Kruger2Canyon Challenge – an experience of a lifetime
15 April 2016
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. Old Mutual Two Oceans is out of the way, we’ve been talking lots about the Comrades Marathon. But there’s a race coming up just after Comrades this year that was run for the first time last year. It was part of the Old Mutual Wild Series and it’s Kruger2Canyon.
It was done in the first weekend in October last year and by all accounts, pretty successful, interesting route and very challenging, very different on the two days. The date has changed this year, so has the setup, slightly, but we’ll chat a little bit more about that. It’s a great pleasure to welcome back onto the podcast today Race Director for the Wild Series, Andrew Booth, Andrew, welcome onto the podcast once again, nice to catch up.
Andrew Booth: Thanks Brad, it’s been a while, so it’s great to catch up and talk some trail.
BB: Andrew, let’s talk about Kruger2Canyon and I know we’ve spoken about it previously, but there are a couple of changes in 2016. Obviously last year was the first time you put on that event, what were some of the key learnings that you took out of that inaugural one.
Some great changes for K2C in 2016
AB: Inaugural events always have a few teething problems and we walk away learning a lot. Kruger2Canyon 2015 was no exception. Day two was where we put the long day, the 45km day, which turned out to be a really tough day. Tougher than I think any of us really expected, runners and organisers alike.
What we’ve done is to firstly trim that day slightly, there was a section that was perhaps unnecessary, an out and back section. So it comes down to 42km. Then just increase the number of water tables. It was a really hot year last year, there was a heat wave over the event, so that also affected things in terms of how it rolled out.
So, going to mid-winter, so it’s much cooler. The light hours are shorter, so it’s likely that we’ll start in the dark. Then the last thing we’ve done is bring that day, that tough day into day one and not day two. So the race starts with the tough day and challenges right up front.
Then day would be the 28km run through the Blue Canyon Conservancy, which is a big four area, it doesn’t have buffalo, but it’s in the game reserve. It’s tweaking it and then just putting in measures where we fell slightly short last year and that was really on the second day, we could have had more tables during that heat wave.
BB: One of the things, with being in October and that time of the year, it is warm in that part of the country, there’s no two ways about it. The heat did play a big role, as tough as that last day was, just from a running perspective, I think the heat also took its toll on the runners. You’ve changed the date and moved it into the middle of winter, essentially, which I think for that sort of event, in that area, is just the perfect time to be running there.
AB: Definitely, it’s cool and as I said, the days are a little bit shorter, but you don’t have any risk of that heat. The bush, you can see far into the bush, it’s not dense as it would be in summer, which also is a much nicer condition to run it in. We should get some spectacular sunrises and sunsets at that time of year, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.
Why not Comrades and K2C
BB: Obviously changing the date as well has proved some challenges as well. I mean I don’t think there’s any time that’s really particularly the perfect time to have a run. But numbers, looking at the moment, not exactly where you’d want them to be. But you’re pretty confident you’ll get those numbers up to where they need to be, come race day?
AB: There’s no doubt that the changing of a date can affect the subscription up front and we are down a little bit from last year. Late change into June, we only decided to put it there in January. I don’t think runners had planned for that.
We have had quite a few guys come forward, but we definitely are wanting to pick that up. We’re giving it a big push on the social media, we’ve got some great film and photography coming and generally trying to push it into some channels.
It’s soon after Comrades as well, we looked at that and we only had 5% of last year’s field coming out of Comrades. So it’s 5% ran Comrades last year, so we thought it shouldn’t affect the race too much, but there have been a few comments about it, being soon after Comrades. We have, for those really hard-core ultra runners, put out the challenge of running Comrades followed by Kruger2Canyon.
They’re three weeks apart essentially and someone who is a veteran ultra runner can take a challenge like that on and do it very successfully. It’s happened in the past with other trail races, so we put out that challenge to our Wild Series participants as well.
So we’ll see, come race day, we expect to have a typical South Africa ultra field whether it be the biggest or the smallest, it’s yet to be determined. Still, it’s an amazing experience, it’s going into its second year and I think that having learnt from year one and fine-tuning it.
We know where we need to up the game a little bit and I think that Kruger2Canyon, running in the wild of the game reserve and running through the mountains and into the greater river canyon, that’s just, it’s made for an experience is what I’ve found. We hope that a lot of people step forward between now and race day.
Taking you to wild and remote areas
BB: Andrew, I wanted to bring that up, that’s one thing that I find truly special about the Wild Series events. There are lots of trail events and multi-day stage races that happen around the country. Let’s be honest, we live in one of the most amazing places in the world. We’re so lucky to live here and we’ve got so many options and choices of runs that we can do. But the Wild Series, in particular, are very different in the sense that they give you an opportunity to run in places that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to run in.
AB: Definitely, we always pick places that are adventurous. A lot of the time we’re dealing with private land owners or we’re accessing areas that people didn’t really know existed. That’s very much the case with Kruger2Canyon. There’s actually a set of trails up on Maripskop where we run day one now, the 42km mountain day. But it hadn’t really been used or maintained for a while.
So when we found that, we cleared them out and those are the trails we used for the race. They’ve always been there and so we’ve created that opportunity essentially. It is very unique, there’s no doubt about it, Wild Series presents opportunities for people to do things that there’s no other context that they could really do that in.
BB: Andrew, if people want to find out more about Kruger2Canyon, if they want to pick up an entry as well, where can they get all the details? You mentioned some of the video and that sort of thing that’s available, where can they go check all of that out?
Here’s how to enter K2C
AB: All of our video and social media challenges, we’re on Facebook, The Wild Series Trail, we’re also on Twitter, so following those links then they’ll pick up all of our social media and video and stuff, photographs going out etc. But entries is wildseries.co.za and then they can find out about all our trail events, obviously Kruger2Canyon just being one of those. Click on the race page and there’s all info about the race and some entries are available off that page.
BB: If you want to check those out, we’ll put the links in the show notes to this episode of Old Mutual Live as well. Andrew, finally, before I do let you go, it’s not just about running either. What you guys do, there’s a huge drive in conservation and just doing the right thing along the way. Your proceeds go to conservation projects. Tell us a bit about the project that the Kruger2Canyon and what you hope to achieve out of Kruger2Canyon?
AB: So Kruger2Canyon is in support of the Kruger2Canyon’s biosphere which is an organisation that are based up there. Essentially we’re running in part of that biosphere which is an effort to preserve all the different landscapes from the Lowveld.
Which is the Kruger and all your game reserves across, up into the mountains, into the northern end of the Drakensberg where obviously you’ve got a very different landscape. To conserve that diversity is very important. So it’s about managing this area as one and not managing it as little bits.
So there’s a lot of efforts going into coordinating with all the land owners, the NGO does a lot of work there. Then trying to restore the bits that have been heavily utilised in the past, so that those ecosystems can start to function as one.
It’s a bit different from our other races which have perhaps a champion where we support the Bearded Vulture at Golden Gate, for example. Here we’re actually supporting more of the biosphere and a project that’s aiming to conserve the whole biosphere. Therefore in the race we actually run in the different parts of the biosphere, so people can get a sense of what it’s actually all about while they’re running out there on the trail.
BB: Go check it out and hopefully we’ll see you at the 2016 Wild Series Kruger2Canyon event, it’s a fabulous run. I think that time of the year is perfect. It’s going to be a bit cooler and as you said earlier, lots more to see because the bush isn’t as thick. Looking forward to that Andrew, congratulations once again on a magnificent series of runs that you put together. Hopefully people get out there and support and get behind the causes and what you guys are trying to achieve with these events as well. Thanks for your time today, much appreciated and keep up the great work.
AB: Thanks Brad, cheers.