20 Pictures From Walk the Talk 2019

I’d never really considered signing up for MTN Walk the Talk with 702.

Even though I knew this is one of the most iconic events in Johannesburg with 55,000 participants, and even though lots of people told me it’s great, and even though the walk starts and ends around the corner from where I live, and even though I’m awakened at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday (every single year) by the noise from Walk the Talk anyway, it somehow never occurred to me to participate myself.

I didn’t get it, to be honest. I mean, Walk the Talk doesn’t involve running or cycling (not that I do much of those things either) or any real sport. It’s walking. Who wants to get out of bed at 6:00 a.m. in the middle of winter on a Sunday to just…walk around?

But this year Walk the Talk invited me to be part of a public awareness campaign (see my previous post on the topic) and to participate in the walk. It was a special year for Walk the Talk: Since South Africa is celebrating 25 years of democracy in 2019, there was a 25-kilometer route in addition to the usual 15-, 8-, and 5-kilometer routes.

I signed up for the 25 kilometers. Go Big or Go Home.

Yesterday I did it. And now I get it.

There’s a reason why I arrived in South Africa nine years ago and never left. It’s because the people in this country are fu*king awesome. And nowhere else is this awesomeness more apparent than at Walk the Talk. Despite all the crap they’ve been through over the past four centuries, South Africans know how to Go Big or Go Home.

South Africans know how to laugh and party and have a good time. South Africans know how to look past their differences and they know how to come together and love their country. South Africans know how to make a plan and they never back down from a challenge. When asked to walk 25 kilometers to celebrate their hard-fought democracy, South Africans will fu*king do it and enjoy every fu*king moment of that sh*t.

Look at the pictures and you’ll see what I mean.

Walk the Talk in 20 Pictures

Heather selfie at Walk the Talk
Walk the Talk start selfie. The national anthem had just played and I’d already had a nice little cry. Look carefully and you’ll notice my watery eyes.
Yellow tutu team in Walk the Talk
The first kilometer. Lots of people walk in teams and raise money for various causes. This must be the Yellow Tutu Team.
Walk the Talk sunrise
A Walk the Talk sunrise.
On the road in Walk the Talk
Rounding the bend in Rustenburg Road between Emmarentia and Melville.
Walking up the ramp between Barry Hertzog and Empire Road.
Walking up the exit ramp between Barry Hertzog and Empire Road.
Yellow Tutu Team
It’s the Yellow Tutu Team again.
Walking through Wits University during Walk the Talk
A lovely morning stroll through Wits University Campus.
Dial-a-Student group in Braamfontein
I’ve never heard of Dial-a-Student and I’m a little concerned by their tagline. But these students certainly know how to have a good time.
Walking over Mandela Bridge during Walk the Talk
One of the coolest things about Walk the Talk is getting to walk through interesting parts of the city without worrying about being run over by a taxi. Walking over Nelson Mandela Bridge was a highlight.
Walking on Nelson Mandela Bridge
On the bridge.
I’ve been wanting to photograph this iconic William Kentridge sculpture, the Firewalker, for many years but never managed to get close enough on foot before this.
Bertha Street in Braamfontein
Two-way traffic on Bertha Street, Braamfontein.
Johannesburg City Council building
The beautiful new Johannesburg City Council building, which I’ve also been itching to photograph for ages.
Constitution Hill during Walk the Talk
Looking toward Hillbrow from Constitution Hill.
Woman dressed up like an ostrich in the Johannesburg Zoo.
A woman dressed up like a sexy ostrich in the Johannesburg Zoo.
M1 overpass in Houghton, Johannesburg
How often do you get to walk over a highway overpass with no cars on it?
Zulu dancers during Walk the Talk
Zulu dancers and walkers near Nelson Mandela’s former home in Houghton.

The photo above was about three hours and 15 kilometers into the 25-kilometer walk. Everyone — and by everyone I mean me — was getting pretty freaking tired. I didn’t take many photos for the next five kilometers. Instead I put on my headphones and rocked out to Taylor Swift, trying to forget about the nagging pain in the back of my knees.

Did I mention walking 25 kilometers is very hard? Especially when you do virtually no training beforehand, because — you thought — walking is not a “real sport”?

During the final hour I literally struggled to continue putting one foot in front of the other. But somehow I did it. We all did. I didn’t see a single person give up.

People watching Walk the Talk
In Parkview and Emmarentia, the home stretch of the walk, people sit outside their houses to watch the walkers. The girl must live here — she was blowing on a vuvuzela to urge us on. The guy is an informal recycler — see his makeshift trolley in the foreground. I guess he also got tired of walking (many informal recyclers in Joburg walk the equivalent of a 25k Walk the Talk every day) and decided to plop down and cheer along with her.
Home stretch of Walk the Talk
Almost there.
Woman at the finish line of Walk the Talk
At the finish line, four hours and 50 minutes later. I didn’t have the energy to ask someone to take a photo of me, as everyone else was doing, but this woman looks way better than I did at that point anyway.

Guys. I was so tired at the end and I still had to trudge 1.5 kilometers up the steepest uphill you can imagine to get home. I barely managed to drag myself into the Steers near my house, order a giant jalapeño-mayo cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate milkshake, limp across the road, wolf down my food, and collapse into the bathtub. I’ve been waddling around like an elderly penguin ever since.

I hope to be able to bend my legs again someday. But either way it was worth it. I feel more South African than I ever have before.

Next year I’m sticking with the 15k.

My admission fee to Walk the Talk was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.

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19 Comments

  • Reply Peggy Laws July 29, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Wow! Well done and well written. The most I have done was 12kms and nowadays 5kms. The atmosphere must have been wonderful. Great pics

    • Reply 2summers July 29, 2019 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad I can at least say I walked 25kms once in my life 😂

  • Reply violetonlineisonline July 29, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    great words and pics. I also noticed the woman on Kerry Road hanging out with the local paper recycler. Thought that was a special moment! I stopped opposite to buy my lemonade.
    See ya at the next walk!

    • Reply 2summers July 29, 2019 at 6:29 pm

      Yes, I wish now I’d stopped to chat with them and find out if they knew each other already before Sunday. But, too tired.

      • Reply violetonlineisonline July 29, 2019 at 6:30 pm

        they looked so comfortable together. and he must have been there a while. You could go back and interview her, would make an interesting story.

  • Reply ANDREW MELDRUM July 29, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Great post, great pix! I did the 25 K also and was looking for you. We must have been very close. Saw the yellow tutu brigade a few times and finished at 5 hours. The walk back home was really hard. I am walking like a penguin now too.

    • Reply 2summers July 29, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Hahaha. My friend Sandi also posted photos of the yellow tutu ladies and somehow she and I didn’t see each other either. I guess the best way to stand out is to wear a tutu.

  • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun July 29, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Hey Heather, I just wanted to say your initial post inspired me to sign up for the 25k, so thanks, thanks so frickn’ much for all the pain I am now in! Just kidding, it was totally worth it (I think, or I hope I will say that in a couple more days). I did look for you but you were probably way out in front of me, I finished at 5:11 which for someone who really wasn’t sure she was even going to finish, I am very happy with that. The last 3 kms I think i was hobbling along at about 2 km/hr. I don’t remember seeing the yellow tutus, I was around the pink tutus and the Israeli flag people for quite some time. I love your photos, I didn’t even see the Firewalker statue, lol. My co-workers called me a penguin too this morning and I have been ordered to work from home tomorrow, I’m in pretty rough shape.

    • Reply 2summers July 29, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Hahahaha, I am sorry about that! I was actually thinking about all the people who actually had to go into an office today and wondering how they did it. I worked from the couch obviously. That’s so funny I’m not the only one making the penguin comparison 😂😂😂 I also was around the Israeli flag for a while and the pink tutus. It’s funny how we were all floating around in the same places but mostly didn’t notice anyone else we knew. Anyway congrats on finishing!

  • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun July 29, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks Heather, congrats to you too. Before doing it I really didn’t realize what a big deal it is, that is a long way! We rock!

  • Reply Graham Burgess July 29, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Awesome commentary and pictures

  • Reply pkadams July 30, 2019 at 2:49 am

    So awesome! And how cool that you got to take some photos that you had wanted to take.

    • Reply 2summers July 30, 2019 at 7:12 am

      Yes, it’s a great opportunity to see the sights of the city 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie July 30, 2019 at 4:56 am

    I think I keep running races to get feelings like this. There is such a feeling of camaraderie along the road in every South African race that I’ve run. I also watch the Comrades Marathon every year which is the ultimate one in making you feel proudly South African. Well done on walking 25 kilometers! That’s a feat! And what a pleasure to walk on closed streets where as you say you don’t have to dodge taxis.

    • Reply 2summers July 30, 2019 at 7:12 am

      I would love to watch (but not run) the Comrades one of these days!

  • Reply AutumnAshbough July 30, 2019 at 5:24 am

    That is pretty cool. Congrats on finishing!

    • Reply 2summers July 30, 2019 at 7:11 am

      Thanks! I can almost bend my legs today.

  • Reply Peter July 30, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    I looked deep into those big blue eyes, but I couldn’t find that anthem moisture …… he he

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