Come on be honest! What do you see when you look at this photo?
Well let me tell you about these youngsters.
They are from one of the worst and most poverty stricken areas on the East Rand. Rape, murder, drugs, gangsterism, you name it and you will find it there. But one amazing man had a dream. A dream to show these kids that there is more to life – and he decided that the best way to show that to them is to get them interested in sport and to cultivate a culture of exercise under the young people of this neigbourhood.
This man drives a small car – he sees a kid on a street corner begging and his picks him up, he see youngsters hanging out, outside the corner shop or the liquor store and he picks them up. And he takes them to runs and he takes them to Parkruns. And he brings them to our club time trial.
At one stage he was the only person with a car – sometimes 7 or 8 people will pile out of that car to run. Now at least there is about 4 cars and the group is growing every week.
These kids have nothing – the soles of their shoes are split in half, they don’t have proper running kit BUT they run and they make all us other runners feel ashamed. Some of these kids on this photograph ran 13 minutes on a 4km yesterday. To put this in perspective – my best time is 20 minutes.
Most of these kids don’t have parents, they don’t have jobs and their prospects are small.
And then you start talking to these kids – they all call me aunty and they have the loveliest manners and if one doesn’t say thank or are perceived to be rude – he is called to task. They are extremely grateful for the little cup of Coke they get at the finish. They encourage the slower runners, they clap hands when somebody finish, they go back to fetch their slower mates.
Ricci I salute you – you are a legend. Reigerpark is a richer place thanks to you. I wish from the bottom of my heart that I can buy each and every kid in your crew a whole set of running kit and a pair of shoes.
This, people is how we are going to rescue this country…. Years ago somebody said to me – running is the only integrated part of our South African society and now even more than ever I believe in that. When you have a common goal and you sweat together and you suffer together and you celebrate together, there is no room to worry about petty things.