Thursday, April 28, 2016

9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day

There's this brilliant concept - 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day - started by friends Staci and Francis. I missed the first one last year so I was totally in for this year's one.

The basic deal is: run 9 parkrun routes at 9 different venues around Jo'burg on Freedom Day (27 April). Last year there were only 9 parkruns in Jo'burg. There are now 13. They mixed up the venues, incorporating new ones and set up an excellent schedule.

Participants chose what they wanted to do. A group were there for all 9. Some people ran the first three or the last free and others popped up here or there. Most of the parkruns had their run directors present. They'd told their regular parkrunners on Saturday about the Freedom Runs and the time of each so we had company and people to follow.

I only did 8 of the 9 as I drove through from Parys in the morning. There was no way I was going to make the first one in Boksburg for 6am! My mom, Liz, and her new rescue dog Tansy were my car companions and supporters.

This was the schedule:

And the route:

Thank you to Peter Le Roux for the Google Map posted on the event group page.
My first was at Gilloolys, my old backyard. This is the newest parkrun; it only opened this past Saturday.

Gilloolys parkrun - 26:40

Runners on the other side of the dam
A crisp morning run - perfect temperature for a run. I know the property like the back of my hand and was very pleased to see how beautifully the far end of the course has been cleaned up and utilised.

Overall the route is a bit disappointing; there are definitely other options with better flow (without touching the ridge), especially considering that this is a high-volume parkrun. Their inaugural parkrun this past Saturday saw 975 people participating! Then again, I don't know what their land access and permission limitations were. Nonetheless, a good run on my old stomping ground and nice to run and catch up with running friend Joseph. He was in for all 9 so we ran together often.

Running with Joseph
From Gilloolys we headed South to the Alberton area.

Rietvlei parkrun - 28:20

I know the Rietvlei Zoo Farm property in the South of Jo'burg from orienteering; my first parkrun here. Their route signs are superb and include distance covered at 500m intervals. The clock at halfway was also a bonus, especially if you're chasing fast times and PBs.

Great route, excellent use of the area and nice mix of terrain.

Next up, Soweto!

Mofolo parkrun (Soweto) - 29:20

Without any local particpants nor the friendly run director and a rather odd route of loops, Soweto was a little bland. I ran again with Joseph and we had a good chinwag about stuff. And what would you know, Joseph is friends with my very dear and oldest friend, Allison. The things you discover when you run!

A number of friends have been out here for the parkrun, which has not been very well supported by locals. Apparently, the reason for this - my friends found out from the run director - is that there are funerals on Saturday and, for those that do run, 5km is too short. Pity. It's a nice park and parkrunning is a lovely community activity.

With Staci at Mofolo. Staci is the brains behind 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day.
We did indeed get stuck in funeral traffic on the way out of Soweto. Crazy! We made it just in time to stay on schedule for our next one on the West Rand.

Roodepoort parkrun - 29:40

This park is beautiful! With so many trees showing off their autumn colours, it really was a pretty sight.

I enjoyed the park but feel a lot more can be done with the route. On one hand, the existing two lap route is a no-brainer: an around-the-park run. But with such lovely trees, bridge over the stream and such a big area to utilise, it could be a little more exciting.

Thank you to Roodepoort parkrun for this photo.
I thoroughly enjoyed my run here and at the end met up with my running buddy Rob. He arrived a bit late so I hadn't seen him before the start. He came to do this one before a family lunch. He aimed to make the last one in Bryanston too (which he did - after dessert).

It was a quick drive from here and back across the ring road to the southern slope of Northcliff hill.

Alberts Farm - 31:26

I've always enjoyed Alberts Farm and have enjoyed using it over the years for orienteering, mountain biking, trail running workshops and navigation coaching.

I've heard complaints that parkrunners find the upper section too technical. I was surprised to find it very much not so. Compared to 10 years ago, the trails up top are as smooth as a baby's bottom. As far as technical goes, on a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give it a 2 at a push...

This is certainly one of the best routes around and it makes superb use of this lovely park. I ran mostly on my own, catching up with Chrissie later on.

The Alberts Farm parkrun crew had much appreciated bananas and water for us at the finish - thank you. I was quite relieved when the RD said that people usually take their normal parkrun time and add two minutes for a fair time at Alberts Farm. I did a 31:26 run here for my 5th of the day. Happy.

Next... off to Delta Park - the home of parkrun SA!

Delta Park - 31:37

Of all the parkruns, this is the only one I've run before - in the early days when there were only about 200 runners.

Again this is a venue I know very well from orienteering and from mapping the park. It is a good and solid route with some long steady climbs and glorious downhills. No photos from this one... my companion and supporter, my mom Liz was snoozing in our car!

Keeping it on familiar ground for #8 (my 7th), we headed north to another lovely orienteering park.

Golden Harvest Park - 33:49

The legs were starting to feel it - more the stop-start than the actual runs. And this one started with an uphill. I was pleased for it so that I could walk the hill and stretch my tight legs out after the car drive to the park.

I thought I knew Golden Harvest well. What a surprise to discover a section of the area that I've never been in before. Apparently there was a colour-coded O event on this section - like more than 10 years ago. It is stunning!

Brightness of day starting to fade.
I enjoyed that we had a few uphills, which I thoroughly enjoyed walking. This made my running sections faster and smoother. My legs felt great on the move but were definitely tightening up when stopped.

With Ian, Staci's husband.
Now off to our last location, Bryanston.

Bryanston parkrun - 30:27

My running buddy Rob made it for this one and I had such fun running with him. I very much miss our old weekly runs (and cup of tea afterwards). I was surprised by my time because it was the last (my 8th) and we chatted the whole way! It definitely helped to make the kilometres fly past.

This route along the Braamfontein Spruit is pleasant. I haven't been along here since our annual Dead of Winter Spruit run last year. The first half is mostly a lovely gentle downhill, flowing with the Spruit. The return works your legs.

It was a pleasant run with the number of Freedom Runners and parkrunners participating; it must be a nightmare with >1,000 people on Saturday mornings!

With Joseph, me, Rob, Chrissie and Dave.

Routes posted on the Facebook group.

What an awesome, awesome day of running. A wonderful celebration of our ability to run and our freedom to run. Old friends appreciated, new friends made, places discovered and a day most enjoyed. That was 40km for me; 45km for those who did all 9.

After a few errands, Liz and I headed back to Parys having clocked around 370km in the car (250km between JHB and Parys and over 100km driving around JHB).

Kisses and hugs to my mom (and Tansy) for spending the day on the road and in the parks with me. xxx

Thank you to Staci and Frances and Ian and all the RDs and people behind making 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day possible. I will so be there again next year. xxx

10 years ago - Swazi Xtreme 2006

One of the events of which I am still most proud was Swazi Xtreme 2006, which I did with Evan Price, Bruce Fordyce and David Vlok - one of a series of events for the Vlok & Fordyce tv programme.

Bets were against us to finish this 250km adventure race through Swaziland -  a notoriously tough one that I'd participated in since it started in 2001 - organised by Darron Raw. But, finish we did. The event wrapped up in 2010 after a decade of annual events.

It's 10 years to the day that we took part in this event and I got to know not only one of the icons in South African sport and running, but also an incredibly kind and warm-hearted man, Bruce Fordyce. It never ceases to amaze me, when I see Bruce at runs, how people gravitate to him. He always has a moment for a photo and a special word for runners - from novices to those that have been running for decades.

At the time I knew Evan from adventure racing. Young and strong, he enthusiastically joined the team and proved to be a fun (and funny) teammate and a superb navigator.

David Vlok was fresh off many years of staring in the tv soap, Egoli. I'd never watched it but from what I know his character was a nasty fellow. In person, David was a bit of a celeb on the outside and could come across as quite ego-y, mucho and even aggressive (he is not unfamiliar with bar brawls). But in reality, David is friendly and with a gentle nature and good humour. Although I see him rarely, I think of him with fondness. I'm not quite sure what he is up to these days; I think he and Bruce still see each other here and there.

Evan has been cycling around the world for just over a year. In December he biked through Syria and Iran. I'm not sure where he currently is. His blog is

Bruce, as you well know, is the father of parkrun in South Africa and still so much a part of Comrades and running culture.

If you're up for a bit of a read, my race report from Swazi Xtreme 2006 is still online. It's in a side directory on my website on a sub-site I built for the event.

Team Jungle before the start: David Vlok, Bruce Fordyce, me and Evan Price. 

Team Jungle at the finish: Bruce, Lisa, Evan and David.

Still clowns. As Bruce says, "From Swazi Extreme to parkrunning!" 10 years on. Lisa and Bruce yesterday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spec-Savers Kids Right to Good Sight programme

I've been with a Spec-Savers in Jo'burg for many years so I was very pleased to see a Spec-Savers branch here in Parys.

Last week Thursday I popped into the branch to enquire about vision tests for children and making a booking. The friendly staff said that consultations for children under 12 were free of charge. A pleasant surprise. I made appointments for Kyla and Ruben for Friday. We knew that Kyla may have a vision deficit as she was tested a few years ago. This was to be Ruben's first optometrist visit.

Kyla does indeed need glasses and so after the test, we headed to the section to choose frames. They have an excellent range of children's frames and after narrowing it down to three, she chose her favourite. It was then that they told us that children's glasses are also free of charge up to the age of 12. Kyla is 10. How incredible!

I looked Spec-Savers up online and discovered their Kids Right to Good Sight programme, which provides free test and spectacles for children aged 6 to 12.

Ruben's consultation was smooth - and he learned about the inside of the eye too. His vision is perfect, so no glasses for him.

Spec-Savers, thank you. You've got customers for life.

From the Spec-Savers website:

An image

In 2008 we launched our kids Right to Good Sight campaign that has assisted over 193 243 South African children with FREE eye tests, Colour coded frames and Aquity prescription lenses, dramatically improving their lives forever.
Our pledge is to make a lasting difference in the lives of all children, so if you are in a school environment, and know of any kids 6 to 12 years of age who are in desperate need of spectacles, get them to contact their nearest Spec-Savers store to book a free vision screening test.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Brown squiggly lines bring bliss

I know how to use OCAD - orienteering map-making software. I'm not the most proficient nor practised as I don't map very often - and I haven't mapped any seriously tricky terrain. I've modified other people's maps and I've drawn my own maps of schools and a park. I'm busy with my first river map (mapping the bank features and islands) and a map of a primary school here in Parys.

My next project is to create a basic orienteering map for Forest Run. It serves a couple of functions:

  • A hand-out to introduce participants to the delights of a map and knowing where you are. Yes, the route will be fully marked, but I like to think that runners may enjoy knowing where they are. Of course they can tuck it into their backpacks and leave it there...
  • A guide for my marshals (many of whom are orienteers) to get to their marshalling points - and for sweeping the route.
  • For safety: this special version for my marshals and medics will show escape routes and accesses.
  • The start of a wonderful map for technical, long-distance orienteering events and for rogaining, a long-distance, time-limited form of orienteering - my favourite-favourite.
For now, this will be a really simple map - I'm short on time and a complex map is not required just yet.

In order to create an orienteering map, one needs a base map. We generally use orthophotos, which have been corrected for distortion and they carry contour lines, which indicate elevation and topographical features. Google Earth screen shots do work - for small areas - but there are no contours. 

Fortunately, being in the modern age, we can get digital aerial imagery and also digital contour lines; both of which can be georeferenced and imported into OCAD.

I've never had experience with this.

Until today.

OMG! My heart runneth over with bliss. And I can give full credit to Stephanie, who supplied me with the necessary files - all beautifully georeferenced and ready to go. Sarah R and Paul were also on hand, offering assistance - thank you. Nic, with his OCAD experience, got me to the final stage of success tonight - getting my GPS track in.

And so it was that I successfully imported the contour line file. With counsel, I got the background images in (13 x image files at 285MB each!). And I've just experienced the joy that comes with importing a gpx file and successfully positioning it so that my track for the routes is in the correct place. Oh, what joy!

Now the work starts - to turn these squiggly lines into something that can be read and interpreted.