May the 14th 2011 saw the running of the annual Mnweni Marathon – that epic mountain race which pits body and mind against the Drakensberg terrain, the altitude, the weather, your training or lack thereof, your hidden masochistic tendencies, the clock, and above all, your desire to get high on life / endorphins / adrenalin / cataflam. The circular route is easily described in one sentence: run up the Mnweni valley and pass, run down Rockeries Pass and the Ntonjelane valley back home – overall distance 38Km, altitude gain to the summit 1600m (stats may vary, depending on how officially lost or found you were at any given moment of the self-navigated route). The trials and tribulations of the day, and each participant’s unique tale of conquering the Mnweni could fill a chapter.
In 2009 I completed the route with a smile on my face and good to go for another lap – probably one of the highlights of my running and outdoor career. On my return in 2011, the Dragon was a less welcoming: thick grass following heavy seasonal rains made the paths a little less easy to push through, somebody stretched the climb up Mnweni pass by a few hundred meters, and how did they truck all those extra loads of lose rock into Rockeries? I conclude that (perhaps) half-marathon-fit is a tad insufficient for a 38K route, (perhaps) the 3 day Magoebaskloof hike the week before was a bit rough (mind you, a great hike, if you want pointers contact me!), it is definitively true that the Mnweni Marathon should not be underestimated !
Huge Respect goes to all who took on the challenge and a big up to organiser Bruce Arnett – as the undisputed national legend in ‘Berg and trail running (not to mention winner of the race) it is commendable that you are giving back to the sport by arranging this event for the rest of us mortals to relish. For Bruce’s well written and colourful race report see http://www.trailrunning.co.za/news.php?newsId=803.