Every day is special on the Three Cranes Challenge. The kicker on the second day was no less innovative and welcome as the other two. What would really cheer you up after 20km of running through trails in a Midlands mist with nothing more tasty than water and bland energy bars for fuel? If you said a hot tea with a smorgasbord of sweet and savoury treats, you’re talking the Three Cranes language!
Having really scuttled hard on day 1, I had been promoted to B batch for the second day of battle on the trails. Fortunately I tacked myself on to the back of a strong group of runners who pulled me through the early segments, including some extraordinarily difficult hills. These were deep slopes, mostly covered in a squishy layer of mud, dotted with stones, rocks and roots. The word was hike rather than run.
As the route flattened out, the bus of runners spread and I found myself in a smaller group of three with two Durbanites. Eugene and Michelle were the chatty sort of runners who help distract you from burning legs. Soon we had dashed into the picturesque Mbona.
Through the plantations and past trout dams, we arrived at our tea stop just before exiting. Organisers take down your race number and stop the clock for as long as you need in these neutral zones. Needless to say, the smiles were bright one every face as participants trotted up to the tea garden for a hot beverage, some chit-chat about the preceding miles and a few rejuvinating pastries.
With some regret, it was then off to Benvie and some nearly interminable but gentle uphills. Scheduled to be 42km, rain had made several portions of the course dangerous, and the day had been taken down to about 37km. The closing stretch was the sort of fun, flowing, varying section of trail that makes the runner’s heart sing. River crossings, undulations, interference from stubborn cattle and a touch of rain saw to that.
The finish line almost came too soon. Almost, but not quite. It was time for a thorough rest and preparation for the final day.
Read more about the Three Cranes Challenge and other Wild Series events…