Hello taper week! Nervous energy for breakfast, lunch and supper. PUFfeR is this Saturday. A classic Cape Town running event that comprises around 40km of tar and 40km of trail. Some very technical elements, some great running, some climbs that will make me cry and views that will, hopefully, make it all worthwhile. We will reach the highest point of Table Mountain and look back at where we started, Cape Point Nature Reserve, and then head on to the finish in Greenpoint. I can’t wait, and I can wait, and everything in between. Whilst my mind is heavily occupied by the big run ahead, I have been thinking about mothers and sons a lot. My own boy turned 12 earlier this month and I’ve got an inkling of the teenage persona that is headed our way.
In this photograph, taken by my dad last weekend, Mike is about to take a massive tackle by his Wynberg opponent. He will jump up after eating some of that grass, brush off some mud, and continue a great game of rugby. Later that morning, he will sit in the passenger seat of my car, sweaty and pumped by their win against a strong team, and admit only to his mom, that his ribs are bruised and he has stud marks on his face from where some boy stood on him. He will ask for a bubble bath and pizza. When you look along the right hand side of this photo, you will see me standing next to my mother with my hands over my face.
He is my boy, and he is still my baby.
Two days ago I was preparing for a short taper trot. The programme said 8km easy trail, so I figured it would be ok to do this one alone. I don’t normally head in to the mountain on my own but a short trot on a sunny morning is generally fine. Mike was eating breakfast when he noticed that I had a hand-held mace bottle next to my car keys.
“Why do you have mace, mom?”
“I am doing a solo run my boy, it’s just in case.”
Mike held back from further comment, but after we had dropped his little sister at school he told me exactly what he thought about me running alone.
He is my boy, but he is no longer my baby.
As I ran that morning with mace in hand and my son’s beautiful, concerned face in my heart, I thought of two other mothers and their sons.
Wayde van Niekerk, our Olympic golden boy ,had just shattered the 400m record. The entire country was in celebration mode and we all had Wayde running that 400m race on repeat, repeat, repeat. Turns out, Wayde’s mom blazed the trail that set this star on the road to Olympic glory. A formidable sprinter in the days of sports isolation, Odessa Krause must have watched that record fall with unimaginable pride. Her baby boy, born at 29 weeks and given 24 hours to live, now one of the fastest athletes on the globe. I wondered if Wayde grew up on stories of his mother’s talent, and if those dark years of sports isolation that held Odessa and so many others back from international competition spurred him on to become what he has. I wondered how many races he started, thinking, “This one is for you, mom”. I wondered just what that medal meant to Odessa.
Still her boy, still her baby… now a man with the power to change lives and inspire youngsters to pursue dreams way beyond their circumstances.
The other mother in my heart that morning was Segomotso Garesape from the Northern Cape. South Africa was reeling from the news that she was attacked whilst walking her two sons to school and her six year old son Kutlwano Garesape died trying to defend his mother. Six years old and tragically trying to be his mother’s protector. How heavily will that sit with Segomotso?
Her baby, her boy, gave his life for her.
By the end of that run I had decided that Mike will give me away when Q and I get married on 16 December.
My son, may you always know my love. Being your mother is a privilege. I have done well to protect you until now, but I realise that I can’t protect you from everything. I’ll always give all I can in an effort to see you grow in to a man that knows how to stand back up when a tackle takes you down. I love you.