Farmers who Run Trail

The word “farmer” conjures up some stereotypical images, but a farming community is as diverse as any other – just harder working than most! Over the past while we’ve met a few farmers for whom trail running is a natural extension of their love of the outdoors and their respect for the delicate balance of living things.

Neil Quayle (39) of Spinlea Farm in the Overberg          

“It is my father in laws farm; he grew up farming Angora goats in the Karoo, and kept a few hundred goats here until we moved.  We now have a little over 2000 goats.

It's difficult to follow a set (running) plan because I'll never know how big a gap I might get to run on any given day. It's been a case of getting whatever run in I can when a gap comes up in the day, if one comes up at all. 

But the nature of this farming is that I am certainly very active, so missing runs is ok. The farming compliments the running.  I get a lot of kilometres in walking the goats between their camps.

From a racing perspective, I try to do events in the area. I've managed to do the Greyton Classic, Funky Fynbos trail run in Gansbaai, and a few others.  Most of my running time this time of year goes into help organise the Greyton Brew Run. It is a fundraiser for my daughter’s school. I also plan to get back to Cape Town in December for the Ultra Trail Cape Town. 

Our busy period on the farm is August and September when our goats are kidding.  It's pretty much all hands on deck 7 days a week, especially if it's raining.  So finding time to train in this period is tough.  But I'd try to get out any gap I can get between feeding the goats and other farm work.  The other times are less intense but I'll be lucky to get up to 100km a week in the lead up to UTCT.

It is almost all dirt roads here, and our neighbour, who is a big mountain biker, has created some incredible trails that link the farms around us.  So I run those as often as possible. I mainly run alone.  Unless we have some family or friends out. We're in the process of building a guest house. So I am hoping (against hope) that if guests come they'll be up for some trails with me!”

Any safety concerns WRT running on your farm?

Besides the odd sighting of snakes, nope, none!

What is running, in your life?

I think it's probably a combination of a few things.  But it's certainly a big, and necessary, part of my life.  I love getting out there to run.

Nerina Bester (39) of the Biesiesfontein Farm in the Swartland

I married into the Bester family that dates back many years in Moorreesburg. Our family of which my husband, being the youngest of 5 siblings, live on the farm that was bought by the family business only years later. His dad farmed his whole life as well as his grandfather, so we are born & bread farmers. Sheep and wheat farmers.

Ian Bester, my husband, met me whilst I was running. I’m still running, now only much further and faster! Farming is very seasonal, so when the planting of wheat starts in the Swartland, running time is extremely limited. Therefore no serious races from end of April to mid-May...period! I am there to support my husband in this busy time, and cater to my children's needs. Also no serious races from end October till mid-November, since harvesting of wheat is in full swing.

Being from a small town, running friends are limited. There are no group runs, etc. Especially long distance seems to frighten most people, so there are only a handful that will make time for those long hours on the road or trail. I lured a good friend of mine, Sakkie du Toit, back to trail running. So nowadays we enjoy most long runs on our local 'little' mountain Koringberg. We tackle the big ones, like Two Oceans and Comrades every year, including a qualifier for them as well. Trail has been such an exciting booming sport, so our focus has shifted a lot to trail, and the Bos Sport Mountain Challenge Series, Cape Trail Series® and UTCT being our favourites. 

Being a mom, and juggling sports games, especially during winter is not easy though. I schedule many of my long solo runs on Friday mornings, which means I do miss some races, but I am there to see my kids play.

In farming life we have to plan everything, so I suppose with running it's almost the same thing, but having kids at school just makes it more interesting.  At some point you will test the boundaries of running a race with the least amount of training possible. I try to fit in 3 - 4 runs per week, and would be happy with 40-50kms per week. 

I mainly run gravel farm roads, and the benefit of that is no traffic, and it’s extremely safe! There are seasonal hazards though in the form of insects (muggies and stinkluise in Afrikaans!). I think they will eat you alive and fly you off to their nest if they were bigger! 

Sometimes during harvest or planting when training has to be done, I'll drive the kids to their dad, and drop them off to ride the combine or tractor. I will run off in any direction, and return after my run, fetch the kids and head home. 

I am very fortunate to have a husband that can take the day off when needed, so there are some perks too. He understands my sport and is very supportive. I love him dearly for that.”


Words by Kim Stephens