NOTHING BEATS RUNNING IN SA
04 August 2017
South Africa has a long distance running culture second to none. So how does a South African self-professed running fanatic living in Australia, adapt to the Aussie running culture? Glyn Hughes shares his experience with Run24.
I've come a long way on the running front. Returning back to South Africa from Dublin, Ireland, in 2003 – having given up playing league Squash and Cricket - I quickly started to pile on the pounds.
One weekend, while sitting quietly at home, I realised that I really needed to get active again, but I had no clue where to start. A phone call and a meeting with a man named Xavier Kuhn from Run/Walk for Life (Edenvale) quickly changed all that. Xavier was a man of understanding and patience, and with his help as well as fellow members, he quickly transformed me from a walker into a steady runner. One afternoon he turned to me and said: "Glyn, there is nothing further we can do for you here. You are destined for bigger things, and it's time to join a bigger club; one that can help you reach your dream of completing the Comrades Marathon." And so my affiliation with Jeppe Quondam Athletics Club was born.
I will never forget my first run with Jeppe members. I had a maximum distance of 15km under the belt and there I was tackling the so-called Saturday morning ‘Full Boy's School’ 20km run. All I can say is that it was a long morning. Thanks go to Jeppe member Declan Kavanagh. He ran, walked and talked me through that run, and it was then that I realised just how strong the Jeppe culture was, and how nobody ever got left behind. Jeppe Athletics Club was to me truly a ‘family club’, helping me get to the starting line of five Comrades Marathons. Due to illness on a couple of occasions, I finished this magnificent race three times. Goal achieved - and together with my Father's five Comrades finishes, that counts as eight for the family.
In December 2016 my family and I immigrated to Sydney, Australia. It was a very hard decision for us, but at the same time a new challenge in life. I had never been to Australia before, and was now living here. Finding a new school for my son, a place to stay, and of course trying to understand the running culture wasn’t easy.
I'm still finding my feet here, and although running is extremely popular in Australia, as most sport, it appears more Aussies prefer trail running rather than road running. And of course there is definitely not the regular ‘spoilt for choice’ pick of weekend runs as I was used to in South Africa! The choices of running clubs to choose from here also appear to be limited, but that's possibly me being new to Sydney and the city. There are running clubs, but they appear to focus more on the ‘social’ front. If you are a real distance running fanatic like me, it seems Sydney Running Club based near the city centre could be the right pick as they focus on a need for all, and train hard for those seeking big goals. Training runs are also spread over various beautiful locations where runners meet up from the Northern Beaches side, to Sydney Harbour and various other lovely spots. I haven’t decided on a club yet, but I think this may well be my option soon when I can commit myself to longer distance running again.
At the moment though I am running by myself, and living in North Balgowlah, a stones throw away from Manly Beach, I am truly spoilt. The scenery is breathtaking, tranquil and rewarding. I just love running along unspoilt beaches, safe pathways, and various nature trails.
The one thing I have learnt about Australian road races, is that when they do occur, they are big. I recently ran the Sydney Herald Half Marathon, held on April 21st 2017. There were approximately 14 000 runners. I joined up with the company I am working for (AW Edwards). They had formed a company team and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my first half marathon in Australia under the belt. Getting there was a pleasure. I took the train from Milson's Point to Town Hall - no traffic congestion!
A great race and a great atmosphere. I still managed to finish in a time of 2:13 despite my lack of training, and our corporate team finished 4th overall. The race organisation was brilliant. Getting home was even better. A train to Circular Quay, and a lovely Ferry Trip back to Manly with a cold beer in hand. What more could you ask for? Next up? The City to Surf race from North Sydney to Bondi Beach; a 14km run attracting up to 40 000 runners. Runners start in several batches, starting at different times to streamline the run and make it comfortable for all.
What I enjoy the most about running in Sydney is the scenery. The Sydney Herald Half Marathon and also the Sydney Marathon in September (which is on my list) take in views of Circular Quay, The Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour, The Botanic Gardens, The Sydney Bridge and Sydney Harbour. Races are easy to enter too, and your race pack is delivered by post to your front door. It includes a great technical t-shirts, usually about a month before the race, so no stress to collect your race number on race day.
I'm hoping that given time, I will meet new people and find a local club that can meet my running goals and help me achieve greater things in running. One thing I am very sure of: South African running clubs set the standard. The running scene in South Africa is still way ahead of many other countries. We have truly set the goals very high and that is why races such as the Comrades Marathon and Two Oceans are on the bucket list of many runners worldwide.
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