Tagged endurance

Coastal Challenge: Day 10

The Coastal Challenge…an epic adventure of two Ultra Endurance titans, Steve black the runner from Underberg, and the paddler Clyde ‘Skinny Cuppucino’ Barnards also from KZN, dueling it out From Cape Town to Durban for a great and personal cause; Lettie Haynes’ fight against cancer. The race, which started on the 17th of May crossed it’s hypothetical third way on the 26th of May, and not without it’s fair share of drama and challenges.

The Skinny Cuppacino got off to the worst start having to wait for increment weather to pass the Cape before wetting his hull. This gave long distance running specialist Steve Black the oppertunity of opening up a lead of more than a 100 kms within the first two days. This bodes extremely badly for Skinny as he needed to gain a fantastic lead before hitting the shores of Port Elizabeth.

It wasn’t all plain running for the runner Steve and his ‘first’ 500 km running buddy Andrew King. Their plan of day-to-day race route speculation was met with plenty boundary fences and specifically the treacherous nature of the cliffs. Consequently the pair have had to make detours inland, extending the already Ultra Distance a little further. Also in accordance to the laws of popular averages Steve picked up a niggling injury and consequently fell off the pace. The lead of a hundred or so clicks (as one refers to a few kilometers when racing an unintelligible distance) proved to be a minor factor as Skinny recorded more than 100 kms of his own on one day. The a further psychological and very emotional blow struck Steve as his Mother passed away on the first Friday. He carried on running up until the time of the funeral, at which stage he left the race to fly to Johannesburg to return a day later and continue the race. In the interim Skinny had made some, but not great ground against the runner, deflating the lead to a mere 50 kms.

At the time of writing this Steve had returned to Sedgefield, ran to Knysna, spent two days there and then resumed his journey approximately 100 kms ahead of Clyde en route to Plettenberg Bay. Beneath is a collection of photos from the first 10 days of the race.



The spirit of the “white horse” lives on


Saturday 31st of March 2012 will go down as one of the sad days in ultra-running. Losing one of it’s custodians, a man that embodied the free-spirited meaning of why we run, passed away while out running in the forests of New Mexico. Some would say it was a fitting end to the life of a person who spent so much time in the solitude of nature, running free and wild. Others would say it was a tragic loss, an empty void that only a man as bold, yet as understated, as Micah True (AKA Caballo Blanco) could fill.

Few knew of the “white horse” until his character was made public in the now infamous book Born To Run by Christopher MacDougall. For most average runners, it’s hard to completely understand the mind set of an ultra-runner, and more so that of an individual who devoted so much of the second half of his life to exploring the natural world, more often then not, on his own. He became rooted within a community that continue to exist in the remotness of the Sierra Madre, a population grounded by the true meaning of what it takes to lead simplified lives.

  “The Rarámuri are not ’super-human’ as depicted by some. 
They are very real people facing very real problems and issues,
like all of us. We are all much more alike than different.”  

~ Caballo Blanco

His ways became legendary, often disappearing for days as he ran between villages, connecting with the various friends in the Tarahumara communities he made along the way. He inspired many by his unassuming demeanour, a personality that will continue to ignite the spirit of many who aspire to personal fortitude through their own running. He made time to stop and speak to people, often spending a few days with them sharing his stories – a true free spirit.

Recently, a young South African film maker by the name of Andrew King travelled to the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon to begin work on a documentary he has embarked on about the true spirit of an ultra-runner. To have met Micah True for the first time, and to have been one of the last few people to have seen him alive, we asked him to share a few thoughts about his first, and now lasting, impressions of Caballo Blanco.

Micah True lived by a simple philosophy of caring, peace and honesty that is embodied in his well known motto of Run Free. This is a vision he spread everywhere he went by the person that he was, and the things that he did for the betterment of others.
I had read the literature about the famed mythical person of Caballo Blanco made popular but the Christopher McDougal book Born to Run and attracted to the parallels to the story I am hoping to tell in my as yet unnamed production about South African Ultra Runner and Underberg Horseman, Steve Black.

Steve flies largely under the radar, and has a similar calm and piece around him and at 57 years old is still driven to explore, learn and connect. He was also incidentally instrumental in getting me excited about endurance sports and the mental strengths involved. When I heard Steve was going to run the Copper Canyon Ultra I was astonished that this was common knowledge and negotiated there and then to document the next year of his life which besides Mexico involved running on various continents and ultimately culminating in the 100 mile Iditorun in Alaska this time next year. It was the story of humility, integrity and running for the joy of it in the purest sense that made our trip to the Copper Canyons the perfect fit. A simple email exchange with Micah including a concise summary of the story I was hoping to tell and a PayPal race entry donation that got me in the door. Micah also suggested that I join the Club Mas Loco Google forum which had discussions and information about the race. After submitting my request to the User forum and being accepted by the moderator, Micah himself, I was granted what I consider one of the greatest privileges of my life, as during his disappearance for 5 days and after his passing, I was given a front row seat to the support, tributes and outpourings of emotions from his closest friends and those around the world that shared his beliefs and vision. Many of the personal tributes talk about the complete genuineness of Micah True. There we certainly never any ulterior motives with him and everything he did was for the betterment of others, and I think that is something that this complex world we live in is crying out for.

Micah admired the Tarahumara Indians honest, caring and un-materialistic way of life and he believed that this attitude all stemmed from their simple their joy of running. This respect was quite clearly reciprocated by the Tarahumara for whom Micah had done so much. Although they could speak the same language, they very seldom spoke at length to each other, it was more in the way they carried themselves in each others company. Calm gestures, eye contact and subtle nobs that spoke of their deep gratitude. This attitude of respect was infectious and anyone that takes the time and (considerable) effort to travel to the Copper Canyon Ultra is immediately swept up in it. It is the common bond that links all of the outsiders or Mas Locos as dubbed by Caballo. Many of the heartfelt tributes on the User Group speak about the difference between legend and legacy. The iconic figure of Caballo Blanco will be told for many generations, a status which is deserved, but could just as well have been earned by various ways, by being notorious or similarly by having won a handful of medals and trophies. Legend, however is something entirely different to Legacy, and it is quite clear that Micah True has left behind a legacy that is positive, meaningful and lasting. And what greater privilege can there be than to leave behind such a legacy.

Through the few conversations and time spent running with Micah in the Siera Madre, as well has having been witness to the way he has inspired those around the world, my resolved to produce a meaningful documentary of the integrity and pure values shown by amazing people like Micah True and Steve Black is as strong as ever as I continue this journey.

A fitting quote from Micahs close friend Scott Lease. “Micah Ignited a bon fire and invited everyone to throw their wood on it, to join in the warmth and light…. We will continue this glow into the hearts of everyone that loves to run free….”


The Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi 2011 Media Release

The Unlimited Non-stop Dusi returns to its roots

Durban – The fifteenth edition of the toughest one day canoeing race in the world looks set to return to its roots when The Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi gets under way at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg at dawn on Friday 4 March.

Since it’s formal inception in 1997 the race has grown steadily in popularity as more and more paddlers are drawn to the extreme challenge of completing the traditional three day Dusi course in one day, in a format that is almost devoid of rules and compulsory paddle and portage sections.

The origins of the tough race extend back to an informal arrangement between serious endurance athletes to try and complete the Pietermaritzburg to Durban paddle and running adventure several weeks after the famous three day race, usually at a date hastily arranged when the rivers were full after rainstorms in the region.

Paddlers raced when they wanted to, and it was left to a referee to record their times. Steve Black and his brother Alastair Black were the early trailblazers, followed by Richard Starr and Kevin MacLellan.

From it’s underground roots, the sudden demand from paddlers wanting to test themselves against the one-day format race resulted in it’s formalisation, and the introduction of a few basic rules, sponsors and the inclusion of prizemoney for the overall winners.

As the race grew, so did its formalised structure, and when Hank McGregor won it in 2006 in a K1, the race was formally recognising separate singles and doubles classes. Debbie Germiquet soon joined the list of milestones by becoming the first woman to finish the race in a K1 as well.

This year, as the race celebrates it’s fifteenth anniversary, the organisers have decided that the event should focus on it’s founding principals, and seek to remain critically different to the traditional format used in The Unlimited Dusi. The race has shed its K1 class winners awards and looks to reward the overall men’s and women’s winners instead.

The decision has been backed by the winner of the first every Non-Stop Dusi John Edmonds, who feels the race should retain as many of it’s original values as possible.

“Keep the purity of the race,” said Edmonds, who won two of the first four editions of The Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi. “The first boat home is all that matters. Get to Durban however you want. Let’s keep it Old School,” says Edmonds.

“The race is special for so many different reasons,” he added. “There is a truly unique camaraderie, even amongst the crews racing for title. It’s a survival mentality throughout the race, and its the same for every single boat, so it is quite chilled. There is no pushing and shoving, and all the seconds help every paddler in the race.”

Edmonds also likes the fact that the race is run within a bare minimum of rules.

“In the old days of the three day Dusi there was such an aura around Graeme Pope-Ellis, and secrets paths and sneak channels that added such an intrigue to the race, combined with the fact that you never knew what the water levels were going to be like.”

“Almost all of that has changed, and rules are tighter so that the Dusi is run pretty much on the same format each year. I love the “no-rules” character of the Non-Stop because it encourages paddlers to think differently and brings back that special intrigue,” Edmonds added.

“One year my brother (Andrew Edmonds) and I actually planned to run all the way out of Pietermaritzburg, down Polly Shorts on the Comrades route, past the Lion Park and down to the river for the first time at Mission rapid,” recalls Edmonds. “That would have been a 30 kilometer run but when we weighed up the times it just wasn’t worth it.”

John and Andrew Edmonds set a new race record in 2000, a record that stood for seven years before the current race record was set by Martin Dreyer and Michael Mbanjwa, coincidentally shaving seven seconds of the 2000 mark.

Wild Coast Ultra Marathon 2010

The Wild Coast Ultra Trail Run 2010 started at Silaka Nature Reserve in Port St Johns on Monday 8th February and ended at Nahoon Beach, East London, 270 kilometers and six days later.

From the start it was obvious that Steve Black was not easily going to give up his mantle of record holder.  Steve blasted away and after 5 kilometers had lost the following pack, which quickly split up and began the battle with navigation along the rugged coast. 

The 55 year old endurance prodigy had prepared well for the run, completing the course twice since the 2009 event, once the previous week! The weather was hot and humid and this affected most of the field as they exhausted their water and had to seek out fresh supplies, usually from Spaza shops along the way.  Relentless hills, many river crossings and the heat took their toll and 5 runners fell out during day one and chose not to continue on day two.

One runner spent the night sleeping out in the bush. Steve established an unassailable lead of three and a half hours on the first day emphasizing the saying that youth and enthusiasm is no match for age and treachery.

Day two was a repeat of day one and Steve again stamped his authority on the race with no navigational errors and great strength on the relentless hills.  Blistered and sun burnt runners bravely tackled the rest of the course which after day two became more manageable as navigation was no longer necessary as the run now was more along the beach, the tides very much in the runners favour as they had kilometers of nice hard sand to run on. 

Steve and Hylton decided to run together from the third day.  For Hylton it was an apprenticeship, becoming familiar with multi day adventure trail running where there is no support or marked course to follow but he has the strength and speed to win. 

This run is not just about hardship however, the runners spend nights at lovely coastal hotels where they are really well looked after and have an opportunity to discuss the run and route choices over a drink.

The last leg of the event is in stark contrast to the first five days as the ?Discovery Surfers Challenge? is joined for the finish.

 This race attracted 2700 runners in a mad dash and scramble along the rocks and beaches from Yellow Sands to Nahoon Beach culminating in a frenzy of celebration at the life- savers marquee. 

23 runners started the Wild Coast Ultra, 14 completed the distance and the rest managed various legs along the way.  Steve improved his record by an amazing 7 hours and Colleen Durant set a new ladies course record by 10 minutes. 


See www.davestrailrunning.co.za for more info and full results.