Grace to you
This week I came across the story of Farai Chinomwe. Farai is an athlete. He runs marathons and ultra-marathons like the Comrades, which in 2014 he did in an incredible time of 7 hours 6 minutes.
“I was born and brought up in a rural area near the Great Zimbabwe Ruins surrounded by insects and nature in a musical family – in our village, everyone had some instrument to play. In 2000, I moved to Johannesburg to study and ended up playing drum and Mbira in a band – we’d perform at restaurants and other events and when I wasn’t playing, I would do running and fitness training. One day I went to the shed to collect my instruments for a performance when I discovered that a swarm of bees had moved into my favourite djembe. Everyone told me I should burn the bees out but I decided to rather find a way to remove them safely. It was only after a year that I had developed sufficient means and confidence to provide a new home to the swarm. They had literally transformed the drum into a giant honeycomb – this was the point where I became a beekeeper.”
In 2015 Farai ran the Comrades Marathon in 11 hours 31 minutes – which was slow in comparison to his previous times but the reason for this was that he was running backwards!
It all started by accident.
“It was one o’clock in the morning and I was driving on a very dark Corlett Drive on the outskirts of Alexandra in my battered old Peugeot 404. I had collected a swarm of bees from a client and they were buzzing angrily in the boot. Suddenly, the car simply sputtered and stalled and there I was in the cold and dark without any prospect of help.
I realised I’d have to push the car, which was quite heavy, to the top of the hill where I could at least coast the few km back home. I started pushing the car the normal way and immediately realised that I wouldn’t be able to make it. I turned around with my back to the car boot and realised I could push it far easier. Eventually, after 2 hours of pushing and coasting and steering, I got back home, transferred the bees to their new home and finally got to sleep. Next morning on waking, I noticed that my quads felt like they got the most amazing workover and at that moment, I suddenly realised that the bees had helped me discover a really useful training technique.”
Farai is a dedicated beekeeper and because it was through the bees that he learned backward running, he’s decided to run some of his marathons backwards to raise awareness about the importance of bees in the environment and to encourage people to love and care for bees. Farai’s business is Blessed Bee Africa.
Running the Comrades forwards is a massive achievement. Running it backwards is beyond category. But as Nietzsche said: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”.
May the “why we live” find us and focus us.