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You know how you can live in a place and never really actually know it that well? I’ve been in Cape Town since I was nine, I went to UCT and I’ve done my time in underground bars at the bottom of Bree Street. But I didn’t know Sea Point existed until last year, and when I tried to go to Stellenbosch I ended up on the wrong national road, headed to Joburg, and I went up the cable car for the first time in my life when I was 28.
Groot Constantia sits up at the top of Silverhurst, on the way to Hout Bay, on the left coming up from the southern suburbs. Groot translates to great in Afrikaans, and Constantia in Latin is something like constant or steadfast. It’s a wine estate, old enough to be marked as a provincial heritage site, and a good one: this year it was named the Top SA Wine Producer by the SA Wine Index.
There are many great things about trail running but this is the best: it opens up your world.
A few months ago my sister called and asked if I’d like to help take her dogs up Constantia Nek for a walk, and I said yes, and then I thought, where on Earth is Constantia Nek? That Saturday was an education, in the fact that there are beautiful trails a few kilometres from my flat, in learning that I live within walking distance of one of the world’s most famous, most wonderful mountains, and in how surprisingly steep Table Mountain really is.
She lit something in me, maybe without realising it, maybe on purpose, and this year’s Staff Challenge has revolved, for me, around trails like that one. Week by week, one step after another, I’ve been surprised to find new places that have been there for centuries, new mountains that were formed forever ago, and new trails that run through my country, and me, like veins.
Adrenaline Adventures was founded by Francois Hamman with the aim of bringing a spirit of adventure into the suburbs. They host trail and MTB races in places Cape Point, Silvermine and over Table Mountain, and this past weekend they invited me to run through the vineyards of Groot Constantia. It’s the oldest wine estate in South Africa and not more than 10km from my flat, but until this weekend it may as well have been on Mars. Believe it, but last week I had to actually google for directions.
It wasn’t the most challenging route I’ve ever run, but I managed 10km in 49 minutes and probably would’ve gone quicker if I hadn’t taken so many damn pictures. Something about seeing the sunrise from on top of a mountain makes me stop and stare. I don’t know, maybe it’s the fact I could use some water, or a moment to catch my breath. Maybe it’s just awe.
There are many reasons to love Cape Town but this is mine: I’ve been here since I was nine and still it surprises me.
In these last few weeks of the MH 2016 Staff Challenge Chris has me picking up some horribly heavy things, over and over, until I’m sore and tired and moaning like I want to go home. When I’m in his Race Fit gym I often wonder if I really need to be up so early, or lift quite so heavy, or row quite so hard, but when I’m on top of a mountain it comes to me.
There is nothing enjoyable about trail running if you’re not fit enough to survive it. And Cape Town has some especially dangerous peaks; they’re isolated and vast as hell, hard on the body and punishing on the mind and they will, if you aren’t ready, crush you. So when I’m in the Race Fit gym wondering if it’s easier to just go back to bed all I have to do is think, I want to do this, some more. I want to run up a mountain, again and again, to see something new and beautiful. I want to be surprised by the world.
My sister lit something in me and trail running fanned the flames and now I can’t put them out. My wife’s birthday is on Thursday and I’m taking her to Simon’s at Groot Constantia. Shhh, it’s a surprise.
Adrenaline Adventures is a Cape Town-based adventures company that hosts various trail adventure races and expeditions for all ages and fitness levels. Visit www.adrenalineadventures.co.za for more.
Race Fit is an endurance-sports performance focused gym in Claremont, Cape Town. Chris Lippstreu, with a master’s in Sports Science, aims to to improve performance through strength training with the use of kettle bells, Olympic lifting and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Find out more at www.race-fit.co.za