From the Cape to the Berg, or desert to forest, trail-running is one of those activities that – like jogging and hiking – can be enjoyed just about anywhere. All you really need is a path, a good pair of shoes and your sense of adventure. Here are some trails to try. By Fran Siebrits
Newbies in the Cape
Trail-runners living in, or visiting, the Mother City are fortunate to have many routes on the Cape Peninsula mountain range to choose from. Table Mountain National Park can be accessed within ten minutes from many city suburbs. Most trails involve a challenging ascent at some point (but this can be walked, as I am quite fond of doing). A great trail to start on is the Pipe Track on the western side of Table Mountain National Park above Camps Bay. The terrain is flat and you cannot get lost – sorry, I mean you cannot go ‘exploring’ too much. The trail is a comfortable width with enough rocks to begin training your eye.
Confident trail-runners in the Cape
A rewarding, but not too strenuous, trail-run is accessible from Chapman’s Peak Drive. Once you have climbed up onto the contour path on the mountains flanking the coastal road, a steady trail-run awaits you. The great thing about this trail is that you can turn it into a more challenging route by adding on a section up Blackburn Ravine and over the Constantiaberg. The contour path on the southern side of the mountain makes for a great beginning or ending to a climb up and around the back table – park at Constantia Neck. Then there is also the network of routes on the face of Table Mountain as well as the whole section above Muizenberg and Kalk Bay … need I say more?
The thirsty Richtersveld
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is an amazing landscape to explore. One needs a stable step and agility to manoeuvre over the rocky terrain. There are no trails as such, but the antelope leave ‘game-trails’ which make some of the best paths I have run on, especially when small rocks scatter themselves selfishly over the otherwise dusty ground. The environment, in all its stark beauty, is harsh and can be very unforgiving to the runner without water. Be sure to tell someone back at the camp which direction you are heading and roughly how long you estimate to be.
Trail-running with elephants
SANParks hosts an annual trail-run in the Addo Elephant National Park. It is scenic and takes you through some of the wildest parts of the park. There is a 25-mile run and a gruelling 50-mile route.
For the hard-core only
The Holy Grail of South African trail-runs is undoubtedly the Otter. This 42km run follows the Garden Route’s well-known Otter Hiking Trail. It is the only time that running is allowed on this popular hiking trail in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park. It is advisable to have a few long trail-runs under your belt before attempting this race. It requires experience on the trail and a good level of fitness and endurance.
Create your own trail
The great thing about trail-running is that you can do it on any hiking trail. There are many routes of varied distances and terrains in our national parks and reserves. Unless there is an organised race or you know the path well, I would recommend walking the route first to get an idea of trail.
For more information on trail-running events in South Africa and internationally, have a look at www.runnersworld.co.za.