From Nikes to Hikes (part # 1) – 5 reasons an amateur jogger might just give up in Joburg … 9 More to overcome that angst!
From Nikes to hikes, I never imagined that taking my outdoor leisure activities to Joburg would be this challenging. I’m a hiker, yes I am.. That is I like to walk in forests, enjoy a rock climb or two, assuming the incline is no steeper than 15% .
Jogging on the other hand, was an on again- off again passion of mine but I only took it up seriously when I decided I want to run my first 5 k in New York before I leave. And I did! With very little training.
I landed in Joburg armed with my Nikes and ready to jog my neighborhood away. I joined a hiking club through the kids school and inwardly, I was gloating J For once, I am embarking on a new expat post with a better plan to make the most of it for day 1… no whining for me! No time for nostalgia and homesickness woes. I’m here and I intend to that it to the fullest.. Every single day!
Then I hit my first jog.. Half an hour later I was panting, navigating a thin pretty creek-side trail through blurred eyes and oxygen deprived brain cells.
It’s the altitude, my husband said.. I could think of a thousand reasons more to add to my pathetic state.
- Joburg sits at 1753 meters above sea level.. second only to Mexico City in height above sea.. So if you’re not used to heights, it will knock you out of your first trail run in less than 30 minutes… listen to that buzz behind your eyes, it’s you system crying out… gimme more O2 NOW!
- As if this incredible altitude is not enough, the terrain is quite hilly with ridiculously steep inclines.. Up and down.. Up and down.. It just doesn’t seem to end.
- All of Joburg seems to be jogging every morning. While this can be a very inspiring social movement, the sight of so many fellow joggers passing me by effortlessly is actually quite annoying.
- Joburg runners wake up way too early, by 9 am, just as I’m about to hit the gravel, everyone else is finishing up, victory smiles shining through their sweaty cheeks.
- Everyone is in full gear, and I don’t mean shorts, shoes and an iPhone stuck to their sweaty arm. This is hardcore gear: Racing shorts, Race numbered tees from previously conquered races, water bottle sticking out of weird outfit places.
Here are some ways that have worked for me.. I still fall behind, pant and act in all the non-inspiring ways I shouldn’t act when I jog.. But I’m working on it J
1- Alternate jog and walk inclines.. That’s what I do when I want to conquer multiple inclines in my run.. I jog the first, walk the next, and so on.. Eventually I’ll skip every two working my stamina up slowly
2- Don’t joke around with your breathing (like I used to), there is no room for error at this altitude so no shallow breathing here.. you need all the O2 you can inhale with every step you take, so make those inhales count
3- If you are a groupie, you will find plenty of running groups to join all around, I joined the one from my kids’ school. They’re still hardcore for me, but it’s convenient and start off is always right after drop-offs which is very convenient
4- Ignore the race tees blazing by. Run at your pace and enjoy the incredible scenery that Joburg has to offer
5- Yes they are all fit and light and agile and all wrapped in envy-inducing halo qualities, but you’re here, in Joburg and you’re already jogging, months after you’ve landed. That’s huge so pat yourself on the shoulder and gloat.. You earned it
6- Get a few Gym runs every once in a while to uplift your morale. In a controlled environment and on a treadmill, you’ll find that you go longer and faster without the after-shocks of a first few runs in high altitudes
7- Try not to jog alone.. Security remains an issue and if you plan to take it slow at first, maybe walk a bit or even sit down for a breather, you put yourself at risk.. I’ve done it though, twice and I was OK. I didn’t feel threatened even when I did sit down to catch any lingering air molecules that haven’t been inhaled yet.
8- If you’re worried about uncontrolled environments, check out the closed in trails. I heard the Botanical garden has amazing trails.. I have yet to go!
Here are some useful links for you..
9- Finally, if you happen to bump into me on one of these run days, let me know how you’re doing.. It totally helps to know that you’re not alone out there.