The Mnweni Marathon

Nearly at the top of the Mnweni Pass

Everyone has their bucket list and the Mnweni Marathon had been on my list for a while. It’s a trail run that starts at the Mnweni Cultural Center at 1200m and then you “run” up to the top of the Mnweni Pass at 3000m. You then run along the top for a few km before descending the Rockeries pass,and then back to the Cultural center. It’s about 38 to 40km, depending on the route you take. Needless to say it’s a beast of a run! It’s very much a DIY run. No layed out route, no marshals, and no drinks station. You do this race at your own risk!

Apparently it’s better to be under trained than over trained. That may be true, but I can assure you that it’s not recommended to be un-trained as in my case. I was reasonably fit a month or two ago, but I just haven’t put in the mileage over the last while. The furthest I have run over the last year is about 20km. Today it was a 20km run before you even start the main ascent. The Mnweni pass is about a 1000m ascent over 2km! This was supposed to be my strong point, the place where I would overtake people. I also really enjoy the downhill sprint, and this is an even stronger point of mine. The rougher it is, the better. Today’s race went terribly for me. I started  cramping before we even set foot on the pass. What should have taken close to an hour, took two and a half! I could hardly put one foot in front of the other before my quads siezed. I resigned myself to a slow amble up the pass with lots of rests and photographs. I hardly even broke into a sweat which was quite frustrating because I wanted to fly up, but my legs had other ideas. The positive about it was that I had plenty time to enjoy the incredible scenery. While struggling up the pass I came up with the idea of thinking happy thoughts. The first thing that came to mind as a happy thought was Olli laughing. So I sat down on a rock and played a few videos from my cell phone of Olli eating breakfast, or playing in the bath. It’s amazing what a bit of laughter does for ones spirit. People looked at me strangely as they walked past. This guy looking fresh as a daisy, sitting on a rock and laughing at his phone. I watched about 10 of those videos and seeing that smile and hearing his laugh carried me the last km or so to the top.

Thankfully you use different muscles going down hill so by the time I hobbled up to the top of the Rockeries pass, I was ready for my speciality. Running very fast down a very steep and rugged slope. I took off down the slope, almost knocking a few people of their feet as I hurtled down. I probably overtook about 50 people running down the pass. By the time I got to the bottom of the pass, my poor legs started to sieze up again. The last 7 km along the road was absolute hell! I shuffled over the finish line in 7hrs 5 min, in 54th place put of 220, shattered! Not a bad time considering its my first marathon, my cramp and me being relatively unfit.

I am now lying in bed, unable to move, drinking tea, and writing this blog, but feeling satisfied that I gave it my best. I can’t wait to be back next year to run what must be the country’s best trail run. Next year my target is to run it sub 6 hrs. I’ve written it here as a reminder of what I believe I am capable of with a little more training. The winning time today was 4 hrs 41 mins. The winner was Andrew Porter who is well into his 40s. It just shows what’s possible if you look after yourself. With my 34th birthday around the corner, the best is yet to come.


Heading up the Mnweni valley with the Mnweni cutback on the left of the pic.

Looking up to the top of the Mnweni needles.
Heading up the Mnweni pass.
Runners coming past me like I was standing still.
Looking north into the cutback.
I made the most of the spectacular views.

Once on top it's surprisingly flat.

The top of the Rockeries Pass


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