Trail Running

Choc Walk up Sani Pass

By: David Thurlby (14 years old, Junior Stella Member)

We approached the mountain ahead of us that was soon to be our challenge. We were representing CHOC and Stella. We had felt the cold the night before but the morning of the race we woke up to the amazing view of the challenge that stood before us. The start was whenever we were ready, then we got going. The snow got thicker and thicker the higher up we climbed. Many people participated but this felt very much like a family trip. The walk altogether was a journey to be remembered and to be retold. We got close to the big rock that was said to be opposite the highest pub in Africa. Which felt like the longest time. We had an amazing experience, from snowball fights to meeting new people. It wasn’t a race, it was an experience for everyone that went. It was amazing in many ways and will definitely be on my list of future events.

 

Drakensberg Northern Trail

By: Maureen Lyons

#DNT2018

Oliviershoek Pass, Northern Berg

March 24th 2018

Trail shoes – check; Water packs – check; Emergency kit – check

Two Stella ladies, Samantha de la Porte and Maureen Lyons ready to tackle the 20km Trail hosted by KZN Trail Running.

With two days of continual rain prior to the race we knew all the elements would come our way.

Fully kitted out and apprehensive we approached the starting line.   It was windy, cold and misty to begin with but no sooner had we started the sun made an appearance and we were presented with glorious running conditions.

With a 1900m elevation, numerous icy river crossings and wet/muddy conditions it called for cautious running but added to this adventure.

The scenery was insane and the rock formations humongous.

A few sightings of vultures and the calls of wild cats were some of our spoils.

We were welcomed back to the finish line by the well organised kzn trail team and awarded a well deserved medal with a difference.

Put this event on your “to do”list.

Roll on #DNT2019……..

Running with the Chameleon at the 2017 Ultra-Trail Cape Town World Tour 100km

By Prodigal Khumalo

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It was all systems go at 4am on the 2nd of December 2017. Lining up with the world celebrated trail blazers with the likes of Ryan Sandes, Scotty Hawker, Bongumusa Mthembu, a 2 times comrades marathon winner, and many more.

“You can’t stop the rain but you can learn to dance in the rain.” This is one of my favourite quotes when I have to face a challenge. The competition was tough and nobody could predicted the outcome. Having missed the press conference on the Thursday, I arrived on Friday to hear that trail runners were saying Comrades runners didn’t stand a chance to make a podium finish in a field of quality seasoned trail runners, and I would have agreed.

To the others it was the excitement of the outcome but for me it was a privilege to be in a race with these lads and to see what I could do. The Ultra-Trail Cape Town (UTCT) is where Comrades marathon runners and ultra-trail runners meet to compete in one event. My 2016 win was a rewarding experience, but I was better prepared for the 2017 race, and I knew what was coming.

Most of my training was done at the Inanda Valley, that is my playground. I run along the valley through dirty roads and trails and I like to run on the grass as well so my preparations were done there.

Back to the race… As the light started to come up I switched off my head lamp. It was while I was packing it away that Ryan, Bongumusa and Scotty came past me. I heard the sound of their feet pounding in the same time in rhythm with each other. It was just after Signal Hill that I knew they were working together. I said in my mother language “Nansi impi lyeza” meaning the war is coming. I don’t like to run somebody else’s race, I like to pace myself, so either I run by myself or stay behind. My plan was to make sure I climbed Table Mountain first, which I did. I had good speed, which I think is a result of my improved strength training that I do on the hill sessions with the group I coach at Stella Athletic Club.

As we headed on to the top of Table Mountain we were all together again so I let them pass and I stayed behind waiting for Sandy Beach where I would attempt to take the final lead. I knew that very few runners train on beach sand and luckily I’m one of them, so it was my strongest point. I opened up a 300m gap and felt strong. My opponent’s strength was on the technical parts which is my weakness so I played my cards right and it worked.

John Hamlet, my coach, I call him the Colonel, was there on the route most of the way with my Fiancé Lihle assisting me with information, drinks, food and making sure everything was going well.

John would say “please stay in the fighting zone” and it was at Hout Bay river where I was told I was 6 minutes ahead of Ryan Sandes. So I kept it at 6 minutes ahead until 80km where I stretched it to 11 minutes at some points.

At Constantia’s last fuelling table I was starting to feel dizzy and I had nothing left in the tank, but I was taught that I have to finish what I have started no matter how tough the circumstances are. Soon after the water table there was a long very steep climb and I was left with 10km to go, which felt like 50km. I was told that Ryan was closing the gap. At this point I thought of the hill sessions that I was doing at Inanda which are 1km x10. So I said to myself I only need to climb once. I walked/ran/walked/ran until I reached the top. If I gave up I was not going to forgive myself after all this hard work. I thought of all the hard work I went through in training so I couldn’t afford to give up so easily. It’s true that hard work can beat talent if talent is not working hard enough. I see myself as not talented in trail running.

Trail running is a different ball game to road but I enjoy trail more than road. I get time to appreciate nature, the mountains, rivers, sea and the forest. Whilst on the road I run to see how much I can push myself. There is no time for all that fun I have on the trails!

I started to hear the MC calling my name when I was 1km from the finish at Garden Tech Rugby Club field. I looked at my watch a couple of times as I entered the grounds to the finish; I was a proud winner and a record breaker. The feeling was out of this world! I appreciated it more because I didn’t plan to win but it happened . “Chance favours a prepared mind.” 9 hrs 51 mins was the winning time. I took off 50 minutes from the previous record. Ryan wanted it more, he wanted to win the race for Cape Town. He was the local, familiar with the route and we ran hard from the gun. We both ran under 10 hours, he was just unlucky on the day. I waited for Ryan Sandes to come through and I congratulated him. Then we both waited for the 3rd runner Scotty Hawker from New Zealand, and that was the wrap up for the day.

I was disappointed by journalists asking how I felt after beating Ryan Sandes and I answered that I have never run to beat anybody but rather to beat my own times. I gained the name “chameleon” after winning my first UTCT because my friends and fans in Cape Town were shocked to see me performing in all areas. If you put me in cross-country, road, track or trail I will surprise you. My secret is that I prepare for every race differently. I train according to the terrain that I will race.

UTCT 100 Km 2017 is one of my career highlights. As I went to bed closing my eyes I remembered these words from my first coach “Success is not an accident but is a result of preparation, discipline, hard work, correct training, loving what you do, dedication, focus, and patience.”

Prodigal Khumalo

2 Time Ultra Trail Cape town World Tour 100km winner

2 Time Comrades Marathon Gold Medallist

ASA Level 2 Long distance, Middle distance and Race Walker coach

Golden Gate Wild Series Trail Run

By: Dumisani Zungu

My name is Dumisani Zungu and I am based in Johannesburg. My first running club was Stella Athletic Club in 2002 while I was still based in Durban. I have fond memories of Stella running community and I always make a point  if I am in Durban to train with Stella runners. I  would like to share my experience of trail running. I took a break from running the Comrades Marathon and I was looking for new challenges. I decided to explore trail running and it has been an amazing experience. In October I took a sho’t left to Golden Gate National Park to participate in a three day trail series. Day 1- 27KM, Day 2 – 29km, Day 3 – 17km. Total kilometers  over three days is 73km. This is a tough challenge, climbs are steep and technical. It tests your mind and patience. Grit, determination and courage is required to complete the race. If you are a fast road runner it humbles you where you end up taking 10 minutes to run 1 kilometre. It was a privilege to run Golden Gate Wild Series and I will recommend to any runner to experience this adventure once in a lifetime.

Karkloof 100 Miler Trail Run

By: Alisdair Leslie

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Stella Star Alisdair Leslie came 8th in the Karkloof100 (Image Source: KZN Trail Running)

It was Friday night and tension mounted as the clock approached 10pm. There were smiles, fists were bumped, and good luck wished, but you could tell everyone was a bit nervous. And you can understand why when you realise they are about to set off on the inaugural Karkloof 100 miler – and it is raining. The rain did not stop, but as soon as the gun went the worrying did, and the task became beautifully simple: head torches on, look for the little yellow markers and just keep going until you hit Benvie gardens in 50 miles time. Then grab a quick marie biscuit or two, turn around and head back to Howick.

The old hands hung back, knowing full well that 100 miles is actually quite a long way, while the 100 mile virgins, such as myself, had their toes on the start line to lead the charge. We knew that six-minute kms is basically walking and that it would all be over before tea-time.

Needless to say, such naivety and arrogance was rewarded in time! I set out with my good mate Andrew Erasmus, who runs for Salomon and Dolphin striders, when he can be persuaded to hit the road, with just that plan: six-minute kms until half way, then see what you can do after that and hope for the best.

Not really knowing where we going through the rain-soaked blackness, we followed an endless snake of fluorescent tags marking the trail. First through the Umgeni nature reserve (where we were lucky enough to startle and then chase a porcupine), then into the Sappi forests above Howick, through the pastures beyond and into the Karkloof itself.

Check points came every 17 kms or so, well stocked with goodies and well wishers. As dawn cracked, albeit damply, we found ourselves running the smooth grassy trails of the Mbona nature reserve on the way to the turn around point at Benvie gardens. Damp, a bit cold and a bit tired after 80kms on the trail, Andrew and I turned just after 7am in about 5th and 6th place. Pacers were allowed after half way, and so we were joined by his brother Stephen, for the second leg.

It was quickly apparent that, as much as Andrew’s pacing strategy and training were paying off, my unfounded belief that I would be okay on bog standard post Comrades work was not. So two kms later I wished the boys well, plugged in the ipod and prepared for a long painful and lonely trudge back home, dreaming of the breakneck speed that 6-minute kms now seemed.

However, all was not lost as, at check point 7, who should rock up but the White Buffalo himself, our very own Craig Georgie. “Man up Leslie”, he cheerfully announced, “I am getting you to the finish even if I have to carry you”. And that was that, the relentless motivator that he is, supported, joked, cajoled, persuaded, teased and bullied me over the next 50kms.

Through relentless rain, moments of self-doubt, a prolonged bout of vomiting, a face plant on a broken bridge and one incident when he (accidently) nearly separated me from my generative organ with a stick (you’ll have to ask him about that one), that splendid bugger did indeed carry me to the finish line, a good 20 hours and some minutes since the start.

A welcome beer was thrust into our hands. I had a little cry, kissed my kids and better half who had heroically waited in the rain to greet us, and we were all done! Andrew did indeed have the spectacular second half he wanted and nearly chased down the leader, finishing second to him by minutes in an impressive 18 hours 19ish.

For me though, such dreams of conquest didn’t seem to matter so much really. The journey turned out to be a lot tougher than I had expected, but, with the help of my friend, it hadn’t beaten me, and that was enough to be going on with. Re-reading this, I am not sure if it sounds like a recommendation or not. All I can say is, I am signing up for next year tomorrow!

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Alisdair and Craig at the end of the race (Image Source: KZN Trail Running)

The beauty of the Mandela Trail Run

by Kayla Hinchliffe

Now I finally understand the reasons behind all those – what I thought was crazy at the time – early mornings my parents have exposed me to in the past. The beauty of the country, the satisfaction of a run was why they did it.

My recent love for running has driven me to have my turn, waking up early and hauling my parents out onto the road and in the country for short races, something they used to do to me when I was younger. As my mom says – “it’s payback time”.

On Sunday, we left 15˚C Durban, thinking it was freezing, little did we know we were heading for a 6˚C start at the Mandela Trail Run. It was so special to be part of the start of this race hosted by KZN Trail Running. All dressed up in my layers and other warm gear we started the 8km Trail in the bitter cold.

The start of the trail presented a hill of note, with single file “walking” all the way to the top of the hill, but definitely worth the long walk, as we caught our first glimpse of the spectacular hills leading towards the Drakensberg.

The tables on the trail were exceptionally well-stocked with chocolate, chips, sweets, biscuits, coke and water and the marshals were super friendly.

The trail followed an undulating course through some farm land, a few more hectic hills and eventually headed back parallel to the N3 with the Mac trucks tooting their horns for the runners and down the treacherous hill from the start. This time, having to negotiate all the rocks and shrubs of grass on the way down – taking us to a very well organised and festive finish.

It was definitely an awesome event to be a part of and one I will be back for next year – hopefully conquering the 15km trail this time.

Mtunzini Bush Challenge- A scenic race that you won’t forget

By Michael Mostert

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Michael enjoying the beach section of the race

The Mtunzini Bush Challenge is one of my favourite KwaZulu-Natal Races. Its a 16km race through the bush and beach at the picturesque Umlalazi Nature Reserve on the North Coast. I had the opportunity to do the Mtunzini Bush run two years ago and simply loved it. So despite my injured ankles, thanks to the Table Mountain Pmb trail run, I decided that I had to return this year.

On race day, I woke up at 3am to get ready for the Great Trek up the north coast, picked up a fellow runner en route, kicking and screaming, and headed up the N2 to Mtunzini. As we arrived my fellow travel companion pipes up: “This is a bad idea… The sun has not even come up yet! where is the sun?”

As the sun finally peaked its head over the forest it was countdown time as hordes of multi coloured kits lined up at the start line. The welcome speeches were done  in both English and Zulu by the club chairman which were received with loud cheers. The runners and walkers set off to the cry of a fish eagle which sent goose bumps down my spine.

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The start of the Mtunzini Bush Challenge 2017

The race starts off with a descent down a grass track and then proceeds onto the golf course. Nervous runners and walkers were waiting for the dreaded shout of “FORE” as we looked for potential places to dive to miss possible flying kamikaze golf balls. Fortunately Tiger Woods was not on the course that morning …

The race then takes you through the newly built suburb on the outskirts of the little town of Mtunzini as you wind your way down some single track paths towards the coastal forest. The route takes you on a number of undulating hills through the coastal forest, and includes sections on wooden walkways, branched bush steps and dirt roads. Ducking under low branches becomes very important, especially for someone like myself.

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Boardwalks through the Umlalazi Nature Reserve

At the 8km mark we were met with a water point manned by KZN Wildlife with a buffet of sweets, bananas and marsh mallows. I really wanted to pull up a  chair and tuck in…   but no ..my walking partner dragged me away by my ear as we carried on towards the Lagoon. We then proceeded past the camp site with the smell of crispy bacon on the pan not helping the cause! After making a right turn by a troop of monkeys, we made our way onto the beach. What an amazing site to see unspoilt beach, white sand and litter free, all we could see were the runners before us and their footprints. Our eyes were also firmly glued to the horizon as whales had been spotted the day before. The 2km beach sand slog was made easier due to the rain the night before which made the sand a lot firmer than two years ago. After the beach section we disappeared again into the cool forest meandering our way back to the start.

We ascended the long final tiring hill to the shouts of cheering and applause. The smell of fried eggs and filter coffee slowly enticed us over the finish line where we collected our well-deserved medals and T shirts. The finish line was  an oasis of culinary delights from bacon rolls and baked treats to local craft beer on tap which I am sure will pick up a few Stella runners ears …

I did not manage a podium finish but was fortunate enough to get the Walkers Male age category prize (40-49) for the 16km course. Lots of  clubs use the Mtunzini race as a weekend getaway and camp in the reserve for some team bonding which is something I think Stella should think about doing next year. Its my favorite race when it comes to scenery and is well organised. I would recommend adding it to your bucket list for 2018.  You will see me there for sure, a lot leaner, meaner and hopefully, fitter:)