Friday, April 12, 2013

Why we give a X

A week away is South Africa's most popular, and most competitive multiday stage trail race, African X. A 3 day 'clover leaf' format where you have one race village (in Grabouw, Cape Town) and the participants run various routes around the area, staying each night at the same venue. The stage distances are roughly 33km, 35km and 24km, with climbing of 700-800m per day. It is also pretty special in that you run in pairs and have to stay with your partner all the time (there are penalties and disqualification if you separate).

This dynamic changes everything. Suddenly you aren't the lone runner, with ipod, going your own pace, fast when you want, slow when you tire. If you and your partner are of equal pace, strength, moods, and running styles it's pretty much a miracle. Normally one partner is stronger most of the time, and that is the easier of the two options you have in a pair. Find a slightly weaker partner, motivate, cogule, encourage and support them as you should have more time and energy to devote to them!

I've raced three multiday team events, two Odysseys (5 days, 210km) and a truncated African X when the final day was cancelled. We were lucky enough to win our category each time. All with ultra strong, ultra consistent female partners. Moyra and Viv were the two toughest runners I've been lucky enough to run with. 500km of running over 12 days and I dont remember one gripe or complaint. From them. The heat and cumulative mileage broke me on the last day of the two Odysseys, but otherwise we were well matched.

African X 2013 is different. I've trained harder than ever before. My partner has trained harder. I've run more hills than ever (10,000m in March), he's run higher (14,000m). I've been 2nd and broke my 21km Personal Best. He's won a trail race and ran much faster. You can read his blog. He has youngsters for breakfast. I feel massive pressure to perform well. I'm competitive so is he. Being very much the weaker partner will be an experience and I know it is going to hurt, but I'm also hopelessly excited about racing as a team against, or at least around the best trail runners in SA. Extra motivation arrived last weekend when friend and SA meteorologist Simon Gear bagged an Oceans silver (sub 4 hours for 56km) after training his butt off. The guy on the left is about to fire the gun denoting the 4 hour silver cut off. THIS is what it should feel like to achieve your goal. In any walk of life.

I'm not the only one feeling the pressure I'm sure. A friend of mine is running her first multiday race and is single minded in training. African X, not letting her partner down and running well for her sponsors is the priority, which it wouldn't be in a solo event. This doesn't apply to all runners, many of whom will run to enjoy the spectacular Western Cape views, but most teams track where they finish each day and look at their category rivals. We'll race hard, but it's going to be special to back in the SA trail community for three days. That's why we give a X.


  1. Ian you are not the weaker partner, we are equal partners and we need to be the team out there that have the most fun!!!