On 7 March, Mick Waters completed the arduous 76km Addo Elephant Trail Run. This was Mick’s first ultramarathon for which he started training in October last year.
He began running at 5:30 and finished at 19:40, completing the trail in 14 hours and ten minutes. Mick says, “I was quite nervous going into it, not from a training perspective but because I kept checking the temperature and, every time I did, it was higher and higher. Heat can play a big role in exhaustion and your ability to complete long distances.”
Temperatures indeed soared, reaching 46°C, and were the highest ever recorded in the 16 years of the event; about 40-50% of participants withdrew as a result. Mick tried to get as much distance behind him in the early hours of the morning as he could, before the heat made it more difficult. “At the first river crossing, I just sat down in the river, took my hat and poured water over my head and face and neck… It was starting to get so hot and my whole body temperature started to rise like crazy.” At another point, Mick and some fellow runners swam in a natural pool until they were shivering before continuing to run.
The race covered varied terrain including cool, forest-type areas, steep climbs with no respite from the sun, winding escarpments and rejuvenating rivers. One of the most challenging parts for Mick was heading up the big escarpment at around 13:00, which some call ‘Mordor’ or the 5km ‘Hill from Hell.’
Another tough period was the 20km section on top of the escarpment. “It was insanely hot up there with no wind. The escarpment is quite deceiving because every time you come round a corner and think it’s going to start going downhill, it winds further round another corner, so that was quite taxing. A lot of that ended up being walked and not run.”
Throughout the race, Mick sweated 13.7 litres (which is comparable to sweating out 13.7 kg!), drank in excess of 12.5 litres of water and burnt 8000 calories. He ran the last hour and a half in the dark with a head torch and was met at the finish line by a friend who immediately handed him a beer. He said, “I felt great but it’s a very emotional thing, finishing something like that … there’s a lot of joy and happiness and you almost want to cry because it’s such an emotional achievement to know that you were able to do something like that.”
In the future, Mick would like to run 100-mile (160km) challenges but wants to get more experience of 50 miles (76km) first. He aims to undertake the 40km Jonkershoek Challenge in May. Mick’s completion of the race came a week before his son, Daniel Waters’ barmitzvah.
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