ANY of us will be glued to our TV sets as we watch close to 20 000 athletes, including 7 000 novices, run the Holy Grail of endurance events — the Comrades Marathon. In its 92nd year, the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race has inspired many who never saw themselves as athletes to become runners. I imagine that the biggest TV viewing happens at the 11th hour when the gun is about to be fired for the cut-off. I recall mentally trying to push an athlete over the line through my TV set (obviously to no avail). These are the everyday people who despite not having the DNA of an Olympian, decided they wanted to achieve this goal of conquering Comrades. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are still wearing their original poly shorts, while others have the latest running technology on every bit of their body. Some have carbo-loaded, while others are strictly Banters. Regardless of who they are, they are the ones who inspire many of us to put on our running shoes in the middle of winter to start our own running journey.
The reality is that we are actually all born runners. Humans are the most efficient endurance animals on the planet. Our ability to run on two rather than four limbs and our unique capacity to thermoregulate (keep cool) by sweating has given us an evolutionary advantage over most animals.
Yet, we have fashioned our lives to be less and less physically active. For many of us, close to 60% of our waking time is spent sitting at a desk, in front of a computer, watching television, or on our mobile phones. Physical inactivity, which plays a part in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers, is responsible for as many premature deaths globally as tobacco use.
As we wait to catch a glimpse of our family and friends running up Polly Shortts on TV, we should be in awe of every athlete on the road. But we should also recognize that even if you are one of the over 50 000 people doing a 5km parkrun every Saturday, or the road races running clubs put on every weekend, you are contributing to your longevity and every single step counts. — Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness
VETERAN ROLE MODEL: Bruce Fordyce