Race Report: Bennie Roux – Munga 400

2017 ……When I was told about the very first 400km Trail race in South Africa, and on African soil, I was ecstatic! A million thoughts started rumbling through my head all at once and with a pounding heart, I immediately knew: This one is MINE! I will be the first runner to cross the finish line and I will be the first runner to complete that distance on African soil in a timed race. That was the euphoria. Let me tell you about reality…

That was then and I didn’t ever think in my wildest dreams that I could finish this race once….. And now 3-time winner and decided to STOP!!!  Stop while you are ahead.

This year I decided to run for a cause (One very close to my heart, Trauma counselling fund)

So, how far is 400km?

Johannesburg to Bloemfontein. Most people dread driving that distance with a car. For some it is easier to fly. Only a 1 hour flight from OR Tambo to Bloemfontein. From this perspective, it seems impossible just to imagine running almost nonstop for 400km. Very little athletes take on these ultra-events thus resulting only 26 brave athletes on the start line.

Let me start by stipulating what this mammoth race entails:

Approximately 400km done in a single stage, self-supported race with no running partner. That’s right. Alone. You, your backpack, iPod, the trails, nature and God. Maximum 5 days, in the sun and in the dark. On foot. First stop: destination. Rules are simple: Sleep when and where you want and carry what you need. In other words, plan, prepare, pack and start heading towards the finish line. With faith. Faith in God, in yourself, your training, preparation, knowledge and experience.

Every single kilometre on this trail was carefully selected, well planned and offered the ideal balance of variety, exactly what would make every experienced trail runner feel right at home. The route offered us:
8 Water Points and 5 Race Villages.

Water points offering a variety of foods, snacks, water, energy drinks, medical assistance and a comfortable place to rest. Bodies to be refuelled and batteries to be charged. Race Villages offering similar with the addition of hot showers, hot meals and warm beds for a few hours’ much needed sleep.

 

How do you prepare for something that will ultimately change your life?

Although you are not entirely sure how to prepare, you know one thing: This WILL change my entire existence. I just knew that I could do this. I just needed to figure out how to prepare. I am 39 years old, I am willing and able and I am blessed with a God-given talent.

Training for such an extreme event take lots of determination. It takes time. It takes support of loved ones. I needed something you cannot ‘google’ – knowledge on how to win a 400km race. I started looking for similar events globally and I reckoned if I can get in touch with runners that have completed something like this, I can ask for opinions and advice. Despite language barriers I was lucky to get hold of Alfie Pearce-Higgins. He came second in the Gobi Desert race in Japan in 2016. He gave me some useful advice that I made part of my race plan and I will always be grateful for that.

Training for this event was in actual fact a compilation of advice from different sources, my own experience, knowledge and 30km daily runs. Adding to this: strength training, night runs, nutrition, a strong will, self-belief, a lot of courage and hoping for the best. The plan was simple: Run hard, rest well.

 

As the time for the event came closer, reality really started to set in and I began to have doubts.
FEAR started to set in:
“Can I do this? I don’t ever want a DNF result again!”
“What if the race is not planned well?”
“What if a water point or race village is not ready when I arrive?”
“What if I get lost?”
“What if my headlight’s battery dies?”
“What if I ‘outrun’ my love for running?”
And then the biggest fear of them all: “How would I feel if I don’t conquer my fears?”

At exactly this moment, my entire being ‘ordered’ a 400km run, and that is exactly what I received! When I approached the start I was calm and ready. My body and mind was prepared for the task ahead.

We started at Lakenvlei. The first 80km was a nice flat and runnable route through a pine tree plantation. After the first 16 kilos I took the lead and remained alone for the remainder of the race.

The real race started when we passed Verloren kloof, a massive climb of over 600m in only 3km, on semi-tired legs (120km mark) and very little sleep. I just took it step by step, nice and easy knowing I still have plenty do to after this.

The entire race was GPS navigation, adding to the list of risks was Low Battery on your GPS, although I made provision by means of a power bank. My trusty Garmin Fenix 5x helped me all the way, knowing your GPS device was key in not getting lost and also adding a bit of guts to trust your on will and faith in God to guide and protect you. I only got lost for small 300meter bits here and there and I am solely to blame for that, I can always blame the sleep monsters! Mental fatigue at some spots was really hard to cope. I can recall 3 spots on the route where I sure I was sleep walking. Once I notice the fatigue, I immediately addressed the situation and negotiated with myself to take a quick nap in the woods/bushes.

 

My feet were in tiptop shape while almost all the other athletes’ feet look like something out of a horror movie (those 80’s horror movies when graphics and make up were terrible). A lot of credit go to Injinji socks (toe glove socks).

All the Race Villages and Water points exceeded my expectations by about 100%

 

Racing time:              89H35
Stationary time:        26H00
Moving time:             63H35

 

GEAR

Garmin Fenix 5x GPS Watch
Vital information!! Without seeing your progress and speed you could end up going too fast. I used a battery pack to charge, cause the information and navigation is that critical.

Julbo Eyewear (Transitions lenses, so great I even had them on during night)
The transition lenses made for running in any weather conditions.

 

Altra Superior 4 was great on the technical terrain and river crossings. Zero drop and great cushioning allows for so much more natural control.

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4 Pack
The new Soft bottle system perfect quick refills, super light and breathable harness system, build for speed and racing.

Bennie Roux