Words: Tori Leckie, www.fitchicksandfastwomen.com | Photos: Anthony Grote, www.anthonygrote.com
With hindsight we have 20:20 vision and I realise now, post this past weekend’s Molweni Trail Run, exactly why we were given a DVD called WHY WE RUN in our pre-race goody bags. You see, this race, for me and I think countless others, epitomised with perfection just why we run!
Photo credit: Anthony Grote, www.anthonygrote.com
This was the inaugural edition of the Molweni Trail Run, presented by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKW) in conjunction with 369Communications and Salomon. The home page on the website says: "Our connection with nature is immutable. No one can dispute the incredible thrill of experiencing the great outdoors and the wonderment of Mother Nature. We invite you to be part of this special occasion." Other winning words followed, with video and images to draw us in, but to be honest, they had me at the first sentence.
Held on Saturday, 3 May 2014, in the utterly breathtaking Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, just a stone’s throw from Durban, Krantzkloof comprises a whopping 584 hectares of dense coastal forest and grasslands above the deep gorges carved out by the Molweni and Nqutu Rivers. This is true African trail.
In fact, I remember with complete clarity the first time I visited the gorge. It was my first trail run on South African soil and I remember it ended with a light-bulb moment, "I have to be here," I thought. How could I return to the flat, drab desert I’d called home for years, when I could have this just 30 minutes from my doorstep?
The views just wowed me and they continue to do so. African skies just seem higher, her sun brighter, her nature greener. She is beautiful! Little wonder that I currently await my permanent visa so I can stay here indefinitely.
On day one, post registration, we ran a 6.5 km time trial. It was a beautiful circular jaunt through the forest, with some technical descents swiftly followed by a few glorious ascents, the sort of terrain that we trail junkies dream about.
Day two was the main affair, a 32 km solo adventure that climbed 2,000 m vertical metres. The terrain was tough and technical. Community paths, enchanted forests, open veld, river crossings, bridges, slippery descents and relentless ascents. The local community was out in full force, smiling, cheering and sharing the sorts of smiles that can’t fail to be motivating and contagious. At one point, a little girl threw her arms out to me. I picked her up, swung her around and then suddenly had another five or so vying for the same. "It’s only a few minutes," I thought.
Who cares about that in a race when you’re connecting with these precious little people? It reminded me of the village kids in Nepal, where I have too many fond memories to mention.
Back at base, the Forest Hills Sports Club, tables and chairs sat out in the sun, a braai and other treats filled our bellies, chiropractor students from UKZN tended to our aching limbs, kids played, dogs wandered and runners basked in the sun while recounting their tales from the trails.
My own expectations were low going into the race, after another month of too much fun and too few runs. I never do anything by half! But then again, perhaps it’s these races that end up being the most glorious. They ensure that our perceived success and enjoyment is limited to staying connected, embracing the moment and taking all that the trails throw at us with a childlike curiosity instead of fixating on some time, effort or finishing position.
I felt wonderful from start to finish, never once pushing myself too much but rather spreading my energy levels so that even the final hill couldn’t break me. My hydration was spot on (not always my strong point), my nutrition the same. Ahhh, have I mentioned that this race reminded me, with perfection, why we run?
Photo credit: Anthony Grote, www.anthonygrote.com
I admit that I took a wrong turning… on three occasions… but then again, I can’t recall a race when I haven’t got a little lost, such is that far away place called Tori-world that I lapse into. And I had one face plant, thanks to a giant tree root that seemed to appear from nowhere. But I got up, dusted myself off and continued on my merry way. Not even a broken nail to spoil my mood ;-)
All in all, I felt strong, invincible and full of gratitude for having the ability and opportunity to participate in such an event. We’re all so damn lucky to spend our weekends fulfilling our passions and I hope never to take this for granted.
Beyond the views and vistas, grassy gorges, flowing rivers, forest tracks, twists and turns, this event had a greater purpose than to simply satisfy our trail fix. The race brought extensive support to the greater community by funding the reserve, connecting with the Kloof Conservancy and supporting Molweni Community projects through direct trail clearing and cutting work. Support also went towards Bazamile Primary School and a number of local athletes were given free entry, athletes whose lives can potentially change forever given the prize money on offer and free entry into the Otter Trail up for grabs. On our very route walk dozens of kids every day, just to get to school. Likewise, adults travel far to study or work. Big families housed in tiny run-down houses with little more than a single room.
The Molweni Trail Run also brought a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the importance of protecting our ever-compromised environment, of preserving our eco-system. Conservation, sustainability and the need to be environmentally responsible - these concepts are all today’s buzz words. But the harsh reality is that they’re not fleeting trends to watch out for. We must do what we can do, before it’s too late.
As I mentioned, this was the first edition of the Molweni Trail Run. I have no doubt that the event will grow bigger with each passing year. I truly hope that word spreads and we attract more runners from other parts of the country. KZN is so full of hidden treasures, but it would be unfair to keep them all a secret.
This morning I revisited the words I wrote following the tester run back in March, when we hit the trails of a small section of the course. ‘Make no mistake’, I wrote, ‘this race will be no walk in the park. The terrain is tough, technical and will challenge all who enter. But equally, it promises to be a grand experience of ups and downs, sweat and toil… and isn’t that what trail running is all about? The chance to experience highs and lows, to discover your ‘why’, to see first-hand that whilst the pain may be temporary, the pride and reward of crossing the finish line, will remain forever?’ Re-reading these words made me smile. "Spot on Tori," I thought!
A huge congratulations and thank you to all those involved in putting on this event. I can safely say that you can rest easy this week, knowing your efforts were all worthwhile, recognised and quite simply awesome. •
For more information, visit www.molwenitrailrun.co.za