ll pray, all damn day, every day, that all this shit our president has got us in will go away”.  It seemed apt at the time.

For me, replacing Nene was one of the hardest moments to face as a South African optimist. It really seemed that this move threatened our country and our democracy because it became very evident that the President could do powerful things without parliamentary approval.

Panic was clearly an option a lot of people chose. My husband is an economist and was suddenly getting questions from friends about what they should do with their investments. It wasn’t panic without reason. We lost a lot of money in a few days and prospects for next year looked bleak. I chose not to panic because I believed this was a storm we could weather albeit it uncomfortably.

But then something else happened. South Africans lived up to their true potential and rallied against this sudden move. It happened so quickly that full analysis will be hard for anyone (but I’m sure there are a few Masters students out there who are going to try) but the point is that is happened on an unprecedented scale across all sectors even across all political movements. South Africa was unhappy .

And so comes Sunday night when the President countered with a startling move “new guy out, older guy in”. Of course this was also a surprise but a welcome one. This does not magically change things but it does stem the negative consequences. More importantly though it shows that the South African democracy still means something. My personal opinion is that “the investors” knocked on the Presidents door and just said “no”. Other people think that it was a politically motivated decision because popularity is important after all. Whatever the reason something positive came from something which made all of us very distressed.

That’s as brief as I could make this retrospective. I’ve covered some important issues and some less important issues but these are things which I have noticed in the country recently. There are many more things that have happened though so expect a second instalment of the retrospective soon. If anyone wonders where my optimism stems from (other than the fact that I think South African’s a good people who will strive for a great future) it comes from the fact that I enjoy living in interesting times. The Chinese and Terry Pratchette interpreted this as a curse but I think it’s an opportunity and I feel privileged to live in these times.