This weekend marks the inaugural Oxpecker Trail Run event. I, Estie, will be running and covering this event over the weekend on behalf of the Trailrunner team. There will be daily reviews and images posted keeping you glued to your screens, all guaranteed make you ready to drop everything and enter the next one!
On friday we will head out to Emseni Camp, on the banks of the Tugela river, just outside Winterton. And yes, some ‘fresh’ temperatures are expected for the weekend, but race organiser Spoen Green promised that a penalty Icebath will be on hand should anyone complain about the weather conditions. So in short terms, make sure you pack enough warm clothing, the right gear, head lamp and a sleeping bag that can handle sub zero temperatures.
As we discuss the race outline it becomes evident that this is not the typical Trail Run stage race where you will need to carry an uncomfortable load of compulsory items, bags and GPS units. They want us to return to the basics of trail running – rock up, and run. And I have to admit, what a relief. I actually feel the urge to leave my beloved Suunto at home and let my legs loose on the foothills of the Spioenkop Mountains.
According to Green, they have planned some amazing mini events around the 2 days of running, to emphasise this relaxed atmosphere even further. After Stage 1 on Saturday they will take everyone on a scenic Sundowner tour, complete with history talk. And keep your eyes open for an abundance of birdlife and spotting an Oxpecker. The main aim of this race is to raise funds to reintroduce the Oxpecker birds back into the area to help stabilise the natural micro balance. Runners are encouraged to stay on for a warm supper, watch the highlights from the day and listen to Tracy Zunckel’s trail running adventures whilst sipping OBS before bed.
The first day will provide a scenic 21km route taking us up the majestic Drakensberg mountain and Spioenkop Dam. Once you summit Twin Peaks, you will have a 360′ view at the top. 1km from here you will pass ‘windy corner’ where the water table will be stationed. They created a stunning ‘selfie’ site, complete with wooden frame, to make sure capture the moment and to earn bragging rights on social media! Just make sure to use #runtheoxpecker. Water tables will be on the route for both days and I was assured that these would loaded heavily with fruit, sausages and cheese, Racefood (make sure you get there first), water, coke and Biogen. After this highlight we will be running down the legendary single track used for the Berg&Bush cycle race, through the Garden of Eden (another scenic landmark) and viewing wildlife on the way down before running along the banks of the Tugela River back to camp.
The next day will be a fast, but definitely not flat 15km route. We will follow cattle and game tracks through thick African bushveld crossing the Tugela river numerous times. After that we climb Puff Adder pass enjoying views of the Tugela river far below before descending back down to camp.
Brunch and prize giving will follow whilst we enjoy the sunny country life at Emseni, before we say ‘until we run again’ to all our trail friends. As I sit and type this I can actually smell the fresh single tracks and mountain air that await us. I cannot wait to escape the city and spend a weekend running free. And judging by the speed of Spoen Green’s email exchange, I can assure you that the feeling at Oxpecker team camp is mutual.
Tips and inside info from the organiser:
- The route will be clearly marked with painted non permanent rocks and tags
- The route would be mostly single track formed by cattle paths and mtb track. No rocky technical sections, just undulating running with some inclines.
- Runners will be required to carry cellphones for medical emergencies. Numbers will be provided at race briefing
- The medical team will have easy access to the whole route, and they will have an experienced Trauma doctor stationary at the race village
- Post race massages will be available at race village, for R100. Remember to bring cash for this service.
- Hot showers will be available to all runners, even for those just coming through for one race day
- There will be a cash pub at the race village selling soft drinks, beer and OBS. Please remember to bring adequate cash for this. The closest ATM ‘s are in Winterton…a 20km jog away, not sure if you want run a little further for that post race beer!