Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun 2017

photo credit Mark Sampson
I’m torn. And I mean, really torn.
My head wants to write about the wonderful experience I had last week, telling the world how fantastic it was to run in the African bush with wild game and to see, feel, taste and smell true southern African bush veld. But my heart wants selfishly to keep it secret, sharing it only with those closest to me for fear of word spreading and hundreds of humans flocking to spoil a corner of beautiful, unspoilt Africa.

I’m going with my head this time, trusting that the folk who’ll be reading this blog aren’t like the average tourist out there who has little respect for nature. Trail runners are different, thankfully – most of us hold the environment close to our heart, and protect it in every way we can. So let this post be a secret shared amongst ourselves, protected from the world out there and closely guarded amongst those who respect and treasure the natural world.

I love the African bush. I love everything about it – from the twitter of the first bird before the dawn dances its gentle morning light across the horizon, to the deep golden hue of the after-glow in the evening sky; from the deep-throated hollow roar of a distant lion, to the thundering hooves of a herd of wildebeest as they charge across the open veld; from the lonely cry of the fish eagle circling overhead, to the gentle scraping sound of a black mamba as it stealthily slithers between two rocks and out of view.
I love the vastness of the horizon, the hugeness of the moon, the blanket of stars brilliant against the night sky, the ancient trees that have seen generations pass beneath them. I love the smell of the rain on the baked earth, and the way the air is alive with energy before an African storm. All this is what real, unspoilt Africa is about.
photo credit Mark Sampson

Imagine blending all of this with trail running. Imagine running with elephants, kudu, wildebeest, eland, impala, klipspringer and giraffe, being woken up in the night by the grunts of a hippo in the river near your tent, and standing under a gigantic baobab tree that’s more than 2 000 years old. Imagine.

All this was part of what I experienced last week, shared with 75 other lovers of trail running, on the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun. And I’ve spent the whole of this week barely able to concentrate, my mind constantly drifting back to the banks of the great, grey-green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees (so perfectly described by Rudyard Kipling in one of my favourite childhood stories, The Elephant’s Child), wishing I was back there.

Some background
The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun, brainchild of Wildrunner, and facilitated by Boundless Southern Africa, marries untamed Africa with trail running, in a three-day stage event that covers 93km through the Limpopo-Shashe basin in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area that connects Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

So many factors make this event special, but for me three stand out:

Highlights from the three days:
A 210 million year old dinosaur fossil
I can write on for hours about the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun experience, but I fear I’ve already overstepped the so-called ideal word count that a blog post should be. This run is exceptional for so many reasons, and while my heart is still hesitant to shout out about it, my head knows that special experiences like these should be shared, particularly amongst those who’ll best appreciate them.

photo credit Mark Sampson

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