Cape’s Landie has Wheels to blaze Trail in European Elite

Words: Stephen Granger

29 year old Stellenbosch trail-running star, Landie Greyling, ran to a career highlight at the World Long Distance Trail Running Championships in north Wales last weekend, but has set her sights much higher in order to compete with – and triumph over - the world’s best.

Greyling was the stand-out athlete in the 7-strong Protea squad who took part in the five-lap 77km race through the enchanting Gwydyr Forest near Conwy, holding off intense competition for a top ten place, eventually ending ninth in 7 hr 17 min 29 sec.


In a sport largely dominated by European athletes and France, Spain, Italy and Great Britain in particular, Greyling excelled to finish just 6 minutes off 5th position – less than 5 seconds per kilometre – with athletes from just four countries ahead of her at the finish.


“The professionalism of the French had to be seen to be believed,” admitted Greyling. “Apart from the fact that virtually their entire team are full time professional athletes, everything they did was clearly the result of top preparation and attention to detail.


“Their running kit, their nutrition, their timetable - nothing was left to chance and clearly their race preparation had been perfect. I think that alone is worth five minutes at least.


“But I learnt a huge amount last year in my first year running internationally and I will build further on this year’s experience to achieve my goals. At 29, I was certainly one of the younger competitors in the competition – the average age was 37 - so I have time on my side.


“I ran part of the race with the past champion, Maud Gobert of France, and that was also very helpful. I discovered that almost all of their team live at high altitudes in the Alps or other mountains, where they live and sleep their sport on a full time basis.


“We are still far behind and no one from the South African team is a full time athlete. But we are making good progress and compared to the 2011 championships, we had plenty of time to prepare for the event.”


According to Greyling, who with her own “day job” commitments as a lecturer in tax accountancy and dabbling in adventure sport event organising is about as far from full time as one can get, South Africa has nothing to fear from international competition when it comes to trail racing.


“We certainly have the talent, and I believe we could match the best in the world over our own mountainous terrain. We just have to up our game when competing overseas. But we can do it and I will be aiming for a podium finish at the next World Trail Running Championship.


“We must take the lessons to heart and build together, with the country’s top trail runners, to make South Africa more competitive at the next World Championships in two years’ time.”


A significant advantage for Greyling is the strong support from husband and training partner, Christiaan, an IT engineer and elite athlete, who made it a double for the Greylings by finishing first of the South African men’s team in Wales, placing 31st overall.


Being able to travel together to Britain prior to the championships, where they trained in the Lake District – perfect trail-running country, according to Greyling – was ideal mental and physical preparation. She also enjoyed the build-up to the event in Wales, where those early arrivals played their part in promoting the sport by visiting a local primary school.


Of the other South African women, KZN’s Tracy Zunckel enjoyed a consistent race, placing 27th out of 66 starters, but Chantel Nienaber and Linda Dokes had forgettable races, although both showed courage to hold out to the finish to earn South Africa a respectable 7th place in the team competition.


Charl Souma and Dirk Cloete had relatively disappointing races, placing out of the top 40. In fact, Landie Greyling overhauled Cloete 10km from the finish and drew level with Souma just 3km from the finish. “I think Charl was a bit shocked to see me,” admitted Greyling. “We ran together for 2kilometres, then he sprinted off when we hit the tar for the last kilometre!


Trail Running