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Streets were lined with supportive residents and the air was filled with a good-natured buzz when tens of thousands of people walked through Joburg’s northern suburbs.
IT’S not every day that the tree-lined streets of Joburg’s northern suburbs are invaded by an army of over 50 000 people and 2 000 dogs; neither is it an everyday occurrence for the city’s mayor to join their ranks.

 

Executive mayor Parks Tau (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Executive mayor Parks Tau starts the 8km walk (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)But on Sunday, 24 July, this is exactly what happened. Executive Mayor Parks Tau joined residents for the annual Discovery 702 Walk the Talk event, where he and approximately 23 000 other people participated in the 8km leg of the race.
 

There were three other categories that people could walk: 5km, 15km and 30km. Although the 8km route was the most popular, there was by no means a shortage of walkers in the other categories.

“There were 2 000 entrants for the 30km walk, 11 000 for 15km, and 18 800 for 5km,” said public relations and communications co-ordinator at Primedia Broadcasting, Pippa Rowles.

The 5km and 8km routes were aimed at those wanting to spend a fun day out, enjoying the Highveld winter sun, while the 15km and 30km routes were competitive.

Tau was as ebullient as the rest of the crowd, crammed into any available spot on jam-packed Judith Road, in Emmarentia, while they waited for the countdown to the start.

People and dogs mingled restlessly, eager to be on their way; music and chatter rang out while families snacked on last minute energy bars.

 

Walkers Walkers tackle the last leg of the 8km walk As the clock crept towards the 9am set off, Tau chatted to presenters from 702 Talk Radio, one of the sponsors. Promises that the City “is going to sort out potholes and traffic lights” garnered a roar of approval from the crowd and notched up the excitement level to fever pitch.
 

Countdown
Just minutes later the countdown struck zero and the army of thousands marched steadily forward. Those eager to set a good pace found gaps in the crowd and surged forward.

Steady streams of chatter and laughter burst forth, but did not slow down the walkers. Residents of graceful houses lining the streets of the route in Emmarentia, Greenside and Parkview turned out to offer their support.

Posters wishing good luck and proclaiming respect for those taking part hung on gates and walls, while house owners sat on balconies and verandahs to shout out support and watch as people resplendent in their bright blue Walk the Talk T-shirts filed past like a line of ants.

Doggie water points and Powerade zones littered the route to offer respite to man and beast from the increasingly warm morning, and the four-pawed participants seemed especially grateful for their pit stops.

To encourage environmental awareness and prevent littering, bins were also prominently placed all along the roads. Companies such as Europcar came out in force to act as cheerleaders and to egg on flagging walkers.

 

Rea VayaRea Vaya encourages walking for good healthA band serenaded passers-by on Emmarentia Avenue, and speakers strategically placed in different places provided pockets of bass and rhythm to keep everyone going.
 

The snaking roads through leafy suburbs belied the distance that was walked; before they could blink the walkers were on the final uphill leading back to Marks Park, the home of the event.

A bit of a squash to cross the finish line and collect a participant’s medal and goody bag did not dampen spirits in the slightest, and people were then free to wander around the sports ground and indulge in the wide selection of food and drink on offer.

Entertainment
Entertainment by well-known performers such as PJ Powers and Idols winner Elvis Blue kept feet tapping no matter how sore they were and the winter sun lent a pleasant warmth to the festival-like atmosphere.

Once participants had eaten and drunk their fill, they limped a slow journey back through the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens to their cars or park and ride buses, sponsored by Gautrain. These buses ferried approximately 3 000 walkers to and from the race from four points in the city: the Coca-Cola Dome at Northgate; Nasrec Expo Centre; Bezuidenhout Valley Park; and the Sandton Gautrain Station.

Every year, a number of well-known personalities participate in the Walk the Talk for good causes, and this year was no different.

Stars included sports heroes such as Shaun Pollock, Baby Jake Matlala and Lucas Radebe, who donned their takkies to help the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, and Miss South Africa, Bokang Montjane, who pounded the pavements to help MaAfrika Tikkun, a charity that aims to build communities so that they can help themselves.

Walk the Talk is sponsored by Discovery and Talk Radio 702 and is hosted by the City of Johannesburg. It forms part of the City’s objective to promote and nurture a healthier lifestyle.

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