The 46-year-old Pascal Simba’s words of encouragement that ring out in the morning air during the weekly Roodepoort parkrun, always puts a smile on the participants’ faces.
As soon as they hear his words, they automatically increase their pace in an effort to finish their race in style.
He not only uses catchphrases such as, “there is no walking on the red carpet”, “push just a little bit more”, “do not allow anyone to overtake you” and “congratulations, you are doing extremely well”, but also dishes out some high fives to every one crossing the finish line.
Pascal has been doing this for the past two years, but became an instant celebrity when a video that was taken by a parkrunner had gone viral. “I was not aware of the video, and when my friends started phoning me to tell me that the 702 presenters want to interview me, I thought they were joking. But, I soon realised they weren’t, and the next moment I was on live radio!” Pascal said with a huge smile.
There have been many enquiries from the parkrunners who ran our event yesterday, regarding the marshal on duty at the "big tree". We are fortunate enough to have all the shenanigans on video. Pascal Simba, you are an absolute legend! You were the "talk of the parkrun" yesterday!
Posted by Roodepoort parkrun on Saturday, 19 August 2017
Pascal, who lives across from the park, said that he watched the runners and walkers from his apartment window for almost five months, before deciding to try it himself, “I was very slow and I felt ashamed of myself because I have neglected my health. I gained a lot of weight, and also experienced breathing problems. During my first runs I did my best not to be noticed by anyone.”
Pascal regards his first official parkrun to have been on 2 January 2016, and he said, “During my runs I started making friends with my fellow runners, and we motivated and encouraged each other. It felt good, and made the run a bit easier.”
He soon found out that the parkrun is run by volunteers, and decided to also make a contribution. He started volunteering as a marshall. “I realised that people tend to focus only on the pain and effort during their run or walk, and I decided to start encouraging them because we are not here to punish ourselves, but to enjoy the health benefits that come with the exercise. Since I started with the parkrun, my breathing has improved and I have lost weight, and I did not want to keep that to myself,” said Pascal.
He has already completed 54 parkruns, and on three Saturdays of the month he first runs his own five kilometres before standing at the finishing line to encourage those who are still running or walking. The fourth Saturday is dedicated to volunteering and he uses the whole morning to motivate and encourage the participants.
“We often do things without realising the huge impact we have on people, and it gives me great joy that people are recognising and appreciating my small contribution,” he said.
He added that, since he has been encouraging the other runners, they have started encouraging and motivating him as well, and explained,
“When they pass me on my run and see that I am maybe walking or running at a slower pace, they will encourage me with my very own words, reminding me to keep the pace and not walk. This helps me to want to do better.”
For Pascal the instant fame has come as a huge surprise. He said it was a bit too much for him, as he never thought that his small contribution would make such a huge impact. “I am very humbled and would never have thought that what I was doing here, would open these doors for me.
I believe in love, and this is my way of expressing my love for everyone else. All I want to do is help the runners and walkers to forget about the pain and enjoy the moment,” he concluded.
Pascal concluded by saying, “I want to encourage everyone to come and at least try the parkrun once. Just come and tell yourself that you are going to enjoy your run or walk. Everyone participating in the run is running their own race, at their own pace, with the main focus on enjoying it. We do not always get the opportunity to enjoy the company of other people while reaping the health benefits of exercise and fresh air. It will only take one hour out of your day, once a week.”
Kip Norman, one of the run directors of the Roodepoort parkrun posted the following on Facebook, “Ah, Pascal, you do all the hard work and bring joy, encouragement, happiness and laughter to our parkrunners. Roodepoort parkrunners, please reciprocate when you see him with lots of hugs!”
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