Cement and Hugs

The smiling┬álady in the purple jacket was our equivalent of the fat lady singing this weekend in Karkloof. It meant the day’s running was over. This happy welcome came from Three Cranes Challenge organiser Hilary Bruss.

But don’t assume this accomplished endurance athlete in her own right is a softy. The other calling card Hilary brings to events is what is known as the cement policy. “It emerged at the Golden Gate Challenge last year,” she explains. “I had lots of people complaining to me about going thirsty out on the trail during sweltering conditions. Some people did get heat exhaustion. But I had warned them all. I told them to carry plenty of water because the weather would be boiling.” Her only suggestion was that aggrieved runners take a big spoonful of cement – to harden up!

Hilary's welcome, as captured by my GoPro
Hilary’s welcome, as captured by my GoPro

“I’m not being mean,” Hilary goes on. “It’s actually for the runners’ benefit. If I give all the necessary warnings and people don’t take action, they will get into trouble out there. And if I am too sympathetic, they might not take my advice seriously. I learnt that at Golden Gate. The day after all the complaining, everyone took enough water and they were fine. They listened. They might not have if they thought us organisers would mollycoddle them.”

I couldn’t agree more with that stance. Race organisers can only give good information and help whenever an emergency arises. Trail running is not for wimps!

Hilary also produced a hugely innovative route for the weekend. On the Friday she included what I am sure is a first in the world of trail running. At 32km we encountered a canopy tour. The clock was stopped so runners didn’t panic about losing time, and we all geared up for four exhilarating flights through the skies above the green forests of Karkloof.

Just on of the beautiful spots we saw en route: Evergreen Dam, Mbona.
Just on of the beautiful spots we saw en route: Evergreen Dam, Mbona.

There was a ‘chicken run’ for those who couldn’t handle the heights. I considered this briefly, but am glad I went for the ride. The chaps at Karkloof Canopy Tours were so professional, I never felt unsafe. And what a ride! The views are spectacular, heightened by the speed and the whizzing sound of your harness buzzing along the metal cable. I recommend you try this!

Day two’s specialty was a tea garden. Imagine that, pausing for scones, cake and tea during a run through the tranquillity of Mbona. Again, time was stopped and we all took off our backpacks for a chatter about the route, a warm beverage (kindly provided by some local residents) and to take in the very pleasant gardens.

Our final treat was also culinary. On day three we started early, at 4am, so as to catch the sunrise atop the hills. Breakfast wasn’t provided at the camp. The snap bar would have to fuel us up for the first 11km, where egg and bacon rolls awaited us. Boy, did those hit the spot!

Hard-earned breakfast!
Hard-earned breakfast!

As for the trails, Hilary hit the nail on the head again. The mixture of leg-busting uphill, fun country roads, bum-sliding downhills and all kinds of vistas was terrific. This despite heavy rains. She even had to change a big portion of day two’s route at the last moment when water made sections dangerous. The mud injected a slippery conundrum into every section, but it was also part of the fun.

Still, most impressive to me was the dedication to congratulate and welcome home every runner who made it to the end. One thing you learn quickly as a trail runner is that every finisher has fought a good battle. Whether you dash through in record time or trudge across the line when the whippets have showered, had lunch and retired for a nap, your battle is just as valid. Hilary reminded us all of that.

Of course, you’re welcome to moan about wet feet, rocky terrain or ‘too much’ uphill. Hilary knows the way to the cement jar in the dining hall…

All smiles. A terrific event.
All smiles. A terrific event.


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