Trail Running in the Western Cape
Cape Town is a runner’s paradise and with kilometres of ocean side runs and beautiful routes her roads and pavements are always populated with runners. But there are a growing number of hardy runners who spurn the tarmac and prefer the rugged terrain of Cape Town’s mountains and beaches for their endorphin fix.
Trail running involves running on different, mostly uneven terrains, walking up steep mountains, running on beaches, traversing cliffs faces, scrambling up rocks and nerve racking, knee jarring descents. You often need to be self sufficient, taking warm clothes, food, first aid kit and your own water, carrying it all on your back while you get up close and personal with nature.
While once trail running was the domain of a hardy bunch of “rebels” it has now firmly entered the realm of mainstream. A number of clubs now offer regular organised group runs and, where once there was a handful of organised races, there is now almost one a week.
Who to run with in Cape Town.
While you often see people running the mountains by themselves, this is not advised. Even the most experienced mountaineers can have accidents and if there’s no one to help you out should something go wrong; an enjoyable day in the mountains can quickly turn into an unwanted adventure with nasty consequences.
CRAG (Cape Runners Against Gravity)
In the late 90’s a group of runners decided there was a need for a trail running ‘club’ of sorts.
So CRAG was formed. CRAG stands for Cape (or as some like to call it, Crazy) Runners against Gravity. CRAG is a vibrant highly active trail running club with a difference; there are no club fees, no club colours, and just a few guidelines as apposed to club rules. You sign up to their mailing list, receive weekly emails on where the runs are and you arrive or don’t. They run most Wednesday evenings all over the peninsula for anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes and always enjoy a ‘rehydrate ’ after the run.
CWAG (Cape Walkers against Gravity)
Takes place at the same time and place as CRAG. The walkers take a similar but slightly shorter route than the runners and finish at a similar time
To subscribe to the CRAG emails and get with the trail running programme send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MATES is the first dedicated trail running club in South Africa. Together with Journey Trails they offer regular trail runs on the weekend, usually sundays and are a fun and adventurous bunch to run with. Journey Trails provides opportunities for youths from all backgrounds in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape to develop Life Skills through outdoor experiences.
Acsis VOB Trail is a bunch of trail runners who spend their Saturday mornings off-road exploring the Cape Peninsula single track by single track. Runs take place every Saturday morning 6.30am in summer, 7.30am in winter
The Cape has many superbly organised trail runs(there are a few highly talented, ridiculously fast and fit mountain goats who bounce over rocks, dance up mountains and actually try and win these runs) but for the rest of us we are happy to spend a day in stunning surroundings pushing our bodies to the limit and being rewarded with a cold beer and that tired but very satisfied feeling.
Not that long ago there was a mere handful of organised trail races in the Cape. Today there is something on almost every weekend and often during the week as well. The list is too numerous to mention all – here are some of my favourites.
Three Peaks Challenge
My personal favourite and one that got me involved in trail running.
A fun and challenging, uniquely Cape Town experience. Starts at Greenmarket Square in the city, runners make their up to the peaks of Cape Town’s three mountains, Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, via Platteklip gorge to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on TM, and Lion’s Head, returning to the square after each summit. The event is a re-enactment of C.W Schneeberger’s feat in 1897.
PuFfer (Peninsula Ultra Fun Run )
Haven’t done this one in a while but its an amazing day out running along the spine of the Cape Peninsula. The run starts at Cape Point and runners make their way to Ferryman’s at the Waterfront running over the spine of the Peninsula covering bout 75km of some tar, and many mountains.
Some find the distance a bit short and choose to start the day before at the Waterfront, run to Cape Point and then all the way back (155km). The Tuffer Puffer is for the hardiest of the hard and about ten entrants attempt it each year. Respect!
The Ocean2Ocean guided mountain trail run is a scenic and tough challenge in the Cape Peninsula mountains. It starts at Muizenberg Beach and follows a roller coaster route across the Peninsula’s spectacular mountain chain before finishing at Camps Bay on the Atlantic Seaboard.
This is not a race but a guided pack-run, run at a moderate pace. The entry field is limited and runners are expected to be totally self-sufficient (each runner must carry their own water and snacks) for the duration of the run, be fit and confident running over broken and rugged terrain.
The Three Peaks done at night, without going down to town after each peak.
Started by Eric Tollner in 2005 as a training run for the more established Three Peaks Challenge, it has developed into a very special, albeit low key, event. The run starts at the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay and takes in Suther Peak, Judas Peak, via Llandadno Ravine, and Chapman’s Peak, returning to the hotel after each peak.