Archive for Trail Running

The Skyrun Post-Race Dissection

The Skyrun took place on the weekend and my mom was one of the crazy ones to actually take part.  I asked her to write about it for Reluctant Runner, here is what she had to say about it…

“I found it very difficult, and very long. I’ve decided that I love trail running, with the optimum words being ‘trail’ and ‘run’. I think we only ran about 1km and that was from the start to the gate where you head into the mountains (in town), otherwise it was a loooong walk with the most beautiful scenery, all along the top of the mountains.

We ended up only doing 65km of the 100km as this took us from 4am to 8.45pm. Just too long on the trail, too burnt, sore feet and just plain gatvol. It turns out that they stopped the race at CP7 anyway – only the front runners who ran through the night were able to go through to the end.

There was no way we were we going to tackle the bit from Balloch to Wartrail in the pitch dark – two massive mountains to go up and down, and not knowing where to go – no markers, no flags, no paths and not much oxygen for us low landers – just a 1:50 000 contour map and a GPS (thank goodness for this otherwise we’d still be wondering around in the mountains along with most of the other entrants).

Anyway a great experience, but not one I think I will be doing again.”

How hectic is that!!!  Well done to everyone, even if you didn’t finish, I think just doing the first day is an achievement in itself.  Well done to those who did finish and to the winners Iain don Wouchope and Tatem Prins!!!

skyrun 1

skyrun 2

skyrun 3

Skyrun this weekend!

Good luck to all the runners participating in the Skyrun this weekend – my mom included 🙂

This race is run along the Witteberg and Drankensberg mountain range, at an altitude of around 2,500 metres above sea level.  The trail isn’t marked.  It is said to be one of the toughest trail runs in this part of the country.  Check out the profile…


Running Anniversary

On Sunday I ran the VOB Grape Run which is what I like to refer to as my ‘Running Anniversary’ race.  The Grape Run was the first half marathon I did and was basically the race which helped prove to me that, in fact, running the Comrades was achievable.

Now I know the race is just a half marathon (21.1km), compared to the 89km of the Comrades, but it was on this race that I realised the key to distance running (and  most endurance sports for that matter), is to manage your mind effectively because most of these races are won or lost in the head.

I walked away from this race thinking, was that if I could finish a 21km race after never having done more than 10km in training, then the same concept would hold true for the longer races.  As it turns out I was right, 7 months after my first Grape Run I did the Comrades marathon, my longest distance in training being a 56km training run…

Now, 4 Grape Runs later and 3 Comrades Marathons under my belt, I feel that unless you can master those voices in your head which tell you how tired you are or how your knees are aching, or overcome the belief that distance running is 100% based on your fitness – then you will always struggle, no matter how many km’s in training you do.

Happy Anniversary to my running – sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it but above all, I have learned a great deal about myself and the extent to which the human body can be pushed!

Grape Run Views

Trail Running at Altitude

Last weekend I was in Pretoria for my brothers wedding and decided to do one of the Gauteng Trail Running Series runs with my mom.  Not thinking much about the 12km route and arriving very badly prepared without a cap or water – I was looking forward to running in a different area to what I am used to.

Starting on an uphill (the trail running guys seem to love doing this), it wasn’t long before my mom and I were huffing and puffing like antique steam engines.  This didn’t do much in terms of confidence, especially since I thought I was pretty fit – but then I remembered that the Cape (my home) is at sea level and Pretoria sits at roughly 1,350 metres (4,500ft) above sea level.  At higher altitudes there is less oxygen which means the amount of oxygen in your blood is reduced, which would account for me feeling tired and heavy during the race.  I am used to the more dense sea air, so when I run on the Highveld, it actually feels like the air I’m breathing in is not actually getting to where it needs to go.

Prolonged training at higher altitudes results in an increase in red blood cells, to conpensate for the reduction in oxygen levels, which has an overall positive effect on your performance because your body is being oxygenated more efficiently.  I don’t incorporate high altitude runs in my training program, but I can see the value in making the extra effort.

The trail run turned out to be one of my fastest times yet because at the 4km we came upon a man who had twisted his ankle very badly and needed help.  I volunteered to run off and find a marshal who would call in the paramedics, but the first marshal I saw was about 1km from the end.  Luckily someone had a cell phone with which they called the injury in and by the time we crossed the finish line, the ankle was already strapped.

On the serious trail runs you are not allowed taking part if you don’t have a cell phone, injuries being one of the main reasons for this, but on the less formal runs there are no specifications or procedures which need to be followed to take part.  I have always enjoyed the Trail Running Series sponsored by Salomon and Capestorm but I do feel that on this occasion, they could have had just one or two more marshals on the course.

Luckily I’m back in Cape Town now and running again as normal which I’m very grateful for, especially with a half marathon coming up on Sunday 🙂  Oh and well done to my mom who came first in her category!

That's my mom in the middle

That's my mom in the middle

The Bushmans Blitz

This is a 32km trail run in the Overberg mountains on October 16th, from Greyton to McGregor and back. Greyton is one of my favourite weekend getaways.  It is a quaint little town just a couple of hours outside of Cape Town, at the foot of some pretty hectic mountains – a mecca for runners and mountain bikers!  This race takes you over said mountains, to the town of McGregor which is in the adjacent valley – and then back again.  It is quite technical and mainly on a single-track but the views are breathtaking and totally worth the burning lungs.

For those of us who prefer the easier shorter option, there is a 12km race called the Greyton Trail Challenge which takes runners into the mountains around the village with enough of a challenge to get the quads burning, but not technical enough to leave you outside after dark.

If you are hard-core and would prefer to do The Bushmans Blitz then I’d recommend emailing the race organisers immediately to see if there are any spots left, entries are limited to 50 people only –

OverbergPhoto Credit

The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon

On October 15th participants of the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon will be hitting this 7-day, 250km race in the Kalahari Desert, near the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. This marathon is certainly NOT for the faint hearted, with the average daytime temperatures reaching over 40 °C, only to plummet to below 5 °C in the evening.

Said to follow in the footprints of ancient Bushmen, the trail manages to capture the essence of this part of South Africa, taking runners through the rich, fertile Orange River Valley, through the Augrabies Falls National Park, Private Game Reserves, Farmlands and into the Kalahari Desert.

Runners have to be self-sufficient – carrying water, food, clothing and emergency supplies because even though the race organisers have check-points every 8 to 10 km, the terrain is unforgiving and survival of the fittest definitely takes on a new meaning…

Distances range from 28km to 75km per day but this race isn’t just about running – water is strictly controlled and distributed to each team every morning bags are checked daily to make sure that the correct amount of nutrition is taken – any outside assistance during this race will result in disqualification.

Known as the ‘Big Daddy’ of extreme marathons, entries are limited to 100 which isn’t all that much considering this race is featured on the international running calendars. So if you are in the market for a challenge, I’d say check this one out 🙂

Kalahari Extreme Marathon

Photo Credit

Running Challenges

For the past little while I have been writing about trail running and how I would like to get into it a bit more – well it seems I prefer the deep end of things (a little like how I got into running the Comrades in the first place) and have been entered into the African X, a 3 day trail run here in the Western Cape.

My mom and Linda actually did it together last year.  You have to enter as a team of 2, making sure you are always within sight of each other.  This is the first race of it’s kind apparently, where runners start and end in the same place every day – namely in Kleinmond.  The trail takes you into the exquisite Kogelberg mountains with each day bringing new challenges from beach running to steep and technical inclines.

Day 1:  25km with  538m of climbing.


Day 2:  42kmwith 886m of climbing


Day 3:  22km  with a 287m climb


So as you can see this is going to be a pretty spectacular run, especially considering I’ve never gone further than 16km on a trail run before 🙂

Luckily I have until May next year to get my 4 X 4 gear into shape and to make sure that I keep my mom (my team-mate) in my sight the whole way…  Don’t you love a new challenge??

Helderberg Mountain Challenge

I have just received the details of a new race in my inbox – the Helderberg Mountain Challenge on September 25th!

This doesn’t look like it is for the the faint hearted, with an 875m climb in around 9km’s, this 15.5km trail run is quite technical and follows  jeep tracks,  hiking trails and there is even a rock hopping section for you mountain goats.

If you  would prefer to remain injury free 🙂 there is an 11.5km trail run which sticks to the lower slopes of the Helderberg range and isn’t as technical as the other one.

For more information on what sounds like an awesome run, check it out here and make sure you enter!

Route and Profile

Route and Profile

Natural Running

This video made me laugh out loud!  Anyone in for some natural running??

I especially like the suntan lotion application method 🙂

Trail Running vs Road Running

So, I have successfully completed the Cape Winter Trail Series and I think I am converted…  I’ll probably always have an affinity to road running because that is where I started and I do happen to find value in pounding the pavements, but trail running adds this element of fun which I haven’t felt on the road in a long time!

There are some obviously glaring differences between trail and road running but bare with me as I state the obvious and then the not so obvious below, and then let me know if you agree or not:

Road running, although it has the potential to take you through some lovely areas, just doesn’t quite get you through the back-country like trail running does.  To be fair, you are so busy watching your footing while on a trail that you do miss out on some of the spectacular scenery, but I have no problem stopping to take it in because guaranteed there are other people doing the same – without stupid comments from fellow road runners like “This is a run, not a walk” – I kid you not…

Trail running doesn’t seem as competitive to me, I’m not sure if this is just in my mind but at the start of a road race you can (or at least I can 🙂 feel the tension amongst the runners which isn’t there on a trail run.  At the start of a trail run the most I feel is a touch of confusion as people just generally mill about until someone shouts ‘GO’ – creating a much more relaxed atmosphere.  Again, to be fair, I guess if I was competing for a prize in trail running I’d probably feel the pressure…

Trail running is WAY more trendy 🙂  It’s all about the gear, which does look super cool and rugged but also costs more than road running gear so you have to build your trail wardrobe up over time.  Many of my friends have commented on this point, so this isn’t just me!

The vibe after a trail run is so much more community orientated.  Most people disappear after a road run, which means by the time I come in most people have left already… Ok, ok that isn’t always true but with the trail races I’ve done it seems like most of the field stays behind to socialise – and I have been nowhere near the front…

Perhaps this has just been situational with the trail runs I have done, what about you and your experience with it?

In conclusion I think road running will always be part of my life but I’m going to accumulate some rugged trail gear and keep going off-road to see where it takes me 🙂

Me, looking very uncool :)

Me, looking very uncool 🙂