Trail Running in the Snow: Stupidity in One of its Many Forms

The list of what classifies as stupid is infinitely long. Yesterday I added to that list. I had been planning on entering the Ingeli Trail Marathon for a while now, but I had procrastinated entering as I was in two minds of whether I was fit enough yet. I also have entered the Mnweni Marathon in 2 weeks time and wasn’t sure if training for a marathon, by doing a marathon was such a good idea. After finding out that a good friend of  mine Jason Atlee had entered the marathon, I agreed to do it with him as we hadn’t seen each other in ages. What better place to catch up than climbing mountains and and trotting around in the Ingeli Mountains. The splendid weather we had been having would make it a great day out. That’s the beauty of trail running. You can take all day if you want. Enjoy the scenery take some pics and even have a swim in a stream as you go. Well that was the idea, but reality was a very different story.

I was carefully watching the weather forecast from a week out, and I didn’t like what a saw. The Norwegian weather site was predicting rain and snow for our run. I twice told Jason that there’s no ways I’m running in that weather, but the day before the race he managed to work on my conscious. The Norwegian’s were still  confident of it raining and snowing on the top of the Ingeli. This was a crazy idea! It’s one thing paying the money in advance and so doing it because you feel obliged to do it. It’s another thing to pay the organisers of the race R650 an hour before the race starts while its 5 degrees outside, pissing with rain and a howling wind. That is Stupidity, and that is what I did!

The race happened to be a qualifier for the trail running world champs in Spain.  The bunch of 35 or so runners looked like a collection of hardcore trail runners. There’s a few things that I haven’t worked out about trail runners. Why the luminous and colourful shoes, and why the long socks. Yes I like trail running but I do my own thing, and I haven’t done many events before and I like to keep it simple. It’s a bit like my observation about cyclists. Cyclists have to wear tight clothes, shave their legs, and their clothes are full of sponsor logos. Even the most amateur cyclists dress up looking like a sponsored pro.

The course was changed to 2 laps of the 21 km route which would hopefully keep the runners beneath the snow line. I felt very under prepared as we stood at the starting line. I didn’t have any of those tights that others had on to keep warm, and my 2 year old minimalist running shoes were already leaking water through the soles. I don’t think that my shoes were were designed with cold and wet conditions in mind, but they would have to do for today. After 5 km we were soaked to the bone, and now came the ascent of the mountain. Once we got out of the forest we ran out onto an exposed ridge where the wind was howling and it was now beginning to sleet.  I don’t usually go outside in this weather, let alone run in it! By the time we got to the top of the ridge the sleet had turned to light snow! It was excruciatingly painful at times as the snow dove into our underdressed bodies and faces. It was a case of snap a few pics, take a video to show just how shitty the conditions were, and then get the hell off the mountain. After enduring half and hour of running along the ridge in the driving sleet and snow, we thankfully descended over the other side into a relatively sheltered valley before heading back towards the lodge. Jason and I decided that we didn’t want to go to Spain badly enough to do a second lap. My feet were frozen and painful as we ran back towards the finish line of the first lap.  I have to say that the coffee and fire place in the lodge was a far more attractive idea than another run up onto that exposed mountain. So along with quite a few other runners we called it quits at the half way mark. Oh well sometimes you just have to admit defeat, and honestly, 21km in that weather was enough of an achievement thanks very much. These experiences are the ones you look back on when you are old and grey, and they will be remember vividly as if they happened yesterday. It was an epic adventure, but it’s another one of those been there, done that episodes. Crickey and for R650 I could almost buy a new pair of running shoes. Even in good weather that seems bloody steep as an entry fee for a trail marathon. I know it’s expensive to make the trails, and it is in my opinion one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the country, but I run around in those very same mountains for free almost on a monthly basis. So other than  the achievement of completing a marathon and the fact that it is very beautiful, that’s far too much money for me. The Mnweni marathon which I am running in a few weeks cost me R150. Okay in also have to drive there and pay for camping as it’s quite far. I suppose there plenty people out there who like a perfectly cut trail and need everything to be planned. Hell, I think I will stick to the DIY trail running, it’s for free and far more adventurous. Run, walk and even fish wherever, and however you want.

Here follow a few pics and a short video clip showing just how incredibly shitty the weather was.

A Frozen selfie.



Grinning and bearing the cold. My head was so cold that it felt like I had just dunked it into the arctic ocean.



Jason Atlee enjoying his day out.

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