A reflection by Ken McArthur
I have been incredibly fortunate that my career, in Marketing, never felt like work. Oh, there were poor days in the 40 odd years, but I loved it – product creation, research, advertising, pricing, promotion, and so on.
However, now in my early retirement years, I wonder, as I coach the Parktown Girls Cross Country five times a week, whether I should have remained a schoolteacher.
I have been running, training and running races for 50 years plus. My spirit still loves the challenge albeit without the levels of success I had in the 1980s! While at Varsity in the Cape, Doug Brown, then the vice principal at SACS, encouraged me to coach and attend Western Province schools camps each December. Having no clue of what I really wanted to do with my life, I completed a BA and then did a post-grad teachers diploma. (During this time, I too qualified as a national coach and athletics referee and was well on my way.)
As happens, I got seduced into Marketing, requalified and forged ahead in business.
But I kept running and competing on the track and road. I got pulled in by Wanderers and Dick Welch of Rand Athletic Club to do club and Transvaal road running administration. From there to national administration happened naturaly: an active athlete “running” the sport for other athletes! I still ran at provincial level ‘til moving to the UK for 10 years. (The London Marathon and cross country were fun!)
To cut this long story short, when Kerry my youngest daughter was in grade 10, the school cross country coach passed away and Kerry asked me to help. I loved that she had too developed a fitness passion and so agreed for twice a week runs at the school. That was 5 years ago! The kids won’t hear of me leaving despite both my daughters being out of school, and the teacher in charge, likewise, refuses to hear my protestations!
This year we had both our senior and junior team selected to compete in the provincial championship and three girls selected for the individual racing. Next year we could have six, which is another great challenge.
For me forgiveness has come in giving my time and seeing how it benefits others.
I have seen young people achieving success and individuals finding themselves, gaining in confidence, self-esteem and fitness.
I have seen growth: we started with fewer than 10 girls running and now have between 30 and 40 out training, all of them enjoying it and coming back for more. Some are good runners and proving it. Not all can be winners but being part of the team, they contribute to the whole. We have lots of fun and plenty smiles abound. There are the odd tears, but they are soon overcome. Their spirit is infectious.
I hope we have started a lifetime fitness regime, which is a relatively hassle-free, cost-free way to cope with stress and aerate the brain daily.
Coaching offered me an erring yet unintended opportunity to give back some of the gift I have enjoyed and treasured throughout my life. I stumbled into this, and by giving my time to kids, I have enjoyed being part of their growth. I have seen tolerance for the weak and the strong, and experienced love shared among a hugely diverse group of ladies.