As the last remnants of the clouds that brought the heavy rains of the night before moved away into the distance, the expectant athletes gathered on Salvokop in Pretoria, the venue for the next instalment of the Vertical Horison Trail Series. The drive up the hill, and the uphill walk to the registration tables were a warning of a testing route to come.
The venue was spectacular as it was imposing. Freedom Park gave an impression that fitted it’s name It was indeed freedom that all the athletes craved. Freedom to run over trail and terrain with nature as a course. Not much better way to celebrate World Earth Day. Before the start many athletes tool the opportunity to explore the venue and take in all it offered. As the sun gave the morning some much needed warmth, the race briefing gave the athletes important information on the route that lay ahead. Reminders to follow he route markings and take care on some difficult sections. As it was a reserve we were running in athletes were asked to limit their litter. Take care of the beautiful surrounds so that many others can enjoy it after you.
The first couple of kilometres of the run was on wide road and paved sections. It made many an athlete wonder if this was indeed a trail run. Finally out of Freedom Park and under the highway to the foothills of the Voortrekker Monument. Here the trail section started and the track wound its way through the trees and over quite rocky terrain to the hill around the Monument. Though it was not a technical route, anyone who let there concentration slip was bound to feel the pain of a fall.
Past the first water table and a welcome breather for the athletes. The route the meandered through the grounds of the Monument and up to Schanskop. This last uphill section was the start of the more technical section of the route and was a good test, even for the more experienced trail runners. It was all about pacing up the hills and keeping a cool head on the downhill sections.
The spectacular views that were on offer during this part of the route, made you almost forget that it was a trail run you were on. It was a paradise of bushveld beauty you ran through, so close to a sprawling city, It was this beauty that kept the pain and fatigue away of the latter stages of the trail. Top of the hill and a magnificent view of the city of Pretoria. Just time enough to take it in, have a drink at the second refreshment point as the trail called and into the veld we went.
A well marked route gave you the confidence to run on and also gave you the reassurance that it was OK to look around and take in the views. The descent down to the valley separating these two inspirational landmarks was quite tricky with some loose rocks testing the ankles and footing. The road called again and the run under the highway and back into Freedom Park, signalled the end was in sight.
The last uphill loomed and some clever signage by the organisers, and vendors, lifted the spirits of the tired athletes. As the last couple of meters went through a part of the Park, and then the finish line next to the Freedom Flame. A welcome sight indeed as the battle against the elements, terrain and self was won. Triumph to reach the finish line.
Well done to the team at Vertical Horison for organising this superb event. Thanks to the series sponsor Hi-Tec for providing athletes the opportunity to do such awesome races. Sportsmans Warehouse for providing the refreshment points – a welcome beacon indeed. Red Cactus and Trail Magazine for the publicity and online support. Dermafix for ensuring we were all skin conscious in the African sun. All those that made the day so memorable. All of you make it possible for us to enjoy this event.
Written by Ronald Eykenduyn © 2012
Pictures by Ronald Eykenduyn © 2012