I have a special race coming up; Rhodes Run. It is a 52km trail in the tranquil Victorian-era village of Rhodes, which is in the Southern Drakensberg of South Africa. The average start line temperature is -10 degrees Celsius and we’ll start at an altitude of 1800m, with a climb to 2680m. This is by far the highest altitude I have ever had to consider, and definitely the lowest temp.
With this little adventure in mind, I booked a training weekend in the beautiful Matroosberg Nature Reserve. The farm has various accommodation options, and Q and I went with a very basic little cabin which was well placed for a good long climb to the Matroosberg peak where we found both sweeping views and a sprinkling of snow. With the odd farm cat popping in for a fireside cuddle, and a dog that accompanied Q and I all the way to the peak and back again, it is an all round special spot and I’m sure it has helped me with my Rhodes training. I want to take the kids there soon.
Other than my own massive trail stoke, a few other things were going on over the weekend. With a fairly impressive stash of red wine we spent a lot of time in the little cabin, nursing our sore quads (those downhills are crazy) whilst reading about the fall out of #Brexit and tracking the progress of the heroes running the Western States 100 Miler. What a race! I can only dream of making it there one day.
As the Remain voters stood dumbfounded as the Pound plummeted and the Leave voters began to stoke a devastating xenophobic fire of hate in public areas and across social media platforms, I read less of the #Brexit updates and more of #WesternStates100. I had a friend, Devon Yanko, in the running for a podium position. I cheered her on from our little cabin in the Matroosberg; 16 200km away.
I met Devon when she came to South Africa to run Ultra-Trail Cape Town (UTCT) in October 2015. A friend of a mutual friend asked me to introduce her to some of the local trail runners and some of the local trails of Cape Town ahead of the race. I was involved in the marketing of UTCT and had researched Devon’s profile for press purposes. A really accomplished runner and I had no hope in hell of keeping up with her on the trails. I gathered some of my fastest running friends to keep up with this mountain gazelle, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know one of the most talented female ultra-runners of our generation. She also happens to be one of the most fun humans; we got along as though we had always known each other and have stayed in touch ever since. She has even organised my wedding dress, but that’s another story for another time!
So back to #WesternStates100. I was cheering my faraway friend on. She had a bad patch and fell out of podium contention for a while, but recovered and fought on to finish third lady. A podium at Western States. Incredible. Q showed me the pic of Devon crossing the finish line and there she was in the South African Flag Buff® that we gave her while she was in South Africa. I shed a little tear. How special was THAT? So I sent a gushy and emotional congratulations that zoomed off across continents to reach her phone. She replied and that’s when it hit me all over again; RUNNING.
Running has no borders. In the running community, the bigotry and hate is so minimal it is marginal and the acceptance, the equality is a big beautiful dominant FORCE. Sure there are some that try to turn running into a place of antagonism or conflict, but they can be solidly ignored by the overwhelming majority that have found friendship, travel, community, upliftment, careers and inner strength through running.
Running makes me want to travel. It makes me want to continue meeting new people that will teach me more about this planet and it’s crazy humanity. Running makes me want to welcome runners from every other country to SA, where I will promptly adorn them with the SA Flag and show them all the exquisite beauty this country has to offer.
Running is the opposite of politics, and every runner should make it their mission to keep it that way.
See you soon, Devon. My next mission is to find a way of travelling to your part of the world, to run on your trails, and return with an American flag Buff®. It has to be possible; most things are.