I'm not a natural blogger and I'm no techie. I'm an ultra trail runner by passion, and a journalist by profession - in that order of priority.
In this blog I use the one to talk about the other - my trail thoughts, musings and meanderings about running mountains and trails.
I call it rockhoppin', just because... well... that's what we trail runners love to do!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Freedom Run – 24 Sept to 25 Oct 2014

Today was Day 1 of what will no doubt be the toughest run yet done on South African soil. Following the route of the 2 350km Freedom Trail, a gruelling event much hallowed by even the bravest mountain bikers, the Freedom Run is a challenge being tackled by two women – yes guys, two women – who will be running an average of 80km a day, over 32 days.

They’ll run from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl. Sixty-four back-to-back marathons…   on some of the toughest terrain in the country.

Click here to see the route:  Freedom Run route (and follow the little pink dot as it progresses - that's them!)

They’re tackling this feat as a challenge, and yes, they’ll achieve a great sense of personal achievement when they accomplish their goal, but far, far more importantly, they’re doing this for something very much greater than themselves – they’re raising funds to set up a social enterprise that will empower women in the community to make reusable sanitary pads, enabling young girls to be free to continue their schooling without the interruption of their monthly periods.

The next amazing fact is that neither of these women are South African – and yet they care enough to change the lives of young women in the rural areas of our country.

Mimi Anderson (UK) and Samantha Gash (Australia) are both hard core ultra-runners supreme, each with mileage under their belts that would scare most runners the world over.

Mimi (52) has two Guiness World Records to her name – one as the fastest woman to run from John O’Groats in northern Scotland to Land’s End in southern England (12 days 15 hours 46 min), and the other for the furthest distance covered on a treadmill in seven days by a female (649.86km).
She has won ultras in the Sahara, Kalahari and Namib Deserts, she was the first British woman to run the double Badwater Ultra Marathon (470km in 108hr 10min), which is in Death Valley, the hottest place on earth.
She was the overall winner of the 6633 Extreme Ultra Marathon in 2007, a 352 mile non-stop self-sufficiency race in the Arctic, setting a course record that is yet to be beaten: 143hrs 23min. She remains the only woman to have finished the race.

Well on her way to matching Mimi’s crazy achievements, Samantha (29) was the first woman and youngest person to have completed the Four Deserts Grand Slam, she has a 379km non-stop run across the Simpson Desert in Australia, and a 222km non-stop run across the Himalayas to her name.

What will the Freedom Run achieve? It’ll set young girls free.

Here’s the reality:
  • In South Africa, one in 10 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 miss out on 4-5 days of school a month due to their periods. WHY?
  • Commercially produced disposable sanitary pads are too expensive for most schoolgirls in Africa.
  • A girl missing 4 days of school every 28 days due to her period loses the equivalent of 8 weeks of school per year. Falling behind in lessons inevitably means they end up dropping out of school.
  • There is a distinct lack of education in the rural areas about the changes that happen to a girl’s body during puberty.
  • Menstruation is a taboo subject in most rural areas, and is not discussed openly.
  • 60% of girls and women in South Africa don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. Instead, they make a plan, often using rags, cloth or bits of newspaper.

Scary? The problem is real, it’s widespread, and it’s simply not acknowledged. And yes, it’s uncomfortable to talk about.

Mimi and Samantha’s Freedom Run is not only a mission to raise awareness and confront the problem, but to work a solution. The funds they raise through the challenge will enable Save The Children International to establish a social enterprise in an identified community in the Free State. The business will employ 12 women to make and sell reusable sanitary pads within their community.
“The project will also provide ongoing education on health and hygiene for girls and women, as well as life skills training workshops for parents. It’s a simple way of making a massive difference for thousands of girls in South Africa,” says Samantha.

Check out this quick clip, filmed over the days leading up to the start today: Freedom Runners' preparation and their crew

And yes…  today was Day 1. They ran 80.98km, with more than 2 000m of vertical gain, and still looked fresh at their finish line!

Follow their progress by clicking on the tracker on www.freedomrunners.org

Help Mimi and Sam raise funds by clicking on the donate link on the Freedomrunners website how to donate

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Miles for Smiles Mad Run 2014

There’re so many reasons to run. We run for pleasure, for adventure, for challenge, for fun, for friendship, for competition. The sheer joy that running brings is pure in its simplicity, and it’s very real. Running makes our hearts smile, it makes us happy.

Imagine then the sheer joy of being able to smile, swallow and chew properly when all your life you’ve not been physically able to. Imagine looking in the mirror, and for the first time ever not seeing your face disfigured. Imagine always feeling conspicuous in public with everyone staring at your face and whispering about how you look, and now the joy of being able to free of that burden, free to look the world in the eye without being laughed at and teased.

That intense joy is something most of us can only imagine, and it’s visible on the face of every child, teenager and young adult whose lives have been forever changed by Operation Smile. For them that joy will last a lifetime.

Last week a bunch of mad runners here in Cape Town took part in the Mad Run – the Table Mountain Challenge route (now 40km long, thanks to the wickedness of race organiser Trevor Ball) run every day for 7 days, with the final day being race day, which happened to be the TMC’s 10th anniversary. That meant more than 270km of running around, up and over Table Mountain, raising funds for Cipla Miles for Smiles, a campaign founded by adventurer and chef David Grier in support of Operation Smile.
Jean van Lierop and William van Dugteren
Andrew Stuart and David Grier

The Mad Run was the crazy brainchild of Hout Bay dentist and trail runner Jean van Lierop, who put the plan to David some months ago. David, with several world firsts under his belt, including the full length of the Great Wall of China (4 200km in 98 days), the entire coast of South Africa (3 300km in 80 days), running across Madagascar (2 700km in 64 days), running across India (4 008km in 93 days), and across Cuba (1 500km in 30 days), never being one to turn away a great running opportunity, took up the challenge and the plan took shape.

Seated: India Baird, William van Dugteren. Standing, L to R: Brett Wood, David Grier, Andy Stuart, Rob Graham,
Chris Allan, me, Jean van Lierop, Ant Rush       (photo credit: Stephen Granger)
There were many of us – most ran the whole route every day, and others ran most of the days. The week was as tough as it was fun, and the best part of all was that the effort raised more than R100 000 for Miles For Smiles. Real money = real operations = real life changes for more than 20 kids! While we were running, the operations were happening – the kilometres run were literally enabling future smiles!

Here’re some facts about the occurrence of cleft palate:
  • Every 3 minutes, a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, and are often unable to eat, speak, socialise or smile.
  • One in 10 of children born with a cleft will die before their 1st birthday.
  • One in every 750 babies in Africa is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
  • Children with facial deformities who don’t receive reconstructive surgery often have difficulty breathing, drinking, eating and speaking. As a result, many suffer from malnutrition, medical and psychological problems.
  • Many children with untreated cleft lips and cleft palates develop permanent and significant hearing loss.
  • In just 45 minutes, one cleft lip surgery can change a child's life forever.

And here’re some random facts I either learned or was reminded about during the week…

ü   Llandudno Ravine never gets easier, not matter how fit you may be.
ü   A thick smeer of peanut butter, cheese and Bovril tastes mighty good in a sarmie (thanks William van Dugteren).
ü   Chocolate steri stumpies FIZZzzzz when vrot. And they taste utterly disgusting in that state.
ü   Tuffer Puffer legs really enjoy a rest day in the middle of TMC x 7 (sorry about that, guys).
ü   Apparently balls can have blisters too - ??  (no comment allowed from either David or Alex).
ü   Kasteelspoort has undoubtedly THE best plunge pool on the entire Table Mountain range.
ü   Men will always be boys.
ü   Polite boys tailor their jokes when running with girls.
ü   It only takes 10km, or a quarter of the way around one TMC, for boys to no longer tailor their jokes in politeness.
ü   The quality of jokes deteriorates in direct correlation with the number of times around a mountain.
ü   The level of laughter at even the lamest joke increases with the number of times around a mountain.
ü   The dubious white mould on a banting chef’s cabanossi salami grows impressively more furry with each day it lurks in said banting chef’s pack.
ü   Dentists are a lot funnier when running then when drilling teeth.
ü   Puff adders and Cape cobras believe it’s summer already here in the Cape – they’re awake from their winter snooze and rearing to go…