‘The rifleman is stalking the sick and the lame, the preacher does the same, who will get there first is uncertain’ Jokerman- Bob Dylan
We were at the start, the rifleman bowed his bearded head while the preacher (in this case female) had her moment in prayer, the large and very impressive riffle lying comfortably in his arm.
Amen.The hammer cocked. Finger still off the trigger. The lead cars were ready.
Some events start way before the gun, the big ones always do. The banter with friends months before the D-day: the first public unveiling of your secret hopes and dreams.
You enter and specific training starts in ernest. You study the route, work out splits, nutrition and hydration strategies. The Nerves, the nerves mount with the taper, then maybe there follows an expo if the organisers want to please sponsors. Times, hopes, strategies and counter-strategies revealed. Some put the truth out there, others always deceive. I am learning who you are though.
Some run with friends, some to compete, some run to survive.
You can see them if you observe. This breed stick to themselves. They stick to the fringe. Yes the front pack is fringe. This is not fun, this is not recreation. They certainly are not white.
Zolani stood by the dark road in the pre dawn. Holding his running vest up in a plea.
Mel agreed, I pulled over.
Just after 6 in the morning on a lonely stretch of road he held his hope flapping in the breeze.
We chatted the normal stuff runners chat about but Zolani had us in stitches with running tales.
He was hoping to win as he had in the past. An out of town event would not draw the hot competition. He was recovering from flu so was not sure.
White guilt came over us in the front seat drinking energy drinks not sure if our new companion had had breakfast or dinner.
What struck me most was that there was no blame from him. He was here to do a job and hopefully get paid. That is the way I read it anyway.
As we arrived at the start Zolani jumped out the car and we wished each other well. He joked that maybe we could run together. Hmm I wish! He did not seem to have a plan to get home, nor did it seem to bother him.
The last I saw of him was just after the rifleman fired the giant gun. Zolani in the lead pack heading down the streets of Darling. For the next 86 minutes I wondered whether he was in the money. I was pleased that he came second. R300 bucks is nothing to many but is a massive amount to even more. Meeting Zolani will certainly inspire me to try harder and is making me think.