By JOY HINYIKIWILE
It is Saturday morning and fitness fanatics have gathered at the Makana Botanical Gardens for the weekly 8 am community fun run/walk.
The sun is slightly shy to come out, but the temperature is warming nicely. This is the kind of Saturday morning weather that attracts a lot of participants, the organisers say. Turnout is lower on rainy and cloudy mornings.
On this particular Saturday, 19 March 2022, 118 participants will complete the 5km route, which winds twice through the bushy green hills below the Monument. The level of participation has improved since the Covid-19 lockdown disruptions. But, before the pandemic, the park run would receive over 200 participants at times.
The path is clear and marked; wood and brick-layered in some areas, on gravel, lawns and bridge over water in others. There are enough steep hills to challenge your fitness. Marshals stand at various points to guide runners through.
The park run has been a weekly ritual since 27 September 2014. Started by four Makhandan women trying to stay fit, the run now attracts runners of different fitness levels, age groups and goals. But, all are here to enjoy the beautiful gardens.
“There has never been an off-Saturday,” explained one of the organisers, who noted that a few runners are always willing to complete the route even when participation is low. The past Christmas was one such day when less than ten runners came for the weekly ritual.
Dogs on leashes are also welcome.
Volunteers make the run what it is. They do all the organising, and every week, they come through to clear the path, marshal, keep time, record scores and assist in making the run successful.
The run is free for all, but first-time runners need to register beforehand and receive a barcode. Each run is timed, and records are kept and published on the Parkrun’s website https://www.parkrun.co.za/grahamstown/.
This Saturday, it took 67 minutes and 12 seconds for all participants to complete the run, with the fastest runner clocking in at 23 minutes and 25 seconds.
Next Saturday, participants are once again invited to volunteer or run the beautiful course with spectacular views of the town.