‘Have you ever cycled before?’, asks the man who hires out mountain bikes.
'No’, I reply.
‘No?!’, the man gives me a startled look.
‘Yes, yes, yes, sorry, yes, however I have never ridden a mountain bike through sugar cane fields or anything like that.’ Sometimes, even though I know the answer, I end up saying something completely different. Very inconvenient, especially when the answer is yes or no.
I must admit, I wasn’t concentrating, as my mind was busy recalling my first ever run.
Prior to starting out on this run I thought: ‘How hard can it be, since it appears everybody goes running?’ That everybody does it, never is incontrovertible evidence that I can do it too, but I pushed that doubt to the back of my mind and had visions of myself running through verdant green valleys and a glorious landscape with unlimited possibilities. Something like I'd remembered seeing on 'Teletubbies'.
It wasn’t as though Teletubbies have anything to do with running, but while picturing these meadows in my mind suddenly a Teletubby in shorts came running through.
Why it couldn’t have been a muscular good-looking male, I don’t know either. It appears that you can’t always control your thoughts.
I suppose it would look rather ridiculous having a well-toned Teletubby racing up and down hill and doing push ups and sit ups, all accompanied by loud ‘oh oh’ shout-outs. It’s just not very credible.
‘Oh oh' certainly applied to my running career. It started after a few steps and ended when I reached the end of the street. It was while I was stumbling to a halt that I realized that my dream of being an Olympic athlete were over. I looked back shamefully in case anyone witnessed this fiasco and walked home.
Anyway, the proprietor hands me the bike and I notice that the saddle is set very high. I say nothing because the idea is not to show concern and merely take off as though you are experienced.
I perform a test run as I did as a child when I used to protest: ‘Yes Mom, I can really ride that bike, no it’s not too high. No, it’s NOT!’) and as for memories of my first spinning class (never mind).
‘The bike’s perfect!’ I shout at the proprietor.
‘Uhm, are you sure it’s not too high?’
What kind of a spry proprietor is this? My word! And as for those enviable white teeth.
In the meanwhile his entire family had gathered around a picnic table which was nicely positioned under a tree and observed us while eating chicken and rice. Well at least, I assumed they were his family, they could just as easily have been his colleagues as well. It’s early anyway to eat chicken and rice.
‘Which route are you following?’ A brother / colleague / friend / whatever.
'The blue route', I answer. And I think, route, route, what’s with this route idea? All I’m about to do is cycle for a while, which is something we do everyday in the Netherlands.
'Aha,' he says raising a knowing eyebrow and sniggers biting into his chicken.
The man in charge hands me a helmet, which looks absolutely ridiculous in conjunction with the padded cycling pants.
I fit the helmet and proceed to start cycling.
The man in charge quickly corrects me: ‘The helmet goes on the other way madam.’
Now I would like to explain how running is really more my thing than mountain biking and about how in April I will be undertaking a 21 km half-marathon and that mountain biking is really a new discipline for me and that I hadn’t realized he had handed me the helmet incorrectly. So, whose fault is it anyway?!
Where upon I would give the family sitting at the picnic table a look, they would stop eating for the occasion, assisting me by nodding and saying: 'Yes you always hand people helmets the other way Moron.’
But I leave it with a sum up:
‘Yes, of course, how stupid of me, well bye for now!’
I reposition the helmet and think to myself how much chicken is consumed in South Africa and that a first time never comes around as you expected. Then I set off as quickly as I can, while Joost follows in my slipstream.