Tame the Tyger


Morning fine Harriers

Last Sunday, on our annual family holiday to South Africa to see ‘The Olds’, I decided to enter a local Cape Town trail race series.

Trail running is slightly different from running on the “country”, specifically there’s very little mud (it rained once in the 2 weeks I was there – it is their summer to be fair), they tend to be in nature reserves (the preceding race had been held in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens), they’re predominantly on rocky/sandy single file tracks and, as you’d expect for Cape Town, tend to involve the running up and down of a mountain of not an insignificant stature.

I’d been advised of the trail series by the local running hub/cafe/shop/bar (if you’re ever in Cape Town or specifically Hout Bay/Chapmans Peak, I strongly recommend you visit The Vine) and was told it’s a friendly low key event, well organised and importantly, my soft adidas road running shoes should be suitable. However, the race did fall on my wife’s birthday but thankfully, as with all races in summertime in SA, the 7.30am start time would ensure I’d be back in time for her birthday breakfast.

With 3 distances to choose from (“Short” 5K, “Long” 11K and “XL” 16.5K) I opted for the middle of the (non)road Long course – 10 miles up and down mountains with no experience or knowledge of what the course entailed sounded like a recipe for disaster. 11km seemed at least do-able and walkable if it came to it.

So I arrived at 7.00am to a hive of activity. Sign up was quick and easy, although I did panic as I got there that they may require some ID which I’d managed to leave at home, but no – fill in a short form, pay the entry fee (220ZAR or about £11) and I was good to go.

As for the route, all I had to go on was the course description on the website:
Starting from the familiar Olienhout Park and entering the Tygerberg Nature Reserve off of Fynbos Close. 1km in we join the Nduli trail and head right to join the Uketshe trail and a long traverse with magnificent views over Table Bay and Cape Town. At 2.5km the legs better be warm as we hit the very rude 500m steep uphill to the top of the first climb. Then it’s downhill on Wild Olive trail, climb to near the main gate at 5km. Then it’s fast down Duiker around the bottom loop (6km) before a long climb to the highest point on the route at 7.8km. From here it’s downhill to the finish on a fast mix of track and trail before being spat out onto Olienhout Road at 10.5km for the final sprint into the finish.

So one thing I was sure of – there was going to be some climb. oh, and heat – it was already 23 degrees. I was also sure that time/pace was irrelevant so my strategy was to go out easy(ish) and see where that put me in the mixer. By the time we’d reached the top of the first climb, I was comfortably in 3rd place and stopped to take some photos of Table Mountain in the distance – I was on holiday afterall. This did lead to some funny looks from those behind me on the climb. What quickly transpired though was that running downhill on technical trails is not my forte as runners came thundering past me. Thankfully all those long runs in TW up and down Spring Hill, Vauxhall Lane, Quarry Hill et al paid dividends, and I caught and passed them again on the uphills.

In the end I finished 5th (4th male and 1st Vet overall) – not bad for a road runner! The race encapsulated everything I love about running abroad – new routes, incredible scenery, making new friends, experiencing new things & cultures. It was a lot of fun and recommend if you’re ever in CT, look out for local races – there’s a huge running community with races every weekend.

By 9.30am I was back home, sitting by the pool with a very large and well earned slice of the wife’s birthday cake in hand. Lekker!

1st Male – Estean Badenhorst – 49:57
1st Female – Bianca Tarborton – 51:09
5th Place (1st Vet) – John Law – 55:57

The view of Table Mountain from the top of Tygerberg

John Law