Or ‘how to get lost on a race in South Africa’
With the Kent XC Champs underway and Penshurst 5 tomorrow, I didn’t want to feel left out and entered the 16km Knysna Trail Race.
Organised by the Knysna Marathon Club this was the 4th running of the race across the dense forests east of the town in a place called ‘Middle Erf’, there was also a 25km highly technical option with rope climbs and scrambling round 100m+ drops into the ocean. Sadly due to only having my road shoes I chose the saner, shorter route with around 1000ft of ascent/descent, around the same as Eridge.
Despite recent conditions, weather was pretty much perfect – clear skies and from 19 to 25C. After donning my union jack deckchair and surveying the field, I started with 250+ others. First few km made it evident the front pacing was not fast, with one clear leader and not much between the rest. I settled in with a few others I eventually overtook through some lovely shaded forest 6km in.
Upto the halfway point I was chasing a lady runner and course veteran – unaware she was 4th at the time. We met at the very bottom of the course by a quick water stop (no cup collection here, you had to stop) and set off close together for the next 3 uphill miles of the course.
Apart from a quick scalping from a head-height branch, we stayed within reach until around the 9th mile where a technical section arrived unexpectedly – a river crossing above a waterfall via a 15m tree trunk suspended above it. The course then became full-on brush, desperately trying to see whatever navigation markers were available. I passed a marshal who motioned me up the supposed final hill, 3rd place was in sight so I gunned it.
Needless to say, we both missed an arrow taped to a tree saying to go left and ended up heading in the wrong direction for around 1km. Cut up by the dense brush and cursing the air, I set my GPS to point me back to the start and walk/ran as best I could as the crow flies. Eventually I emerged the wrong side of a surprised marshal and headed for the finish. Official results are not out yet but I guess I lost some 20 places due to this.
After helping organise races, especially the Eridge 10, I have a new appreciation for the sheer disappointment and frustration of a poorly marked course, let alone the missed chance of a prize and podium finish. I vented at the race organisers, but found out this happened last year as well to some 20 runners so it was a lost cause. A bit of red tape every 20m, its all it takes..
At least there was something to take home from this, a runner came up to me at the end and said he did a double-take being overtaken by a deckchair, hailing from Beckenham of all places. Its a small world.
As for the goody bag – 2 magazines (from Jan 2014), ‘time-less’ lotion (made 5 years ago), washing powder and softener, a box of mini cheddars (out of date), teabags (out of date) and a bottle of chilli oil – still in date!
In summary – great course, rubbish organising, bonkers sponsorship – typical South Africa.
XC captain / lost cause