Friday 1 October saw the EcoBound Team welcoming the 41 Runners who signed up for The Leopard Trail Run 2021 to the Cedar Falls Basecamp.
We were set up in a caravan for the runners to come and register, and receive their Goodie Bags.
The Goodie Bags comprised of a Core Merino shirt, a few of Squirt Cycling Products Barrier Balms to use on their runs, a specially designed Leopard Run water bottle, and it all came in a Sealand Backpack. I will admit to suffering a moment of Goodie Bag envy.
Friday was the Prologue to the event, including a 10km run to and from the waterfall, which they could do at any time between 08h00 and 16h00.
We enjoy adding a bit of fun into the mix and ensured that the runners would have to get wet :)
There are 2 pools leading up to the Cedar Falls Waterfall, with the 3rd one being at the waterfall itself.
When the runners received their Goodie Bags, the Leopard Run water bottle came minus the lid. All the lids were placed in a red dry bag, on the far end of the 3rd pool. We asked that runners return with their bottles full, and of course, with their bottle tops on.
This was not a compulsory stage of the race. If runners chose not to participate, they would simply be awarded the slowest time of the day. We didn’t have a thermometer with us, but our estimate is that the water in the pools was roughly 10 - 12 degrees celsius.
Yes indeed, it was cold! We were, therefore, willing to accept that perhaps not everyone would collect their bottle tops.
It seemed we underestimated the 2021 Leopard Runners by thinking that was a possibility, as all runners returned wet, with bottle tops attached, saying what a jol they had!
They were welcomed back with buckets of Red Bridge Brewing Beers, and a delicious lunch prepared by Carmen Shmahl of EcoBound, alongside Marta and crew from Cedar Falls.
These ladies were in the kitchen morning through to evening over the weekend, cooking and baking to keep us well fed and satisfied. Marta’s brandy pudding seemed to be a real winner, and we thank her for being so generous with the branna’s - it provided a welcome kick!
Returning Leopard Runner, Coenie Louw, who along with Hilana Marais are the only people to have completed all 3 Leopard Runs, joked that he might need to add a dash of coke to his pudding!
Runners retreated to their tents for the night, ready for an early start on Saturday for The Big Mountain Day. The tents were provided by Petrichor Adventures and finished off with actual beds and bedding inside, as well as chairs outside.
Saturday saw everyone up and about at 05h00 for breakfast, with take-off from the start line at 06h30. There were some nervous faces that morning, after Willem’s explanation the previous evening detailing the hills that would be encountered, with one’s nickname being the “voetsek” hill because that’s what you’ll say to it as soon as you’re over it!
This was a laugh, but no doubt had the first time runners anxious about what was to come.
Still, the camp was full of smiles and laughter.
I ran about chatting to runners and wished them well as we neared closer to take-off.
The Medics then asked for assistance with the stretch tent that was over the pool. The help required needed someone in the pool and since it appears I’m the only one willing to submerge myself into the cold water, the job was given to me.
My choice of entering was to first attempt the slack-line over the pool, knowing it would inevitably end up with me in the water. As I started walking, Wikus started the countdown - the runners were about to start!
I hadn’t realized how close we were to take-off and wanted to be on the start line to see the runners off, cheer them on, and record a video.
I jumped into the pool, swam to get out, and am pleased to say that I made it to the start line in time to cheer everyone on.
With The Big Mountain Day now on the go, the team set off to set up the Aid Station.
This we did in the kitchen hut of night 3 of The Leopard Trail Hiking Trail. It was situated 20km into their journey, where we encouraged them to fill up with water as they still had 14km to go after that. 14 of the toughest kilometres, which included both Voetsek hill, and “The Cauldron”.
Fortunately, the cooler weather meant that no one suffered dehydration, and all the runners finished strong, with them back at the basecamp in record time.
With the toughest part of the run now behind them, we noticed that the race village seemed more open to cracking open a few more beers and indulging in some gin and wine from the honesty bar.
A bottle of tequila even made its way around, with Justin Jeffrey, a biokineticist from the TNT team who advocates that the only disability in life is a bad attitude, leading the tequila train.
Justin made sure he found a reason for everyone at his table to have a tequila.
Jiten, was given one (and then many more) because he was the first Indian over the line. This was of course even funnier because he happened to be the only Indian at this event (we hope he’ll get some competition next year).
Sunday was a more relaxed start, with take-off only at 07h00, and a 23km run to look forward to. Zane Schmahl, EcoBound member, and Leopard Trail Race Director had explained that it would be easier to get a bit of rhythm on Sunday’s run.
The Bean There Coffee Crew was once again up and at em, bright and early, to serve us the best coffees... For free! They attended this event as a gift to the Leopard Trail Run and served coffees all weekend at no cost.
The story of Bean There and Fairtrade coffee is a special one, as Jono Robinson, the owner, told us over the weekend. Simply put, they know exactly where their beans come from, and they ensure that the suppliers receive a fair price.
Thank you for being there, Bean There!
For the start on Sunday, I was unable to watch as myself and my 3 teenage helpers set off (Travis, Ruben, and Jordan), along with Wikus, Willem, and Lourens from Cedar Falls, to hike to a point where we could set up the station for the runners.
Lourens carried the water bottle, which was full of water of course since there are no taps where we set up. He refused any help despite struggling (don’t tell him I noticed).
The rest of us carried the snacks, table, and goodies that would greet the runners 9km into their run.
I admit to being desperate to get a run in myself, and took the opportunity to run in the direction that the runners would be coming in. 2 km’s in, I was greeted by Wilhelm and Elizabeth Vogts leading the way. At this point though, one didn’t actually know who was in the lead for the day, as the runner’s time was paused at Gabriel’s Pools, a detour they could take to visit the pools. The time pause allowed them the option to do so and not be in too much of a hurry.
As the Leopard Run isn’t really a racing snakes run, with it being more about the experience of the Baviaanskloof, it was awesome to see many willing to slow down and take it all in.
We stayed at the Aid Station until the last runner made it through. This took longer than expected as Michael Welgemoed was injured and therefore walking the entire route, with sweeper Andre Oosthuizen keeping him company. Jacques Lourens, the medic joined them for the last 14km to keep an eye on Michael.
His don’t give up attitude is inspiring and we give him kudos for completing the race and managing to do so within the cut-off period too.
Once we returned to the basecamp, many runners were in already, sitting with a view of the finish line, and cheering their friends on as they crossed the line.
Some finally gave in and got into the dam pool for some cold water therapy.
Prize-giving was held at 12h30, with the leaders receiving gifts of Leopard Trees, in pots made with love by Francois Smit, who was also the route marker and was up and on the trails well before most of us were even awake each day. Francois clocked in 90km over the weekend and we can’t thank him enough. I however think he should’ve added another 10km in for good measure, but that’s just me, haha.
Zane announced the winners and we were all curious to see who would take the men’s number 1 spot, with Kenny Brown and Tim Everett having crossed over the finish line seconds apart.
In the end, it was Kenny who won, by 2 minutes as Tim took 2 minutes longer at the waterfall.
It didn’t really seem to be a competition between them anyway and was all good fun, but maybe Tim will come back next year to get his own Leopard Tree.
Estee Cockcroft took the Ladies’ title, in an incredibly speedy time of 7hrs41minutes.
Estee embodies what I see trail running as - tough, and beautiful. She went for it and pushed, while always smiling and sharing in everyone’s stoke.
What a pleasure to have been part of an event set in one of the country’s most epic locations, with a group of like-minded nature lovers.
Thank you to everyone for being there and for contributing to not only a successful weekend but also a special one.
Pictured above are the TNT Biokineticist team of Jiten, Lauren, and Justin | The Bean There Coffee truck and an epic rainbow we were treated to | The wild horses who come to say hello to runners.