I like to run far and have lot’s of time to dream up crazy idea’s during these runs. Sometimes these idea’s are realistic, other times not. I grew up on the beach, went for the odd surf and have watched my fair share of surf contests. Early last year while running on Table Mountain I took a breather to have a look at the waves rolling in down below. Hmmm.. I thought to myself how cool it would be to combine a surf heat contest style into a trail running event. Heats would only be 4 or 5km but runners would need to have completed half a dozen or so rounds to get through to the finals.
I have been lucky enough to run all over the world and Europe has by far the most spectator support for their trail running events. It is not uncommon to see 400 runners competing in a trail marathon with 35 000 spectators lining the mountains to cheer them on. In South Africa we are lucky if the number of spectators equals the number of competitors. Don’t get me wrong I love running for hours on end in the mountains without seeing anyone – that is my form of escape and meditation – but as a passionate trail runner I want to see the sport grow. I felt we needed an event in South Africa that would showcase trail running at it’s best and make it as spectator friendly as possible. Spectating a 100km trail race is not exciting for the average Joe, but watching runners take each other on in 4 or 5km knock-out ‘sprint’ heats would be quite exciting. Even though this style of event is not suited to me (100-160km is my preferred distance), I started searching for the best route.
I have bunch of mates (Ryan Scott, Greg Goodall, Nick Muzik etc) who run a time trial up Lion’s Head every Friday morning which they call ‘Taming the Lion’. I decided to join in on the fun one early morning and all I can say is that I was tamed by the ‘Lion’. This 2.2km time trial up the mountain is brutal, leaving you breathless! It’s a flat out sprint to the top of the mountain and the higher you get the more technical the terrain gets. You start off on a jeep track and by the time you have reached the summit you have run on some insane single track, climbed up chains & ladders and clabbered across some fairly gnarly rock faces. The panoramic city views from on top of the mountain are insane and you can get down the mountain again in about 15min. This was the perfect route!
I pitched my idea to Tristan Werner of Red Bull whose eyes lit up like a kid who had just seen Father Christmas for the first time. SAN Parks granted Red Bull permission to hold the event on Lion’s Head and with the support of Salomon, the Red Bull Lion Heart was born. Ryan Scott came onboard as the Sportive Director and before I knew it I was one of the 150 athletes lining up last Friday at the start of the Red Bull Lion Heart prologue. See www.redbulllionheart.com for full event details.
Weather conditions were perfect for the prologue and there was a buzz of excitement in the air as 150 athletes took on the 2.2km time trial route. It was great to see some of South Africa’s top triathletes, road runners and trail runners all toeing the starting line. The prologue was short and fast, suiting the faster runners, but you needed to have speed to be crowned the ‘King or Queen of the Lion’. This event wasn’t your usual trail running race and didn’t necessarily suite pure trail runners – it was something that had never been done before. MC, Ryan Scott, set the vibe for a perfect day. I was super stoked and at times a little emotional with the way things had panned out.
I was one of the 32 guys who made it through to the heats on Saturday. Each heat was 4.5km long and went all the way to the top of the Lion’s Head and down again. The mens finalists ran this route 4 times and the ladies twice. A massive cold front had hit Cape Town on Saturday morning making for radical running conditions. The start was delayed by just over an hour due to these conditions and unfortunately the weather did not make for a very spectator friendly environment. There was still an awesome vibe on the mountain and racing was fast and furious. Ryan Scott gave constant updates to the spectators at the start/finish area and there was a lot of excitement going into the final rounds. I made it through to the finals but wasn’t feeling very strong on the climbs and realised I would have to do something special on the downhill to have a chance. It was not to be and a huge congrats to AJ Calitz and Carla for winning the inaugural Red Bull Lion Heart! You guys crushed it and it was a privilege to have you part of the event.
Wow – this event was a dream come true for me and a perfect way to end off and epic year. The post event feedback has been awesome and created a real buzz. I can’t wait for 2013!
A huge thanks to the following for making Red Bull Lion Heart possible:
Red Bull: Thanks team for giving my dreams wings! Thanks to Doug for getting permissions and making the event happen. Thanks Tristan and Payno for all your support. Thanks Seth, Hayley, Russell, Martin and the rest of team!
Salomon: Lee, Steve & Jackie – Thanks for supporting the event and sharing my passion for trail running.
Oakley: Seth, thanks for the rad prizes.
Ryan Scott: Thanks bud, your hard work pulled the event together
SAN Parks & NCC: thanks having and open mind and letting us have the event on Lion’s Head
Marshalls, Wilderness Search and Rescue, Medics etc – we could not have had the event without you guys!
Competitors & Spectators : Thanks for sharing the experience with us and growing trail running.
Craig, Nick, Kelvin and Richard : The visuals are insane – thanks guys!
Red Earth – Thanks for the epic trophy’s !
Ryan Sandes has won the NorthFace 100 in Australia in a time of 9hrs22min. More info coming soon!
“Upstart impressed me tremendously, not just with his athletic abilities, but also with his worldly demeanour and quality of character. Good Kid. I hope he continues to push the limits”
“What Sandes teaches us mere mortals is that we are capable of far more than we realise.”
MIKE FINCH, EDITOR, RUNNERS WORLD
“I think the most remarkable characteristic is how he has come from absolutely nowhere to be successful. And that means he must have an inordinate mental capacity. I think if you look in his mind you will see that is his greatest strength.”
PROFESSOR TIM NOAKES