Bruce Arnett – was there a life before SkyRun?
01 August 2016
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual App, which is available here.
Brad Brown: Welcome back onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. A few weeks ago we spoke to the man who won his incredible 13th Salomon SkyRun not too long ago. I said in that podcast that we’d get him back on to talk a little bit about his running journey and where it all started and we’ve got him back today. Bruce Arnett, welcome back onto the podcast, thanks for taking the time to chat to us once again.
Bruce Arnett: Thank you, lovely to be back.
How long have you been running?
BB: Bruce, we spoke a little bit about your love affair with the Salomon SkyRun and some of the things that you’ve achieved there. But I wanted to delve a little bit deeper into your running background and where it all started. Have you been a runner your whole life?
BA: I’ve always done some sort of running, since doing cross country in school, road leading at the Run Walk for Life when I was a student studying at Wits for a bit of spare pocket money. Then from that, getting into race walking even. I made the provincial side for race walking and then a few road runs as well from that, before actually converting to trail running.
BB: That’s what I wanted to ask you. Did it all start on road or have you always been a trail runner and loving the mountains? Have you made that progression later on in your running career?
BA: My running first started on the road, it was all that was really available. I loved hiking in the Drakensberg and that sort of thing and I loved doing my own stuff but in terms of formal events and that sort of thing. Road was what was available and just running with a friend out in the wilderness area up in Limpopo.
How I got into trail running
We set a few casual little records and he, at the time, you know, he came fourth in some race and I posted faster times than him. So he said no, you should maybe go and try a trail race or two. I thought, I’m a reasonable road runner, but I don’t make the podium and that’s the only thing. So I just expected it to be the same and he said no, you really should try some.
I just kind of ignored it until someone else, who I knew from Randburg Harriers was doing the very race he spoke about before, the Salomon SkyRun. At the time I’d never run beyond 21, but this guy sort of had aims of doing well in the race.
I just thought well, I can run a far faster 5km time trial than him, so maybe I should give it a go. When I found out it was it was a top rough mountain trail and it as just across the top of the mountain I thought; well, I love to do that in the Drakensberg, so let’s give it a go.
BB: And the rest, as they say, is history. Did you find that transition from road to trail fairy easy or did you struggle to make the adjustment?
BA: I found that was very easy. I immediately found I had a great penchant for running on the trail. I think I should have always just been on the trail and the road was just a bit of early floundering lost in the wilderness.
What are your favourite trail runs?
BB: I love that! Bruce, as far as races you’ve done, you’ve obviously been lucky enough to run many of them, what are some of your favourite trail runs to do in South Africa?
BA: The SkyRun I enjoy, it’s really punishing, but a beautiful route. The one I did the week after the last SkyRun, the Lesotho Ultra Trail, it’s also beautiful, really steep, majestic, magnificent mountains in Maluti. Then I love a lot of the Cape events. The Cederberg Traverse is another beautiful one, it’s fairly new on the calendar and then really anywhere in the Cape mountains. The rock and the trails they have there is awesome to run on.
BB: Where is home for you Bruce? Where do you do most of your training?
Trail running on Jo’burg’s doorstep
BA: I’m in Jo’burg, so it is quite limited, but the best place I find is the Roodepoort/Krugersdorp ridge. I’ll go along and we’ll run all the way through to the casino side, over and across to King Kloof area and back again. So we can get a 40-50km run if we want to, without having to do any section twice.
BB: That’s incredible. I don’t think people actually realise what’s on their own doorstep in Gauteng. I know a lot of people run the Spruit, but that ridge that you talk about out on the West Rand, it’s not easy running, it’s pretty tough as well. There’s big climbs, pretty steep climbs as well. It’s literally on our back doorstep.
BA: It is, I’m surprised that more people don’t run it and then we can generate a few more trails on it. There are some quite good trails now. There’s also some very rough sections, so you can simulate your SkyRun sections. Where you’re running completely off trail and of course there’s, you can get a 250m vertical climb in one go. As you say, it’s right on our doorstep. The Spruit is flat and boring in comparison, if you actually discover the route.
BB: It’s amazing. I lived out on the West Rand for a long time and it was literally on my doorstep and hardly ever checked it out, which is quite sad now. But like you say, the Western Cape is truly blessed with some incredible trails. As far as what’s still left on the Bucket List, so to speak, from a trail and race perspective, what do you still want to achieve Bruce?
What is still to achieve?
BA: I’ve still got to race internationally more. I’m not getting any younger, although I’m still getting stronger. I’d like to go and do a few of the bigger events over in Europe and the States, that is stepping to another level. Back home in SA, there are one or two events that I’d still like to do. I know that the Trail Run, 50km in winter is one that I’m hoping to get a chance to do next year.
One or two of the other Cape ones which are quite far away up here in Jo’burg. I’ve normally made a trip down to do things like the Table Mountain Challenge and that is fun. There’s Bastille Day Power Run in Franschhoek, also looks like a fun one to do.
BB: Bruce, if someone is listening to this and they’re primarily just running road and are thinking about possibly making the switch to trail, what advice would you give to an out and out newbie to get going in the sport of trail running?
Advice for newbies?
BA: I would say that you can just start off in your training, take your time to go out to a different area. I would start somewhere like Kloofendale. If you live in Pretoria there’s a few places like Moreleta Spruit, these are small reserves, but they’ve got lovely little technical trails. You can run a 5-7km loop on them.
The Walter Sisulu National Botanic Gardens is part of the Krugersdorp Ridge, go in there, they’ve got some nice, easy little trails, even just the straight loop around there is an awesome trail. I’d say take the time to actually find decent trails to run.
You don’t have to run far on it and then when you do your first events, there’s lots of local events. They don’t go over the best terrain, when I say local around Gauteng. They go over often boring terrain and it’s a good thing for your first few races to have something not too hectic.
That’s mostly flat, not too challenging, not too technical. But most people would get bored with that quite quickly. They must please realise that that is not what proper trail running is about. Proper trail running is steep slopes, rocky trails and beautiful mountain scenery, not sort of running around mielie fields.
BB: The thing I love about it too Bruce, and I’m sure you’d agree is there’s a little bit of something for everyone. You can almost find your niche. If you love climbing mountains, you’re going to find lots of trails where you can climb mountains. If you like really technical single track stuff, you can find that too. But if you like running around mielie fields, you can find that too.
BA:Yes, absolutely, that’s why I have to sort of catch myself a bit. I love the technical and rocky stuff and the big climbs, but that might be too punishing for someone. They might prefer the fast and flowing routes, sections like down the Spruit.
So it’s different strokes for different folks, very much so. In terms of beautiful areas and that, normally you have to travel a little bit, but there’s some lovely events out in Mpumulanga , Golden Gate and if you’re prepared to travel sort of two or three hours from Gauteng you can get to some beautiful races in those areas.
BB: Ja, we are truly blessed. Bruce, thank you so much for your time here on Old Mutual Live once again, it is much appreciated and we look forward to following your journey and possibly a 14th, 15th and 16th SkyRun victory. On your way to 20 overall, we look forward to checking that out over the next few years, thanks for your time today, much appreciated.
BA: Okay, thanks a lot. As I say again, great to chat, thanks.