This past weekend, I was running a marathon in the south of Johannesburg, in the Klipriver area, a suburb wedged between Soweto and Kathlegong. It was my first ever and it was my last chance to qualify for the coming Comrades Ultramarathon, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
The race went well and I qualified by running the intermediate to difficult parcours in 4 hours and 53 minutes.
One reason for my success was that from mid-way on, I joined the 'bus' led by Tebogo from Kathlegong whose flag that he carried on his back read he would drive his bus over the finishing line in under 5 hours.
The running bus was a piece of black culture in motion. There was about a core group of 10 runners who appeared to know each other well for they run in harmony, even synchronized, in breathing, gesture and rhythm. From time to time, a member of the group would start a chant into which the entire bus joined. "E-zy", "e-zy", one would go. Another went "hayi-bo", 'hayi-bo". There was also "So-ber", "so-ber" and a few others. Members would hurry in front from the back and fire the group on through exhortations. Given the last chant, I could picture the entire group during a church service. Indeed, it felt a bit like being in a black church. But foremost through the running in rhythm, I was taken back 18 years, when I was dancing to the rhythm of the congas at the Othella Dallas Dance School in Basel, Switzerland. It was the same feeling of unity, of captivating rhythm in phyisical exertion that made me feel good and in unity with humanity and the universe.
What struck me also was that this bus was running in formation and with much unity. For those who were a bit tired and struggled, including me, the group carried us forward and over the finishing line in time with ease. Perhaps not with ease, but rather so that the pain no longer mattered.