From Old Mutual Kruger2Canyon to Wolkberg Trail Run
07 November 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, it’s awesome to have you with us, thank you so much for downloading and listening to this podcast, it’s hugely appreciated. We’ve got a pretty interesting guest for you lined up today. We spoke recently about the Wild Series and the Kruger2Canyon which was run for the second time not so long ago.
A slight change on the calendar moved towards June, as it was this year, as opposed to later in the year last year and also a change in the route. We’ll chat about that and also about a pretty exciting trail run that’s coming up if you’re out in the north of the country. That’s where we go right now to Limpopo near Magoebaskloof and we’re joined by Craig Carolan. Craig, welcome, nice to touch base.
Craig Carolan: Hi Brad, good to be here.
BB: Craig, you recently ran that Kruger2Canyon, part of the Wild Series, it’s the second time it’s been run. You didn’t run the first one, so this is your first experience of it, was it good?
CC: It was absolutely fantastic Brad, what an amazing part of the world. Just fantastic being able to run up and go over the top of Mariepskop and the Blyde River Canyon on day one. Obviously beautiful part of the world, forests and everything. Then on the second day, to do something totally different, obviously down on the Lowveld and run through the Blue Canyon Conservancy. Big Four country, I suppose, it was absolutely wonderful.
A enticing contrast to Kruger2Canyon
BB: I think that’s probably one of the big, I don’t want to say ‘selling points’ but one of the unique things about the Kruger2Canyon is that the two days are so different. Often you’ll do a multi-day stage race and they’re quite similar, but this one is very different.
CC: Absolutely, I think that’s exactly it. It’s almost, when you’re running in two different worlds really. The first day, obviously massive climbing up and over Mariepskop. But you’re running through indigenous forests and interestingly, we ran through a bit of fynbos, which apparently is, obviously most down in the Cape. This is one of the only places outside of the Cape that has fynbos and it was amazing. Day two, like I say, it was like we were in a different world, obviously into the bushveld and running with the wild animals.
BB: It sounds incredible and I hate using the cliché, but it’s definitely not a walk in the park, it’s quite a toughie.
CC: It was my first two-day stage run, so I’m not too sure I was picking the right one as a start. By the end of it, I know a lot of the guys who do all the Wild Series runs said that this is probably the toughest one. I know, speaking to Andrew, he said a lot of the runners have come to him and said they can actually peg this as the toughest trail run out there. It was definitely not a walk in the park, day one was brutal, especially the first 4km.
BB: Did you think – what have I gotten myself into?
CC: Exactly, unbelievable. I kept thinking of those poor kids who were at Mariepskop Primary who had to walk up and down that every time they went to school, it was amazing to climb up. I think we climbed up almost 900m in the first 4km, so it was pretty special.
Swapping of the days was a huge success
BB: That is incredible and I know you didn’t do the first one, but there were people who ran it and had done both, what’s the consensus about the change of the swap around of the days?
CC: I think it was definitely the right thing to do. I know the first time they ran it was also, obviously in a warmer time of the year. I think it’s a really good winter race because it’s very tough and I think the cooler weather is probably, I think winter is definitely a better time to do it, especially on day two.
It can get warm down there in Hoedspruit and just having slightly cooler days, look, it still got up into the late 20’s. But it was far better and the fact that day two is a shorter day, meant that finishing it earlier. A lot of the guys could then have brunch and lunch and the prize giving was well attended and all of that.
I think having it that way around was definitely a better option. All the guys who did last year and this year agreed that it was a nicer way to do it. Then obviously the change in the time of the year I think suited the event as well.
BB: You mentioned a lot of the guys who do all the Wild Series races. This was your first, are you sold, are you back for more?
CC: Definitely, that’s it. I was saying to Andrew at the end, I said sign me up, I’m back next year. I think it’s a wonderful addition to the Wild Series and of course I’ve been checking out the Wildlands website to see which one I’m running next, so definitely sold. That’s the reason we trail run isn’t it? It’s to go and see the beautiful parts of our country and this certainly gave us that opportunity.
Can’t complain with my local running
BB: You get to live in a beautiful part of our country, tell us a bit about the running in and around your area where home is?
CC: Brad, we’re very lucky. The Magoebaskloof, for those folk who know it, is kind of, I suppose another gateway to the Kruger. But obviously when you come up the N1 and then turn off at Polokwane and head towards the Kruger Park, you come up the mountain here. It’s totally different to what people think Limpopo is.
We’re at the base of Iron Crown, which is the highest point in Limpopo, which is over 2100m and so we’re here in the mountain and we get to do mountain running as well. Again, lots of forest, indigenous forests, pine plantations, so we are truly blessed. Obviously Ebenezer Dam, so a lot of nature and it’s just a stunning part of the world to run in.
BB: Where did your love for trail running start? Did you start on the road or has it always been trail for you?
CC: Brad, I’m a hockey player and when we moved up here, I played all the way into my 40’s in the UK when I was living there. When we moved out here, there wasn’t really the opportunity to carry on playing hockey. I’m headmaster of a school that sort of has adventure at its heart, a lot of adventure racing, trail running, mountain biking, all that kind of stuff.
I thought, well, if I’m going to be the head of the school, I better put my money where my mouth is. I only started trail running about three years ago and I think all those folk who run will tell you, as you know, once you start running, it becomes quite addictive. I’m new, road running, I’ve almost done none of that and so trail was the first thing I did and like I say, I’m hooked.
BB: It sounds amazing and the school sounds incredible too, I was checking out the website, Craig, you talk about adventure at heart. For guys and girls who went to school in a city and didn’t experience it, I look at what these kids have got access to and what they get to do, it’s fantastic. Tell us a little bit about the Stanford College.
Stanford Lake College is immersed in nature
CC: Brad, it’s exactly that. The lifestyle here is aimed at outdoors living. We’re part of the Round Square international group of schools which is kind of base on the Kurt Hahn approach to education. Which is about outdoors and adventure and testing yourself and stretching yourself beyond your limits.
The kids who come here, obviously adventure is a big part of it. Grade 8 and Grade 9’s spend a day a fortnight down at the Adventure Centre where they learn outdoor skills. They learn kayaking skills, camp craft, all of that kind of stuff.
In Grade 8 and Grade 9, they get to do two big treks where they hike out into the mountains. They have to spend time by themselves, there’s a white water rafting component on one of the treks. It’s central to the way we teach. We run a programme in Grade 8 and Grade 9 called the Round Square Discovery Framework.
Where even our academic learning and subjects are then kind of tailored towards teaching kids these kind of life skills. It really is an exciting way, like you say, I’m very jealous that these kids get to do what they’re doing. I wish I had the opportunity when I was younger.
BB: It sounds like a ton of fun. We’ll put the link to the Stanford Lake College website in the show notes as well. So if people want to check it out, it does, it looks phenomenal. It’s just such a beautiful part of the world as well. You guys, you also put on a trail run there too and that was one of the reasons we wanted to chat to you. Tell us a bit about that trail run.
The Clemengold Wolkberg Trail Run
CC: Brad, one of the things we do is we have three window events, we call them, where we showcase the adventure sport and we open it up to the community. We started with an off road triathlon which we run in February, The Vic Memorial Triathlon. Where obviously there’s open water swimming, then a mountain bike leg, then a trail run. That was our initial foray into these kinds of events.
The Magoebaskloof Mountain Bike Race is a big race up here and the Rotary Club who used to run it, merged with another Rotary Club, so they couldn’t run it anymore. We took it over from them. So we host a mountain bike race, later in the year, in November as well.
The third thing we added to was the stage trail run. We’ve got these three events, the Clemengold Wolkberg Trail Run is the one that we’re hosting in six weeks’ time, over the long weekend in August. It gives us the opportunity to show people from wider afield what our school has to offer and exactly what Stanford Lake College is about.
It’s a two-day run, it’s also pretty tough, there are a lot of similarities between the Kurger2Canyon and our race. Day one you start off at the Magoebaskloof Canopy Tours and climb up the Iron Crown. So we also have a very big climb to start off with, get up to the highest point in Limpopo after about, it’s probably about a third of the way into the race. Then a nice downhill and scenic run through the natural grasslands and natural forests, back into Haenertsburg. So kind of day one, is a tough day.
BB: Distance-wise, what are we looking at?
CC: 35km and total ascent on day one is 2100m, so that’s the hard day. Then day two is a 25km run, slightly different. It’s kind of more the river and forest run, less climbing. Probably only about 1000m of climbing on day two, 25km.
Like I say, we kind of run through some of the most amazing forests and gardens, the famous Cheerio Gardens that are right next door to where the school is. Part of the run is through that and then down onto the Broedestroom, then you literally run along the river all the way to the Ebenezer Dam. Go along Ebenezer and back to the school to finish off.
BB: It sounds brilliant, www.wolkbergtrailrun.co.za is the website you can check that out as well, we’ll pop that in as well. It’s all happening on the 6th and 7th of August. Craig, it sounds amazing what you guys have got there, I’m almost too scared to share this podcast because I think you might get an influx of people wanting to move there.
CC: That would be great, it’s a wonderful place, we are truly blessed to live in this amazing part of the world.
BB: Awesome stuff, thank you so much for your time, much appreciated.
CC: Brad, appreciate it.