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Words: Hanneke Pienaar | Photos: Wildtrail SA

Trail

Running at its Finest Brauhaus am Damm

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Forty-five kilometres of pristine mountain. Friendly support teams. Lots of home-brewed beer at the finish. Last year I missed the the Brauhaus Am Damm race, and consequently had to listen to everyone else singing their praises to this 45 km epic trail run. I was determined not to miss it again, so I started training early - a full four weeks before the race! As expected it was not quite enough training, but enough for me to enjoy the event, which took place on 13 October 2012. The route was simple. You start at the foot of Breedt's Nek Pass, run to the top, run along the top ridge of the Magaliesberg, down a ridge at Olifantsnek, around the Olifantsnek Dam, and back to Brauhaus Brewery. This sounds and is indeed simple on a clear sunny day! But on race day morning, with mist so thick that you could only see 10 to 20 m in front of you, it proved to be not as simple. We started early, 4 a.m. early! The organisers transported us to the starting point at the Brauhaus Brewery farm style, in an open cattle truck with hay bales for seats. This was great fun and some of us even managed to get some sleep on the way. At the turn off to Breedt's Nek Pass we jumped off, stamping our feet to warm up a bit. With our headlamps on, and keeping to the farm theme, a shotgun sounded the start of the race. While the big boys dashed off, the rest of the runners set off at a more sedate pace, with the walkers bringing up the rear.

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My number one rule at these types of races is: walk uphills and run the flats and downhills. There are a few amendments to this rule, of course, like run uphill if it is a nice, easy jeep track at the start of a race, and don't run flats and downhills if you are going to break your neck, arm, leg or twist your ankle, 'coz then you're buggered. With this in mind, I ran to the top of Breedt's Nek and turned west towards Olifantsnek just as dawn was breaking. The weather was overcast and misty, but there was a good jeep track so we didn't expect any navigational difficulties to arise too soon. Alas, a few hundred metres later we made our first 'boo boo'; we took a wrong turn and ended up going down a valley from where we had come. Luckily we realised our error before it was too late and were able to bundu bash over a few valleys and hills to get back to the correct track. From this point onwards it was an easy matter of just following the Magaliesberg ridge, or so we were told. However, it's not so easy when you can't see very far in front of you. The biggest problem when running in the mist is how quickly your internal compass turns 180 degrees! At one stage we had a 'directional dispute', and actually almost convinced ourselves that the compass was wrong! Thankfully, we weren't the only ones getting lost, thus evening out the playing field. One lady (notice how I name no


names), who is quite an experienced trail runner, ran in circles for three hours close to the top of Breedt's Nek Pass, after which she bailed and hitched a ride back to the Brauhaus Brewery for a well-deserved beer (or three). The sweepers also got lost. And for good measure (or lack thereof), we got lost a few more times as well! One of our getting-lost escapades had us running on a side branch of the main Magaliesberg ridge. After we reached what we thought was the third beacon, way too early, we realised something was wrong. The mist lifted for a minute, giving us time to get our bearings and make out a unique bend in the road that shouldn't have been visible from the race route. Fortunately, we could still cut through the valley as it was quite shallow at this stage. Sadly, our positions dropped quite a bit after this little detour. As a result of our detours, we got to meet some really diverse and interesting people on the route, the likes of Twinkle Toes (a personal nickname given to a race participant), who is as nimble as a klipspringer and maintained a constant flow of conversation en route, and even sung a few songs; a novice couple who felt way out of their league and took a lot of convincing that most trail runs do not really require uber navigational skills; two friends who would pose on every available prop, including a wheelless wheelbarrow; and a whole bunch of girls in pink tops!

After you reach the third beacon (the real one), it is downhill all the way to the Olifantsnek Dam wall. From there, you run down a spectacular ridge called the Elephant's Trunk, with a deep valley on the southern side and the Rustenburg Mountains to the northwest. By now, the mist had lifted enough for us to see the incredible scenery all around us and the spectacular views of the Magaliesberg Mountain range in the background. We reached the dam wall in no time at all and enjoyed our very first water point; hence the need to carry three litres of water for the race.

For me, the last 5 km on the banks of the Olifantsnek Dam was the most gruelling. Everyone has their own little trick to get through these tough times, and mine was to reward myself with a few steps of walking and THEN one backward glance every few hundred metres.

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To get to the finish, you had to cross a ploughed field of soggy turf and, not surprisingly, my takkies were quite a bit heavier and I even gained a few centimetres in height! After this last obstacle, you run straight to the Brauhaus Bar ... a perfect end to a perfect run!

All in all it was a great day for everyone. The spectators had a lovely view and fresh beer on tap, while the children had loads of space and mud to play in. And as for the competitors, well they immediately forgot about their aches and pains after their first pint of beer, and many stayed long after the prize-giving. A big thank you to Wildtrail SA for organising such an amazing race. •

èRelated Articles:

• Muizenberg Mountain Run - A Quantum Classic! (Issue 19, p. 68) • The Bite of the Otter (Issue 5, p. 68) • Take a Stand and Join the Rhino Run (Digital article, September ’12)

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Q&A with Hanneke Your best part of the race? The last ridge, where you go down the Elephant's Trunk. Breathtaking views to both sides, and a technical downhill. Your worst part of the race? Getting lost, especially on the side branch of the main ridge. Your tips for next year's race? Rather use a GPS if it gets misty. Your recommended gear/kit for the race? Wind/water layer, light fleece/thermal layer, headlamp, compass/GPS or both, food and water, and of course some Myprodols and bandages if you twist an ankle. Other recommended trail running races to enter? The Hi-Tec Otter and Mnweni Marathon are my other favourites, as I don't really like the short ones.

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TRAIL RUNNING: Trail Running at its Finest – Brauhaus am Damm  
TRAIL RUNNING: Trail Running at its Finest – Brauhaus am Damm  

DO IT NOW Magazine, Running. Forty-five kilometres of pristine mountain. Friendly support teams. Lots of home-brewed beer at the finish. Las...

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