Chasing the Big Five

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South Africa has been internationally recognised for years for its running with prominent races such as the Comrades Marathon.

Trail running – the art of running trails – used to be a vaguely heard of sport made considerably more prominent by American writer Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, published in 2009. In the last few years, it has taken off in the south of the African continent where some of the most beautiful and toughest trails exist.

“Trail running has exploded onto the scene in South Africa,” says Megan Mackenzie, a South Africa trail runner supported by Salomon, Suunto, Gu Energy and Oakley. A competitive trail runner, she has broken records and regularly places on the podium.


“It was only a few years ago that people still asked what trail running was and I had to laboriously explain that it was like hiking, except that you run. Now it seems that it is one of the most popular sports to get into, even road runners are seeing the light,” she says.

South Africa has been internationally recognised for years for its running with prominent races such as the Comrades Marathon drawing athletes from far and wide but with new trail races constantly popping up, combined with increased prize money, trail running is becoming a growing international phenomenon. And where better to do it than in the great African outdoors?

Mark Collins, The Otter African Trail Run Race Director and Director of Magnetic South says that with traditional road runners taking up the trail challenge, media exposure and word of mouth, the sport has gained considerable popularity and prominence, especially in South Africa.

The Magnetic South team see very well attended nationwide Series’ of Trail Runs in the 5km to 15km range, which Mark says are both affordable and achievable. He explains, “There are also the more demanding, established iconic events such as the Cape Peninsula’s 80km Puffer, the Rhodes Trail Run, the Table Mountain Challenge and the Hout Bay Challenge. The Otter, the Sky Run and the Whale of Trail are the new bucket list events that attract national and international starting lines up.”

Trailrunner.co.za’s Kyle Redelinghuys believes, however, that the sport is just getting warmed up. He says, “It’s still a niche sport, but you’re finding a lot of people getting out onto the trails for anything from 3km to 10km as a first run. It’s great to see the sport growing and more people getting involved. There are more events of varying distances and more corporate growth.”

This article was written by TAM SUTHERNS

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Born in Zimbabwe and living in South Africa, Miriro is a seasoned publishing editor and writer, having worked with leading brands in investment, business leadership and entrepreneurship. Passionate about Africa’s development, Miriro is also a dynamic marketing consultant with 10 years experience working with startups and large multinational corporations. With a heart for travel, Miriro spends her time discovering the nooks of crannies of Africa’s hidden gems, taking the roads less travelled, meeting the beautiful people and enjoying their food and culture. She enjoys tackling complex strategic challenges in the passion-to-entrepreneurship pipeline, particularly focused on the implications of 4th Industrial Revolution and workforce automation on Africa's travel and tourism industry. Miriro is currently the Managing Editor of Nomad Africa magazine.

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