Sadly for me, I have had to admit that the local running community are just not ready for trail running in Mpumalanga. In the Cape there are weekly choices of up to 3 events, all with in excess of 250 runners, Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal have similar followings.
The effort that goes into a trail event, which I have to say I really enjoyed, requires a certain attendance level to make it financially viable. This has not been the case with way too many of the events that we have staged.
Event entry fees elsewhere in the country are on average one and half times the price that Ilanga Trails charge for similar distances. Raising the entry fee would have helped the financial burden, but comments like "I can run in the mountains for free, why pay?" forced one to keep the entry fee well below the industry average.
The possible take-over of / interference in the sport by Athletic South Africa is a real threat to the smaller event organiser. On the other hand, having NO regulation at all means that your efforts in attracting top runners goes for a ball when large sponsors announce events on the same date as one of ours, even after consulting with the top runners to find the correct timing for the event.
Trail SA please take note of this and institute a calendar to protect the special events that cater for the top distance trail athletes, cost a lot of money with little or no reward other that the satisfaction of having staged an epic event. Big money sponsors should be encouraged to work with the few event organisers willing to put on such events instead of staging new, high purse events, leaving the established events with no chance of attracting top athletes.
To those who supported me, thank you! Your love of the trail was shown by you arriving at Misty Mountain, where 12 out of 14 events were started in temperatures below 9oC or in the mist and rain or to be blown off your feet in freezing conditions up at Mount Sheba, or got lost in the dense mist at Kaapschehoop. You ate up the nasty hills that the evil side of me threw in, complained a lot, but returned again for another dose of punishment the next year.
Our proudest moment was to host the 2015 South African Ultra Trail Championships, and with the support from Dennis Lawrie, the renown MTB trail builder, we were able to modify an 80km route with 2500m of vertical accent into on of 87km and 3500m of accent.
To Misty Mountain, James and Lisa Sheard, you supported and encouraged me to continue, you and your staff removed every obstacle that popped up. I only hope that someone does choose to continue to organise trail events from your fantastic establishment.
Komatiland Forests Eco-tourism; Chris, Chantalle and the amazing Stella! Your support and vision for better utilisation of the most amazing trails under your care made the task of preparing for an event so easy. Always willing to help out at the last minute, thanks you for the support.
From day one, 32Gi and Dean Abro have supported me. Hydration, and especially good hydration is not cheap. Event after event saw 32Gi delivering (at their cost) at sufficient product to stock each water point. Their generosity with prizes and the loan of their gazebo helped make the events we staged successfully. Our sincere thanks to 32Gi.
I really hope that between Sven and myself, there will still be opportunities for great trail running in the area, but I look forward to being a participant from now on.
I will concentrate on trying to get the local running clubs to embrace the sport of trail running. This will hopefully increase the number of people participating. I will offer assistance in trail location and event presentation as I truly love the sport and have a great desire (all be it a little selfish, I want to have trail events I can run in) to see the sport grow in the province.