Why I ditched the Com­rades for an epic trail run

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but strug­gled so much that he vowed never to do it again. So now he trains for trails on his farm near Kim­ber­ley, where his runs dou­ble as a fence- and wind-pumpin­spec­tion rou­tine.

An­other run­ner said his small frame meant he would not be strong enough to be a win­ner on the road, but he ne­go­ti­ated rocky ter­rain per­fectly. As a child, he used to play in the fields and hills near GaRankuwa, and later trained with his un­cle, a Com­rades run­ner, on the moun­tain paths. He did some road races – but af­ter his first trail race, he was hooked.

My first time on a trail hap­pened from a mix­ture of cu­rios­ity and peer pres­sure about three years ago. One of my friends knew of a spare en­try in the Ot­ter Trail Run – a race that cov­ered the whole 40-odd kilo­me­tres of the mul­ti­day hik­ing trail in a sin­gle day. I was sold from the mo­ment we crossed the start line at Storms River, just as the sun­rise coloured the sea spray pink.

For two years, I did some of my train­ing runs for the Com­rades in Jo­han­nes­burg’s parks and public gar­dens. The added charm of hav­ing a dog as my regular run­ning part­ner now means the park is where we roam.

Th­ese days, road run­ning feels like slav­ery, worse than eat­ing broc­coli.

In­tro­duc­ing us to the Richtersveld Wil­drun™ this week, Roland Vor­w­erk, him­self a run­ner from Bound­less South­ern Africa, an or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­mot­ing trans­fron­tier parks, said trail run­ning was a pri­mal thing. “You feel it at lots of lev­els, from the soles of your feet to your heart.”

So it is that invit­ing land­scapes now make my feet ache with an­tic­i­pa­tion, my skin tin­gle at the thought of the sun and the wind, and my nose itch with the prospect of smelling its plants and an­i­mals.

There is no other way to feel both so small and so free.


Trail run­ning beats road run­ning by many a coun­try mile

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