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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Saturday, 21 June 2014

INSPIRING WITH GRACE AND HUMILITY

I was listening recently to a radio interview of the legendary #BruceFordyce (@BruceFordycerun), a man who, in his day, was the greatest #ultra-distance runner #SouthAfrica (and possibly the world) had ever seen.  In the 1980's he won 9 #ComradesMarathons.   That record still stands to this day.

During his interview he was asked what he would most like to be remembered for.  In typical self-effacing fashion he said he would like to be remembered as someone who had managed to inspire people to get fit and look after their health.  Despite being a household name synonymous with the great race, he would rather be remembered as someone who simply inspired others to be healthy.

I knew Bruce slightly.  I had met him on Campus at University once or twice, but he was a few years older than me and I didn't for a moment think he had any reason to remember who I was.  In 1986, at the peak of Bruce's running career, I was running a 53km race from Bergville to Ladysmithin KZN.  When I was 5km from the finish, running one of my best races ever, but totally on my edge and close to blowing up, my father (who had been seconding me) drove up and told me that Bruce was behind me and closing fast.  (Bruce's typical training for the Comrades saw him treating most other races as quiet training runs.  Had he been pushing it that day, Bruce would have been an hour ahead of me.) Feeling a little grumpy, I asked what I was supposed to do about that.  Dad replied that I should do my best to stay ahead of him.  Right.  Quite rich coming from the guy driving the car!

Anyway, I carried on and eventually ran painfully onto the track of the field leading to the finish.  As I did so, Bruce cruised up next to me with a companion of his and said: "Come on, Andy.  Run with us and you'll get some TV coverage."  Whether I was more surprised that he had remembered my name or that he had been thoughtful (or compassionate) enough to encourage me, I don't recall, but I needed no second bidding.  I found a hidden reserve of energy and burst into what for me by then felt like an all-out sprint.  Bruce graciously allowed me to finish a pace or so ahead of him and to this day I cherish the photograph of me finishing ahead of my then superhero.  His gesture elevated him to demi-God status in my mind.  I went on a month or so later to run my best Comrades Marathon.  Although I had done my training, I am sure that my brush with Bruce contributed in some way to my run.  As it happened, that was the same year when he also ran his fastest time and set a record which stood for many years  (although I'm not suggesting that I had anything to do with his glorious run!). 

What that taught me, however, was just how inspirational genuinely humble people can be, how much small gestures of recognition can mean to others and how little effort it takes to make a difference.  In that brief moment of connection, this great man had somehow helped me to believe that I mattered.  It also taught me the importance of noticing and acknowledging others.

The truth is that we do all matter, but often it takes the catalyst of someone else - not necessarily a Bruce Fordyce - but someone to help us see that.  Perhaps that is a calling for each of us: to connect with, encourage others and also to help others to see themselves, however we choose to do that.

So, how do you choose to connect with and inspire someone today?

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