I can still remember when I first decided that I will run. It was just before I started in Grade 1 (which was called Sub A in South-Africa). I cannot remember the exact setting, but my mother and my brother and I were in conversation with one of the teachers of the school and they mentioned that they will start with Cross Country running soon. I remember that I said yes, I want to do it.
I had my first year in school in a place known for a big hole in the ground. Kimberley is where they first mined diamonds in South Africa. There were these huge heaps of hardened sand which came out of the mines and that is where we went to work on our power and stamina.
Some of my clearest memories of those days are of running. We had frequent races against other schools and I always came second. The grade 1’s did 1 kilometer. At the most important competition of the year (the Griqualand West championship) I was in front until about 200m before the end and then my usual rival cut past me. However, he came too close to me and I clipped his heel. He fell but immediately got up. I kept on running as he caught up with me again and we shared the first position. (By the way, this performance got me my first recorder which is where music started for me.)
A few years later, another clear-as-glass memory. Chael (my best friend of those days) and I were on our bicycles going home from school on a Friday afternoon. Trevor was running with us. He ran in his black school shoes and his school uniform. He really had to run hard to keep up with us, but I remember the obvious fun he seemed to have. Sweat was simply flowing down his freckled face and he was wet all-over, but he kept on going.
Talking about Chael made me think about his dad’s farm in the Kalahari, close to Kuruman where I did most of my growing up. We went horse-riding which was new to me. We did it bareback and the farm dogs ran along with us. We went far (30k plus). I remember Apache (the small brown and white horse I was riding) starting to jump over the “driedorings” (literally three-thorns bush), but it wasn’t then that I fell. I remember becoming so “blikners” (An Afrikaans word for the state your rear end reaches after long hours of horse riding) that I could not sit properly on the horse anymore. Once Apache wanted to go left around the bush and I wanted to go right. That’s when I fell. Right into a ditch. But I was young and got back up immediately.
I noticed that the memories that are engraved in me are those where I was really present, in the moment, and usually, those are the ones where I was active. Running, cycling, horse-riding, playing squash or golf or rugby, performing music or playing with my brothers. I was not worrying about tomorrow or regretting anything in the past. I was simply alive.