Running on Sunshine


Words & Photo: Michelle Coetzee

Katrina and The Waves go on about ‘Walking on Sunshine’… But what about running? Running in the sunshine at 2500m and high in the Maluti mountains of Lesotho, can only make you pull a cheesy grin.

The Soaring Eagle 2 Day Mountain Run, is hosted by the only operating Ski Resort in Southern Africa, AfriSki on the 1st and 2nd March. Distances covered on the run vary from about 32km on Day 1 (depending on ones route choice) to a hilly 16km on Day 2. Both days are circular routes where runners are accommodated by at the Afriski Mountain Resort. The costs are either R2500 per person sharing, or R3000 for a single. Yes, you do get benefits! The cost covers two nights accommodation, a seriously cool technical garment, a goody bag and four delicious meals. To participate in this awesome yet intense event, one needs to visit the website ( and register online.

Making your way up to altitude, the view only gets better, more and more beautiful. Of course the views and the feeling of being on top of the world is also going to make you flash those pearly whites. So why not pull a cheesy grin while enjoying a run in the mountains of Lesotho. Running at a slower pace than you would normally run, but all the more time to check out the scenery and a place you may not have visited before.

While you’re out there running on sunshine, Mother Nature may pitch up as well. One must always be prepared for the tricks she can throw at you. While you’re busy running around, you may not notice the strength of the suns rays, as it may be a tad chilly. Yes, I said chilly. (You may opt to bring a jacket and beanie with you). But those rays are always there and may have an unfavorable effect on those rosy cheeks. Sunscreen and a hat (if you’d like) are therefore advised to prevent the roasted look. In order to maintain that picture perfect cheesy grin, you may also opt for some lip protection. Sun-kissed lips aren’t always the most pleasant things to live with. 
Running on sunshine, up in the mountains, may be a little slower and harder, thus requiring more of an effort. We all have our ‘racing snake’ alter ego, but instead of using speed as your guide, it may be worth your while to focus on the effort you can, and are, putting in throughout the run. Some may choose to start the race with a brisk walk (and a cheesy grin), slowly increasing you effort level, and building intensity; living up to the racing snake that you’ve always wanted to be.

In order to train to make sure you will be running on sunshine, make sure that you do some training at altitude. This ensures that you know what effort level and pace suits you, and how much of a racing snake you can be. Please don’t assume running in the mountains is the same as running along the coast. It is actually a tad harder. In order to keep that cheesy grin in check and the heart healthy, some may choose to run with a heart rate monitor to track ones effort level.
If you are taking note of any of the useful information above, you may want keep on reading. A good idea is to get to the race destination early so you can adapt to the altitude. With the lower pressure, you’ll need to build up some more oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The more oxygen-carrying red blood cells, the more oxygen to the muscles, the better they work, the faster you go… you catch my drift? But that process takes time, these oxygen-carrying red blood cells don’t just appear over night. So, if you have the time and money, get to your race location at least two weeks prior to the race, so you can sufficiently acclimate.
Of course, it's not always feasible for some to get to your race location early. There is no need to frown. So your next best option is to get there the day before your race. It has been scientifically proven (I’m sure, by some highly intelligent person) that you actually feel your best during the first day or two at a higher altitude. Cheesy grin back on your face? After about the third day, your body starts to feel the stress of being at a higher altitude, which could lead to various side effects such as nausea, insomnia, and fatigue.
Drink plenty of fluids while you at the race location. I mean water. Running on sunshine may not be so pleasant if you sip on a beer or three, the night before your run. Up there in the mountains, the air is drier so you’ll be drinking more water than normal. Keeping hydrated will also help your body adapt and adjust to the higher altitude.
So polish up those pearly whites to come flash your cheesy grin while running on sunshine on top of the world. See you there!
By Michelle Coetzee and Sonja Terblanche-Otto (MSc Exercise Science) from TriSport and organizers of the Soaring Eagle 2 day Trail run in Lesotho on the 1st and 2nd March 2014.