Thursday, May 8, 2014

Lesson 2 | Know The Route

Shockingly, it took me a year after my first trail run to return to the dust and rock single track awesomeness that is trail running. This time round a good friend was training like a machine for the Gauteng Winter Trail Series. It consists of four events held four weekends in a row. There is a short course, which is between 5 and 7 km’s and a long course which is between 10 and 12 km’s. He was aiming for the short course, so I decided to commit and join him, by entering for the whole series. I figured this was the best way to motivate myself to partake. I was way behind on his training schedule and not nearly as fit, but did some road run training just to get the muscles loose.

We arrived at the event and I made sure to apply my first lesson, by getting 2 metres behind the starting line. Again, there was the countdown and off we went. This route had about 200m of slight uphill jeep track before it hit a windy and steep single track. Some people who had bolted from the start, started walking, but I jumped around them in order to keep my pace, not knowing how long I would be able to keep it up. Fortunately, it quickly turned into a single track descent with minor technical areas and the field started opening up, but I was overjoyed that I had started so close to the front as there was a huge bottleneck because of the quick onset of a steep single track at the start.

As I had space around me, I didn’t know whether I was going to fast or to slow, because I had no one to measure myself against. The run was in a park and I saw some zebras about 10m away from me. The route was an awesome combination of slight up and downhill single track that made the technical parts fun. The last kilometre was, however, the most technical and hectically up and down. At this point I didn’t know how far I was from the end, so I walked most of it. No one else was passing me so I figured we were still a bit away from the finish. Suddenly the track was flat again so I started jogging. Around the next corner was the finish line! A hundred metres away! I must either have looked like a pro-athlete or an idiot because I shot for the finish line, frustrated that hadn’t ran a bit more at the end of the race.

Lesson learned: Know the route.
In most trail running events the route and profile will be put up, either on the internet or at the event. I’ve been blessed with the skill of reading maps and having a good sense of direction. Using the profile (ascent and descent of the route) as mental markers you can gauge how far you are on the route. For instance, let’s say there is a sharp turn from south to east at roughly the 3km mark, or you can see a sharp descent at the 4km mark. If I had known how close I was to the end, I would have put in a lot more effort to finish strong.

Feedback: Do you a) always try to find out what the route and profile looks like, or b) don't want to know as it's part of the adventure? Please share in the comment box below.

A typical route profile /

Please ignore the elevation of this one. It was my old phone.


  1. I run at the back so for me it's a case of following the leader(s) but I can see it being part of the adventure.

  2. Hi Oliver. Thanks for the feedback! I guess the adventure component is the main reason people enjoy trail running. So that's one up for choice (B). :)