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Round and round the garden – and we’re all uplifted




“There are always guys waiting to be picked up for casual labour,” says Maron. “Since lockdown, it’s become a hundred times worse, and the place is swarming with desperate people.”

Last Friday, he had an epiphany. He would run 21km on Freedom Day (Monday) in the confines of his garden to raise money to help these and other desperate people.

Unsure how to help those he saw daily at the intersection, he felt a contribution towards an organisation equipped to help others would be worthwhile.

So, Maron chose to run in support of the Angel Network, a charity which aids established welfare organisations in need of help. He shared his pledge in a Facebook post on Friday, encouraging friends to support his run by donating to the organisation.

“We’ve been walking around our garden for exercise throughout the lockdown, so I measured the distance of a lap. I figured that 21km is roughly 270 laps, and I decided to do it,” says Maron, a running enthusiast. “There was no planning involved.”

While most of South Africa was still fast asleep, Maron stepped out of his front door at 05:30 on Monday into the pre-sunrise chill. In spite of the cold and dark, he was armed with his favourite playlist on his phone, and set out to conquer the unique track ahead of him.

The oldest of his two sons, Jamie, 11, got up with him to take a pre-run photograph, and went back to bed after Maron got started. “I was alone until 07:00, with just Metallica and Bruce Springsteen for company.”

Although he had run 21km races before, his garden posed a new kind of challenge. “Our garden isn’t flat, so I went up and down. I climbed about 260 floors on stairs alone. To make it a little easier, I changed direction every ten laps.”

Maron got innovative when working out how to count his laps, and used a large slab of chocolate to track his progress. His family gave him one piece of chocolate after each ten circuits, and though he says he didn’t eat every piece, they helped him to count his total of 263 laps.

As tough as it was, he didn’t think of throwing in the towel. “Give up?”, says Maron. “Never. You don’t start something you don’t intend to finish.”

In total, his 25 300 steps took him three hours, 20 minutes, and covered 21.2km. Maron says he felt an immediate sense of accomplishment. “I wasn’t doing it for me, but for those I’m supporting,” he says. “I love running, so I really enjoyed the experience. Now that it’s done, I’m not feeling exhausted, but I’m expecting to feel it in my thighs tomorrow.”

Although it’s not yet clear how much money Maron raised for charity, he says the figure doesn’t matter to him.

“My purpose was just to get funding for a good cause,” he says. “It wasn’t to see how much could be raised.”

Maron’s commitment to helping others is his defining attribute, says his wife, Jodi. “That’s exactly who he is. He’s a gentle giant who would do anything for anyone. He’s always looking to help someone, and he puts others before himself.”

Equally blown over is the Angel Network’s Glynne Wolman, the organisation’s founder, who found out about the pledge only when Maron tagged the Angel Network in his initial Facebook post.

“It was so touching and heart-warming that he would do it for us,” she says. “Especially because he chose to do something which requires an enormous amount of energy. He wasn’t doing it just for likes or shares, but because he was committed to helping others.”

Wolman expressed her gratitude in an online post after Maron completed his run on Monday.

“We don’t ever nominate a hero of the day because there are just too many incredible people doing amazing things all day, every day,” she wrote on Facebook. “Were we to, though, today’s hero would undoubtedly be Bryan Maron who ran a half marathon in his garden so that starving children wouldn’t go to bed hungry.

“How do you ever thank someone for doing something so selfless? Bryan you are our hero, and a real legend. We salute you.”

Wolman says that, like Maron, members of the Jewish community have been particularly eager to support the organisation in whichever way they can, offering to run various events and sessions at no cost to raise money.

“People are coming up with ingenious ways to raise money, and it’s incredibly touching,” she says. “For some, it’s not easy to send a donation of R10 000, so they find other ways to give.”

Among those who have found novel ways to help are motivational speaker Dean Murinik, sound healing guru Jason Katz, and meditation instructor Cody Gordon. They and others have offered to give their time to support the Angel Network, delivering online sessions at no charge, and encouraging participants to make donations to the cause.

“It’s touching that people find ways to help under the circumstances,” says Wolman. “Bryan is a hero to us. His achievement is extraordinary, humbling, and meaningful. We’re incredibly grateful.”

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