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.

 

 

Ballet with a purpose – here’s a Mandela Day Idea

I don’t normally write more than one entry a day but this story is too good to have wait.

Visit http://mg.co.za/multimedia/2014-06-11-ballet-on-vilikazi-street to view a slideshow which features the good work being done by the Jo’burg Ballet Development Programme. The story of how art and a safe place to practice this art can enrich children is simple and yet incredibly moving.

If you’re looking for something to do for Mandela Day then be in touch with them. They are in need of a bus, descent sound equipment and the girls could surely do with some new ballet clothing. These are obvious basics but I am sure they need more. You can contact Lindsay McDonald who is the PR person for the company (lindsay@joburgballet.com). You can also visit lindsay@joburgballet.com for more information on this important project.

There where we did not confidentally tread

I don’t need to tell you that Jo’burg is infamous. We’re considered one of the crime capitals of the world and it’s something we have to live with every day. ( Of course the whole matter is blown out of proportion internationally but I’m not going to delve into that right now.) AS any city Jo’burg has Excellent, good, reasonable and bad parts. That’s the sad reality of just about anywhere and especially cities.

Also common in cities in this idea that progress means moving out of the inner city to suburbia or the outskirts leaving older office buildings and flat to stand empty and effectively rot. Braamfontein is a Jo’burg suburb had just about suffered this fate. Braamfontein was a bustling part of the city. Big companies had head offices there, people lived in high rises and restaurants and pubs were abundant. It was a fashionable place to be and be seen.

Unfortunately as politics and poverty and “progress” prevailed Braamfontein fell out of fashion. In a fairly short time the buildings became empty and very few big corporates and a few private shops still remained. They were brave because no one else really wanted to go to Braamfontein anymore. It was never “terrible” where you feared for your life whenever there but it didn’t feel safe and you definitely would rather avoid it at night.  

So, when big business with it’s employees and their money is gone what do you do with all the empty buildings who need people and money to run them. Well, you look at what it left. This is exactly what two women did when they looked at Braamfontein and what they found is so blatant it’s a wonder if wasn’t there all the time:

Braamfontein is surrounded by, and host several, universities and colleges all of which have thousands of students who need somewhere to stay as most students are not from Jo’burg. Enter Southpoint Accommodation ( http://www.staysouthpoint.co.za/) which converted office buildings into safe and stylish apartments and residence. One building after the other was filled up by eager students who appreciate the close proximity of Braamfontein to their academic institution. And with students came money and a need for places to spend it. Gradually other braver soles started opening retail stores, grocers, take away joints, restaurants and pubs slap bang where everyone was too scared to venture. And it all paid off.

Within about 6 years Braamfontein’s fashionable districts are growing by the day and you can now walk past well like shops selling expensive merchandise and selling good food.

Some places to note:

The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship ( http://www.bransoncentre.org/SouthAfrica/home.html) Entrepreneurship is what South Africa needs more to succeed so thanks Richard for giving us options.

The Neighbourgoods Market – (http://www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za/ ) A great place to get a variety of cosmopolitan food and drink a Mojito on the rooftop until the sun goes down.

The Great Dane and Kitcheners – a great restaurant and quirky bar pairing

And many, many more.

The students obviously hang out here but what is important to note is that people from other parts of town are also queuing around the block to get into the likes of Kitcheners because it’s obviously the place to be. We’re not scared to tread there anymore

May this revitalisation long continue and become a trend.