Groenkloof is known as a tough trail, especially for racing. The Winter Trail Series incorporates both the long and short trail into it’s itinerary. Since hiking the 11km path, I’ve been wanting to go back and run the route, and this past Saturday I got that chance.
I arrived as soon as the gates opened at 7am. This is my first tough trail run since I’ve started training a bit more seriously, so I was excited to see how I performed. I found the yellow path, did some warm ups and then head off. The first thing you notice is the initial climb. It is tough. The first kilometre will get your legs burning, I had to stop briefly twice. Safe to say, I was quickly put in my place by the incline. I pushed on, and after that steep entrance any terrain is pretty tame in comparison.
The route then opens up, with some technical parts making for awesome trail running. I really enjoy the technical aspects: jumping between rocks, quick high and low stepping, side to side – love. The route soon opens up and the incline and declines become more gradual and steady. As I’ve mentioned before, the highveld has a distinct beauty about it, and when you’re running through, pushing yourself hard, you feel so close to nature.
As I approached one of the crossroads, I looked ahead and saw an Ostrich – and we were on a crash course. I quickly hit the breaks, far enough away to not scare it, and slowly moved forward. I’d recently heard a semi-horror story of a cyclist who had come to Groenkloof two weeks prior, and who was then chased by an Ostrich. Now it might sound funny, but it’s definitely no joke. Ostriches somehow got left in the dinosaur age and if you’ve ever met one you’d wholeheartedly agree, they are such strange creatures. As she was peddling away the Ostrich was snapping at her arms with its beak, and eventually she had to ride into a bush for safety. The Ostrich gave up and left. The next day, she sat traumatised with marks on her arms recalling the story. With that in mind, I put into practice a trick I have learned to scare animals away: pick up two rocks, and hit them together loudly. The sharp and loud noise will nine times out of ten make the animal weary and move in the opposite direction to you. The Ostrich duly did, and I was safe from arm marks and PTSD.
I started on the final three kilometres, and the downhill started to hit my knees. By shifting my weight I managed to avoid any injury and keep pace. I’ll be forever learning and improving on form, I love how technical running can be. A small change – shifting weight onto glutes, making sure hips are being used properly – can increase your times, your incline pace, and keep injuries at bay.
The final stretch was loads of fun, and again a very technical part of the trail. I managed to finish the route in just under 1h15m. I had no idea if it was a good time or not when I was racing, but after looking up the official race results I would have placed in the top 25% in male category, and in the top 20% overall. Pretty stoked with that result, and have some great goals to get through on this trail. The first one: to run up that devil incline with no breaks.