Review of the Karkloof 50 Miler

I’m still not sure what goes on in a person’s mind when they make a decision to run an Ultramarathon. What I do know for sure is that it will change your life. What a race! The longest distance I had ever run before deciding to tackle this ultramarathon was 42.2km. It was definitely a leap me moving from 42 to 50 miles (approx. 80km). This race is organised by KZN Trail Running and is an annual event, this year was its third year. This race also offers a 100-mile option – which hopefully one day I’ll get to tackle. This is the most festive race I have ever run. Runners take over the little town of Howick and the KZNTR team make the thing a whole event. It seems like a big party! Pre-race briefing and number collection are done the day before. On race day a bus collects the runners from Yard 41 at about 5:30am and drops the runners off at Benvie Gardens. The race pretty much is a meander through the forest and surrounding farming areas as you make your way back to Yard 41 to get a total distance of about 80km (Apparently with trail running you always give an allowance of 3km either way, I don’t know how true this is). The run was extra hot in 2019 with temperatures as high as 37 degrees Celcius. There were 5 aid stations en route, but because of the heat, the race organisers decided to add an additional five water tables with water, ice and drinks. This was a welcome addition. We started running at 7:00am and I found the first half of the race very hard because of the heat. I wanted to quit about 20km in because the heat was just too much, I had dizzy spells and lightheadedness, I even made a call home to my teenagers and they managed to talk me off a ledge. They sent me the famous Nike motivational video and the line “all you have to do is pick you your feet” became my mantra and kept me going. The second aid station at Bushwillow had the best support the team they were absolutely phenomenal, they were so kind and patient. The volunteers gave me the extra energy I needed to keep going. I can honestly say I now understand what they mean when they say your mental state plays a big part in succeeding in an ultramarathon. The second half of the race was much better. The only difficult bit was the long climb before the Rockwood aid station. As the night got darker the temperature dropped, that helped significantly. When it was completely dark I met two runners who were tackling 100 miles and they had better lighting than me so I decided to stick with them. It just was such a pleasure to have other people to run with. It gets a bit scary and lonely in the dark. A Barely in one piece and barely able to comprehend that I had actually done it, I finished my first ultramarathon just after midnight. All I can say is it was definitely a long day out! A prize-giving ceremony was run the Sunday morning and was shown live on Facebook. The runners of the 50 miles got a nice medal and the 100 milers got a buckle, with a special buckle for the sub24hour finishers (for the 100 miles). All finishers got a fancy mug too.

What I loved about the race:

1. Very well organised

2. Clear markings on the route

3. Amazing views 4. Phenomenal support throughout the run 5. What a vibe!!!

6. Challenging route

What I wasn’t so keen on:

1. The accommodation that comes with the entry wasn’t too great, if you decide to choose it I would advise camping instead of the dorms for the ladies

2. Maybe something warm for the pre-race and post-race meal, or keeping the restaurant open so runners could buy warm food, after the race (for us backpackers).

The greatest lesson I learnt is that we are capable of so much more than we can ever imagine. I will definitely be running this race again and I would encourage anyone who wants to run their first 50-mile race to give the Kakloof 50 Mile Foot Race a go.

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