I’ve just been told that I shouldn’t run for a while because of an injury. Living in fast-paced Jo’burg, spending a lot of time in traffic and working on one crazy newspaper, running was my vice. In turn, my heart is severally broken.
But it’s given me a lot of time to think about sport and exercise and what it means for women. A lot of women go to gym and exercise to feel good about themselves and their body, which is important for self-confidence and health, especially with the busy lives we lead.
I think it comes down to more though. Sport was designed for men, in an effort to create national spirit and prepare them for war. Over time, it changed and developed into those rugby days we so do enjoy with a braai and some drywors.
But for women, I think sport and exercise is something that we have found our own sense of meaning in. Running for me helps me to clear my head and have some quiet time on my own in the early morning with a cold breath, as dawn begins to break. It gives me routine and a way to pound out my frustrations. And it gives me time to listen to my mind, my body and my heart – a chance to hear what they are telling me.
One of my best friend’s still plays hockey every weekend. Where I enjoy solitude, she enjoys the camaraderie and team work that comes with sport. I think this is also what appeals to so many sports people – both women and men – who take part in games like rugby, soccer and hockey.
Another one of my best friend’s just completed her first half-marathon in Knysna this weekend. Seeing her afterwards, with such a sense of achievement after struggle and challenge, made me proud to be a woman. We are often told that physically, women and men just don’t compare. It’s true, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t take something out of physical challenges.
Nothing will come close to the feeling I had after running the Two Oceans Ultra-marathon in April. Tired, sore with tears running down my face, I finished with a feeling I cannot describe. It quite simply was something else. It is that feeling that will keep me running, keep me challenging my body and myself (when I’m allowed back in my running shoes), but a feeling that I think is so important for a woman to feel. It is something that comes down to us – our own motivation, our own willpower and our own drive. What a better way to celebrate our physical attributes than to appreciate where they can take us?