Race Report: Megan van Tonder – 3222 Trail run

The long exciting weekend started off with a 5 hour drive to Afriski in the beautiful Lesotho mountains. We arrived around 4:30 pm and just looking up at the mountains sent shivers of excitement down my spine. I was so excited and ready to race the next day (Saturday) which was the 10km of the 2 day stage race. On Saturday, the day started off at 5:30 in the morning with everyone scrambling around in the backpackers house preparing for the race. The race then began at 7am. As I was waiting at the start, I was thinking to myself that there is only one way we can go, and that’s up into the mountains, there weren’t really any flat areas around where we were staying at Afriski and to my “surprise” we did indeed run up. I can’t even describe the feeling when you run up a mountain at 3222m above sea level, you feel very unfit and exhausted. But that didn’t affect me too much because as we got further into the race I got used to it. You know what people say, “for every uphill there’s always a downhill”…..well after about 10 minutes into the race we started heading down towards a river with a very steep descent. The trail was very technical and rocky, I think I twisted my ankle about 20 times during the race. So as we got down to the bottom of the mountain we ran alongside the river for about 1km and then we crossed the freezing cold river and ran (more like walked) up the very steep mountain. As we reached the top I was so relieved because now I could run again and get a good place going. We ran about 2km along the top of a mountain and then went downward again towards the direction of the Afriski resort. We got to another river but luckily there was a bridge so I didn’t have to freeze my feet again. And headed, yet again, uphill and to the finish. I really enjoyed running my first 10km in the Lesotho mountains and finished 1st for the ladies on Saturday

On Sunday the day started pretty much exactly like the Saturday but I was very nervous because I knew I need to win again to win the race for the ladies overall –  but I also felt very confident because I am used to running 5km and was so pumped for the race. We started off a little different to Saturday and ran more in the valley that Afrikski was in and didn’t go that far out into the mountains. The race consisted mainly of one long up hill, a little straight part and then an intense downhill and because of this it was a very fast 5km race. I was in front of my closet competitor the whole race with her hot on my heels most of the way. As we were about 100m away from the finish we both sprinted to the finish line and I managed to take 1st place again for the ladies and won the 3222m mini overall. It was honestly such a fun experience and putting our bodies to the test at that altitude was a great learning experience for all the athletes who competed. It was such a privilege to run in the stunning Lesotho mountains watching the local herders around that area with their animals. Thank you to Afriski and everyone who made the race enjoyable. I can’t wait to race the 3223 ice in September.

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