– What a catchy name for a race right? Except if some of your audience is Very much Afrikaans like yours sincerely! Run-te-berg ( Read this with a heavy Afrilkaans Accent and explosive RRRRRRR’s and then you will have a race sounding very different. And different it is indeed! I first heard about Run the Berg When one of my trail running friends Marzelle Van Der Merwe told me what an awesome time she had at the event in 2017. A few weeks later I also heard Nicolette Griffieon say that Run The Berg is definitely one for the ‘I have to run that trail” list!
I am sure most of you know these two ladies quite well as they have done most of the bigger and well known races in our beautiful country, so when they said Run the Berg was worth running I was very much interested.
Little did know that a few months later me and Sven would get the opportunity to photograph this epic two-day trail running event that is fast becoming one of the countries premier two day trail running races.
The race village is set on the All out Adventures premises situated in the Northern Drakensberg. With a host of activities on offer , this is the perfect family race venue. There is a complete kid’s Zone for the little ones, so when mommy or daddy is out busting their lungs at 2000 metres , the little ones can have their own jol!
The Race consists of two packages :
The Extreme and the Challenge. The Extreme covers +- 25 km a day whilst the Challenge covers 15km of sublime Drakensberg Trails.
When race organiser Warren King contacted us in regards with photographing Run the Berg, we were quite excited as it meant that we would have the opportunity to discover a new trail and photograph in an area of the berg that we are not that familiar with. We’ve been to Oliviershoek and Mont Aux Sources a few times, but Not to The Run The berg area which is kind of right In the middle of the above mentioned areas. We arrived on Friday afternoon just in time for Sven to go and get some landscape photographs with the last rays of sun juuuuust peeking over the Drakensberg. I convinced Sven that I should stay behind to get some “registration” images – In all honesty I was actually just really keen for a cold Notties brewery beer and saucy sosaties that Alpine heath Resort had on offer! As soon as Sven arrived after his landscape session, his Austrian genes kicked in properly and he went straight fortthe gluhwein that the local tannies had brewed up!
Warren did a quick race briefing and Chris Mecklenborg (owner of All Out adventures) briefly explained the idea around 2018’s Dragon theme. “It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons!”
As soon as we set of Saturday morning from the Cavern resort on day 1 of the race I could feel a magical feeling in the air! The race started fast and I really had to run to get ahead of the field in order to not lose out on photographing all the runners coming past. Luckily Sven hiked out ahead and to the top of the mountain , because after 2km in I was properly tired and started my jog, shoot, jog routine that would continue for the rest of the day. As a two man team we usually split up , just in order to cover different parts of the field in different areas. Day one was characterised by a big climb to the top of the plato.
Getting to the top of the first mountain at Run The Berg takes one massive effort, technical single track trail combined with a steep gully and a Ridgeline climb that shoots up in to the sky makes this day definitely one for the books, and swear charts! Sheesh some of the okes weren’t happy! From the top of the mountain one has views over most of the NORTHERN DRAKENSBERG and THE FARMLANDS BELOW. The route continued at the top of plato giving us plenty of opportunities to portray runners against the magnificent Drakensberg backdrop. About 15km in runners dropped down to cannibal caves , which was home to cannibals back in the day , as the name suggests, i couldn’t help to think what kind of biltong and droewors they served at the cave aid station….!
I really like food, and food is plenty at most trail events, but the aid station supplies at Run The Berg is properly stocked , even by my standards, watermelon , jellies, cookies, oranges, if you want it …they’ve got it! The last 10 km of the day winded it way through Northern Drakensberg grassland which enabled runners to open up and enjoy fast running. The heat did take it’s toll on the backmarkers though and getting to the finish line was only made possible by the thought of an Ice cold Notties Brewery cappuccino porter fighting the fatigue!
For us the hard work only starts when we get back to the race village as we have to process and edit all the content captured in the morning. At run the berg we had it a bit easier as the only formalities in the evening was sundowners overlooking one of the beautiful dams in the area with the Amphitheatre in the distance. I felt that this was very unique as one had the opportunity to share war stories of day in a really relaxed and laid back setting.
Day two was also an early start with me on coffee duty. A cup of mocha pot brew just has a way of putting much needed mountain energy into my system. It was my turn to hike out ahead of the field with Sven getting all the start line action. Day two is a more runnable day with only one moderate climb to the top of a Koppie. Runners start out by running into a little canyon next to a river before they make their way to the first aid station at 7km. With multipole water crossings , golden grass and single track , this gave us the chance to get creative and do our thing!
At the first aid station the challenge and extreme runners split up with the extreme hitting the climb up the koppie, I decided to hit a straight line to the top in order to get the front runners coming down. This proved to work very well as I got most if the leading runners working their magic on the technical downhill sections. I waited for most of the field to make their way to the top as we always try and get a photo of every single runner in action! The satisfaction that a person gets from seeing themselves suffering and gutting it out always makes our work worth it! After a while I Just couldn’t resist the bacon, muffins and worsies at the aid station and decided to make my way back down, to dig in before Sven arrives as I knew that there would be nothing left after he’s come through!
The Rest of the race was run on jeep track winding it’s way through the farmlands all the way back to the finish line at All out Adventures. About 5km out I met up with Gareth one of the extreme runners who decided that Run The Berg would be his first proper trail run, before the race the furthest he has run was 8km! It was really inspiring to help him get over the finish line as I saw and shared in his suffering over the last few km’s. He was properly tired but refused to stop going, and I admired him for pushing on even though he tripled his furthest running distance. We got to the finish line welcomed by a host of runners and an awesome vibe!
The rest of the morning was spent drinking beer, having fun , and sharing trail and dragon stories of the past two days!
Run the Berg is a unique race with a unique feel! The scenery will blow you away and the hospitality and race village vibe is next level. This is a real family event where your whole support group can come with, and enjoy a host of activities on offer at All out Adventures. It was super fun to photograph Run The Berg 2018 and it is always a privilege to share in the joy and suffering of all the runners. Needles to say, we can’t wait to be back next year!
Is there dragons out on route? Well’ you’’ll have to come and see for yourself in 2019!