The Columbia Highveld Challenge was held east of Pretoria on Saturday, 28 July. I was entered for the 30km but due to some family commitments and the late start time of the event (09:00) I downgraded to the 21km on the day.
Rohann and I went to the race alone as Anette was sick in bed and everyone else had other commitments. We arrived with enough time for me to prepare and do all my pre-race rituals.
Pre-race rituals in progress...
Standing at the start became a bit of a story as the start was delayed due to a lot of runners arriving late. I’m not sure why we had to wait for them as it didn’t look as if they were arriving on the road where we had to run.
Waiting at the start.
The 21km was supposed to start at 09:10 and in the end we started at 09:25 with the sun already high in the clear skies. We were all happy to finally get going as we were all standing at the start from 08:50 for the race briefing.
Finally on our way!
The first 2km or so was run on a dirt road and the field could spread out nicely before we turned onto the trails. Some runners ran quite fast on this road section and when we turned off onto the trail I was 3rd from the back!
Onto the trails!
This didn’t bother me at all as I knew a lot of the runners would come back at me as we progressed. I could see there were a lot of people that were not very familiar with trail running in the race. These runners always start too fast and also battle to negotiate the more technical parts of the routes, so I always pass them later on.
I was feeling good and in very good spirit as we started the first climb on the run. Life is good to me and being out on the trail in a race was, as always, very special. I love running on trails I’ve never been on! There was a fairly long and steady climb but the trail was good with only some rocks later on to make the going a bit harder. The view once at the top of the first climb was nice!
Great view from the top.
We then went onto some Jeep track before we started the first really technical bit of trail. On this trail I immediately started passing runners and this continued right to the end of the race. Yes, I passed people the whole time! I felt stronger and stronger as we progressed and had a really great run.
We ran on a bit of everything and I enjoyed that. Single track, Jeep track, dirt road and some more technical areas. A nice balance for a good trail run. At 9km there was a water point with some cool water in cups. I always drink at water points like this. It is nice to taste water from a different source than my hydration pack.
Water point at 9km.
After the water point we ran on Jeep track for a while before turning onto another single track through some burnt grass. We are having a warm and very dry winter here in Gauteng and veldfires are very common.
Dry trail through the burnt grass.
The trail through the burnt area took us to the most technical part of the race. This was a climb down some rocks and over some sand to the bottom of the hill we were on…down to a railway line!
Railway line, awesome!
I am a model train fanatic and a bit of a train freak, so I was delighted! Yay! Running next to the railroad! Unfortunately no trains passed during this time but I was still having a ball.
Next to the railway!
Talking about having a ball…I was amazed at how good I was feeling. Not tired at all and finding the race really nice. I was passing other runners as I went along and never felt anything not good about the whole experience. Me, the route, everything was good!
At some stage we had to climb back up from the railroad and we headed back into the rocky ridges. This was a nice, technical section with some beautiful views. It was quite warm by now and I was glad I wasn’t doing the 30km run. Maybe the downgrade in distance lifted me mentally and that’s why I was feeling so good.
We ran passed a few dams during the last 5 to 6 km and at one we had to walk /climb on a concrete wall to get across. Things like this always adds to the fun for me.
Some fun at the dam.
From here the route was mainly on dirt roads and I could understand why some reviews I read from last year said it was nearly boring. The road felt endless and the finish never came, but I was still strong and happy.
At some point we ran through some trees and I realized it was the only shade I’ve been in since the start. Running here in summer would be testing.
Only shade on the 21km route...40m of it.
I kept moving along steadily and at some point caught up with two runners who were obviously not prepared for the course. It was a man and a woman and the guy was not carrying water or anything else. The girl had a small hydration pack but that could not have been enough even for one person. I offered the guy a Powerade I was not going to use and he gladly accepted it.
Then we had a long climb for the last 2km or so, climbing through some fences and gates. We were right in the middle of some cattle farms.
At last I saw Rohann running towards me and I knew the finish was close. It was great to see him there on the route! He is always the best supporter and not only for me, but for every runner that he sees. He always talks to every single person he happens to see.
Best supporter in the world!
Feeling great, but ready to finish.
After a quick few photos we ran on and Rohann told me I need to run all the way up to the next dirt road and then make a u-turn on the other side of the fence for the run into the finish. He climbed through the fence and waited for me to take a photo.
Then we ran to the finish together and I was really very happy and feeling great. I was also happy I didn’t have to carry on for the 30km run. :D
I received my medal and felt good. Another successful race in the bag. Race number 1365 done and dusted. 635 to go…lol! It’s my 49th birthday today so I better get a move on!