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Running in Circles - Mnweni Marathon

Taking on the Mnweni Marathon was a big step in the right direction for me. As an Adventure Photographer, I use my youth and fitness as an advantage to advertise that I can get to places many photographers can’t. I have always believed that the real moments and magic happens where no car can get you and as far away from the start line as possible.

Last year I photographed the Mnweni Marathon as my first big event. It was huge for me! I knew nothing about the race including how physically demanding it was. On the day, I was sent up Rockeries Pass with Andrew Booth and Tracy Zunckel because I didn’t think I was fit enough to run up Mnweni. I paced behind a trail legend and a race organiser (both fit) for about 15km. Thankfully, Andrew had a broken toe and they didn’t run too fast. I suffered that day, but with a smile. Since then, that has been the theme to many events I have been involved in.

Later in the 2014, Andrew, of KZN Trail Running employed me to photograph and cover the 2nd Lesotho Ultra Trail and I knew my fitness wouldn’t cut it if I didn’t do some serious training. Hills became my friend for 2 months and I trained specifically for an event I didn’t enter. After months of training and getting over minor knee injuries, I took on ‘LUT’ and covered a brutal and stunning 34km of the 50km race spending 13hrs on my feet with my camera equipment on my back.

Since then, I've had event after event keeping me busy enough to better my craft, keep fit and live a seriously “ Adventure Life”.

It seems as though my training, photography and year calendar since Mnweni 2014 has come full circle and this year I stole a last minute entry substitute to RACE the Mnweni Marathon.

Why race when I can Photograph? Well, I wanted to prove to myself that I could manage a full race route. It would boost the confidence and hopefully motivate me to take on tougher challenges. Mnweni was the right race route to do so; with 18km of up, 2km of ‘flat’ and 18km down. Taking on a route that isn’t average was like training on hills for a flat race.

So… At 06h00 I lined up with every other Joe Soap trail runner and started what would only be my 3rd race of the year and my first Trail Race since a rough experience at Brauhaus. I used the open road to get a feel for tired legs, bobbing between friends talking and wasting my breath as if there wasn’t another 32km to go. Before I knew it, the talking had stopped and the hill began. I took it steadily, walking what I felt was too steep and running the rest.

After crossing the river for the last time, we began the climb which leads to the climb of all climbs. Team mate and friend Jason Gradwell did what any trail friend would and left me to my own thoughts. As I approached Mnweni Pass I had a small niggle in my groin… nothing too serious… I only felt it as I went up (insert concerned face here).

At the base of Mnweni Pass, a massive climb of 1000m in the distance of 2.2km, I had a sore groin when I lifted my leg to step up… Oi! I swallowed a Gu, drank some of my Red Bull mix and powered on. Before I knew it I was passing the odd soul and eventually caught up to Andrew who shared the rest of the climb to the top with me in conversation about trail trends, races and some cool ideas. And just like that… I reached the top… pain free. But not for long! I took a step to run and knew something was wrong. My groin had ceased and running flat was also sore. I took the time to rest and walked the 2km section to Rockeries where I hoped I could capitalise on my love for downhill.

The next 2 hour went by fast, rock hoping, toe stumping and knee jolting downhill put a smile on my face as I let gravity pull me downhill in a steady pace. It was so much fun to not need to put effort in despite knowing that downhill works more muscle.

After a break at a lovely river stop with just 6km to go, I freshened up and hit the road. Again running with Andrew, whose company seemed to make the section so much more bearable. After a few long conversations one which included who was going to beat who at the finish line …. we finished together.

Bring on the next Adventure.

Follow me on Instagram: Act10nman

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