Sandi Caganoff

SANDI CAGANOFF sweats it out in Alexandra

I spent just two hours in Alex. Me, 20 000 other runners, and my perspiration. The heat was unbearable, I hadn’t trained. My legs were stiff before I started. My head ached from an excess of wine the night before. The drums rolled and we set off.  Slowly at first, from Katherine Street in Sandton, along the highway and into Alex.

Entering Alex on foot. Picture: Sandi Caganoff

I jogged for about a kilometer.  Then suddenly I was in Alex and blown away. I’ve been into townships before, but this was a very different world. I slowed down to a walk.

There was dirt and sewerage.  Goats wandered the higgledy piggledy roads. Young girls had babies on their backs. Small boys played soccer in the dust or pushed homemade wire cars. No greenery.  Nothing pretty. But everything was alive.  Vibrant.

With throaty cheers, thousands of people stood outside their shacks, rooting for us. A man called out to me:  “Go Gogo. Go!”  I considered killing him, but his broad smile prevented any kind of murder.  An old woman gave me a glass of iced water, fearing I was going to drop dead on her shack stoep.

Children in Alex. Picture: Sandi Caganoff

The welcome was enormous. So was the rubbish and intrusion.  The dustbins were few. Empty coke cups and plastic bottles littered the small roads.  Joggers wandered around, taking photographs, going into people’s homes. Hawkers gave me bananas and refused money for them. A young girl wanted me to have her doll. Children sprayed me with water to cool me down. The experience was astonishing.

Alex is not a holiday destination.  But it is an eye opener. And a place we should all visit.  And while I know that this was a special day and that Alex has now returned to normal, the spirit of the community remains.

Do a tour.  Take pens, and crayons and books.  Walk.  Don’t run!