When trail runners hear of an opportunity to run in the iconic Drakensberg mountain ranges over a 40km trail, it is a challenge very rarely turned down.
So we decided to give the latest edition of the KZN trail running series, The Drakensberg Northern Trail, a bash and boy, were we met head on with some of the toughest trail conditions that these mountains could muster!
The heavy rains a week prior to the event made underfoot conditions wet, slippery and muddy which made every stride a technical assault on your Salomons!
Crossing through mountain streams, running along ridge lines and descending. Climbing up rock faces that had been transformed into instant waterfalls and an unforgettable climb up Vultures Neck after an already tiring 25km made The Drakensberg Northern Trail an unforgetable event and a true test of mental and physical stamina!
Running through 4 seasons in the space of a few hours is an experience that will make you a better runner and train your mind and body how to manage changing conditions.
Here are a few useful tips when trail running in wet conditions:
- Accept the fact that you will be running in wet shoes – tip-toeing through mountain streams will slow you down. Just get wet and get over it 😉
- Make sure you have a waterproof and wind resistant running jacket.
- Carry enough fluids and water – dehydration does not only occur during hot/warm weather conditions, you can easily experience dehydration in cool and overcast weather.
- Keep your eyes up – keep your eyes on the trail but be constantly mindful of what lies ahead so you can effectively navigate in and around wet areas.
- Keep a waterproof camelbak shell with you – this will help to prevent important running and navigation equipment from getting wet.
- Use caution when navigating over rocky areas – these areas become hazardous in wet conditions and slipping/sliding is a possibility and one of the mjaor causes of falling and injury.
What should you do if a fellow trail runner gets injured?
It is an unwritten rule amongst trail runners that any injured athlete should become your priority. Helping a fellow runner takes precedence over your own personal time and goals.
At the race briefing, which is VERY important to attend the evening prior to the event, an emergency number is given to you to save on your cellphone. Make sure you save the number!
We encountered a runner that injured her ankle on the Drakensberg trail and stopped to help. It’s easy to get flustered out on a trail and feel at a loss what to do.
I recommend you keep a cool head and follow the following steps when dealing with an injured athlete out on a trail:
- Assess the severity of the injury.
- Call the emergency number and report the incident.
- Remove the injured runner off the trail.
- Make sure the injured athletes dresses warmly and has enough water.
- Make use of strapping and necessary medical supplies if necessary.
- Stay with the injured person until the medical team has responded with a plan to collect them.
Route Planning and running pace
The majority of trail running events provide you with a Profile Map.
Make sure you understand the profile and gradients of the various climbs in order to plan your training leading up to the event and to ensure that you dont burn out too early on race day.
Also, make sure you have enough energy for challenging climbs and technical descents. Rather start slow and finish your race strong. Remember, the mountains will always humble you. So be smart and become an intelligent trail runner.
When you are running in the mountains, you become part of nature and the spectacular views are just some of the very many AWESOME reasons why we are mountain runners.
Until next time, happy Running.
*Written by our health and fitness guru Justin Oelofsen • Owner and exercise specialist at Just n Motion.