The spirit of red socks can help change the world. It has already started.

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When reading this awesome article and headline blazed across the Sports section of the Cape Times, “Spirit of red socks can help change the face of sport” written by Stephen Granger I was blown away and my skin covered in goosebumps. It is a really powerful statement to make. I mean lots of people must be thinking, jeepers, how does the spirit of red socks change the face of sport, let alone the world?! However, the simple answer is IT CAN!

I really believe that. In fact it has actually already started thanks to you and so many others who have opened up their hearts to the world and given their hearts to others.

The Unogwaja Challenge is an opportunity to discover, share and infect other people with this spirit and that’s exactly what this year’s journey has been all about. Look no further than our Northern Irishman’s account of his journey  or the way our Pretoria man opened his heart to us through his experience and even veteran marathon runner and well respected South African journalist Stephen Granger who experienced the journey vicariously. These accounts do not speak of the physical demands of an endurance cycle and run, but more so about an incredible journey of the heart that has had a deep impact of many people’s lives many of whom we don’t even realise.

How it is possible for an elderly Afrikaans journalist called Wilna de Klerk from Cradock to take this from a late night interview with me whilst staying overnight in Gussie’s homeless shelter;

“Unogwaja is nie ‘n wedren teen tyd nie, maar eerder ‘n hartreis en geleentheid vir elke deelnemer om te kyk wat hy vir sy medemens kan beteken” (I wish I could say this in Afrikaans!!)

“Unogwaja is not a race against time, but rather a journey of the heart and an opportunity for everyone taking part to see what they can do for their fellow man”

(Thanks to @milanmurray for translating this as well as the rest of the article. I must apologise to Wilna for when she asked me about the team and what each of us did for a living I did happen to give the first professions that sprung to mind. I forgot about this until I got the translation yesterday and read the following “This is not a relay; every rider – 8 men and 4 ladies between the ages of 26 and 38 – completes an average of 200km a day for 10days. Amongst them are doctors (true, we have one), a filmmaker (true), a graphic designer (true), a baker (not exactly true although i’m sure we have some good ones amongst us) and even a fireman (mmmm I couldn’t resist!)

How is it possible that a lady by the name of Elre Fredericks from Port Elizabeth whom none of us knew before had connected with this spirit so much so that she drove over 400km to Willowmore to join us and get a pair of red socks for herself and her friend who accompanied her. She said that the Unogwaja/ shoOops! spirit had helped her in her life and she felt compelled to come. She is moving to Cape Town shortly too and wanted to make sure her friend Mel who was staying in Port Elizabeth, had red socks so they could wear them on Fridays so no matter how far apart they were in distance they could always be connected.

How is it possible that a little boy outside Lady Frere (middle of rural Eastern Cape) ran to the road shouting Unogwaja? The red love train (thanks @ChrisGeiloGeils) was moving through the country spreading a message of hope to all who came across it.

How is it possible that the Premier of Western Cape, Helen Zille made a speech at the start of Unogwaja Challenge and handed over a special message on behalf of the Western Cape government for us to present to the KZN Premier on arrival in Pietermaritzburg?

How is it possible for 12 participants and 11 support crew members who met for the first time as a group less than 24 hours before embarking on this journey could pull together under intense physical and emotional pressure, and give so much of themselves to each other? I will never forget for as long as I live the feeling of togetherness and team before self during Comrades, and how it felt to cross the line with my teammates and seeing that my teammates before us crossed the line arm in arm.


How is it possible to hug your way across a country on a bike and through one of the toughest Ultra Marathons in the world? (Free Hugs they are called!)


How it is possible to have not owned a bike 3 years ago and never even considered running the Comrades Marathon that you find your destiny heavily entwined in both?

How is it possible that we set out to raise R250,000 for our charities which at the time was considered to be an highly optimistic aim for such a small group and compared to previous years, only to find ourselves about to hit the half a million mark? People like Etana Insurance, one of our beautiful partners just decided to donate R10,000 per Unogwaja finisher. All 12 of us finished in some of the toughest Comrades conditions in memory with over a third of the field not finishing. AndBidvest donating R36,000 to our Pink Drive campaign. Next year we will set out to raise a million. Together we can do it!

How is it possible that the Grade 5H class (aged 10-11 years old) from St Peter’s Girl’s School in Johannesburg wrote us this letter?

“Dear Red Sockers,
Congratulations on your achievements in the Unogwaja Challenge. You have inspired our class, Grade 5H at St Peter’s Girls School, to wear our red socks on Fridays. The red sock story reminds us to stay in touch with our family and friends, as well as to live life passionately and to the fullest. It also reminds us to never give up!
Please can you let us know how to order red socks and their price, so that we have a chance to wear these and spread the shoOops love!
Grade 5H 2013
Miss Holm, Eden, Kristen-Leigh, Emma C, Caity, Tylor, Jordy, Tsidzo, Juliette, Han, Sabrina, Sabs, Tisi, Chlo, Grace, Teagan, Ayla, Jom, Miks, Kiara, Samantha, Izzi, Jenna, Michaela, Mics T, Em”

How is it possible that Rosey, a Stellenbosch University student shared this with us while we were on the road?

The answer lies in your heart and this journey helps you unlock whatever it is that is in yours. And when you do, you not only give other people the belief to do the same but you attract so many people who simply want to help you on your journey. In simple terms, this is what the Unogwaja is all about, this is what life can be about; following your heart and opening it up and giving it to others. The rewards for those who are prepared to do so are unimaginable, unfathomable and deeply powerful for you as an individual, for the people around you and for mankind. Indeed, it can really change the world!

Read this poem about the #shoOops written by Ushi, an American red socker based in San Francisco who discovered the #shoOops!

And the best thing is you don’t have to cycle across South Africa and then run an Ultra Marathon to discover this and make it happen! Do it now! Take a step towards it at least and see what happens.

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