Five life lessons learnt whilst running

By Jack Coetzee, Summerfields Kitchen Owner & Exec Chef

For this weeks blog post, I am going to go off topic a little. It won’t have anything to do with what interesting projects we are cooking up, behind the scenes insight or information about our diverse collection of staff. No, none of that this week! Today I am going to go a little philosophical for a moment and talk about running.

To cut a long story short, after jumping The Test Kitchen ship and dumping the fast-paced hipster lifestyle of Cape Town, I opted for the soothing mellow pace of Mpumalanga. A cut in hours and the increase in consumption of proper foods (Heard of the saying a “cobblers wife never get new shoes?”, well it’s the same for a chef in the fine dining industry. Moral of the story: ALWAYS trust the skinny chef! I began to put on a couple pounds. After taking a fair amount of good humorous banter, I decided that the way to get rid of my weight was to start running.

Whilst on these runs up and down the picturesque Sabie Valley I began to notice that there were a large number of parallels between my morning jog and life in general. I have narrowed these down to 5.

  1. Equipment:

A wise man once told me to look after myself and pay particular attention to what you put between yourself and the ground. At first I was under the impression that the was referring to my rather scruffy chefs shoes that I had been wearing for 6 months longer than I should have. The more I chewed on his comment, the more I began to realize that he was talking about creating a “cushion” for myself. Investing in knowledge and skills. The things that cannot be taken away from you, thus doing so will create a safety net.

The same can be said for running. You can run in, or on whatever your heart desires, but you need to invest in the proper shoe for the proper terrain and environment. Two things will happen. First it will make your life a lot easier, more sustainable, leaving you less susceptible to injury in the long term. Second, you will derive much more pleasure out of your runs, sprinting in trail running shoes isn’t pretty. Being cheap isn’t always the answer, invest in yourself even if it sets you back a pretty penny.

  1. Company:

My first park run I notched up a 32 minute 5 km run. I thought that this was a respectable time for a chef who was slightly round and had recently quite smoking. But being in the company of a family with a combined history in competitive racing that will make even the hardcore racers looks twice, this 32 minute run needed some serious improvement. And with their help I managed to take 9 minutes off that time in 9 months.

The point I am getting at is, the mediocre are always at their best. Surround yourself with people who are better than you. People that push you to realize your potential and become a better person. We are all given talents, it is our duty to use these talents to change the lives of those around us. Life expects this of us.


  1. Discipline:

Training for races whatever the distance requires preparation. This preparation will either leave us cool, calm and collected on race day. Or in a fit of anxiety. The difference between the two is discipline.

When approaching anything in life there is a certain amount of preparation required to complete the task. Doing what is hard, having the discipline to stick to your program and follow it in an compromising fashion will stand you in good stead. You only cheat yourself by talking short cuts.

  1. Always better with a partner:

Going on long 25km runs are both enjoyable and brutal but nonetheless possible to complete by yourself. However having a partner  join you in your 3-hour escapade makes it far more enjoyable.

Going through life on your own is more than possible, but having someone who has the same goals, mindset and end destination makes it an absolute pleasure. No matter the colour, gender or race. Whether personal or in business. Have somebody to bounce ideas off, to support and be supported in times of need. Climbing the mountain to see the world is great. Climbing the mountain to see the world together is marvelous.


  1. Remember to always look up:

Living in the Sabie Valley, we are blessed with scenery that can easily taken for granted. One of my favourite runs leads you winding up through gumtree plantations. Once at the top the view is majestic. Rolling hills that allow you to see into eternity. The rub? The terrain to get there is quite rocky and technical for the part time jogger. Most of the time is spent concentrating on your next footstep. If you are not careful, you spend your whole run looking tentatively at your feet and miss the amazing view.

Everyday we are faced with decisions, both big and small. We treat them with a great deal of importance and rightly so. But it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the next foot step. So whilst it is important to focus on your next move, don’t forget to stop every now and then. Look up, appreciate where you are, who you are with and how far you have come!


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