Cape Town’s Mr Running Inspires With His Passion

When a stressful career in the construction industry caught up with Ashraf Orrie in 2011, he looked to his community for help – and found running. And running has changed the way he views the world.


Ashraf Orrie

Construction project manager
Running influencer

Shoe collector 

When a stressful career in the construction industry caught up with Ashraf Orrie in 2011, he looked to his community for help – and found running. And running has changed the way he views the world.

Runner’s World: So, how did you go from no running to getting so involved in the sport?

Ashraf Orrie: Running had just taken off in the communities at that time. I was overweight and over-stressed, and needed something to remedy my situation. 

As a kid I played soccer and baseball, mostly. At school I was a high jumper, but also ran middle distance, from 400m up to 5 000m. But this was the first time, later in life, that I decided to try out running. 

RW: How many events do you run in a year?

AO: Ha! Well, running… probably 50 or 60 events a year. I also do some cycling and swimming events, as well as Ironman. 

I have my favourite events that I like to run and support. I also love socialising with runners from all over. Initially, when I started running, it was all about PBs; but now it’s more about being outdoors and in nature, seeing the sunrise and sunset, you know? By now I’m a regular at most events, and have insight into many routes on both trails and tar. So it’s good to be able to share my knowledge of the routes, especially helping the newbies know what to expect. 

Plus the social aspect; did I mention the social aspect?! I just love chirping fellow runners – because I know most of them by now – and they’ve come to expect me at most races. 

I have my own goals too, though. I would definitely love to run the seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. But okay, I’ve crunched the numbers and it’s way too expensive; so my main event goal now is to take part in the Northern Lights marathon (the Midnight Sun Marathon in Norway – Ed.]. 

RW: You’re a bit of an influencer. How does running as an influencer differ from being a normal runner? 

AO: I take all my recording equipment with me to every run. Phones, cameras, mics… I like to record who’s at the event. There are so many lekker people in our running communities. I love to capture it start to finish, the whole journey to the event, the food, the culture, race registration, the route… and the other crazies taking part. 

One of the reasons I like to post my missions is to show my fellow runners what to expect before taking part, or when thinking about attempting a running challenge. To present the highs and lows, advise what to do and what not do, and how to go about having their best experience. 

RW: Tell us about your shoe collection. We heard your house renovations were centred around, uh, making space for your shoes? 

AO: Ha ha! The shoe collection will always be taken into consideration. I’m an avid running-shoe collector. I love to have the latest, to see why everyone is raving about them. Or even why there’s <itals>no hype about a shoe, too. 

South African footwear companies have been good to me, always seeing to it that I have the latest. I probably have about 500 pairs in my collection currently; but when new ones come in, I make space by giving away some of the worn ones. I must have about 80 to100 pairs I have yet to run in.

Newest isn’t always best, though. Sometimes a new shoe is a total flop – then it doesn’t even get a second outing. But over all the years, my ‘unicorn’ shoe is the Asics DS trainer. Sadly, it’s now been discontinued. It’s the best they’ve ever made. 

RW: Any insights into what you feel different brands offer to runners?

AO: The problem is that running shoes are designed with the elite runner in mind. That’s not even one percent of runners. 

They make shoes for people less than 55kg in weight, with high or fast cadence; but unfortunately, the rest of us are the ones who need high-mileage shoes. For those weighing 75kg plus, we need comfort and maximum mileage for our investment in the shoe. 

RW: What does running mean to you?

AO: Running has become part of my identity. When people hear my name, they associate me with running. Or as the guy who gets race entry discounts, ha ha! 

But on a more serious note: running now dominates my lifestyle. Being an outdoors guy is who I’ve become. 

Running has taught me that I’m capable of going further and faster than I ever imagined. I run to push boundaries beyond my perceived limits. The sport has shown me hope that anything is possible in my day-to-day life, if I put my mind to it. Especially for a middle-aged oke doing what seemed impossible a few years ago. 

When I run, I don’t see my flaws, my mistakes, the bad choices I may have made. Running doesn’t care about my past or my future; it only wants me to be present. I trust it will give me much more than it takes.


READ MORE ON: My Running Life

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