Back in November last year, after a pleasant 5km run around the base of Lion’s Head, I decided to commit to The Two Ocean’s 22km trail run. It was only the distance I focused on. I was a novice half marathon runner and a novice trail runner. It’s only now that I realise what trail running is.
In sport, in work and in life, preparation is everything.
I won’t lie. It’s been hard training during the Uk winter … In fact, as I’m sure anyone in the UK over the last few months can testify it’s been hard doing anything. I’ve been getting up at 6, in the dark, when the temperatures are sub zero and managing a few kms. And at the gym, I’ve been setting the treadmill on ‘hill’ and giving it an hour or so. This preparation, it turns out was definitely not everything… It turns out there is no Table Mountain setting on the treadmill. Something with a 60% incline, instead of 4 might have been more like it…
Running with nature
Trail running, I discovered is not so much about the running. It’s about being out there with nature. It’s about scrambling your way along a path, climbing over boulders and under dead trees to forge on a rugged and sometimes invisible path. On a route, where one slip and you’re over the edge of the mountain, a badly placed foothold means an ankle twisted or broken on a rock or far worse as there are no borders or rails to grab onto on the edge of the mountain. You can easily slip over in the mud. Lung capacity and leg power is one thing, but it’s your confidence of footing and strength of mind that is more important that how far and fast you can actually run.
Joe the lion
So a race, which I had originally thought would take me 2hr 20, took me 3hrs 40. And I was pleased with that. Some of the slopes were so steep, all I could see in front of me were people stumbling over rocky paths and walking on at a steady pace trying not to pant too much.
So I realise now that the Two Ocean’s trail run is 22km up and down the mountain. It’s no walk in the park.
As ever, my question is what keeps you focused – I’ve asked other runners I know and they all give me different answers. Some train for the clarity of mind it gives them, others to manage their weight, and some want to push themselves to see how far they can go. But one thing that I think is true, is in Haruki Murakami’s words;
“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life”
For me it’s a combination of all things. I love the clarity of thought I get after a good run. The challenge of working out what my body can (or cannot) do. And then there is the adrenaline rush too. After a long and particularly challenging run you feel like you can take on the world. Not quite the same with yoga frankly.
So, I’ve achieved one more goal. The next is now to fix my somewhat broken body…
If you want to sponsor me on what was to date one of my most gruelling and physical challenges, (possibly barring learning to fight with sticks in a rat infested hole in India – link) please feel free.