The PUFfer – an other feather in Nic de Beer’s cap
07 September 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now and quite chuffed to have our next guest on the podcast. A fantastic performance not that long ago at a trail race which is iconic in the Western Cape. If you’re from a bit further north and you’re not that into trail running, you might not be aware of a race called the PUFfeR. It is a stock standard here in the Western Cape, everyone who runs trail wants to at some stage in their running career run PUFfeR. We’ve got the 2016 Champion on the show with us today. Nic, welcome, thanks for joining us today.
Nic de Beer: Thanks Brad, thanks for having me.
BB: Congratulations on your win, you must be pretty chuffed?
NDB: Yes, I am, it’s been a great year for me, so it’s great to win the PUFfeR, very happy with that.
BB: It’s a very special race. I mentioned in the intro that a lot of folks up north, particularly those who don’t run trail, they’ve probably never heard of it. But down in CT, it’s quite legendary isn’t it?
NDB: Yes, it’s an iconic race. While I was still staying in Johannesburg, I heard about the PUFfeR, and when I moved down to CT I did the PUFfeR in 2010. Didn’t know the route, didn’t know where to go, got lost so badly. But it’s a race that everybody wants to do and it’s a great race.
What the PUFer is all about
BB: For those who are listening to this, who possibly haven’t heard about the PUFfeR, tell us a bit about it. Distance-wise, how much climbing, it’s tough, it’s not an easy little stroll in the park, it’s not a Park Run, if you want to put it that way.
NDB: Definitely no Park Run. It’s roughly about 76km, you start at Cape Point in a nature reserve there and PUFfeR, about half of it is on tar and half of it is on trail. You start off in the dark, on the road, roughly for the first 37km. Most of it is fast and on tar. Then you hit the trails and it’s a lot of climbing.
You go up towards the Mast, which is about 800m climb. Drop down to Constantia Neck and then you climb all the way to the top of Table Mountain, which is 1 100m high. Down a very gruelling Platteklip Gorge, up Signal Hill and then you finish at the Waterfront. It’s 76km, you climb 2 500m, like you say, it’s not a Park Run.
BB: I love that you say it’s approximately 76km. You said your first experience you didn’t know the route, that’s probably one of the major appeals too. Because you can get horribly lost if you don’t know where you’re going and it could turn into a pretty long day, way longer than 76km.
NDB: Absolutely, it’s an unmarked route. So a couple of months before PUFfeR, you’ll see there’s a lot of PUFfeR rookie runs. Especially for the guys that don’t know the route and haven’t done it before. For a guy coming from the north, they’ll struggle with the PUFfeR. They’ll have to run with someone because they’ll get terribly lost. My first PUFfeR, I got so lost, I probably ran about 85km. You need to know your way.
A time long before winning PUFfer
BB: If navigation is not your strong skill, you might be out there for a very long time. Nic, let’s talk a little bit about your running background. You’ve been running for many years, you’ve got a Green Number at Comrades. I think you’ve run 16, 11 of those under 7.5, so Silver. You’ve obviously got the ability, so where did your love for running start?
NDB: I didn’t run at school, I hated running. I played rugby and cricket, so I was never a runner. Then when I was about 23 I was in CT and it was a New Year’s Resolution, a couple of us, to do the Argus and to do the Two Oceans. I was the only one that did the Two Oceans and just continued from there. Did the Comrades and just loved it, just continued from there.
BB: How often is that the case, New Year’s Resolution were there a couple of beers involved?
NDB: There was champagne involved – lots of champagne involved. Fortunately there were four of us and unfortunately the other three never took up running.
BB: You obviously love the long stuff. You spoke about the Old Mutual Two Oceans. But you’ve gone on and run numerous Comrades, something like the PUFfeR now that you’ve won. What is the appeal to the endurance and particularly the longer stuff?
NDB: I don’t think I’ve ever had the speed of the youngsters, the guys that can do the 30 minute 10km or 31 minute 10km. So the longer stuff is more suited to me. You just continue with the same pace and you just take it for as long as possible. I think endurance is more my strength.
A pretty impressive Comrades pedigree
BB: From a Comrades perspective, 16 now, you’re obviously inching towards 20, is that the goal? Do you then decide, once I’ve got 20 Comrades that’s it, or is it going to be part of your life for as long as you can?
NDB: I love the Comrades, it’s always been a part of my life. I think it’ll always be part of my life. I think for as long as I can run, I’ll always go back to the Comrades. Definitely 20 coming up, but I’m not stopping there. Probably end up one of those old guys doing his 40th Comrades, that’s probably where I’ll end up.
BB: You talk about ‘loving’ Comrades, for somebody who is maybe doing the odd Park Run or possibly the odd 10km and really just can’t wrap their head around running that far. It’s also not the easiest of runs, let’s be honest. Comrades is brutal, what’s the appeal? Why do you love it? What makes it so special?
NDB: It’s just the journey towards that, the training that goes into it and then just lining up. The Chariots of Fire playing, I always get goose-bumps when that plays and it’s just running. Where so many thousands of runners come together to do that big challenge.
Every time you finish it, you just really feel so good about yourself and that you’ve conquered it. Just the tremendous support along the route and millions of people cheering you on. It’s a magnificent journey and I think anyone who wants to challenge themselves needs to go and do that, at least once.
BB: It gets under your skin too, it becomes very addictive, once it’s in you, you can never get it out.
NDB: You would know, you’ve done a few, it’s something that you always just want to go back to.
The joy of running around Cape Town
BB: Absolutely. Nic, who do you run for down in Cape Town?
NDB: I’ve joined, I’m part of KPMG Running Club, since the beginning of the year. So it’s a great club and they take good care of us.
BB: You obviously like hanging out with racing snakes?
NDB: Yes, there’s quite a few down here and I do a bit of training with some very fast guys and very fast girls as well.
BB: Let’s talk about some of your favourite running spots in Cape Town. I’ve recently been lucky enough to move down to CT, I’m discovering lots myself. But where do you absolutely love running? If somebody is coming down on holiday to the Western Cape or they’re down on business, where would you suggest they go for a trot?
NDB: The obvious spot, Chapman’s Peak, if you’re a road runner. Going up and down Chapman’s Peak, over Chappies towards Noordhoek, that’s very special. Obviously the promenade as well, Sea Point, Camps Bay, that stretch as well. Any place that is along the sea, where you can just watch the tremendous views that we have here in CT, it’s simply beautiful.
As far as the trail running is concerned, we’re so spoilt with having Table Mountain and Lions Head. You can go for so many runs along Lions Head, Table Mountain, the Contour Pass, magnificent views of the city bowl. We’re quite spoilt with so many great routes in CT.
BB: It’s so true, it’s difficult to pin it down to one, I feel exactly the same way. Every time I run in a different place I think, gee, this is incredible, but there are just so many of them. I don’t think you could ever get through all the top spots in the Mother City, it’s amazing. Nic, congratulations once again on your win at PUFfeR, we look forward to see what you do in the build-up to Old Mutual Two Oceans and then also Comrades 2017 and beyond that, well done.
NDB: Yes, thanks a lot, thanks for the chat.