What a weekend for racing and breaking mental and physical boundaries!
Adri and myself travelled down to Aliwal North this weekend to visit some family and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Witteberg mountain range. It’s a beautiful part of our country and any adventure racer’s dream training ground with breathtaking mountain peaks, rugged trekking terrain and the Orange river for hours of paddling.
A few weeks back we decided to scout for events in the area over the same weekend and came across the Lammergeyer Mountain Challenge. It seemed like the perfect event to do the Saturday morning with the start time being 7am at the local sports club in Lady Grey. The event was hosted by local farmers, Anna-Marie en Pieter, which promised a true and vibrant feel of the area of which it came to deliver on both. This was a totally different race to what you will find in Gauteng. Most of the competitors being local and those who were not travelled from far and wide giving the 4Peaks a skip to attend this challenge. 73 competitors, from young to old(75),from strong to first time trail runners pitched up for the event.
The Lammergeyer route is a unique route and runs through the Skyrun and Wartrail routes for the first 12km. The race starts with an easy run through the town towards the foot of the Witteberg mountain range that has pain and sweat on the menu for the day . Before the race we decided we would go out and break through some mental and physical boundaries and we definitely selected the best race to do this. I joined up with two sub 8hours comrades runners and Adri set the pace in her own group pulling and motivating other runners all the way to the end.
Hitting the foot of the mountain, our 10km-700m climb started with warmed up legs and steady heart rates. We tackled the old Lesotho paths to the highest point in the challenge at approx the 11km mark from where we descended via the third highest mountain pass in South-Africa, the Joubert Pass. Pacing ourselves down the long and painful pass we finally got to see the town. Just as we thought we were as good as done, we got the signal to make an unexpected left turn away from town up the last climb and then turn back towards the end. Looking at the time we realized we could finish this challenge in an even better time than planned so the pace was lifted and pain pushed aside. Coming round the final turn, with legs burning and lungs pumping, it was the smell of pure “boere wors” and the look of friendly faces that kept us going.
The race was well organized and one of the better races I have ever participated in. Anna-Marie and Pieter ensured that we had a clearly marked route, water point every 3km, T-Shirt, Medal and a guaranteed spot prize for every entrant. They might as well have called the race the White Indian Tiger Mountain Challenge considering that we never saw a Lammergeyer, droppings, or any form of evidence of their existence.
We arrived as total strangers and left with dozens of new friends to visit on our next trip. One thing is for sure, you need to be twice as fit for one of these local farm races to compensate for the social chatting that carries on through the entire race. Much better than running next to a Joburg boy with his ipod plugged in!