Christiaan Greyling – one part of trail running’s super couple
01 January 1970
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual app, which is available here.
Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. I’m super excited to welcome our next guest onto the podcast, he is a trail runner extraordinaire. He’s one part of, I reckon they’re probably the fastest trail running couple in the country, if not the world. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Christiaan Greyling onto the podcast. Christiaan, welcome, nice to touch base.
Christiaan Greyling: Thank you Brad, nice to be on Old Mutual Live show.
BB: Christiaan, you guys, when I was phoning, I was like, is he in the country, is he not in the country. You’ve had a pretty busy last couple of weeks?
CG: Ja Brad, I think we live quite an active life and it’s a question many people ask me, are you now back in the country? You’re in Peru, I thought you’re in Peru, but now you’re in Europe? So no, we’re quite fortunate to see the world through our running shoes.
BB: Maybe I shouldn’t ask if you’re in the country, I should ask what country you’re in!
CG: Or which country is the next one.
BB: Exactly! You and Landie have just returned from Europe and it’s been a pretty successful time for you guys. Obviously you were racing as part of Team South Africa at the Long Distance Mountain World Championships. You also had a pretty good weekend at the Mont Blanc Marathon as well. Tell us a little bit firstly about the World Champs, that looked like an awesome event.
Racing with some of the world’s best in Europe
CG: It was my first time in Slovenia. As I say, running takes you places, so it was great to represent South Africa in the Long Distance Mountain Running which was always a goal of mine, as the 42km is quite a quick and short distance from me.
So I was happy to make the South African team and then in the end, also to have a relatively solid race in the Long Distance Worlds. It’s a very competitive championship and as I said, you need a lot of legs to be competitive.
So, I’m happy with my 4:30 solid race, it was very similar to the Otter I would say. It’s 42km with about 2900m ascent. The race consisted of only two hills, one uphill and a very long downhill and another very long uphill and a very long downhill.
That was also one of the races, it took me the longest to recover. I chose to do the World Champs one week before the 80km Mont Blanc as I’m quite pressed for time. So I gave my body six days to recover between the two races. That was literally just enough to also have a very good run at the Mont Blanc 80km.
Which suits me more, as more of an ultra runner than a long distance runner and where I placed 14th. It was also good to be supporting Landie two days later when she did the Mont Blanc Marathon and she placed 4th. A good week for the Greyling’s.
The main thing that I could take out of running in Europe is that there’s such a different mind-set and a different experience than what we have here. The one thing I can take out from the 80km Mont Blanc is when I finished the race, the whole town of Chamonix was applauding all the runners coming in. So it was just an amazing experience to experience the mountain lifestyle of the people.
What sets European trail races apart
BB: Christiaan, in what sense is it different, because you’re not the first person that’s told me that. is it a case of just that the crowd support, particularly from a trail perspective, where maybe trail is not as well supported here as maybe a road race. I use Comrades as an example, but I know Comrades is freakish because there’s no race, ultra, on earth, that I think gets supported like the Comrades does. What does make it different?
CG: Brad, I think it’s the people. I was running on a Friday, which is a normal work day and I’ve probably seen hundreds of groups of people in the mountain hiking. Each one of them will stop and greet you and congratulate you. They know what it’s all about, so there’s definitely a mind-set of people being outside.
Then also if you walk in town, every second shop is a Salomon shop or a branded sports outdoor shop. It shows you what the demand is, people want to be outside. Then I must say, I’m really keen to go and do Comrades, to experience what the world tells me. That whenever we travel people ask you: Have you done the Comrades. I’m not yet done the Comrades because I’m not a road runner. But I think Comrades is different and I might be on the start line in 2017.
BB: I like that! Christiaan, it’s interesting that you say that. I love Comrades, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. But I think for a lot of people Comrades is the be-all and end-all. But truthfully, there’s so many great races.
You and Landie are experiencing that and not just in South Africa, let’s be honest, we are so blessed with some incredible races here. But you guys are lucky enough to race around the world and there are so many great events and races. Each one is different and it’s difficult to compare one against the other, would you agree with that?
CG: Definitely. It’s all about the brand. Comrades created a brand and that’s what people know about it and they support it. But there’s equally big races, well, in our mind, big races around Cape Town. But because the crowds don’t know about it, they’ll never support it in that way.
I think each race is unique in its own way, but surely we have a unique country and I think we will offer a lot more in the next couple of years. If you look at other off road sports like the Cape Epic, we definitely have the potential to offer unique races like Europeans do.
What’s next for the Greylings?
BB: It’s definitely growing and particularly on the trail side of things. What’s next on the cards for you and Landie, from a race perspective?
CG: From a race perspective, well, the two races in one week was quite a lot. So I said to myself, I would like to just back off for a while from racing, then just focus on a few bigger events. For myself, the Bastille Trail Run, Salomon Bastille Day is coming up in two weeks, which will be more of a training race and just supporting the sport.
The next big race will be SA Champs, most likely for Landie. It’s just too close for me to the 80km Mont Blanc race. We’ll take it from there and hopefully I’ll get an entry into the Otter this year. Towards the end of the year, the Sky Run is quite a big focus for me.
Hopefully we get into the, I make the team to Portugal for the Worlds. Another exciting race, internationally is the Squamish in Canada, but that’s all subject to my availability at work and getting leave. My hopes are not focused on that yet. But August will be the next big European race for us.
BB: I love this, people are probably listening to this and going, gee, this is an amazing life, he gets to run around the world. Then you talk about getting leave from work and how you’re going to fit it into your work schedule. Christiaan, how do you do it? It’s incredible!
The great life balancing act
CG: Brad, I think I’ve reached a point where I’m totally out of leave. I had to take unpaid leave for the last week. I am limited in that sense, but also I’m trying to make my lifestyle part of my work. I’ve done a project a few weeks ago in May where I ran from work to Table Mountain every day. From the mountain to work and I did this for a week to sacrifice the warmth of my house in winter and the use of my car.
All the funds that I saved by doing this, I donated to a charity which also supported my work, Home Choice. So I’m trying to make my lifestyle and my running part of my work. Support, with my job support and in the end everyone benefits from my sport and my lifestyle.
There’s ways to do it, but also the work needs to be done. So I believe that you don’t always have to be training full time, to be the best athlete. Also you don’t have to work full time to be the best employee. Running has got a way to take your mind away from the stress and work and then works got a way to take your focus and your stress away from running. As long as you can have flexibility, in a way, you can do both.
BB: Absolutely. Christiaan, then just finally, we’ve spoken about it a couple of times here on Old Mutual Live, the Trail Labs that you and Landie are involved in. It sounds like a wonderful initiative and way to get introduced into the sport of trail running. Tell us a little bit about your involvement and your experience with trail lab.
Getting involved with Trail Lab
CG: Brad, Trail Lab is just one of those initiatives that I think will change many people’s lives. I’ve seen it already with some of our guests who returned twice and now already a third time, just the progress they’ve shown.
Trail Lab, what it’s done for me, it created new friendships and obviously it’s a weekend of focused training. But not only training you, you learn so much about your body and about nutrition and what you should do on the trails. The gear that’s working because you can do gear tests.
You can take a pack one day and go and run with it and feel how it works for you. That’s important because it is an expensive sport and you pay a lot to have a racing pack or for shoes. It’s important that you make the right decisions as well around that.
I think with Landie and myself, we have years and years of experience and people always think that we are good athletes and we’ve always been. But I mean we’ve started with, maybe not Landie, but myself, started off with a 5km run and that was tiring for me.
I had to force myself to train more than 5km and get used to running. I got injured as well, like all other runners and I was off for three months and I was off for six months. Then you do something different and you do more strength training or you do more maintenance.
You learn about all these things and that’s experience that you gain over the years and once you reach a point where you can just run and enjoy it, it’s a point of no return. You just enjoy every moment of it and I think all runners can get to that point.
If they make the right decisions and they start from the beginning in the right way and they’re just patient. That’s what we learn at Trail Lab and we try to just transfer our knowledge that we’ve built over the years and our experience to any normal guy who wants to run and take up running as a lifestyle.
BB: It sounds amazing, I’ll put the link to the website in the show notes to this episode of Old Mutual Live as well. Christiaan, if people want to reach out to you and find out more about what you’re up to. I know you’re very active on social media as well, is there anywhere else that they can touch base with you online?
CG: Well Brad, I don’t have a website of my own. But ja, like you say, social media, Hashtag or @ChristiaanGrey, both Twitter and Instagram. We share a lot of our experiences on Instagram and oftentimes we’ll make a Tweet around some events that we offer.
Landie often has talks around sharing her experiences and then also people have asked me quite frequently now lately for coaching. So I’ve decided to share a bit of my knowledge through online coaching and giving people advice. What ingredients you need to get a recipe and to be in three or four years’ time where you want to be and reach your goals.
BB: It sounds brilliant. We’ll pop those links into the show notes as well. Christaan Greyling, always great to catch up, thanks for your time. We look forward to following yours and Landie’s progress over the weeks and months to come, thanks for joining us today.
CG: Thanks Brad and thanks for what you’re doing. It’s great to have people who are passionate about the sport and grow the sport. I hope to share many of our experiences through a couple of Trail Lab weekends which are coming up in the next couple of months.