Race Report: Brian Gardner – Wolkberg Trail Run

Wolkberg Trail Run Day 1: Sky Marathon

 

I was really looking forward to this event, but my training leading up had been less than optimal… Haenertsburg and the Magoebaskloof/ Wolkberg area is where I grew up and I just love going back there to play in the mountains at any opportunity! Day 1 was the Sky Marathon, part of the South African Sky Runner Series and covered 34,8kms with 1565m of climb. My strategy was to go hard from the start and see how long I could survive! I had a vague goal which was to try and match last years’ time, although I knew I was being a bit optimistic! The lead group of about 8 guys started fast and pulled a gap early on. I found myself running with Bennie Roux all the way up the steep switchbacks and onto the grasslands below Iron Crown summit. The views on top are spectacular and the conditions were perfect for mountain running! Bennie and I stayed together for a long stretch, but he slowly pulled away as we approached the 2nd water point at Driehoek School at the 26k mark. My legs were starting to feel the efforts, but I was still spot on my 2016 time to 2nd water point, so keeping positive! From there, things didn’t quite go to plan… I couldn’t push hard at all and the legs were getting wobbly…

Felt I was losing time with every step and downhills were hurting! I thankfully managed to hold it together and wasn’t passed by anyone, but was going backwards fast… In the end I crossed the line in a time of 3 hours 30 minutes. It was 7 minutes slower than last year but I wasn’t all that disappointed as I certainly wasn’t as fit this year. Got 6th place in the end, but should have been 8th as unfortunately both Thabang Madiba and my Nevarest team mate Michael Joubert missed a route marker in the pine forests on the mountain and added some extra climb and distance to their run! Edwin Sesipi took the win in 2:55.

 

Wolkberg Trail Run Day 2:

 

Day 2 is a 27,5km circular loop from Stanford Lake College. A few changes to the route this year added 2kms, and it was run in reverse, making it much tougher! My legs were pretty sore and stiff from Day 1. I started ok, but still some way off the lead group who again flew out of the blocks. Found myself running with Bennie again for about the first 10kms, with a few other runners for company too. The route is beautiful, running through indigenous forests, past trout dams, and along mountain streams, it really is a stunning route! Unfortunately, my legs just didn’t recover enough from day 1 and things got worse from about km 11, slowing down a lot and started getting passed by a few guys. Legs were stuffed and I suffered today, properly! Came in 2 hours 36 minutes and 15th place on the day. Huge congrats to team mate Michael Joubert who came 3rd on the day in a very strong field.

 

Managed 9th place overall for the 2 days, so in the end happy with a top 10. Wolkberg Trail Run is a fantastic event, excellent organization, and top class trails. Loved it! Huge thanks to the race organizers from Stanford Lake College for an incredible event, definitely one for any trail runners bucket list. Last but not least, thanks to the Nevarest Team and Keyhealth Medical Scheme for the continued support of our passion!