Cape’s Landie has wheels to blaze trail in European elite
TWENTY- nine- year- old Stellenbosch trail- running star, Landie Greyling, ran to a career highlight at the World Long Distance TrailRunning Championships in north Wales last weekend, but has set her sights much higher in order to compete with – and triumph over – the world’s best.
Greyling was the standout athlete in the seven-strong Protea squad that took part in the five-lap 77km race through the enchanting Gwydyr Forest near Conwy, holding off intense competition for a top-10 place, eventually ending ninth in 7hr 17min 29sec.
In a sport largely dominated by European athletes, Greyling excelled to finish just six minutes off fifth position – less than five seconds per kilometre – with athletes from just four countries ahead of her at the finish.
“The professionalism of the French had to be seen to be believed,” admitted Greyling. “Apart from the fact that virtually their entire team are full- time professional athletes, everything they did was clearly the result of top preparation and attention to detail.
“Their running kit, their nutrition, their time-table – nothing was left to chance and clearly their race preparation had been perfect. I think that alone is worth five minutes at least.
“But I learnt a huge amount last year in my first year running inter- nationally and I will build further on this year’s experience to achieve my goals.
“At 29, I was certainly one of the younger competitors in the competition – the average age was 37 – so I have time on my side.
“I ran part of the race with the past champion, Maud Gobert of France, and that was also very helpful. I discovered that almost all of their team live at high altitudes in the Alps or other mountains, where they live and sleep their sport on a full-time basis.
“We are still far behind and noone from the South African team is a full-time athlete. But we are making good progress and compared to the 2011 championships, we had plenty of time to prepare for the event.”
According to Greyling, who with her own “day job” commitments as a lecturer in tax accountancy and dabbling in adventure sport event organising is about as far from fulltime as one can get, South Africa has nothing to fear from international competition when it comes to trailracing.
“We certainly have the talent, and I believe we could match the best in the world over our own mountainous terrain. We just have to up our game when competing overseas. But we can do it and I will be aiming for a podium finish at the next World Trail-Running Championship.
“We must take the lessons to heart and build together, with the country’s top trail-runners, to make South Africa more competitive at the next World Championships in two years’ time.”
A significant advantage for Greyling is the strong support from husband and training partner, Christiaan, an IT engineer and elite athlete, who made it a double for the Greylings by finishing first of the South African men’s team in Wales, placing 31st overall.
Being able to travel together to Britain prior to the championships, where they trained in the Lake District – perfect trail-running country, says Greyling – was ideal mental and physical preparation. She also enjoyed the build-up to the event in Wales, where those early arrivals played their part in promoting the sport, visiting a local primary school.
Of the other South African women, KZN’s Tracy Zunckel enjoyed a consistent race, placing 27th out of 66 starters, but Chantel Nienaber and Linda Dokes had forgettable races, although both showed courage to hold out to the finish to earn South Africa a respectable seventh place in the team competition.
Charl Souma and Dirk Cloete had relatively disappointing races, placing out of the top 40. In fact, Landie Greyling overhauled Cloete 10km from the finish and drew level with Souma just 3km from the finish. “I think Charl was a bit shocked to see me,” admitted Greyling.
“We ran together for two kilometres, then he sprinted off when we hit the tar for the last kilometre!”
CLASS ACT: Landie Greyling en route to ninth position in the World Long Distance Trail-Running Championships in North Wales.