Nah, not THAT kind of itchy feet. The kind that inspires wanderlust and updating of the bucket list. The sort of itchy that sends us down a rabbit hole on YouTube, seeking out the ultimate in international events. The classics, the infamous, the ones we track year on year, imagining ourselves out there on the course in a foreign land. Would the terrain be the same, the crowds, the aid stations, are the rules any different? Would my gear suffice? How good would that medal look in my collection...?
We asked a few South Africans, if budget constraints did not exist, which international race would you most want to run, and why.
Petrus de Klerk (above), Cape Town runner who manages to combine steampunk with a touch of metal head and a splash of goth on the trails…
“Definitely Western States. Not the toughest (in VERY relative terms) but the “OG” and the one that (thanks to the movie “Unbreakable”) inspired me to want to run further.”
Alfred “Vuurtoring” Thorpe (above), well known for his work in outdoor adventure marketing and the occasional use of white headbands…
“The Grand Raid Réunion. Spectacular views. Insane climbing. An amazing community supporting the race. And only 4 hours (and no visa required) from Joburg.”
Sue Ullyett (above), Cape Town runner and race organiser extraordinaire with a penchant for funky pants and moon bags...
“Any of the events in the UTMB stable - Chamonix and that whole Trois Vallees region is trail paradise and I would love to experience it before I leave this planet. The vibe, the routes, the whole affair is something special.”
Mikaela Rijkmans (above), global soul currently living in Cape Town, known best for fast-tracking the distance running journey, and brownies.
“Badwater 135. It looks badass.”
Paul Diedericks (above), part roadie, part trail runner who supposedly works in finance, but would make an excellent spy.
“The Leadville 100. Just because it's one of the first I ever read about. The tribal runners from the Americas that went on to win it in the 90s. History will always be a drawcard for me.”
Lloyd Goliath (above). Dad, runner, potential trail running model.
“Leadville 100. I know hardly anything about the race but when I first started trail running my brother in law bought the new balance Leadville and I wanted a pair. Later found out that it was named after a race so naturally wanted to run it.”
Hanno Langenhoven (above) from KZN. Recognisable by the large bag full of plastic litter he usually has hanging from the back of his running pack…
“For the experience - Barkley with almost no hope in making it at least 1 loop.”
So, what WOULD these bucket list international trail events cost? Let’s look at Leadville 100 as an example. $335 (R4 725) is your entry fee, if you make it through the lottery. Many have tried, many are still waiting for their turn. A return flight to Colorado will set you back around R20 000. A Western States entry is currently $410 (R5 784). Both these races require the completion of qualifying races prior to confirmation of entry.
South African trail races seem expensive, until the elements that make up a safe, memorable event are unpacked. Quality races do not skimp on safety, infrastructure, medical support, marshalls, marking and the unique bells and whistles that make up the personality of individual events. Ultra-Trail Cape Town will set locals back R3 850 for the 100km this year. The BOS Sport Mountain Challenge Series, amplified by Jaybird, costs runners R3 150 for all three events in the Ultra category. The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is almost R28 000 for the 6-stage, self-supported event.
For many of us, international races will remain a lofty dream, as we gratefully take up challenges that are a little closer to home and kinder on the budget. From the infamous Canadian Death Race to the (truly) iconic Western States 100, we will follow, track and celebrate events that inspire us, scare us, and make up a beautiful global calendar of outdoor beauty and brave humanity.
Words: Kim Stephens