An endurance journey taking in historical battle sites, hungry vultures and horizon views.
Starting before the Sparrow’s tweet, usually quite chilly, all your running gear is checked and ready.
Most important is lots of hydration – drinking water! These mountains are dry, Sahara dry in August.
The bumpy bus ride to the start, where you will be suffocated by wafts of Deep Heat, is your chance to meet new friends, or influence your enemies with your new bling kit!
Start – Hospitaalpad (0km – 9km)
The first 3kms across farm land are your warm up kms. As you meander through the bush and scrub, the climb starts. This is not a race to the top, take it easy, be wise and conservative, as the elevation cranks you through the stratosphere up a 400m cliff side trail to 1600ms and beyond.
For coastal dwellers this is oxygen deprivation, so locals will enjoy jogging past their hippy cousins, avoiding cerebral oedema and other maladies of great heights.
The Hospitaalpad is infamous for being a Boer War evacuation route, where injured soldiers escaped capture from confused red coats – nothing has changed!
As you clamber upwards, the panoramic views take over, enjoy the moment through your heavy breathing, and soon you will reach the top.
Magalies Ridgeline (9km – 20km)
Now you are in the Meat and Potatoes section of the race. Although the route profile looks very friendly on screen, the trail is surprisingly gnarly, with a mix of easy running and boulder garden technical sections.
The trail is easy to follow through the brown grass, with regular markers. Avoid following old Jeep tracks to the North, and remain on an Easterly heading – following the ridgeline towards Harties.
Just after 17kms, an emergency water refill station is provided. This is not a Jacuzzi showering venue, each drop has been carried up by Trail runners who could not afford the Race fee.
(This is also the only bail out point if you are injured).
A nasty climb follows, to a magnificent view point, and you will enjoy scenes across the dam. You will also notice circling shadows as the thermals heat up and the Vultures track your progress across their hunting grounds. This is not the place to have a sleep, continue on towards the descent.
Descent & Leopards Lodge Loop (20km – 30km)
Your drop off the mountain range is initially gentle, and then gathers momentum rapidly as you plunge towards the ‘civilisation’ of Golf Estates. 2 more water tables (1 is a feed station) on this section to help keep you trundling along.
The route swings alongside the tar road and then using a home-made recycled plastic ladder, you straddle an Eskom non-powered electric game fence. You are in the Leopards Lodge reserve, where Giraffe, impala, bushbuck and zebra will help you keep going through the bushy trails.
From 28km mark, you are rewarded with a gentle downhill to the Exit gate.
Leopards Lodge to Hel KLOOF (30km – 40km)
The next 6kms are very runnable, let your quads tick over and revitalise themselves for the nightmare ahead – Hel Kloof.
Over the years, we have received no reports of runners having fun in the Kloof. This place has broken many a strong sense of humour. It is dry as a hyena bone, steep, sandy and slippery. Incredibly, we have many runners returning for their duel with the Devil.
You may yell out curses, no-one can hear you and soon you will scramble over the final sharp rocks and be on your merry way down to the Greek Church refuelling station.
(The Kloof is a cut-off point, if your pace has been slow, you will be directed straight to the Greek Church).
Greek Church to Finish (41km to 50km)
Popping out of the thick kloof bush at the Church, you may finally start to believe! You are now on your way home. Text your loved Ones to have the Beers ready in an hour or two.
Enjoy cold Coke, fruit and chocolates, and fill up your water bottles.
The hill rolls down through farmland, via several dongas, warthog burrows and eventually, near 45kms, arrives at the River. The last few kms are flat, with wet river crossings and shaded reed tunnels, all enjoyable running, even on tired legs.
You will hear the music, cross the final floating bridge, and sprint to the Salomon finish line Arch.
This is an incredible route, not to be underestimated, with rewards of achievement that will last a lifetime.