We left home just after 06:00 on Saturday morning to drive to the Van Gaalen Cheese Farm where the Magaliesberg Challenge takes place. I was ready for the 35km while Anette was ready for the 10km event.
We arrived with plenty of time to register and chat to some running friends. The venue is friendly with a beautiful view of the Magaliesberg in the distance. Although beautiful, I knew it won’t be long before I would be on some grueling climbs and descents on the mountain.
The 35km race is a point to point run and runners are transported to the start in the middle of nowhere by bus. This is quite a bumpy and shaky ride on some gravel farm roads.
Runners are dropped off in the middle of nowhere and then follow the 35km route over the Magaliesberg back to the finish. I did the inaugural race last year, so I knew exactly what was ahead…well almost…
Drop off point and start.
During the race briefing we were told about a 4km loop that was added this year to make up for the short course of last year. This, we were told, included a killer climb up a very steep “kloof” (gorge/narrow valley).
After the race briefing it wasn’t long before we were sent on our way. The first few kilometers are run on farm roads towards the mountain. This spreads out the field before the climb up the mountain. However, there was a fence to climb through after about 1km and we were queuing patiently for this. We climbed over and through numerous fences during the race.
Waiting for my turn to get through the fence after 1km.
As we progressed towards the mountain the route slowly starts climbing steeper and steeper. At first you don’t notice it, but after about 4km you realize that you are climbing already and the legs start screaming to relax before the actual mountain climb starts.
The climb to the top is a zigzag trail that seems to carry on forever. This is the “hospitaalpad” – the trail was used in the war to get wounded soldiers to the hospital safely. The views are splendid and as you climb higher it becomes more beautiful. Watching beautiful views definitely helps the climb to the top.
It was a cool morning and I was running with a long sleeve shirt over my t-shirt. It felt a bit warm at times, but I knew once we go over the top of te mountain the cold wind would get us from the other side. I was so right about this!
Eventually I reached the first summit of the day. A great first milestone under the belt and I was feeling good. This is a really beautiful place.
Over the first summit.
There are rocks and rocks and more rocks on this mountain. The route along the top is not flat by any means. There are lots of ascents and descents as you make your way along the Magalies. I was aware of how dry and harsh the environment is. We humans are wimps for sure. Surviving in this landscape, as the local wildlife do, is certainly not easy.
Harsh, dry landscapes.
The harshness is complimented by beautiful rock formations and views. As with most trail runs, I felt privileged to be running there.
I had no specific plan for the race. Just cruise over the mountain back to the finish…yeah right…easy! This was my last long run before the upcoming Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge. My plan was to take it easy and spend some quality time on my feet. I did exactly that. I never worried about my time or pace. I only worked on keeping a steady pace and effort all the time.
Cruising over the Magaliesberg…
I’m experimenting with food and fluid intake for my longer runs as I often have problems with nausea after 4 hours or more on a run. I actually carried more than 4kg (9lb) fluid and food during this run. I used more than half but I won’t carry that much during a serious race.
There are some parts that reminds of the moon…or is it Mars…?
I was still feeling good when I reached the main descent. This takes you down the mountain right to the bottom. It is steep and slippery with loose rocks, gravel and sand all the way.
Top of the main descent.
Once my legs just had enough from the steep descent I was treated to this sign…
Yes, Stairway to heaven! This was the start of the newly added loop. It was steep and testing with plenty of loose stones on the way to the top.
Hard to go up on tired legs with this under your feet.
Well, I did reach the top of the staircase to heaven, but luckily I didn’t pass on to heaven yet. It was now time to descent back to hell… The climb down was difficult and extremely technical. There was no trail and we just followed a dry river bed down the mountain.
The way down.
Nearly at the bottom. Amazing to see some water flowing out of the dry ground.
There was a warm and boring 3km loop at the bottom and here I felt they were just trying to make up distance. It felt like we were running in circles.
Who or what died here?
I finally reached the one and only checkpoint/waterpoint on the route. I was tired but good. The run to the finish was long and slightly downhill. I could see the finish, but it felt as if it never came any closer.
Long road to the finish.
I finally reached the river and knew I had only about 3km to go. My legs were feeling great and I’m very happy about that. I was a bit warm and slightly nauseas, but overall felt good.
I ran the final kilometer through the reeds and river and was very happy to reach the finish. Anette welcomed me home and came to run the last bit over the line with me. I was happy.
We received a Yellowwood tree for our efforts. The Yellowwood is South Africa’s national tree. I love the tree and feel it is worth much more than a medal would have been. We also received a good quality shirt and cap.
Happy with my tree.
Although I ran a very slow race I wanted time on my feet and feel I did exactly what I wanted. Another successful race in the bag.