Finding my strong

Why do you run?

How many of us get asked that on a daily basis? Some of us do it for health reasons, others for stress management… for me, well my reasons are a little more complicated.

I started running simply as a way of dealing with frustrations of competitive surfing but ended up finding a whole other aspect of myself in the process. I had no idea that something so simple as running would completely alter my life’s trajectory and everyday I am so grateful for the journey it has set me on.

me-3Through running I have found my strong. Yes sure, the physical benefits are great, but what I mean is that, through stripping down and rebuilding all those layers, I have found my inner strength and centred-ness, and that has spilt into all other aspects of life.

Runners tend to rant and rave about the endorphins and the runners high, but we don’t always speak about our lows and hardships. For me, this is where I really got to know myself.

I had an epiphany during a particularly tough run in the gorge. It was hot, I was exhausted and alone and miles away from my car. The only option was to carry on going. I felt all emotional composure dissolve and all those fears that I neatly compartmentalise into boxes everyday broke free and consumed me. I am talking about the big insecurities that deal with life, death and financial security. Suddenly I was just so overwhelmed.

As humans, we tend to label our fears and insecurities, and then neatly store them in the depth of our consciousness, in a dark place where we can ignore them. But, sooner or later, we are going to lose our shit and these thoughts are going to come rushing at us. For me it was in the gorge. Alone. In the heat. Miles away from my car. 

It was interesting because, without the energy to put up any barriers or facades, I really got to see my true self that day. I got to see what my deepest fears were, I got to see what my greatest weaknesses were. More importantly, I got to see what my strengths were because, despite the fatigue and despondency, I really had no choice but to push through and carry on. It was so empowering.

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awesome friendships forged

Since then I have embraced every tough run with open arms because it is one more opportunity to master my own strengths, both physical and emotional. Last year I ran Table Mountain in PMB with heatstroke. I did 18kms, falling about eight times along the way, and dragged my feet over the finish line. It was a really bad idea and definitely wouldn’t advise ANYONE repeat my mistake but, by the time I realised there was something wrong, it was pretty much too late and I had to keep going. I honestly thought I was going to die, I felt so sick… but I didn’t. I DIDN’T… That was the key  lesson. I was not sure if I could cope but I did.

Life ebbs and flows like the ocean. There will be good times and there will be bad times. It is easy to stay strong when things are on an even keel, but when the world as we know it shifts and throws us off balance, THAT is where the real test comes in. Before I started this amazing running journey, I often doubted whether I was equipped to handle life’s curve-balls. However, all those tough sessions has shown me that I am stronger than I ever thought or believed was possible.

So, why do I run? I run because it is where I can be my true self. I run because it is where I am the most free, where I am the happiest. But I also run because it is tough. Because it makes me stronger, it makes me braves and it gives me courage to embrace life.

A muddy start to 2017

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happy trail runners

Media release: Runners from across Durban braved wet weather and testing muddy conditions to support the KZN Trail Running (KZNTR) fundraising event in support of Coedmore Castle on Saturday. Taking place at the Kenneth Stainbank Ezemvelo and KZN Wildlife Nature Reserve in Yellowwood Park, the trail run proved to be a resounding success, with a portion of the proceeds going towards the upkeep and maintenance of the historical castle.

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Women’s 15km winners

The trail run was the first for the 2017 racing season and featured a strong contingent of athletes taking part, including seasoned trail veterans. Blair Thompson clinched first place in the 15km route, with Colin Van Der Bergh and Travers Pellew in second and third consecutively. In the ladies division, it was a close call, with Puseletso Dladla coming home first a minute ahead of Zoe Papadakis. Rounding off the podium in third place was Xoli Madida.

The ten km men’s division was dominated by Zothile Moto, who came in first place ahead of Johan Pretorius and Nicholas Forsyth, with Kirsten Glen coming home first in the women’s division, and second overall, ahead of Hlobisile Madida and Awie Viljoen. The 5km featured a strong showing of juniors, with U16 athlete, Corbyn Marais, placing first ahead of Naomi Maujean and Oly Maujean.

trailThe Coedmore Castle has been left to the state however, the family has retained responsibility for its management and upkeep. The property still features the old homestead, Coedmore Castle and granary, dating back to 1885. The granary has been recently restored into the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery and the castle still features the 19th century furniture and personal artefacts and is maintained by the Stainbank family.

Durban runners blaze through the trails

Images: Anthony Grote

Press release: Durban runner, Eric Ngubane, showed his fine form when he claimed top honours in the uMhlanga Trail Run on Sunday. Crossing the line after flying through the 18km trail, Ngubane stopped the clock in a time of 1:13.00, running at an average of 4minutes and 3 seconds.

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Ngubane features prominently on the local running circuit, having won various prestigious titles and also being drafted into the South African team at the World Trail Championships in previous years. Having just returned from winning the treacherous Lesotho Ultra Trail, he will now take a well deserved break before hitting the trails hard in 2017.

The leading lady, Amy Burger took line honours in the 18km race, finishing with 30 seconds to spare ahead of Lisa Collett, and Durban runner, Zoe Papadakis, consecutively.

“It was epic,” said Burger on the event. “The last section on the beach was not a glamorous ending, I wiped out, getting knocked over by the surf. But I love trail running, and the challenges that go with running off road.”

mePapadakis added that the spirit was what made the uMhlanga trail runs so special.

“Everyone is having a great time,” she said. “This is my second time taking on the 18km, I do prefer longer distances because it is where you get to know yourself, when you are pushing.”

By far the cutest rising trail running star, 10-year-old Liam Johnson from Hillcrest wowed the crowd with his impressive run in the shorter distance, the 5km run. He completed the run seconds behind first place Hendrik van Rensburg who is three times his age. Meanwhile, Cari-Ann Smith from Westville finished with a comfortable five minute gap ahead of second placed Jodi Davidson.

Cyclists and runners unwind at serene, summery STIHL Sharks Trail Adventure

Written by: Kyle Gilham

Images by: Anthony Grote

sceneShongweni – Idyllic weather, a spectacular setting, pristine views and a magical festive season atmosphere complimented the red-hot action that the record field enjoyed out on the trails as the 2016 STIHL Sharks Trail Adventure on Sunday, 4 December at Summerveld Estate in Shongweni made for a memorable day for all in attendance.

Up front, Andrew Hill and Debrah Thomas together with Nomore Mandivengerei and Zoe Papadakis claimed the men’s and women’s titles in the event’s feature races, the 40km mountain bike race and 18km trail run, respectively while further back in the field it was smiles aplenty.

Having won the event’s first three MTB titles from 2012-2014, TIB Insurance’s Hill of Hillcrest overcame the off-season challenges to make clinch his fourth crown in five years in his own back yard.

andrew-hill“Today was one of those days where everything was just perfect!” enthused Hill afterwards. “I think going from base training to high intensity race mode meant the body experienced a bit of shock but otherwise it was just such a wonderful ride and a great event! Conditions were just perfect regardless of whether you were cycling or running.”
Hill charged home ahead of Computershare Change a Life Academy’s ecstatic Mboneni Ngcobo while fittingly former Sharks rugby player, Jeremy Thomson (Thule/PYGA Industries) raced home to finish on the bottom step of the podium.

The women’s race – void of many of the province’s top elite racers – saw some of KZN’s hardy annuals enjoy their share of the limelight as Debrah Thomas finished nearly five minutes ahead of Linda Maphanga and Linda Potts.

In the 20km MTB clash, emerging talents Nkululeko Pewa raced home ahead of Mntomuhle Mgeyane and Nicholas de Bruin in the men’s contest while young stars Sarah Ryan, Hannah Elliott and Riley Smith made it a one-two-three for ROAG Racing.
The day’s proceedings got underway in a cloud of trail running action as the 18km and 9km competitors took to the Shongweni region’s spectacular trails and soaked up the magnificent views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

In the men’s encounter, Old Mutual running team member Nomore Mandivengerei of Zimbabwe made a late charge to edge out Maxed Elite athlete, Kwenza Ngubane while Jonathan Edwards finished third. Pietermaritzburg based Mandivengerei started slowly but worked his way to the front of the field by the halfway stage and then put in a late charge with just 500m to go to clinch the honours, his second victory of the weekend.

“Yesterday I ran the KZN Trail Running 22km race at Hilton College where I came first and now today I came first as well, so I’m very happy!” said Mandivengerei who used the weekend’s clashes to prepare for his upcoming trip to the Western Cape for the 65km event of the 2016 Ultra-Trail Cape Town.

“Last year I was leading this race when myself and two others took a wrong turn, so this year I made sure I ran with my eyes wide open and followed all the markers very carefully,” he laughed.
“This race is not too technical and it’s quite fast but we’re also able to enjoy the nice views while we’re running so I really like this race.”

The women’s 18km contest was a richly competitive one that saw former STIHL Sharks Trail Adventure winners and several podium finishers of recent KZN events all looking to make the title their own. In the end though it was Papadakis who showed a clean pair of heels to her fellow title hopefuls, charging home to make amends for her disappointment at the same event last year.

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“Last year we arrived late for the start and so I tried my hardest but only managed to finish fourth, so there was a lot of unfinished business for me coming into this year’s race,” chuckled Papadakis.
“I’m not the fastest runner and the hills here are a bit tough but I went well today and it was great to get the win,” she added as she now looks to start her preparations for next year’s SkyRun.

Madida is a familiar surname to the STIHL Sharks Trail Adventure with Xoli Madida having won the women’s 18km trail run title in 2013 and 2014 and finished second last year.
This time around it was Madida’s fellow Newcastle based sister, Hlobisile, who claimed the runner’s up spoils, edging out event newcomers Robyn Mare and Kirsty Allen while Xoli had to settle for fifth place.

“Yoh, (Zoe) was so strong today; she ran very well!” explained Hlobisile Madida. “I really enjoyed this race though and I’m happy with second place!”

The day’s busy programme also included a 10km and 2km Kiddies Ride while local artist Cheryl Engel’s acoustic melodies had spectators and race finishers foot-tapping and head-bopping throughout the morning and the Cell C Sharks’ squad manned the water tables, handed out finishers’ medals and posed for photographs with adoring fans.

Conquering Table Mountain

Media Release: Billed as a cultural experience rather than a trail run, the KZNTR Summer Series Table Mountain event took place in crisp, clear conditions recently. The 7km, 12km and 20km routes all ascended the iconic, flat-topped mountain outside Pietermaritzburg, which is steeped in local folklore and afforded participants magnificent views of the uMngeni and uMsundusi valleys, Nagel Dam and Pietermaritzburg in the distance.

“This race is special, it’s the one I make sure I do every time,” said said PMB local, Colin Boyes, who ran the 12km course for the 9th time. “The climb early on is a challenge when the body hasn’t warmed up, but the views and rare opportunity to experience a place that is sacred to the local community make it so worthwhile.”

There was a strong showing from local runners in the 7km and 12km events, but regulars put their stamp on the 20km event. The men’s 20km was won by Nomore Mandivengerei (1:23:11), who is putting the final training in before Ultra Trail Cape Town in 3 weeks time, Muzi Madikwa in 2nd (1:26:13) and Innocent Nyawose completing the podium (1:36:34). Kim Westbrook has returned to the trails with a bang, winning the ladies 20km event in 1:51:47. Chasing hard were Jess Kew in 2nd (1:53:15) and Zoe Papadakis (1:53:25) in 3rd, pushing each other to the finish line.

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Women’s 18km winners 

Women dominate King of Phezulu

kim-westbrook-and-neville-muteyiwa-lead-the-18km-pack-out-into-the-phezulu-wildlife-estateMedia release: The 5th episode of King of Phezulu was hosted at Phezulu Safari Park on 12 November 2016 in what has come to be traditional overcast and cool weather. Heavy rain the night before held some runners at bay, but those who got out of bed were well rewarded with some great trail running and game sightings on new routes.

Distances on offer at this classic race are short, 18km, 10km and 5km, but somewhat extreme in their nature. Plummeting down into the Valley of 1000 Hills runners and walkers are challenged when climbing back to the Finish point at The Phezulu Safari Park deck.

“It’s very tough, but so worth it. I would not be doing it if it were easy, the feeling of accomplishment on the finish line is amazing. It’s an epic race that’s in my backyard” said Rowan Dancer who completed the long course alongside his wife Sarah Dancer.

Trail running as a sport is no stranger to seeing ladies dominate in terms of overall numbers and even on the podium. King of Phezulu was exceptional with ladies taking 2nd, 3rd and 4th overall in the 18km, with Neville Muteyiwa (1hr:42) the only man able to keep ahead of the trio, Kim Westbrook (1hr52), Zoe Papadakis (1hr52) and Robyn Mare (2hr01). 2nd and 3rd men across the finish line were Matthew Rencken and James Gallias, 6 minutes behind Mare.

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Ladies dominated in the 18km course, finishing in the top 4 overall. From left is (second) Zoe Papadakis, KZNTR’s Tracey Steart, (ist) Kim Westbrook and (3rd) Robyn Mare

Some talented runners also took on the two shorted courses. Notably Mitchell Harty won the 10km in an impressive time of 50 minutes, Lindi Meyer was the first lady home (1hr02). In the 5km the first two runners, Thulasi Nzama and Gruff Sambrook took tied first place in 30 minutes, with Suzanne Dos Santos Niz the first lady in 39 minutes. For full results and information about future events visit www.kzntrailrunning.co.za

Epic finish for trail series

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Media Release: The KZN Spur Trail Series culminated in an epic finish at the Aloe Wildlife Estate recently as top athletes competed for top spots. Comprised of four long (Championship) and four short (Challenge) courses taking place throughout October at venues in and around Durban, the series drew a strong contingent of runners eager to explore the trails at the four newly selected venues.

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Competition was stiff in both the Championship and Challenge courses and, with three of the four races counting towards the final standings, it was a close finish. In the men’s Long Course Championship overall standings, Mandla Zulu achieved top honours, finishing ahead of Jonathan Korb and David van der Veen.  Meanwhile, in the women’s Long Course Championship overall standings, national running champ, Puseletso Dladla secured first place ahead of Zoe Papadakis and Kate van der Bank.

Happy runners

untitledDladla is a strong cross country runner who has represented South Africa in track and field 10 000m in 2010 and travelled to compete in Germany, Mozambique and Reunion Island. Speaking about the event, she was full of praise.

“The series were fantastic as usual,” said Dladla. “It was so well organised and the venues were very exciting. I am so excited to have won the series last year and this year again.”

Dladla said she was now looking for a few weeks down time from racing before starting preparations for next year again.

Papadakis, who is a Fry’s ambassador and has been making a name for herself on the trails, was elated with her finish.

img_5430“For me, this series was more about spending time with amazing people and exploring new trails, so I was so happy to have finished second,” she said. Papadakis has been using her performances as a way to promote healthy and ethical living through a plant based lifestyle. She has featured strongly at trail events this year and credited her strong performance to the guidance of her coach, Clinton Hunter from Race Pace Coaching, as well as changing to a plant based lifestyle.

“My coach has been been phenomenal,” she said. “And I also need to thank the team at Fry’s, who have been so amazing in helping me get the message across that you can be healthy and fit and not have to resort to eating animal products.”

Podium finishers

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In the men’s Short Course Challenge, trail legend, Owen Bengo, bagged the win, finishing ahead of William Dyer and Craig Hallowes. In the women’s Short Course Challenge, Malu Zuma finished top of the log, with Victoria Coetzee in second and Hendrika Liebenberg in third.

The veteran men’s Long Course Championship division saw Grant Cummings finish first, with Donovan van Gelder in second and Ryan Smith in third while, in the veteran ladies, Anita Pohl finished ahead of Sihle Kraai and Leona Lamont respectively.

The master men Long Course Championship saw Martin Birthwhistle in first, with Rammy Govender in second and Gordon Truluck in third and, in the master ladies, Karen Bargate, Alison Chadwick and Kim Robinson rounded off the podium.

The veteran men’s Short Course Challeng division was won by Steven Gossman, with Kevin Williams in second and Wayne Dos Santos Niz in third while, in the masters ladies, Sharon Geeson finished in first, ahead of Charmain Shandu and Adele Wickerson.

The master men’s Short Course Challeng division was won by Patrick Wynne, with Kurt Landsberg in second and Jacques de Rauvill in third. The Master ladies was rounded off with Suzanne Dos Santos Niz in first place, with Wendy Constantine in second and Adrienne Champion in third.