How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank
I really enjoyed the first Run Jozi 10km event so when it was announced that entries for the next one were open I immediately entered. At 8:30 am I was meant to meet a few friends at the start but the thousands of people and lack of cell phone signal meant that I waited for the starting gun by myself – something which surprisingly enough I did not mind. Usually I hate doing stuff alone but this morning found myself immersing into thought whilst absorbing the energy around me. Soon I would be traversing the line dividing the two suburbs of Sandton and Alexandra. Two neighbouring suburbs that could not be more different. One suburb in which I work every single day. One suburb that I had never been in.
(Some poor quality pics taken on my Blackberry)
The last event was held only six months ago and since then entries doubled – speaking volumes about the success of the initiative. The race is organised well from registering to race pack collection all the way through to the Finish line. Once again the vibe and the motivation from the local residents was incredible! I found this route more challenging than the last but this could be due to the blazing sun mid-morning on Sunday being in stark contrast to the rainy night-time conditions last time.An empty a
My heart goes out to the residents of Alex – their living conditions are shocking and what got to me the most was the awful smell. I overheard many conversations during the event to the same effect.
I was going to write a long post on all the emotions I felt that day and the thoughts the event left with me afterwards but I found an article which expresses exactly what I would want to convey, it is definitely worth a read so I have posted it here:
Run Jozi: stride in right direction but opportunity for so much moreOn Sunday, 7 October 2012, I was one of 20 000 runners that traversed the substantial divide between Sandton and Alexandra as part of Nike’s ‘We Run Jozi‘ 10km race. Despite the impeccable organisation, challenging route and fantastic vibe, crossing the finish line left me feeling strangely empty.
Like its earlier incarnation, the second ‘We Run Jozi‘ was by all accounts a hit. How often can a running race boast a 100% increase in entries in only six months?Completely resonates with target marketThe success of the concept is testament to an excellent global marketing campaign that has been adapted to local market conditions in a way that completely resonates with Nike’s target market here.Driven by social media and PR, Nike has tapped into many uniquely South African emotions:
- anger (‘taking back the streets of Johannesburg’),
- curiosity (the vast majority of runners had never set foot in Hillbrow or Alex), and
- our inherent need to cross the cultural, economic and racial divide once in a while to come together and achieve something great (something that only sports seems to be able to do).
What are we going to do about it?
But here’s the problem: now that thousands of Joburg’s better-heeled residents have seen how the majority of South Africans live, what are we going to do about it?
Sure, a portion of the entry fee is going towards the establishment of a community running club for Alexandra’s youth, and if post-race mutterings and tweets are to be believed, local councillors are about to receive a few hundred indignant letters about the conditions in Alex from the city’s wealthier suburbs.
But, beyond that, will the run effect any change at all, or will it simply be filed as a good story to tell the kids one day?
Seems somehow wasteful
It seems somehow wasteful to open so many of our eyes to the realities of life in South Africa without using this newfound knowledge for the greater good.
To me, the race feels unfinished.
Is it Nike’s responsibility to ensure that we help the community we have just run through as tourists? No. But would it have been easy for the organisers to harness the boundless enthusiasm and energy on the day for something a little more meaningful to the residents of Alex than they did? Definitely.
How to have achieved greatness
If every runner had picked up a single piece of trash during the run, or informal traders were used to supply the water points, or every runner brought a recycled item of sportswear to give to the children lining the road, we could claim to have run and achieved ‘#greatness‘.
But, as things stand, the campaign seems a little one-sided and the mutual back-patting of little consequence to the people whose lives we disrupted for a few hours on Sunday as we high-fived our way through their reality.
The thousands of people running and the narrow streets meant we were forced to walk some parts, not that this ‘non-runner’ is complaining; the break was welcome!
About 2.5km before the finish I saw this gorgeous huge smile coming from a familiar face between the thousands of identically clad backs. I had found Olivia! Apparently she had a feeling she was going to run into someone so was looking back and there I was – yay for having someone to finish the race with!
I leave you with one thought – “We can do no great things, only small things with great love. – Mother Teresa”Click on images to view larger versions.