Ultra Trail Drakensberg – It’s all about GRIT!
02 May 2017

Ultra Trail Drakensberg – It’s all about GRIT!

“Ultra-Trail® Drakensberg (UTD) is a festival of trail running with events of 100km, 62km, 30km and the Drakensberg Rockjumper a two day trail run with distances of approximately 15km each day.

All events take place within the Southern area of the internationally renowned Maloti Drakensberg World Heritage Site and are point-to-point in nature, ensuring that large swathes of this iconic wilderness are traversed. Incorporating and skirting some of the legendary features of the Southern Drakensberg such as Sani Pass, Twelve Apostles, Khanti Ridge, Gxalingenwa Gorge, Hodgson’s Peaks, Garden Castle, Rhino Peak and Langalibalele’s Pass participants in UTD will experience mountain running at its very finest.

The 100km, 62km, 30km events are entirely on mountain trails (excepting the first 12km of the 100km event) to ensure a pure trail running experience which is further emphasised by an altitude bandwidth of 1600m-2865m. Runners will enjoy the company of some of the flagship fauna of the area including the mighty Eland and the critically endangered Bearded Vulture while the presence of the ancient San people will surround them in the shape of their world famous Rock Art.”

I opted for the 62km Giant’s Cup Uncut event, in preparation for my main focus race for the first half of the year, the Mont Blanc 80k.

Photo by Xavier Briel

But after all, Saturday was not to be my best day out on the trails. The day started off crisply with beautiful morning light characteristic to the Drakensberg. From about 20km in, I started feeling off balance, tired and nauseous and battled my way along the picturesque Giant’s cup trail, thinking it’s just a bad patch that will pass as with most ultras (even though 20k in is quite early to be experiencing a bad patch..) After many prolonged kilometres, I finally reached Checkpoint 3 at 47km. I now had some serious pull out contemplations, but with only 15km to go, I convinced myself that I had it in me to make it to the finish. But boy, that 15k turned out to be the longest 15k in a long time!! My mind played so many games and I had to shut that voice that wanted to quit too many times.. I even had short little collapses next to the trail, laying on my soft Salomon “pillow” (also known as a skinpack) and felt like I was in heaven. I am still not sure what went wrong; could be altitude, could have been a bug, perhaps a little bit too much running the weeks before in Lesotho…

Nonetheless, on my journey that day, I rediscovered the meaning of the word grit and what makes us strive harder and push further. I learned that, as inspiringly written by Angela Duckworth, that passion and perseverance makes up grit.

Grit is not something that only the talented, or the privileged, or the rich has. Grit is something that every human being is capable of having, if you merely have the right mindset. “Regular individuals who exercise self-control and perseverance can reach as high as those who are naturally talented, your mindset is as important as your mind. And in the long run, grit may matter more than talent…”

True success can only come if we devote ourselves to endeavours that give us joy and purpose. If you stick to something that you have a passion for..

Ed Viesturs, 7 times climber of Mount Everest says that grit teaches us that life’s high peaks aren’t necessarily conquered by the naturally nimble, but rather, by those willing to endure, wait out the storm, and try again.

On Saturday, I learned, that pulling the plug, quitting, abandoning the race, just because things weren’t going according to plan, was not an option. If I did, it would give me an excuse to do so again in the future, and I do not want to have that card available. Unless you are compromising your health, I believe you have to find the strength to finish what you started. I had to dig deep and let my passion for running, the sheer joy I get from being out in nature, carry me through. I had to rely on smiles and happier trail days to get me to the finish line.

Long story short, I crawled to the finish line and arrived at Bushmans Neck 7hours and 50minutes later. This would have been impossible without strength from my Creator and to win on Saturday was a mere bonus and definitely not deserved… The mind & heart is incredibly strong,  it can conquer ANYTHING if one applies it right…

For those that are interested, my gear and nutrition for this race were as follows:

  • Gear: Salomon Sense Softground shoes & Sense 3litre Vest, Garmin Fenix3
  • Nutrition: Hazz coffee, Peptosport, Crampnot, Superbar, Buttanutt, salty potato & banana, Superfoods & Peptopro recovery smoothie.

A massive congrats to my hubby Christiaan for his impressive win and the rest of the guys who conquered the respective distances! To the race organisers, Spurgeon and Matt, you guys did a sterling job for an inaugural event and I can’t wait to see this event grow bigger in the years to come.

Thank you to the continuous support from my partners, KPMG, Salomon, Garmin, Peptosport. Without your belief, none of this would be possible.

Also a big thanks to Runstrong, Superfoods, Buttanutt, Best4sports, Endurocad, Iamsuperbar, Hazz and Compex for supporting my trail running career.

Thanks to Jeep South Africa, Afriski Mountain Resort, Maliba Lodge and Makhangoa Fishing Camp for an unforgettable altitude experience in Lesotho.

Landie Greyling