Race Report: Jacques Buys – Salomon Magaliesberg Challenge

Probably the most underrated mountain range in SA, whilst also being one of the oldest mountains in the world, the Magaliesberg was set to provide an extreme challenge for trail runners in the Salomon Magaliesberg Challenge.

I opted for the 36km race as I have been racing a lot the past few months and with Expedition Africa around the corner, a 50km race would not have been a good idea. The initial plan was to take it as a training long run but the legs felt good and I decided to bank on it.

The day began with a bus ride from the finish venue to the start where the excitement really started building up as we drove along the foot of the maintain we are ascending with everyone discussing race strategies and analyzing the route profile. As if the route wasn’t technical enough, the compulsory gear requires a minimum of 2L of water for each runner, an extra 2kg to carry. This was frowned upon at first but I’m sure everyone was grateful for this as it turned out to be a very hot day out with minimal water on the route.

The race set off immediately making its way up the Magaliesberg for some breathtaking ridge running at the top. I found myself in second place at the top with the third place runner nowhere in sight. This didn’t influence the pace as I backed myself to make up some time or maybe even catch the leader on the last downhill of the race. A few race scenarios played off in my mind while running on the ridge but all plans were soon to vanish…

I had a quick look at the route profile before the start and remembered that the long downhill is just after the first water table. The water table came and went and the route just continued on the ridgeline. After a while I convinced myself that I didn’t remember the profile correctly and just carried on. After bout 30km I finally started making my way down the mountain, expecting the finish to jump out around the next corner. At the 36km mark I realized that something was very wrong as I was making my way back up the mountain. I started backtracking thinking I just missed a turnoff when I came across a 50km runner who told me that we still have 15km left to go. That’s when I realized that I missed the 36km race turnoff on top of the mountain and was now on the 50km route.

Pacing myself to be able to race 36km and planning my nutrition only for that, at this point I was completely spent so finding out that it’s still 15km to the finish didn’t go off well in my mind. I decided to cut through the bushes and bundu bashing to find the shortest route back to the finish, doing a death march pretty much the whole way. 

Ended up doing around 43km in the end but at least I got to spend a bit more time on the ridge with vultures soaring right next to me.