We never called it that …
Every now and again, on an odd Sunday maybe, we would bump into each other, the handful of us that used to run on the mountain paths on the Cape Peninsula.
Young or grizzled, we knew each other instinctively, even if we were strangers.
One day above Bailey’s Grave, close to where the puff adder would eventually bite me this young buck came sprinting up on a late Summer’s afternoon.
This is great, hey, I yelled on my way down from the topmost beacon above Kalk Bay.
The best, he yelled back.
Those who ran the Harrismith Mountain Race, perhaps the first in South Africa, would have known the beauty of trail running long before it was ever called that.
If you were anywhere else but Cape Town you would spend the rest of the year after the race looking forward to the next one.
Here in Cape Town you can run up a mountain trail every day, a five minute drive from just about anywhere in the Southern Suburbs.
There are all sorts of options …
From Constantia Nek, along the contour path, or up to the concrete road at the top end of the back of Table Mountain.
The contour path, well sort of a contour path, would deliver you right into Kirstenbosch Gardens, and past it to the bottom of Nursery Ravine or Skeleton’s.
Skeleton’s was one of my favourites, you would disappear beneath a canopy of natural forest and as your feet pounded the rock climb you were in Runner’s Paradise.
The little chain was a nice milestone to reach, just enough to pause you and catch your breath.
Higher up the path became entangled with fallen rocks, there would be a last sharp pitch, then to the right and back across with the ferns in your face, and voila, on top.
You may have felt as if you had climbed Everest but this is still a long way from Maclear’s Beacon.
So if time was not a problem, and you were fit enough, you could run on the path along the edge of Table Mountain, looking down into the Newlands area.
At some point you would be there, Maclear’s Beacon.
As if you had been on a stroll, because you would only do this if you were fit enough for it to be a pleasure at every step.
Drizzle and mist would be the best, just enough coolness to make it comfortable, but not too much.
Mist would immerse you in a fantasy world, with the surreal experience of hearing the muffled sound of traffic hundreds of metres down below.
There could have been dragons and knights, maidens and sorcerers, in that mist among the fynbos.
The drops of moisture if mist, or rain if drizzle, would lift the scent of the fynbos, and then you could have been in Paradise.
If that is Paradise, it is good enough.
During the rainier seasons water would trickle everywhere, crystal clear, natural refreshment for a runner.
Bending down to sip from a stream would have you drink the perfumes of the mountain …
Once you reach any top, the top for the afternoon, the savouring of the experience was the goal.
The human body is capable of amazing things, if one works at it, and running up hundreds of metres of rock paths is one of the far easier things it can do … it is no big deal really.
Before your body got too cool, you would get up and do the easy part – gravity was now your friend as you ran down, and all you needed to do is watch your every step to avoid a twisted ankle.
Most of the time I would have my dogs with me, the delight in their eyes, tails wagging, running ahead, waiting for me to catch up.
By the time I was back down to the car, if I had a tail, it would have been wagging too …
Copyright © 2015 G. Rigotti