The Green Forest Trail Series is arguably a favourite. It all begins with an early rise before the sun kisses the Hottentots Holland peaks, a cup of strong coffee, the prepping of race gear and the road trip out to the beautiful Elgin Valley. As the music progresses from the early morning chilled beats to the heavier ‘get psyched mix’ we make our way closer to, none other than, the Hickory Shack in Grabouw.
It’s everything you could have asked for, the music is pumping, the aroma of the freshly roasted coffee fills the air, the announcers are cracking the early morning dad jokes and the energy is building. While the last few runners are squeezing in their final cup of coffee and grabbing a late entry, the busses started arriving to pick up and transport the masses to the start of their downhill adventure. The bus was ringing with energy, with runners exchanging their war stories from previous years, each throwing in their pearls of wisdom in an attempt to recollect the route profile. In summary, the views are wild, the single track is exhilarating, the jeep track is quick, and the atmosphere is thrilling.
This is possibly the ultimate start line for any trail race, nestled into the crest of the uncharted trails of the Elgin Valley Reserve. The hype is at its tipping point as all the runners line up at the start and experience the most unconventional, yet hilarious race briefing - everything is a go. The sun has just broken through the clouds and peered over the mountain, sending rays of piercing light hurtling towards the valley where the runners were about to enter. Let the games begin.
There is something about racing out of town in one of the most beautiful places the Cape has to offer, it certainly brings people together. With the start of the race being pinned at the highest point, it was bound to be one hell of a rollercoaster ride, and it most definitely was. As we went charging down the mountain, slotting into the first stretch of single track it was easy to let the legs do the talking while we tiptoed over the rocky gardens with every attempt to avoid face-planting but take advantage of the jagged decent. If you’re not careful you’ll realise 2 things very quickly, don’t be deceived, there is no such thing as a trail race with no climbing and there is no way that you can maintain a 5k time trial pace for a 21k race – don’t be a fool. Presumably easier said than done.
With the first climb out of the way and countless runners falling victim to those two demons, it was time for the jeep track to lead us towards the ultimate single-track session. The unrelenting sandy stretch which felt like a conveyor belt which was going nowhere slowly was brightened up by the hilarious race signs reminding us of the cold beers awaiting us at the finish line. After the 21k runners crossed paths with the wiser of the two, 10k runners, we all made our way to what was by far the highlight of the race. You can call this stretch the next best 4kms of your life, or otherwise known as the enchanted forest single-track dash. Undoubtedly, the most fun you will have on a trail, we all went hurtling down into a maze of pine tree single-tracks, flying back and forth following a path that couldn’t make up its mind. We had no time to breathe or think, you just hoped that your legs wouldn’t give up and that your feet would know where they needed to go. Each step was as uncertain as to the one before, taking sharp turns, jumping over dried-up streams and glancing over the shoulder to see who was hot on your tail. By the time you had a chance to process what you were doing, you were spat out the other end of the maze, only to take you on towards the last stretch of racing.
By this time your legs were wrecked, completely unfamiliar with the constant high-intensity downhill turnover for 15kms. At this point, you either realised you had your home legs on, and you had plenty left in the tank to tackle the last stretch, or you were a fool and thought you could maintain that lighting fast pace. Only to realise that the organisers decided to throw in 4 short and sharp climbs to tease the legs. After throwing in a quick death march while no one was looking, we quickly shot through a river, darted under the N2, and made our way towards the finish line where we were welcomed home by some classic banter by the announcers and our finishers prizes, handmade by the locals.
It is safe to say that the beauty of the start is matched by the vibe at the finish. One thing is for sure, this race takes you on an adventure that will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. From the early morning gees, bus ride banter, start line energy, single track mayhem, jeep track humour, enchanted forest thrills, to the cold beers at the finish, this is certainly a race that I will always slot into my race calendar.
Join us at Green Forest Trail Run #3 this Sunday 6 October for an unforgettable downhill run through Nuwenberg Forest, the old Villiersdorp Pass and around Eikenhof Dam. Enter here.