” The benefit of a race, is the end is clearly defined, not so in life … and maybe that speaks to why I choose this” – Eugenie Luck
65km Skyrun 2017…
I can’t remember when I entered this race … and thinking back on the experience I think it takes time to process … how much time, I am not sure, and whether that would give me a more concrete and/or coherent experience to share is uncertain.
Friends completed it in 2016, and spoke about what an incredible experience it was … of how challenging it was, but that they would definitely do it again. While receiving a sports massage, elite master runner Graeme McCallum (joint 6th at 100km Skrun three years ago) described it as tough, with mostly no track and the occasional cattle path if you are lucky, rocky, remote, exposed and high above the clouds … I remember feeling the excitement increase with very adjective … ( I am 100% sure that it was not his intention, as he has since changed to road running, despite being a gifted trail runner and one of the few to have completed the 100km in under 18 hours)
It is easy to get excited about the idea of something … keeping that excitement glowing on the periphery of reality during the long months of preparation, the hours of training, the considerable investment in getting yourself to the start line, is a bit harder …
Before I knew it, the idea, had become reality and against all odds, I was making my way to Lady Grey – healthy, and without injury … to mountains covered in snow.
My mom came along as my “second”, a support crew of 1 worth more than a 100, and before I knew it, the fun road trip ended and I was waking up at 2am in the morning, getting ready to start the journey into the high country. It was freezing, but finally, the initial excitement I felt at the idea of the Skyrun was back – mixed with a healthy dose of apprehension. Unrecognisable in an attempt to conserve body heat, the brave and the stupid, the adventurous and the ignorant all lined up, waiting to start, waiting for the glow to signal the route to the bottom of the first big climb, and the beginning of the bottleneck. All running ground to a halt the moment we left the tar and reached this point – a long line of lights snaked their way up, up and away into the night … hinting at what was to come.
I am sure the elites powered up this stretch and were long gone by the time we emerged from the dark to welcome the dawn on top of the first hill. The view was breath-taking, but there was little time to appreciate it without stepping off the trail … the back markers had not yet spread out and there was an ever present line of people relentlessly moving onwards and upwards … pushing to keep moving. In the beginning there was some trail, then some technical rocky fun, before it gave way to lots of grassy tufts, with no trail … as we (finally) got into the high country, there was snow, meltwater, mud and more grass, with less of a path. It changed from a run to traversing, and the pace slowed considerably as the altitude increased, and the terrain became more treacherous.
The vista is one of endless mountain ridges, picturesque covered in a dusting of snow. At this elevation, and exposed to the elements and the whim of the weather we kept having to change layers, in an attempt to regulate body temperature. We also had to keep moving in order to finish. Ascending or descending, path or general direction only, wind or calm … pain or euphoria, daylight or starlight – I kept moving … one foot in front of the other … finishing in 18h 51min.
Many people have asked about my experience, and I honestly don’t know what to say. “Was it fun?”… not really, not all the time. There was moments of awe, and beauty when I looked up. “Why do you do it?” … I still am not sure. “Would you do it again”… I probably need some time before answering that question…
What I can share is this – The brief glimpse of a man with no legs in a wheelchair the day before the race, stayed with me and I ran (moved) with gratitude the whole way.
There were some parts where I had to dig deep, but I learnt one fundamental truth – for me, quitting is simply not an option … has never been and probably never will be. There was a point where I really wished that it was, as I honestly just wanted to be done, but it was not to be. Once committed, I will do whatever I possibly can to see the endeavour through to the end … the benefit of a race, is the end is clearly defined, not so in life … and maybe that speaks to why I choose this … Once above the clouds, time changes shape. Reality becomes fluid and memory is totally unreliable. Soul mates are found, friendships are forged, with or without words lifetimes are shared not ever having set eyes on the other persons face, and as sudden as they bloomed, they wilt and disappear into the history of the journey.
To every person who hears the whisper of the Witteberg Mountains calling, do it… put your body on the line – your soul needs it.