Ruan van der Merwe – 3 Cranes

The 3 Seasons Run

by Ruan Van Der Merwe on March 01, 2017

From time-out zones & mudslides, to canopy tours & scorching heat, this WildSeries 3 Cranes event has it all! Getting all the seasons over 3 days and 100km course running through the picturesque Karkloof Conservancy.

#Wildmoments all round!

Having been once again coaxed into joining a fellow adventure racer for a fairly long run (3 Cranes 100km stage race), it obviously then turned into a flat out race instead of me just getting a chance to enjoy the scenery.

Driving into the race village at the Karkloof Conservancy, I suddenly wondered how I never knew this place existed, even after spending my December holiday in the Natal Midlands; I somehow completely missed this stunning place. I was seriously contemplating skipping the 3 days of hard racing and just hiking around the area to absorb all the wild beauty!

Luckily at the race briefing we were informed of a concept that is a first for me at a race, called a time-out zone… now to say I was a bit sceptical of this is an understatement. Essentially there are 1 time out zone each for day 1 and 2, during which your timing for the race will be stopped and you can take a break for as long as you want, so either 5 minutes or 5 hours, depending on how you feel.

Day 1: Why are there always so many mountains?!

Day 1 starts with everyone just chasing each other up the biggest most slippery mountain in the area, trying to fall as little possible and hoping to not look like a complete idiot whilst doing it. Luckily my Inov8’s proved champion on the slippery slopes, but after the mud gets ankle deep, you would probably need a tractor to have any grip at all

Everyone started at breakneck speed, which for me seemed a bit ridiculous as this race is over 3 days… and 100km, so why kill yourself on the 1st hill? There are so many more hills on which to bomb out, why waste it all on the 1st one?

I decided to rather slow down, hover around in 10th place and make up time later on the more technical downhills. Coming into the 1st time-out zone after 22km I was lying in 6th position behind Salomon athlete Jock Green. The time-out zone also included a canopy tour which was a nice break and once again a first for a race I’ve ever heard of. Also, and this is probably the highlight of the race… you could go to the toilet… off the clock! How awesome is that?!

Due to the oddness of the time-out zone, Jock crossed the finish line before me, but I was still a minute and a half ahead of him as I stayed longer in the time-out zone and did the last few km’s faster than him. So I finished day 1 in 5th position, just ahead of Jock (For those that missed the previous instalment, Jock beat me at SkyRun, coming 5th and myself 6th!)

Day 2: The Scorcher!

Day 2 is the long one, being almost full marathon distance, clocking in at 41km. We started on a fast flat 8km trail before reaching the 1st mountain, which might sound like fun, but running at blistering pace on tired and sore legs includes no joy!

From the start I just decided to stay close to Jock, as it was going to be a long day and there was no use trying to beat him and burn out. Even early in the day we could already feel the mercury rising and I knew I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time in the time-out zone, so I could finish before the heat of the day.


Coming into the Benvie Gardens time-out zone, I already caught up with Mthobisi & Sanele who placed 1st and 2nd respectively on the previous day, and to say they were past cooked is an understatement.

Now a lot of people wondered why there was a time-out zone here, but once you enter the Gardens, you soon realise that the race organisers purely wanted you to experience and fully take in the beauty of the area. Words cannot describe the artistry that is the garden design and you would need to look at a thousand photos’ to even get a glimpse of its magnitude and magnificence!

But anyway, almost forgot I was there to race! Still trying to figure out if I like this time-out thing, because my enthusiasm for starting my run again was lost somewhere deep in the forest.

Heading out again, Jock and I stuck together to pace each other, although it felt more like he was trying to slowly kill me km by km. I must commend him on nearly achieving his objective as I was pretty much spent coming onto the finish line.

Thanks to the wizardry of the time-out zone; I was fourth over the line, but 3rd overall on the day. I can get used to this!

Day 3: And then there was rain… there always has to be rain.

Waking up with rain pouring down on our tent at 3am, I knew that I would not have to carry any water for the last day, as it was a 4:30 start and I was pretty sure I could do the 25km in just over 2 hours.

So now it was only surviving the cold until race start and knowing that for the first time this weekend I will be able to have an awesome breakfast once I finish!

I’ve never had such a craving for bacon and eggs, which I completely lost upon reaching the 1st water table and they were serving bacon & egg rolls. So just to put this into perspective, after you power up a 7km hill they shove a bacon & egg roll in your face… my heart rate is somewhere next to the gods of Olympus and you want me to consume this?

So moving along, you continue to run in mist, rain and mud; you know; all the stuff awesome trail races are made of! I had to hold my headlamp at hip height so I could see where I was running as the light at head height just reflected off the mist and face planting ensued.

So thanks to the last 6km being a muddy downhill that resembled the mud monster of the Warrior races, except you know… downhill, I managed to gain on pretty much everyone with a sprint finish to take 3rd on the day again (no magic involved)!

Somehow we decided that a swim in the dam at the finish would also be a good idea, well at least if got rid of the mud.

So what started out as a challenge by a friend, that turned into a weekend away with my girlfriend, and ended up being a seriously fast paced and unexpected 2nd place Overall, this is definitely a race I would do over and over again, as the whole vibe, race organising and actual race is just everything you can hope for and more!