The 5th race of the Winter Trail Challenge 2015 by KZN Trail Running took place at Table Mountain in Pietermaritzburg on the 20th June 2015. There were two events on offer, a 12km route and a 7km route. This is a challenging race, with a steep climb at the start, and amazing views over the Dusi and Umgeni River valleys. I did the 12km route, which circles the entire top of the mountain, while the 7km route stays mainly on the Dusi side of the mountain. The race starts at a local school, and there is a great vibe at the start and finish with music and local dancers, which really adds to the atmosphere.
It was a beautiful morning, a little chilly, but sunny and not too bad, and a larger than usual crowd of runners lined up on the start. The race was started at around 7:40am by the local Nkosi, and immediately the course starts climbing up the mountain, around 200m in the first 1.5km. This first climb is quite tough, it starts with around 800m of dust road before getting onto a single track. Most people were brought to a walk by this stage by the steep gradient. Once on the top, the route follows the edge of the mountain, which like Table Mountain in Cape Town, is definitely not flat on the top!
The course follows cattle tracks for most of the way to the far end of the mountain. These can be quite challenging to run on since they are quite narrow and often covered by long grass so you can’t really see where your feet are landing. After about 3km, the 7km course splits off and heads up a hill while the 12km course continues round the mountain. In quite a few places, the course goes off trail and you end up running through long grass. There was also a small river that had to be crossed, and in trying to get over without getting my feet wet, I managed to land one foot in a hole filled with water and took a bit of a tumble. No harm done, except for one wet, muddy shoe. Once you reach the far end of the mountain, the course follows the cliffs on the Umgeni side, with magnificent views over Nagle Dam and the Umgeni river. At some points, the course goes very close to the edge of the cliffs, with some high drops. Careful footing is a must!
Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling great, probably because of the new breakfast cereal I tried in the morning before the race which didn’t seem to agree with me, so I wasn’t going quite as fast as I wanted and walked a couple of the hills. But once I reached about 8km, I started to feel better and picked up the pace. It wasn’t long before we started the steep descent back down the mountain to the finish, and I tried to run it quite hard. I love downhills, especially technical ones. I managed to catch most of the people who had passed me on the top, and ran pretty much full pace down the final kilometre to the finish, setting a new 1km PB in the process (3:42). The final race distance was was around 11.1km, and I finished in 1:10:15, 2 minutes faster than my time last year.
Apart from not feeling great, I enjoyed the run. The views from the top are really spectacular, and we had a perfect clear day. It is also really cool that most of the money raised from the entry fees goes back to the school and local community. It was also cool to have The Durban Runner, USN and Trail Magazine involved, with USN providing some much needed refreshment at the finish. The top three male runners where all part of Martin Dreyer’s Change-a-Life Academy, which is producing some really fast guys. The winner was Mthobisi Mzolo in 47:41 while the ladies race was won by Pippa McGregor again in 1:01:35. Strava data for the races is here.
Shoes: New Balance 1210v1 Leadville