Step, Step, Breathe

Sophie Oldfield
Agitate, 2020

I started running eight years ago as a way to be in my city, in Cape Town. Step, step, breathe (video above) shares how running gave me a way to move through Cape Town, to see it anew, and to participate in it.

I wrote the story and drew the visuals in the Inside/Out Storytelling workshop in 2019. Run by Joanna Wheeler, a sociologist who specialises in narrative methodologies,2 the workshop drew on an experiential and participatory methodology through which we – migrants to Cape Town in some form and at some point – produced digital stories, which explored belonging in our city. The process pushed me to embrace the personal and the intimate directly in my writing, and, for the first time, to explore the visual and digital as a key part of storytelling.

While Step, step, breathe is my personal story, it is also the foundation from which I developed a course entitled ‘Running the City.’ Rediscovering my city through running led me to imagine ways I might use running to teach urban studies in Cape Town. On the one hand, Cape Town is hard, unequal, divided, dangerous, a place where you have to be street smart, savvy, fast walking, strong. It is a city of texture, of surface and shine, of grit and graded zinc. On the other hand, it is a city of people, of languages, accents, styles and humour. It is a city of the known and unknown, neighbourhoods where you can and cannot walk, extraordinary vistas and views, as well as banal things at foot. Cape Town invites you in and spits you out; it demands something of you. The course has become a way to immerse my teaching in the city and its contradictions. It has proved a rigorous and joyous way to see the city, to engage running publics, and to theorise in creative embodied and participatory forms.