The Batrun 2015: A tale of two endings
With each step, the descent of Platteklip Gorge became trickier and trickier. I knew it was steep going up, but facing the route at 11:20pm with rain and mist affecting visibility and footing – it all seemed way more treacherous.
With each step, the cramps in my quads worsened. The lack of training was catching up to me now. By the time Gary and I had made it about a quarter of the way down, I had slipped and landed on my bum so many times that a nice bruise had formed on my right palm from trying to break my fall.
Gary had been leading the way for a while now, but I was slowing us down as the cramping took hold. I slipped again and this time I reached out to grab onto something to break my fall. As luck would have it – I grabbed onto some barbed wire and cut my left hand across my palm…perfect!
It hurt, but it wasn’t too deep. I stopped and pulled out the medical kit I had with me to disinfect the cut.
I continued to follow Gary, but now cramp had me. Each step was an effort. I was cold, muddy, bleeding and my shoes were done. The only solace was that we were coming out of the wet section and the trail was now dry. I had to be honest with myself, in my current state there was no way I would be able to make it up Lion’s Head. My Batrun was over and it was stupid to try and continue.
I broke the news to Gary that I was out and that he should carry on without me. It took some convincing, but he finally let up and went on. I messaged Aanikah and she called my Dad who we’d arranged to pick me up when I finished. 40 minutes later I hobbled my way off the trail to the aid station at the foot of Platteklip Gorge where I waited to be picked up after 5 hours in the race.
What is the Batrun?
The Batrun is a shortened version of the Three Peaks Challenge, but it takes place at night – yes, it gets real when the lights go out. I found out about it via Twitter after a few trail runners posted that they had entered and were looking to what is apparently one of the best nights out on the trails.
The Batrun is different from other races as there are no medals, prizes, etc. and all proceeds raised are donated to the JAG Foundation. The race starts at 7pm from the parking lot at the top of Kloof Nek Road and takes you to the top of Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain (via Platteklip Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon) and finally Lion’s Head.
The total distance is about 26km and it is one tough race! Participants usually spend anywhere from 4 to 8hrs tackling the route. There is no cut-off time as you basically have till sunrise to complete. However, with some really bad weather conditions this year (gale force winds of about 50 to 60 km per hour, visibility of 1-2m in places, cold and rain in some cases) the race organisers – MATES – made the call that you would be disqualified if you didn’t make it to Maclear’s Beacon by 12am. Fair enough
The Batrun is aimed at runners looking to be challenged – and boy was I pushed all evening! The elite runners made it look easy, but as one of the entrants said “They don’t get their monies worth when they go that fast” 🙂
Facing off with the Devil
Saturday the 28th of February was a mad scramble. The morning started out with the Bridge House 1 mile swim at the Berg River Dam, followed by some car repairs, a family braai, watching Wanderers Rugby take on Hamiltons and then I had to rush through to make the start of the Batrun. It was a hectic day!
The participants met in the Kloof Nek parking lot and, after a quick race briefing by Mike from MATES, they were off.
The racers made their way up Tafelberg Road, took a quick detour through some trail which spat us out at the Table Mountain Cableway Station and continued along the road to the start of the Devil’s Peak trail.
About 30 minutes into the ascent, it was necessary to switch on our headlamps as it had gotten dark pretty quickly thanks to the clouds covering the mountain.
This was my first time up Devil’s Peak so I made sure to stick close to some of the other guys who were more familiar with the route.
The weather changed from warm and windy to misty and windy the higher we went. Yep, the wind didn’t go away and actually became worse as we went up with mist and rain to make it all the more challenging. As I rounded the saddle of Devil’s Peak, I was blown off my feet by some epic winds howling over the mountain. I tried getting up, but was slammed back on my butt after another gust. It was a sign that the Batrun was going to be one helluva challenge and only the tough would complete it.
I headed on and finally logged my race number at the first check-in point atop Devil’s Peak. I whipped out my windbreaker and pulled my buff over my face before setting off on the descent.
A little ways ahead of me I saw some racers standing still. They had come stuck as they had lost the trail – so considering that I just come from the same direction, it meant that I was lost too!
After some back and forth, we managed to find the trail and were back on our way down to Tafelberg Road.
We made our way to the first feeding station at the bottom of Platteklip Gorge. I grabbed some potatoes and filled up my water bottles before heading up. As I started Platteklip Gorge, the eventual winner Oliver Linley came flying past me which actually gave me some much needed motivation to carry on.
Platteklip Gorge to Maclears Beacon
I stuck with Gary, his Dad and brother who were doing the event together. They had done the route a few times and knew what to expect so it was a good idea for me to stick with them along the way.
The conditions on Platteklip were very similar to Devil’s Peak, but the going was tough. Halfway up, the guys started to slow, but I had some momentum so I continued ahead.
As I climbed I noticed that “safety precautions” had been taken in some areas with wire fencing being placed to prevent people from falling off the side of a steep drop – the only problem was that it was cordoned off with barbed wire! Whichever genius thought this was a good idea really needs a klap!
That climb was steep and slippery. Finally, after a serious quad burning climb it flattened at the top.
Gary caught up with me at the top of Platteklip Gorge. He was alone as his Dad and bro had pulled out because of cramp. All that was left was the run across the top of the mountain to check-in at Maclear’s Beacon. There we met some really brave race marshals who were battling the cold in a tiny tent – these were the real heroes of the evening!
The route to and from Maclear’s Beacon is a tricky one with many people getting lost along the way each year during the Batrun. Getting lost means probably having to spend the night on Table Mountain – so we made sure to follow the yellow footprints along the way.
My race ended on the way down Platteklip. A lack of training and some serious cramp definitely got me and I was defeated by the time I walked back in at the Platteklip Gorge feeding station.
It’s not over until you climb Lion’s Head
Trail Runners are a weird bunch. As soon as I sat down at the feeding station, I was handed some coke with salt for my cramps and then the chirps started:
Race Marshal: “Don’t worry, take some time eat and then continue”
Me: “No, I’m done. I don’t think I can make it to the top of Lion’s Head”
Race Marshal: “Of course you can, you will regret it for the next 364 days if you don’t”
That back and forth banter went on for a while. Proper peer pressure!
Soon the talk changed to epic trails and I sat there dreaming about one day being able to move my legs again.
20 minutes later I realised that my Dad hadn’t shown up – which meant he was probably parked at the bottom near the start at the Kloof Nek parking lot. In his defense – he came up to the Cableway Station, saw that nothing was happening there and then turned back. What that meant for me was that I had to get my kit back on and run the extra kilometers down to the start on my wobbly legs.
By the time I got to the Kloof Nek parking lot, I actually felt a bit refreshed. Maybe the coke and salt or even the run along the road helped.
I was met with some more peer pressure from the marshals there and tried my best to ignore it.
But, as I walked over to my Dad who was parked and waiting for me, I couldn’t help glancing up at Lion’s Head and see the flashes of the head lamps from the other crazy Batrunners.
In those 30 meters to my Dad, so many thoughts went through my head – and then I decided to finish the race.
I had to negotiate with my Dad to meet me in an hour, but I had to finish this thing!
Ghaleed Nortje from Running the Cape helped me pack some provisions from the last bits of food left at the feeding station and I was off.
The last push!
I couldn’t really run anymore because I was exhausted, but I was determined to finish. I basically did some kind of speed hike up Lion’s Head. I met Gary and some of the other runners as they were finishing and everyone was willing each other on to finish!
All that I remember going up was how tough it was climbing those chains and doing the scramble up to the peak.
I met the marshals as I closed in on the peak. They were on their way down thinking that there was no one left, but said that I should continue towards the peak and they would meet me on the way down.
When I made it to the top of Lion’s Head it was a completely different scene from the rest of the race. There was no wind, it was hot and the sky was clear all around. I am not ashamed to say that I did my Rocky Dance at the top of Lion’s Head before coming down 🙂
I don’t know how I made it down the last bit of chains and steep climbs – all I know is I did it way wrong and got a bit tangled up in one section lol
I caught up to the last runners Janette, Frankie and Sonja (one of the marshals from the Platteklip Gorge station) and their banter and awesome spirit helped me to the finish line 🙂
I finished dead last, and frankly I don’t care!
To be honest, my training sucked. I’ve been battling a recurring injury for the last two months and hurt it again on the Wednesday before the race. Plus, swimming the mile that morning was a stretch too far. So for me, the finish was really epic – and the soreness for the 4 days after was totally worth it!
The Batrun is definitely an epic event. At 3am and after 8 hours “racing”, I was finished and ready to head home for a warm shower and sleep.
If I you took part in the 2015 edition of the Batrun and had an epic moment/experience, please feel free to share it in the comments section below.
For more information about the Bat Run check out their website