29 Apr, 2013

Comrades on Trail

Comrades on Trail

Umgeni River Run 2012, Inanda Dam to Maweni, 11 August

Standing on the banks of the Inanda Dam in the Umgeni River Valley, with my friends Lora Hirst and Beverley Davey, I see only 25 runners waiting with me at the start of what they unofficially call the “Comrades ‘Up Run’ on Trail.” I’m seriously wondering what I’ve gotten myself into! We set out, heading for Nagle Dam, and the first section is a mixture of good dirt road, jeep track and single track. We’re just settling into a comfortable pace, despite going up a really tough climb, when we realise we haven’t seen a route marker for a good few kays! Turning around, we retrace our steps till we find the turn we managed to overlook – this is not the day to be doing extra kays!


As we set off from the third water table, just before halfway, we’re immediately faced with the steepest climb of the day, roughly 5.5km to the top, and so steep in parts I find it easier to walk backwards, or use my hands to claw my way up. Nagle Dam eventually appears, but we have to navigate a tricky descent to reach it. The water looks inviting, as it’s starting to get humid in the valley. The route follows a well-worn cattle path, and in the distance is the dam wall that we need to cross to enter into Cumberland Nature Reserve.


At the wall we discover we’re going under the dam rather than over it! The tunnel is only wide enough for a single runner at a time and water pours in through the walls. That had us sprinting! Once safely through, we’re in the reserve, and it’s here that we see a huge snake sunning itself on the side of the road – luckily it disappears into a hole as we approach.


The remaining section takes us through private sugarcane farms, and then the finish banner is just visible through the fading light. We’ve done it, smiling and proud, having run through the most remote areas in the valley without seeing another person for ages, let alone another runner. But this is why I love trail running. To run in such unspoilt surroundings, with friends who love this sport as much as I do, is the best way to spend any day!