What is Skyrun?
Skyrun is a 100km foot race over the Witteberg mountains at an average altitude of 2350m above sea-level. It is tough, relentless and challenging, and for this exact 700 hundred runners come together in the small town of Lady Grey to test their faith and courage against the toughest challenge known to any South African Trail Runner. We suffer, sweat, share laughs and tears for up to 30 hours in some of the most remote places on earth. We dehydrate, get altitude sickness, vomit, get sunburned. We learn that our heads are stronger than our bodies, we pick ourselves up out of despair, run forth, jump fences, make new friends, see amazing views and test our gear against the elements of nature. We do this all for one reason: To finish and be a known as a “Skyrunner”!!
I would like to dedicate this race to mental health and to a dear friend and the well known race MC we lost. RIP Raasbekkie, Carel Bezuidenhout.
It was the first time in four years I was able to race Skyrun again, and for Landie, a first since 2015. As parents of two, training and actually racing such an event is a different kind of special.
Two days before race day, I told Landie that it was possible; I could run a sub 13-hour race.
We were on a farm in Barkley East, visiting one of our client-friends Gerrie du Toit, and the sight of those mountains in the distance… it had me. There was simply no reason for me not to try and push for a personal record time! Besides a niggle or two, I had a relatively good build-up for full-time employee, business owner and dad of two.
We were happy with Landie’s decision to race the 65 km, as the caesarian with Anzel is still only 9 months away.
Landie smashed the day, sharing the podium with one of her athletes, Kristen Heath – both of them snatching the previous record – what a sight!
My race strategy
The start of the race was, and will probably always be, pure thrill. People and flares cheering you on at 4am in the morning with a few dogs barking in the distance, I had goosebumps all over. Then you hit the single trail, immediately gaining 700 meters of elevation for breakfast – to the first checkpoint – The tower.
I just kept a close watch on my pace, and led the first part of the race on planned calculations. However, Simon Tshabalala sneaked past us and just kept increasing his lead.
I decided to stick to my plan, and to run my own race with the ultimate goal to beat my winning time of 2016 which was 13hours and twenty three minutes although it was tempting to go out and race the runner in front.
I managed to check through all the checkpoints on my planned time – which felt like mini victories.
The highlight of my race
was when myself, AJ Calitz and Arlo van Heerden all wiped out on probably the same rock early on in the race. I am sure Arlo was laughing at me when his foot got caught on exactly the same rock and landed face-down where I just wiped the dust off my forehead.
My nutrition plan worked like a charm but there was no way I could replace the 8000+ calories I burnt according to my Garmin, (Take note for a quick fix summer body) 🙂 I used a mix of Biogen protein bars, gels, cytogen, Buttanut nut butters, sandwich, and soup.
Running out of Balloch, the medical checkpoint, Grobler Basson and I soon realized we were running the same pace. We naturally stuck together, which certainly motivated us both to keep moving when fatigue kicked in. on top of Bridal pass (75km) I realised a sub-13 was definitely possible and introduced the idea to Grobler who certainly wanted to be one of 5 men to ever achieve this. Into the next checkpoint we unceremoniously started pacing each other towards this goal.
When competitors become teammates
After 12 hours of running together without either one of us showing weakness we spoke about the elephant in the room: Were we going to greet each other and leave it to a sprint finish?
It was incredibly helpful running the race together, and being friends outside of the race – having trained together quite a bit, there actually really was no point for us to split.
We committed to share a second place, on condition that we go for the sub 13 hour race. The sports began!
Descending went slower than we thought – this part is never fun due to the technical terrain.
We caught sight of the finish with 8 minutes to go for the royal sub-13, but with a fence or three and a river to cross it was going to be tight. Making matters more interesting, Grobler got stuck in the fence, and we got our sprint finish alright! We finished in a time of 12:58:44, being the 4th and 5th persons to ever run a sub 13 hour race in twenty five years, crossing the line side by side.
What an awesome race!
Tshabalala ran at a phenomenal pace. He definitely was the winner of the day and made no mistakes.
Closing off my 2021 season
To be a Skyrunner means more than just finishing a 65 or 100km race. It means that this person has committed and devoted at least 6 months of focused training, weekends of sacrificing social events with friends, discipline to follow a healthy diet and spending thousands of rands on quality gear and professional coaching. To be a Skyrunner means that this person does not give up, no matter what!
These qualities are what makes athletes unique in every walk of life.
I have been so blessed by my heavenly Father with health and ability to run. I had quite a bit of pain in my hipflexor beforehand, and up to my pre-race run, I was not without discomfort. A week before the race, I was still unsure whether I was going to run. And yet I raced the entire day without pain!
Thank you to our sponsors, K-Way, Biogen, Garmin, Adidas, Buttanut, Hazz, Aramex, 30South, Karoo Pistachios, Almond Girl. You make it easier for us to do the toughest 100k races in the world at remote places like Lady Grey.
Pure Adventures delivered a world class event and it was a privilege to take part, and even more to have mobility and health. If it wasn’t for events which motivates me to train, I would have been a person I would not like to know.