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TRAIL Mail #14: Thursday 22 Apr 2021

Bring on the Dragon.
Downhills: you can improve.
Enter your film, win Saucony.

     In this issue

  1. From the Team. Bring on the Dragon.
  2. Photo of the week. Christel Malek's Vensterberg summit.
  3. News. Table Mountain's fiery trial.
  4. Funny. You are not nearly there.
  5. Trail Poll. Training or just running?

  6. Calendar. Autumn events are blooming.
  7. What's Hot. First Ascent Women's AR-X jacket.
  8. Competition. Create video, win Saucony pack.
  9. TRAIL digital. Have you read issue 39 yet?

It is time for mountain air.

Yes my friends, it is time to bid adieu to the city and be dwarfed by the grandeur of unsullied Nature. Right now we're preparing to leave for the base of Sani Pass for the fourth physical edition of Ultra-Trail Drakensberg (it debuted in 2017, and held a virtual event in 2020).

We look forward to seeing you at the registrations today (100 miler) and Friday (100km, 62km, 30km, 21km).

UTD will be our main event feature in issue 40, out end June. All the info on the race is here.

The five events attract those who enjoy pitting themselves against two age-old opponents: mountains and gravity. It takes patience and perseverance to learn the skills of toiling up narrow paths and then bombing down steep descents on the other side.

If downhills are your nemesis, fear not. Most people begin their downhill running cautiously and modestly, since it's such an unknown to them.

Like them, you can improve your downhill running. The best way is to run with more experienced runners, watch them move, and ask for their advice.

But you can't easily run with the very best. You'll improve even sooner if you understand how these athletes approach downhills mentally.

That's why we share the tips of four top trail runners who share their most useful ways to speedy (and safe) descents on tricky trails.

Learn from Toni McCann, Thabang Madiba, Rachel Manyathi, and AJ Calitz in TRAIL 39, on sale now.


On a sad note, this is the penultimate newsletter that I will produce with Heloise. She's been a part of TRAIL for nearly seven years, and has helped mold the magazine to what it is now. I'm grateful for her insights and contribution. Look out for her at trail runs. She may well overtake you on a gnarly downhill.

We appreciate you reading this newsletter. It means a great deal to us that you get it without your ISP or mail reader blocking it or it ending in your Junk folder.

So please consider adding [email protected] to your contacts.

See you in the mountains!

Deon Braun, publisher


Big Backyard Ultra #2. Sat 24 – Sun 25 April WC
6,706m laps. Welbedacht Wine Estate. Run a lap every hour on the hour until you can’t anymore. Spectacular course with breath-taking views. Start 7am. R875.

Klipspringer Challenge. Sat 1 May – Sun 2 May (NC)
21km/18km, 32km/33km. Augrabies Falls National Park. Grueling desert run through remote Kalahari landscapes: granite canyons, Orange River, otherworldly moonscapes, unforgiving desert sand.

WILDSERIES Three Cranes Challenge. Thu 8 – Sun 11 July (KZN)
29km/25km/23km, 29km/40km/23km. Bushwillow Park, Karkloof. Scintillating forest trails through the beautiful indigenous Karkloof Conservancy. Start 6am.

You shared your weekend adventures on our Trail Trophy Facebook thread and we loved to see them all!

One of our favourites was of Christel Malek approaching the summit of Vensterberg, with the spectacular Outeniqua Mountains stretching out behind her. She completed the summit with running buddies Tania Noble and Liandra Figeland.

Her photo may appear in a future TRAIL issue – and so could yours. Send us your best action photo, and tell us about the run. (Please don't send a professional event image. It needs to be a photo by you or a friend.)

Prefer using words? Writeletter and if we publish it, you'll receive a pair of Feetures socks


Heaven & Hell Mountain Marathon. Wed 22 – Sat 25 September (EC)
5km, 8km, 14km, 22km, 44km, 88km, 176km. Rhodes. Pure, brutal wilderness mountain run in Southern Drakensberg. New 100 miler has over 16,000m vert! Start 5am. R50-R3,800.

Otter African Trail Run Challenge. Wed 6 – Thu 7 October (EC)
5km/42km. Nature’s Valley. Run the classic route west to east from Stormsriver Mouth to Nature’s Valley with 2,600m of ascent, 11 hour cut-off.

Otter African Trail Run Race. Fri 8 – Sat 9 October (EC)
5km/42km. Nature’s Valley. Run the classic route west to east from Stormsriver Mouth to Nature’s Valley with 2,600m of ascent, 9 hour cut-off.

Dassie and RockRat Trail Runs. Sat 9 October (EC)
6km, 10km. Nature’s Valley. Over rocks, roots, pebbles, through riverbeds and up steep climbs. Start 8:30am. R240/R280.


Alpine Swift Trails is a high altitude training facility for sportspeople, situated on beautiful Grace Hill Farm, just outside Rhodes Village in the Southern Drakensberg.

Get your venue listed here.

photo Juliet Crew on Table Mountain

Table Mountain ablaze again.

Trail runner Lisette Lombard was on Table Mountain on Sunday 18 April. At 12:05pm she tweeted a video, saying "I'm trying to outrun the fire. I think my car just got burnt at Rhodes Memorial. It's spreading like wildfire."

What a terrifying situation to be in, for her, all trail users, the animals who live on the mountain, and the many homes and institutions on the slopes. Lisette's car was burnt, but she managed to reach safety.

After her escape from the fire, she told IOL, "Nothing seemed amiss when I started my trail run. When I got to the King’s Blockhouse, I looked down and noticed a small plume of smoke coming from the direction near Rhodes Memorial. I was enjoying the view, thinking it was okay and contemplating going for a further run.

"When I looked down five minutes later, I noticed it was spreading very quickly. I started running down because I was afraid for my car, and when I got close to the parking, I heard two explosions. I then saw the flames in front of me, that’s when I knew I was in trouble.

"I had no idea what to do or where to run. I didn’t have time to look up an emergency number, so I sent out a live video on Twitter to ask for help, knowing that I would get a response quickly.

"I luckily got out of the forest and when I got near the road, I was thankful to find policemen and firefighters who confirmed that my car had been destroyed. The severity of the life-threatening situation still didn’t sink in, and I asked if I could go see it.

"When they told me that it is out of control, that is when the penny dropped on how dangerous the situation was, and how lucky I had got."

A total of 60 hectares of vegetation and property has been destroyed, and destruction of University of Cape Town buildings has displaced approximately 4,000 students. Thankfully, no human fatalities have been reported, though five firemen have been injured according to this Facebook post by Working On Fire.

The Cape Town community has mobilised to feed and house the students, and to donate supplies and funds to the brave firefighters. The fire teams eventually managed to control the blaze by Tuesday morning, with lingering blazes in Deer Park and around the Disa Towers. If you want to do your part from afar, find out how to donate to Volunteer Wildfire Services here, all-woman firefighting team Juliet Crew (pictured) here, and contribute to feeding, clothing, and housing students via Gift of the Givers here.

Goodbye Heloise.

An integral part of Team TRAIL will be moving on to other things in May. 

"Since 2014 I've been learning and creating with TRAIL," says editor Heloise Hunter. "The friendships, fitness, skills, and happy memories will stay with me as I move on to my next chapter! And you certainly will still see me on the trails.

"Thank you for Deon for nearly seven years of mentoring, to my army of expert contributors, and to you, the reader, for making it all worth it."

Thank you for your honesty. But is it all downhill from here?

Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.


Biokineticist KwaZulu-Natal / Musgrave, Kloof
Stephan Terblanche has 23 years of experience treating sports injuries. He is trusted by over 5,600 happy patients.

Design Gauteng / national
Barry Maitland-Stuart designs bespoke event medals and shirts, assists corporate clients with their design needs, and illustrates for TRAIL magazine.

Sports Massage Gauteng / Pretoria East
Marie Snyman is a keen trail runner, who herself values professional sports massage. Running pain-free is possible. Book a session today.

If it's a combination, or if it varies, tell us in the comments when you vote on Facebook or Twitter.

Get your entries in.

The rest of April, and the first few weeks of May, are now listed on our website. Be sure to check out the Highlights tab for 13 super events into October.

You'll find events to the end of June 2021 in TRAIL issue 39.

If you organise a trail event, send us the details so we can list you. If your event was postponed and you have set a new date, please send that info to us to prevent conflicting information online.

Listing in our month-ahead web calendar and the magazine's long-term calendar is FREE.

First Ascent Women's AR-X Run Jacket 
R2 499 |

The First Ascent AR-X is the essential wet weather jacket in any trail runner or adventurer's kit bag. It is lightweight and fully waterproof with its sealed seams and 100% Nylon ripstop VapourTex fabric giving a high rating of 15000WP/15000BR to keep you dry in moderate rain conditions.

The mesh-lined hood's shaped brim with volume control cords further aid in keeping water off your face, while the elasticated cuffs seal out rain from the sleeves, and the double covered YKK front zip protects your torso from water ingress.

It's easily packable into its stash pocket for quick on-off adjustability when the weather is unpredictable. Forget the foul weather and explore unhindered in this performance tested waterproof running jacket.

Sizes XS-XXL
Colour Soft Grass/Fair Aqua  
Stockists, Sportsmans Warehouse

You could win one of two Saucony Haul Lite backpacks in our 2021 Trail Film Awards! View the entries so far.

Read TRAIL 39 on any device. We've got you covered with multiple options.

Create an account quickly, and pay securely through world-leading portal Stripe on our website.

NEW! Do the same with our latest option to purchase issue 39 as a downloadable PDF on our Ko-fi page.

Or get different reading experiences, including offline reading for some, through Amazon, App Store, Google Play, Magzter, and Zinio.


You can also buy TRAIL 39 through Amazon, App Store, Google Play, Zinio, and Magzter for R79.99.

If you buy through the App Store or Google Play, note that subscriptions are forward-based. This means that if you sign up today, your first issue will be the next edition (40), not the current one (39). It's not what we'd like, but that is how their system works.

Solution: Please purchase issue 39 first as a standalone issue, and subscribe to get issues 40 and later separately.

Miss previous issues of TRAIL? You can read all 38 back issues on the Zinio platform. More recent back issues are available on our website, and via our TRAIL apps for Android and Apple.

Reader Craig Ferreira says "Really enjoy the magazine which is very informative and has great articles."

Reader Michelle Walton says “I always looked forward to purchasing TRAIL, but was sceptical about enjoying the digital version. Finally took the plunge and have enjoyed reading TRAIL in its digital form. Loads of great content and advice! Well done for a great transition to digital.”


Subscribe or buy single issues today.


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