Midsummer in Mzansi! For most South Africans that means that 2019 is done. All we have to do now is stay out of trouble at the office parties, survive the traditional festive season overindulgence, laugh our way through the loadshedding, and it’s the third decade of the 21st Century! Oh, and make sure we buy the PERFECT Christmas presents. Have we got something for you on THAT score! But more about that later…
This is also the time for Christmas Spirit and New Year’s Resolutions and all that stuff, which means that for most of us it’s a time for reflection. A time to pause for a second in our fast-paced, overbooked noisy worlds, be grateful for what we have and to consider those less fortunate. It’s just a small gesture for most of us, but it makes a huge difference to the recipients, so please remember our annual Runtheberg Community Shoe Drive. The success of our Shoe Drive over the years has been overwhelming, so much so that Runthebergers have organised drop-off points and delivery programs in the different centres around the country. This means that even if you’re not participating in Runtheberg 2020 you will still be able to get your old shoes onto the feet of some deserving local community mountain runner. Start collecting those previously-loved running shoes (and kit) now!
Runtheberg Community Involvement
Every year at Runtheberg we receive glowing feedback about our great people, the aid station helpers, registration assistants, parking attendants and marshals, and how they make such a massive contribution to an overall efficient and friendly experience. You will be pleased to know that your participation in Runtheberg provides much more to the community than just a chance to get out and enjoy themselves in the mountains – it provides employment and income in an area where opportunities are often in short supply. We also obviously can’t just send our runners out into the hands of people who may not know what they’re doing (who has NOT ended up lost on a trail because of a poorly trained marshal?), so an important aspect of our race preparation is the valuable skills training that every individual will receive and take away with them for their longer-term benefit.
In addition there are direct economic boosts like hiring the local community taxi operators for the shuttle service (and extra race staff transport), as well as joint initiatives such as Nottingham Road Brewery donating a percentage of every beer you guys drink over the race weekend to the local Royal Drakensberg Primary School. Entrants can also be encouraged by the fact that with the hospitality industry being one of the biggest employers in the area, every night’s accommodation and every meal eaten in the valley over the course of the event contributes to local jobs and the region’s economy in general.
Things are not easy out there right now, and we know that every financial decision takes a range of considerations into account. We are proud to be part of a community in South Africa where, obvious or not, a lot of the races and race organisers that you may know are in similar positions, tightly tied in to the local communities in which they operate, and are giving back as much as they can.
Safety on the Trails
As most of us know, life is a risky business. A lot of the time our wonderful sport takes our mind off our day to day problems and all of the things that can go wrong, but it is also worthwhile to keep in mind that trail running itself is not without some risks, and to take precautions to minimise them. Here are a few tips:
- Run together – this is probably the most complicated one, as so many of us consider the sheer freedom of hitting the trails on our own to be one of life’s greatest pleasures. It is also the most all-encompassing one because it mitigates pretty much all risks, whatever they may be. Snakebites, injuries, bandits, wild animals, falls are all just some of the things that can befall the intrepid trail runner, and in ALL instances it would be better to not be alone. For those times you just don’t have anybody to run with, or you really just want to be out there solo, at least let someone know roughly where you will be and roughly what time you should be back. It just makes sense.
- Be aware – this might sound redundant but many disasters could have been avoided by some increased awareness. Fortunately, it comes much more naturally to trail runners than roadies (who like to “zone out” on the road, or so we’re told), but it is worth always keeping in mind. Watch your footing, watch the weather, notice the dogs, notice the people, and most importantly, trust your instinct. A little detour or even a turnaround never hurt anyone.
- Carry – this is the most controversial one. Clearly in every situation avoidance is better than confrontation, but there may come a time where it is unavoidable. We do unfortunately live in a place with a crime problem, and while we don’t need to be intimidated by it, awareness is a powerful tool. A good squirt of pepper spray might be just the thing to give you enough time to get yourself out of a situation. This could also come in handy as a last resort in dangerous dog or wild animal encounters. It may make you feel better (or worse) to know that when this topic comes up on American trail groups on social media, it is somewhat horrifying to see the extent to which they run with knives and guns! And big ones!
- Be prepared – envisage the various trail scenarios that could play out and plan your actions or reactions in your head. This will help you avoid being taken by surprise and could end up being a big help in deciding to do the right thing for the situation. At the very least it will save you time, which could be critical in an emergency. Know what you would like to do if you encounter a belligerent dog, protective baboon or suspicious stranger. Know your plan of action if you are bitten by a snake, or who you are going to call or which app you are going to tap in a medical situation. This might also sound obvious or unnecessary, but it’s amazing how quickly things get confused and overwhelming in high-stress situations. Head-practise could literally be a life saver.
- Compulsory Race Kit – treat every run like a long race and pack accordingly. Ok, we know nobody does this, but keep the principle in mind. It’s a good one. Remember it’s not the runs that go as planned that end up as the war stories, but the ones where things take an unexpected turn. You get lost, you get injured, a sudden storm hits, you end up out after dark…. That basic Race Kit Checklist is a wonderful thing – phone (charged and with emergency numbers pre-programmed); space blanket; whistle; headlamp (with charge or batteries); something waterproof and/or warm; extra water and emergency nutrition. Always also remember that it might not be YOU having the bad day; your extra safety kit might just save someone else’s life. At the end of the day hopefully you’ll never need any of these things, but at the very least it will make you a better racer.
Know your Runthebergers – How we fit running into life!
We all know how hard it can be at times to fit those miles or hours into a busy modern schedule. The first and best thing to do is to keep those silly running memes in mind that we always see on Facebook: We don’t HAVE to run; we GET to run! If you CAN get up to run at 04h00 before the kids are up, or you CAN run in the dark in the rain after a long day at work, it is a privilege, and you are luckier than the vast majority of people on the planet. Appreciate it and savour it! Of course, being human, this does not ALWAYS work, so the second thing to do is to take inspiration from others. Here is the story of five Runthebergers giving us some insight and hopefully some inspiration on how they squeeze it all in and come out smiling on the other side.
Medical Doctor, full-time partner in a private Emergency Department & Trauma Practice in Johannesburg, avid trail runner and mountain biker, Challenge Sweeper at Runtheberg 2019
“How” I make time for trail running can’t really stand alone from “why” I make time for trail running. I took up running 5yrs ago and it is neither a hobby, nor an obsession… It is simply a lifestyle. Running has taught me about sticking it out when the going gets tough: If you can still pick up the pace in the second half of the race, the fatigue is mental, not physical! It has also helped me to strike a balance between being a natural loner (spending many hours out on the trails in my own company) and being a team player (sweeping races and motivating the guys in the back to dig deep and keep going).
I work long hours and have 3 high energy dogs (my kids) who need to be exercised, so it all boils down to having a structure in place: We make 5am trips to the dog park 3 times a week, I run 3 times a week (twice a week after work and an early morning long run over weekends), which leaves one day for mountain biking (my preferred method of cross-training). We all make time for what’s truly important to us. For somebody who values consistency, trail running is the perfect sport, as you will only ever get out what you consistently put in… Nothing more, nothing less.
Born in Umlazi Township, KZN, now living in Mpumalanga. Graduated UCT with a BSc (electrical engineering) and now working as a Design Engineer. 5 Comrades, 2 Full Ironman, 4 Half Ironman, 1 Runtheberg (2019). Husband and father to three boys (including twins)
It’s hard to believe that I was introduced to running by a blind guy! Yes, a blind guy! Simphiwe, a fellow student in Cape Town, knocked on my door at res one day, telling me that the exchange student that he had used to run with had gone back home that he was desperate for a run, and that he would teach me what to do. So off we went for my first 5km run ever, and I was hooked! Fast forward 10 years or so, and most will recognize in their own stories the progression to races, joining clubs, marathons and ultimately my first Comrades in 2011.
Many will also recognize the slide backwards, with career commitments and then kids, until at a routine health screening in 2015 my doctor painted a graphic picture of “30 tubs of Rama margarine packed inside me” and a real heart disease risk. The doctor knew I used to run, and she gave me three months to reverse course or start all the serious medication that comes with cholesterol, high blood pressure, and related health issues. The gym was a lifesaver, allowing my wife and I to exercise together while they looked after the kids. I started off running on the treadmill, and it took about three months before I could run 5km without stopping, but I got there. At the next visit to the doc I was very happy to hear that while I had a long, long way to go, I was exempted from the meds for the time being. It was only as the weight started to fall off that I realized how I’d been suffering. Always tired, constant backache, trouble sleeping, even struggling to bend over to tie shoelaces, all dropping away with the kilograms.
Within a year I was entering marathons again, at first merely wanting to finish and happy just avoiding cut-offs, but the improvements continued. Then I discovered the trails, and a whole new world opened to me. Spectacular scenic locations in the heart of nature, family-friendly events, amazing happy runners not chasing times – to me it was like a “runner’s holiday”. I’m still something of a roadie, but I make a point of participating in as many trail events that I can, especially in the second half of the year after the big road races are finished.
I like to run early in the mornings. This doesn’t eat too much into my important family time, and it gives me a chance to clear my mind and to plan and prepare for the day ahead. Running has become a tool to help me balance my life’s priorities and to cope with the challenges of work, relationships, and family that I must deal with every day. And of course, there are the health benefits – I still remember the 30 tubs of margarine! But that memory fades a little more every day.
Lindsay Carte Du Plessis
Full-time Manager of Montusi Mountain Lodge Luxury Resort (www.montusi.co.za), full-time mom of two very energetic mountain kids, passionate mountain runner, veteran of 6 Runtheberg events, smashed her first RTB Extreme in 2019
As a resident of this stunning Northern Drakensberg valley, I’m almost obligated to take full advantage of the running up here! Run the Berg is a no brainer for me, but I know the escape routes, so there is always the danger of an easy escape when the going gets tough!
Running Montusi Mountain Lodge gives me the opportunity to share the magic of the mountains with people from all over the world. Luckily for me, part of my “work” is running with guests 3 days a week on our Sunset Runs. The best is when I convince the runners to take a dip in the dam to end the run…nothing like the enthusiasm of a Londoner floating in a dam and staring at the African sky while swallows dart and dive above to make you appreciate your home.
In the Autumn and Winter months, training runs are completed in the dark, by headlight. Again, it is such a privilege to be able to run in this valley where there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Oh and the endless Nook Road Climb!
To be welcomed home after a good run, by little arms in a good night hug before their dad takes them for a bedtime story is the cherry on top!
Professional Chef and Founder/Owner of her own fully operational food service and pastry company (www.zeestastytreats.co.za); dedicated trail runner and a regular on the KZN trail circuit; veteran of two RTB Extremes (’17 & ’19)
After Chef School I had gained a lot of weight and decided to start exercising. Running came naturally… Soon I was introduced to trail running by a friend and fell in love! Nature is Enough!
I treat my running and training as an appointment that I’ve committed to, just like a business meeting, and my workouts are scheduled on my smartphone the same as all my other important meetings.
Running is an important part of my life as an entrepreneur and when I run early in the morning, as I do on most days, it sets the tone for the day ahead. It also brings structure, discipline and focus into my life, which has translated very well into my business endeavours, where delivery and maintaining happy clients are key.
Trail Running gives me an irreplaceable and invaluable chance to be alone with nature. Besides the obvious physical benefits, I use the time to meditate, plan, make better decisions and transport myself to a place of appreciation and gratitude. It gives me hope about my business and life in general. New dreams are born!
Proud Mpumalangian, General Manager of the Dwarsrivier Chrome Mine in the Steelpoort area; passionate trail runner, dedicated husband and family man, proud and involved father to two energetic teenagers. First RTB was a Challenge in ’17; came back in ’19 to conquer the Extreme
As the General Manager of a large mine, I am required to lead the business both operationally and in terms of long-term strategy. I also assume legal responsibility for the health and safety of about 2,500 full-time employees and contracted employees, which as you would imagine entails a fair amount of stress. The bulk of my day is spent in meetings and discussions to make operational, strategic and leadership decisions, affecting all stakeholders of our mine. My job, in short, is to ensure everybody else can do their jobs and develop as individuals, and to make sure our kids will have an opportunity to come and work safely at our mine!
To train and have a busy work and life schedule is tough! My running is my stress relief and I focus my life purpose through my training. I run on the road in the week and try to get out into the bush over weekends. How I keep my focus is to try to run as often as I can in the most remote, exotic and beautiful locations in our country, keeping the level of excitement high. I also try to take along my family, making the crazy runs all over SA an exciting family outing (my daughter just completed her first Runtheberg like a champion!). I believe my strongest asset for long hard trail runs is my mind-set. I am head strong and never give up, just like God never gave up on me!
In this regular segment we feature the very special accommodation options that abound in the Runtheberg Valley and surrounds, and that all contribute in their own unique way to the unforgettable experience that is a Runtheberg weekend. And of course, they are there year-round for your mid-season RTB training weekends where you can bring the family to just come and play in the mountains.
Sungubala Eco Camp
In our previous newsletter we touched on the history of the Carte family in the Runtheberg valley, and the story behind The Cavern. Sungubala Eco Camp is the more recent chapter in the saga. Benefitting from all the family expertise and passion that makes The Cavern such a success, Sungubala offers mountain lovers a very comfortable but truly down-to-earth Drakensberg experience.
Set on a secluded mountain farm, overlooking the Sungubala Valley, this self-catering camp is ideal for a nature lover’s active getaway but is equally suited for just relaxing in the mountains. The Camp is a great base from which to explore the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site. Activities include mountain biking, hiking, trail running, swimming, horse riding, birding, and of course all of the thrills and spills on offer at the All Out Adventures Adventure Centre. In keeping with the Eco theme, all power is wind and solar generated. Gas is used for cooking, and water heating. Sungubala Eco Camp has various accommodation options ranging from very comfortable multi-room chalets to more basic rondavels to rustic A-frame huts. All units are self-catering and there is a shared boma, firepit, two kitchens, lounge and braai area as well as spectacularly situated swimming pool, all of which makes Sungubala Eco Camp perfect for groups.
Check out www.sungubala.co.za for more details.
Runtheberg 2020 & Adventure Physio Special Christmas Offer
Trailrunners deserve Christmas presents too! Together with our long-standing physio partners, those massage magicians at Adventure Physio, Runtheberg is offering R100 off any physio session at RTB 2020 with every new entry registered and paid before midnight 31 December 2019 (for those who don’t celebrate Christmas we’ve made it a handy New Year’s present too). Fantastic trail running value to make the season even more festive!
Our Runtheberg message for the season in this time of wet coal and shed loads: What doesn’t need electricity? A good old-fashioned run on a trail! (OK you might not be able to Strava it but that’s a discussion for another day)
Wishing Runthebergers and their families and loved ones a Happy, Safe and Trailful Christmas and New Year!
Bring on 2020!