It’s 6:33am. According to the Google Weather App on my phone, it is 15 degrees but feels like 14. Actually to me, it feels closer to 12 degrees, but then again, being from the Equator, I believe I feel the cold more keenly.
Looking around me as the light of day improves somewhat — we arrived at this place about an hour ago, when it was still pitch dark — I see that I’m surrounded by people adorned in generally tight-fitting day-glo or fluorescent-coloured clothes. There is music playing in the background, but this is no 1970s disco.
Also in my youth, no self-respecting discotheque or club would allow patrons in wearing what I grew up calling takkies, later learnt to refer to as sneakers, but have begun calling tekkies (with an ‘e’) after living in South Africa for nearly a decade. Everyone around me is wearing them.
Most of the people around me are also wearing that ever-so-earnest smile that I have come to associate with newly born-again Christians just before they approach you to share their testimony, or people auditioning for a toothpaste commercial. They are all far too cheerful for this time of the morning and only a few of them appear to be gripping paper coffee cups. For some, at least, the coffee might account for the almost manic cheer.
There are groups gathering for the obligatory group selfie — I hear it is called an usie by the people in the know. There is the curious mix of smells — the warm inviting aroma of pies and samosas mixing with the clinical smell of menthol and methyl salicylate or Deep Heat to give the product a name.
All these smells and bells signal to me that I am about to be inducted into a cult. This cult of many sects has already captured the hearts and minds of many of my friends. Some long-term adherents, such as my friends Gerry (aka Bugs) and Kevin have over the years made subtle and not-so-subtle approaches to try and get me to join, but I have always stood firm in my resistance to these overtures.
If they are reading this, they will be proud that at least some of the kernels they threw in my direction finally sprouted. They have my other half to thank for his patient and sometimes devious nurturing of these long forgotten seeds.
If you haven’t figured it out already, the cult I have been manipulated into joining is that of people who run in the streets and on the sidewalks for fun and that increasingly elusive goal at my age: fitness.
I’m asking myself what possessed me. Why did I allow the other half to talk me into this madness? Is this what seven years of marriage does for one?
But my main question is whether I will stay the course. I am not a ray of sunshine first thing in the morning, and I doubt I will ever be as cheerful to congregate in the cold and dark to go on a run, but stranger things have happened.
So we’ll see.