District Nine - Pre-Comrades #9 - Up Run 2017

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In just over a week, I run my 9th Comrades alongside my brother, Alberto. He runs his 14th. A race report may be required. Writing, not only for the catharsis, helps nail down thoughts, elusive and ephemeral, which arise from a physically and emotionally charged day in the life.
With it being my 9th outing, I did a quick search on movies containing the number 9. District 9 was the only real contender to act as a suitable race report title. And it got me thinking....
When District 9 hit the movie circuit in 2009 no-one knew quite how to react. The movie's co-writer and director, little known ex-Joburger Neill Blomkamp, was young and inexperienced. Expectations were low. The backing from Pete Jackson (still cloaked in his Lord of the Rings glory) nudged people to take a closer look.
It's about an alien spaceship which chooses - refreshingly so - to land over Johannesburg, South Africa, resulting in the government establishing an alien district for its newbie second-class citizenry. It oozed originality and grit. What gave it grit, was the parallels with the South African Government's policy of Apartheid and its maltreatment of its people. In particular, it evoked the infamous relocation abuse in the 1970's where the government relocated about 60,000 people from District Six in Cape Town to the Cape Flats 25kms away.
South Africans of all colour wriggled in their movie seats. The rest of the world took notice.
For anyone who has ever been into a pre-1994 South African police station, what gave the documentary-style movie its edge was its protagonist, Wikus van de Merwe, the government appointee responsible for the relocation of the aliens (or prawns). The South African actor, Sharlto Copley, resurrected prickly memories of officials armed with eviction notices and batons.
The movie has traction. Especially in our world of despots building walls and cultivating whatever the English word for Apartheid might be. It is the subtle undertones of racism and xenophobia that get under the skin. To the extent that it calls to mind the tactics engineered by South Africa's current regime in cahoots with its financial exploiters to divert attention away from their pilfering of state coffers. Tactics to muddy-the-water and stir artificial racial discord to the extent of employing a public relations company to assist with the shenanigans.
What does District 9, the Apartheid government, the current Government and any other system of rule have to do with this blogpost and the Comrades Marathon?
The reason is simple. Over time, regimes come and go. And distorted leaders in the pursuit of self serving agendas dust off the blue prints of power and propagate confusion and fear to feed the greed and keep the people down. Artificial constructs to keep people separated, placated and conquerable.
However, and we should not forget this, it is all make believe.
And there is no better day to be reminded of this on the 4th June 2017 - Comrades Marathon Sunday.

The day that confirms that the people are together and will not be kept down. United in their many colours, their many languages, their many creeds, their many tribes. On that day they will come from across the country: the suburbs, the provinces, the townships, the cities. Leaving for Durban from their mines, farms, factories, kitchens and offices by cars, trains, taxis, buses and planes. Some will cycle to the start in red socks all the way from Cape Town. Our friends, Hazel and Tumelo, will run to the start from Joburg. 900kms of running. One Comrades marathon (about 90ks) every day until the start at city hall.

Many will come from far off countries where they have been dreaming about, and planning for, the Ultra of all Ultras for a very long time. The most insane of South African races - soaked in mountains and folklore - which has to be completed to ensure legend status back home.

Nearly all will start the race. Many will finish. And many will not. But what is true is that each year the race unites us. And bring us closer. It becomes more than the sum of its parts. It transcends. And when the choir begins its singing of anthems and worker songs in the race paddocks outside Durban's city hall, with winding roads aiming for Pietermaritzburg, the people understand that when the gun sounds and the smoke clears, that we will not stand for tyranny. Together, with our blood and our sweat and our tears, we will move forward - always forward - and we will remember that no man can divide us. Because us is all we have.

Siyofika nini la' siyakhona? (When will we arrive at our destination?) - Johnny Clegg
Dad and the troops at 48 of the 56k Two Oceans Ultra Marathon

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