The atmosphere was jovial at the base of Pietermartizburg’s Table Mountain on Sunday, as runners lined up at the start of the second leg of the popular KZNTR Winter Series event. The clear, crisp winter morning set an idyllic scene and, as the sun rose above the glorious mountain, it cast its rays upon the beautiful trail that the athletes were about to embark upon.
Table Mountain is shrouded in folklore and considered to be a sacred place by the local community. Being able to access this venue and run through the sweeping trails is a special privilege for runners.
“We are very lucky to be allowed access to run on the mountain, which is a sacred place for the locals,” said Lauren Booth of KZNTR.
Andrew Booth, also of KZNTR, added his thoughts on the event, stating that PMB’s Table Mountain was a trail event like no other on the calendar.
“It’s all a great coming together of the trail running community and the local Maqongqo community at Mcoseleli Secondary School, once again showing how sport can unite,” he said.
The event, which featured a 7km, 12km and 20km route, proved to be a massive success, with runners, and walkers, from all walks of life coming together to enjoy the vibes and scenes. Adding to the festivities, WESSA were on hand once again, providing delicious bacon and egg rolls to hungry athletes, as part of their ongoing fundraising initiatives. Exploring Coffee also celebrated it’s one year birthday and there was much cake to be eaten.
Adding value to the series, KZNTR has partnered up with Thirsti Water and West Coast Fish & Chips and have also introduced a Kidzone with experienced child minders and fun activities so that parents can enjoy a run knowing their kids are safe and having fun.
Last weekend I conquered my mountain- literally and figuratively.
For two years, from when I first started running, I have wanted to tackle a skymarathon but there has always been a voice in the back of my head telling me I can’t. It took some coaxing from my coach, Clinton Hunter (RacePace Coaching) and from race Drakensberg Northern Trail organisers KZN Trail Running (KZNTR) but I finally decided to swallow my doubts and just commit to #2017DNT. It was the best decision ever.
Driving to Oliviershoek in the Drakensberg, I had no idea what to expect. Weather forecasts had predicted treacherous conditions, with showers, cold, mist and even a suggestion of snow. I know unpredictable weather forms part of the mountain running experience but I could not help but feel apprehensive of what was in store.
Arriving at the pre-race briefing the evening before, temperatures had dropped drastically and we were freezing. However, spirits were high as fellow runners gathered at the venue, all nervously excited for the mammoth task that lay ahead the following day. The jovial mood was infectious and, by the time we returned to our chalet, I was feeling really excited.
The following morning, we woke to pouring rain but, by then we were all beyond caring. The atmosphere was somewhat solemn as the 150 or so skymarathoners contemplated the run but we all found solace in the idea that we were in this together. Taking shelter, I did a last minute equipment check.
Felt a bit like a hamster hoarding copious amounts of food in my Ultraspire Alpha 2 hydration race vest but a vegan athlete’s gotta EAT! I love this vest because it is lightweight but features a significant packing capacity so I could store all my dates, banana chips, gels and other munchies with my phone, space blanket, bladder and basic medical kit.
Checked my Vivo Primus FG. Aboslutely love these shoes. I remember over a year ago, suffering from repeated injuries and strains, I decided to switch to barefoot/natural movement running. A few seasoned runners said it would be crazy to run a skymarahton in these shoes. I’m glad I didn’t listen because my Vivos got me through the race comfortably, with no pain, strain, hot spots, blisters or chafing.There was nothing left to do but get this run over with.
Walking to the start I noticed a cold runner huddled under his space blanket, shivering. I couldn’t help but smile and, looking at me, he grinned goofily.
“We are all $%^#$ mad,” I said, my sentiments echoed by a dozen or so other participants.
Counting us off, Andrew Booth of KZNTR left us with a reminder that this was what trail running was all about (a reminder to perhaps put on my big girl panties?) and then we were gone. The first few kms were cheerful ones but, as we began our first big ascend, the banter eased up. Freezing rain beat down on us as we navigated up the slick, misty mountain and to the escarpment.
I remember looking at my watch and thinking how the hell we could have possibly only covered 12kms. I felt the first wave of mild panic rise in my chest. My hands and nose were numb, my muscles were aching from the cold and we were only a quarter of the way in. Would I finish? There are huge chunks of the race that I don’t really remember but what really kept me going was the sight of Kim Westbrook’s red jacket up ahead.
I need to backtrack here quick. Kim Westbrook is a phenomenal local trail runner and person. I met her last year at King of Phezulu and her warmth, happiness and spirit really made a huge impression on my soul. This amazing lady has all the talent in the world to warrant her acting like an arrogant athlete but she is humble, caring and sweet. She is not phased about winning, she is there to have an amazing time and, to me, she epitomises what trail running is all about.
At DNT, I ended up associating Kim with familiarity, with warmth and joy so, in an environment completely daunting and new to me, she was my beacon of hope. At the half way mark there was a fuelling station and we spoke briefly and it gave me second wind. We made a pact, our goal was to survive this race. Nothing else.
The last 20 kms were tough but I found my groove. Admittedly I had an embarrassingmoment where the paramedics had to ‘rescue’ me when I froze on particularly daunting section of rock climbing, but it was something to laugh about and I appreciate their chivalry.By the last ten I had found momentum to go all out. I felt the months of training on the trails and also put in the gym, under the guidance of Rhain Hoskins from Paragon Fitness/Crossfit RIED, pay off.
The thought of seeing my mom’s face at the finish really pushed me through it and I sprinted the last two kms home. Crossing over the finish, there was my mom and Kim and I got teary eyed. I had did it, we had survived. They both engulfed me in a bear hug and I felt something in my heart give way.
It is weird. you hear about people having revelations up in the mountains and I had always scoffed at that. The thing is, I have been going through some personal stuff (yes, a divorce- a nasty word that makes you feel like a failure, a bad person) and, these past few months I feel as if my heart had turned into stone. That is one of the reasons why it was so important for me to do this race. I wanted to prove to myself that I am strong enough to survive- this and my life. And up in those mountains I felt my layers stripped away until there was just my own truth left.
Climbing back down and to the finish I realised that I have so many amazing friends and experiences to be grateful for. I realised that I had closed myself off to so much joy because I had become a bitter, miserable person. Engulfed in that bear hug with Kim and my mom I felt tears of joy spring to my eyes. I felt my heart open up and an overwhelming sense of love for all these incredible runners wash over me. Then Kim said something that left me stumped, astonished, inspired, beyond happy. I was the sixth lady! In a race where we planned to ‘survive’ she and myself had made fifth and sixth position in a field comprising of elites.
I get it now. Why we put ourselves through such physical stress, why we keep pushing through the pain, why we spend all our time and money training, recovering, planning and running. Trail running, Skyrunning is a deeply personal and incredible experience. And I will do it all again in a heartbeat!
It was a wet, muddy day of fun at the KZNTR Hilton College Trail Run on Sunday. This is such a lovely route and the cool, misty conditions just added to it’s charm and intrigue. Still relatively new to the trail scene, I first tackled this race last year, finishing up in third place on the 12km. So I was excited, and nervous, to try my hand at the longer distance in preparation for my first upcoming Sky marathon next month.
Admittedly, I have been a bit weary about the slightly longer distances, it is something I am still tentatively exploring, but it was reassuring and calming to line up at the start next to so many good friends and familiar faces. The camaraderie and spirit of the trail running community is what makes this sport so special, and there was tons of that going around as we all stood in the rain, waiting for the race to get underway.
Last year, when I first ran Hilton, I was in a completely different place physically and mentally. I had literally just began working with my coach, Clinton Hunter from Racepace Coaching, so my strength and endurance was not up to scratch (he quickly changed that!), and my health was suffering from poor eating habits (I switched over to a plant based diet and my health and performance increased dramatically).
With all this in mind, I ran the first half of this race rather cautiously, only kicking it up a few notches by the tenth km. Recently, I have been working closely with Rhain Hoskins from Paragon Fitness, who has been overseeing my conditioning and strength training, and it was really great to run this event with him (although he was way ahead of me for most of the route). He is really inspirational, and somewhat of a mentor, always talking about digging deep and giving 100% effort, and that was what I drew upon to help me through moments of fatigue (I am still relatively new to longer distances remember).
The course was pretty tricky to navigate, with all the mud and some technical sections and climbs at the start. Again, last time I ran this route, I did not have the greatest shoes or equipment with me, which really made it more difficult. This time round I returned armed with my VivobarefootPrimus Trail shoes and UltrAspire hydration vest, and it made a huge difference.
By the last km, I was feeling stronger than ever and was so excited to come home as the second lady. This was such a wonderful event and I really take my hat off to Lauren and Andrew Booth of KZNTR for putting together such well run events. I also need to give a special shout out to my mom who stood in the rain and cold for hours, supporting us. And to all my wonderful friends for always making this such a fun day out. Massive respect to the podium winning ladies, Puseletso Dladla and Kirsty Bomford who finished in first and third respectively. such phenomenal athletes!!!
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.
The 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.
Shongweni – 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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
Media 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.
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